Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The ASCAP Expo

The ASCAP Expo will be here soon.  The organizers have planned out some very interesting panels and events. I'm filled with excitement, but to be honest, a slight dose of trepidation as well.

I've been to tons of expos both as a participant and as a presenter in panel discussions.  The topics are always inviting, making me wonder sometimes if they've hired the best copywriters in the world to make the subject mouth-watering.  But the topics, at the highest level, are the right ones.  They never have a problem being relevant.

And the presenters are the right ones too.  It's amazing – the caliber of people they can get to talk, debate, or argue about a particular subject.  There are not a lot of bucks to be made, if any at all, being a presenter.  But it certainly doesn't hurt to have an opportunity for self-promotion.  There you are – at an important event – and you are considered an authority of sorts on the matter at hand…simply by being there.

Where it sometimes falls down is at the final hour…the actual presentation itself.  All the elements are there – the juicy topic, a highly qualified panel, guided by an even more qualified moderator, and an eager audience. But forces sometimes come into play that can derail the event.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong at an Expo?

Time:  There's usually not a lot of time to cover the given topic in the first place.  Moreover, people lose track of time before realizing, "Umm, we've only got three more minutes. Any questions from the audience?"  Solution:  A more stringent timekeeping system, whether it's the panel moderator or a completely different individual.  Time matters.  Watch the clock.  Keep things moving. (Hey, even the Academy Awards have to clamp down sometimes.)

Topic Gone Astray:  It starts off just fine, but tangents will naturally develop.  You were supposed to be discussing how audience members can break into the music business, but you've spent the last twenty minutes analyzing the strange phenomenon of William Hung on American Idol.  That's not going to help anyone.  Solution: This is the moderator's biggest challenge and responsibility – keep it on topic, at all costs.

Shameless Self Promotion:  Yes, some notable experts were called in.  But as stated previously, just being there makes you an authority.  Why the need to spend ten minutes on who you produced or re-produced?  Who are you trying to convince that you are worthy?  Solution:  Panelists should just relax and take turns – keeping conscious at some level of how long they've been taking the spotlight.  Hogging the stage can have negative consequences too, producing a negative image instead of a positive one.

None of these are earth-shattering revelations.  But for some reason, it often seems like these common sense approaches are completely abandoned at expos, conventions, and panel discussions.  Soon you find yourself calculating the cost of the event, the plane fare, the hotel, the extra business cards, wondering if it was all worth it.

TO ASCAP:  Please make it worth it.  It takes just a little bit of pre-planning and discussion to go over the basic principles that will make a panel successful.  Don't leave it to hope, and don't be too shy to approach a superstar with the rules of the road.  Everyone will benefit by it, and the following expos will just get better and better…