Not every day you meet someone with that much experience and vision, yet that much of humbleness and openness.
This week we had the privilege of chatting with the one and only, Hussein Dajani.
He has been voted by the Huffington Post as among the top 10 people changing the Marcom landscape in the MENA region. With over 17 years of solid Marketing Communication experience in the space leading and building integrated marketing practices.
Hussein is also known across the MENA region of being a rock star on stage, talking about the latest innovations and trends in Digital, Tech, Telecom, Marketing, and Communication in various conferences, talk shows, and panels.
We discussed with him his insights about the trends in the events industry and what does the future hold for that business with the rise of tech and connectivity.
Here’s how it went.
Hussein, you’ve been to conferences all around the world. But what is your favorite of them all and why?
So far the best one I’ve attended was CES [The International Consumer Electronics Show] even though my favorite ones are South by Southwest and CES of course. Dreamforce by Salesforce, Dmexco, Techcrunch Disrupt and Mobile World Congress. These are the ones that I love to go to.
I like CES a lot, especially because I work in the field of digital and technology. And it’s quite interesting to see what the companies are doing now, not only through presentations but through actually experiencing what they’re doing on the ground. That was really interesting for me.
In CES you’d be listening to a presentation and at the same time, you’re seeing the product which they’re talking about in front of you, live! And you’re interacting with it. This is from one side.
From another side, the profiles that you meet. That’s super interesting. Companies there don’t send salespeople, but they send the visionaries behind the products that are being developed.
I’m not saying this because I work in Nissan, but really Nissan is doing something out of this world in CES. You see the innovation and the technology that they’re bringing. We keep saying in the year 2020 this going to happen or that but in CES you get to see these technologies of the future now. A real live demo that you can interact with. They might not be the actual product but at least you’re getting a direction and a feel to it.
Such events leave you amazed because you didn’t just watch a presentation about a product but you actually interacted with it and the people behind it.
Awesome, So which events are best marketed around the world and in the MENA specifically?
I would say again South by Southwest, CES, Dreamforce, and Dmexco. Those are the ones that I usually hear about. There are other events which are quite interesting too, There is one from New York Times there is another one from Fortune magazine, The third one from Social Baker. They usually do a good job in Marketing them.
Also, we have the World Economic Forum which is a super interesting event world wide it touched many aspects from a political to economical to communication to sociographic, all of those.
But look! There is a wide array of conferences and events that are happening world wide, I might not be giving justice to all of them because it all depends on what are you’re interested in.
So for me, I keep monitoring just the best of the best when it comes to tech and digital. I don’t want to give justice to any of the rest of events because there is a lot of them, but it all depends on your interest.
In the MENA Region, I think the best is ArabNet They marketed it very well, Step conference they do a very good job. Techne Summit in Alexandria they do a very good job. lately, we have seen PWorld they are doing a very good job and promoting themselves.
But mainly I’ll say those are the conferences in the region which I hear about them or are quite interesting at least for me.
I’ll add OMD Agency they are doing some really interesting conferences, they’re doing very good job in bringing some top speakers across the world and to promote what they do.
In all of those, what do you think makes a perfect event from an attendee point of view?
Number one is the lineup of speakers. Who are the speakers and what are their profiles. How exposed they are and how knowledgeable they are. What are they going to bring to the table?
Two: the data that’s going to be shared during the event. Sometimes I go to an event in the MENA region and the speaker gives me global data! This is very disappointing for me because many times the whole purpose for me to go is to get access to data specifically about this region. That plays a very important role.
Three: the audience, because at the end of the day you want to interact with a like minded audience, who you can engage with in interesting discussions, or maybe make a potential business relationship.
And finally: How engaging the conference/event is. And what I mean by this is that I don’t want companies to come and promote themselves. I want them to come and actually share case studies and learnings, give me insights and recommendations about their field.
Bonus point for the Pros: I like to go to conferences where I see debates happening, to see a different point of view. Because the different point of views will open your mind to new things and ideas that you’ve never had before. So you’d see things from two different perspectives at the end of the day the one who has facts and figures to be able to convince you.
So, no it’s not the food, it’s not the party or the drinks. For me, it’s the content which is super important, so if I can also have access to the data and presentations that are shared on stage that would be really important as well. I’d say these are the most important items from the attendee point of view.
And from a speaker point of view?
I really enjoyed the conferences and events where the organizers challenge me in the topic that I’m going to present. Rather than telling me, you suggest whatever topic you want to present and go ahead with it. It’s quite interesting to me to debate with the organizer. Because you need to be sure that what you’re going to present is in line with the content of the whole event.
I like the conferences where they ask you to share with them the content ahead of time for them to evaluate whether that content will add value or not. And this is what differentiates between a conference managed by people who know exactly what they’re doing and other people who just want to get a lineup of speakers so that they make their conference a successful one.
So to put it in points
1- Why are the organizers doing the event in the first place. They have to clearly know it and be able to communicate it clearly to everyone participating.
2- Who are the other speakers in the conference.
3- When the organizers debate with me about what I’m presenting.
4- Being given the liberty to present the way I want, because I’m not your typical kind of presenter. I like to present in a very informal manner so that I am able to connect with the audience.
5- They have to be tech-ready. Once I was at a conference and I had to tell the guy to manually click to get the new slide. It was really disappointing.
6- Organizers have to ensure that the lineup of the audience is interesting as well. I need to know to whom I’m going to add value.
Content is king, and events are all about content whether it’s the stage speeches or panel talks, also the attendees generated content. In your opinion what are the best techniques, events should use to manage and distribute its content and on which platforms?
This is a very interesting question actually. I think that if the content is king, then distribution is queen. So maybe you have a great content and it’s great for the people who are attending the event but what about the people who are not attending?
You need to ensure that you’re taking care of those who are psychically attending your event as well as those who are in their offices and homes and want to attend your event.
You see Apple, in all their conferences, they broadcast it live, on apple.com. it’s a strategic move from them to keep it on their website. But generally, there are two ways your content can reach a broader audience.
One, you have the people who are attending, for them to talk and post about their experience in the conference or event, that’s a user generated content.
And two, the organizer should have a team of community managers who are making sure that they bring this content out there and create the buzz around it. It’s not about throwing a tweet here and there. It’s more about bringing people on this team who’d understand what is the presenter really saying and then share it with the world and that’s what makes it a super interesting thing.
To put it in perspective, you have to be so quick like AJ+ in creating content that is really good. In the form of short videos or animations which is immediately done about your conference or event. To have a team of videographers, animators or photographers who make good content then populate it out there. Whether on a blog or even creating a micro website for your event or conference, this is how you push your content out there.
Then do not stop there. You follow up with creating white papers of what has happened. Usually, what happens after conferences is that the organizers don’t talk to you anymore. NO. you should keep talking to your attendees and keep that conversation going.
Be transparent, run surveys about the speakers, whom did they like and why, and whom they didn’t like. This will put more pressure on the speakers to ensure that next time they’re presenting, they’d present better material. Get suggestions from the audience on who they’d like to see as a presenter next time, this makes the attendee feel special and keep the speakers on their toes to do the best they can.
Also, you need to use proper listening tools to see what people are talking about and then respond in real time.
This is how you make great content for your event by keeping it fresh, relatable and reachable for your audience.
If an event does all of that. still, how can we measure success, what is the metrics for a successful event?
The metrics of successful event is
1 – Will people talk about the event after it is done, and what will they say?
2- To see who actually goes the next year to attend the same event.
3- The line up of the speakers and the content that they provide.
4- Whether the attendees share the content or not that was presented.
I would say one more thing, which is how innovative is the event. How much they keep reinventing themselves rather than doing the same thing year after year.
It’s not only about the speakers. It’s not about the venue. It’s about what they add to the table to inspire people and keep them engaged.
What does the future hold for the events industry in your opinion? In terms of technology or type of event or format.
Man, the future of events is a challenging thing! With the rise of technology and slide sharing and everything happening around us, do I still need to go to an event?!
I can sit and watch a TED Youtube video and it would add so much to me. So why would I go?
It’s all about what your event brings to the table. What kind of information that is not yet public that I’m going to get. That’s number one.
Two, I like debates as I said, debates open your mind a lot.
But as for the future, look at Dmexco, this year you can pay to watch it live at home.
Also, the pricing will witness changes. What I mean by that is that you might be able to pay for a session rather than the whole day, but that’s a maybe.
So does that mean that physically going to events will one day disappear and people will go to events online?
I really can’t say that this would be the case, but it’s definitely something out there in the question. It will be a real challenge for event organizers. How to make their events super exciting to the extent that you won’t accept watching it online, but you actually go and watch in person. Personally, I like to be there in person, because it makes a difference. But I really can’t judge, it’s a really interesting thing.
But what I can say is definitely conferences and events are here to last. But it’s becoming harder for organizers to convince the audience that their event is the right one to attend. Unfortunately, the MENA region is not as innovative as the global market in this domain.
This has been a pleasure and a quite interesting chat, Hussein, any final thoughts?
I guess with the evolution of social media and technology it’s becoming a real challenge to all those conferences and events. Whether to sit at home and watch it live on your computer or to actually get up, get dressed and go physically to the event.
But I still think that as the future holds challenges to this industry it holds very interesting opportunities as well. It’s all about who will adapt quickly and will understand better the attendees throughout the ever changing trends that we see every day.
I’d say the future is interesting.