Creating thought-leadership from your event 

How can you harvest more value from your events?

EVERYONE TODAY IS a publisher or broadcaster. You probably already post on social media about the events that you organise or attend. But are you missing something?

This article explores how you can add value to your events by using them to position yourself in your target market. There are three steps to this process:

There is inevitable overlap between these steps -- browse the examples below to inspire new approaches. We would love to hear about your innovations.

Use your events to create thought-leadership

Many event organisers already focus on recording presentations of their guest speakers. Some record interviews with them afterwards. But just think of all the valuable conversations going on around your events: workshops and conference presentations, informal and formal meetings on the exhibition floor, the snatched chats at networking sessions, coffee breaks and meals... not to mention the 'discretionary' work going on during evening activities.

How are your people making sense of it all?  How are you sharing these insights with your internal or external audiences? How are you turning them into actions?

Let's face it, most of these interactions and flashes of insight will be long forgotten once everyone's back at the office.

The business opportunity

Your opportunity is to become the go-to destination for potential clients who have a problem that your products or services might solve. With care, you can turn your professional networks into ambassadors -- and perhaps help them become thought-leaders themselves. If you feature your audience in your branded knowledge assets, they are likely to promote you across their own audiences.

If you harvest the insights from your event, you can turn these into content such as white papers or short video posts. These knowledge assets are valuable because they can position your company as a thought-leader in your target market.

Sharing insights within your internal or external audiences generates feedback loops that create further insights. In turn, you can package these insights as knowledge and content assets. It's a virtual circle that can support learning and help create the change you're seeking, inside or outside your organisation.

Step 1: Generate insights from your events

Your opportunity is to position your organisation and/or people as thought-leaders in their target markets. You can do this by stimulating, sharing and applying new insights.

There are many tools you can use to achieve this. You can help visitors access new ways of thinking and generating content to engage your target audiences. We can help you set off on a learning journey and tell your story along the way. On your return, we'll help you implement your learning.

Science teaches us a lot about natural processes of learning and change.  It’s important that delegates are open to difference, generate and amplify multiple feedback loops.  

Creative processes and non-verbal ways of knowing help to by-pass the conscious thought processes that censor ideas that don’t fit with the way we personally see the world.  This step should end with each delegate choosing a mini experiment from a number of possible responses, agreeing how to monitor its effectiveness and feed back the results to the group.


A skilled facilitator can draw out insights from your visitors, making the most of your space to create an environment that relaxes them and builds trust, and designing creative activities that help them see complex problems and challenges from new perspectives. Our facilitators regularly run events of all sizes. We can also prepare you to run your own sessions, through our facilitator training endorsed by ILM, with membership of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Coaching & Positive psychology

Positive Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

Sales start with conversations. As you interact, you are starting to build a shared story. So let's explore how you can encourage dialogue with your audience. A real dialogue builds powerful relationships through conversations that engage people at an emotional level. There are a number of tools you can use to develop this skill.

The G.R.O.W. coaching model

Building powerful relationships through conversations about innovation, impact, curiosity, honesty judgement, impact, innovation, courage, selflessness and passion. GROW. We use questioning to help develop a new kind of dialogue. You can use this to engage you audience in a deeper kind of conversation.

Action Research & Action Learning

These are closely-related processes where people come together periodically to learn from their experiences. Some people argue there is little to distinguish action research from action learning, although the former is often more academic: action research has been defined as aiming to create knowledge in order to effect a change and empower stakeholders; action learning, as an approach to solving real-life problems. An essential ingredient is the posing of questions. You can read more about action research and action learning here, and explore next steps.

Step 2: Capture insights from your events

There are myriad ways of capturing and packaging these insights. For example, written journals and video diaries are easily shared in confidence and you can use journalists and film crews to turn them into articles, white papers or engaging audio podcasts and web TV channels. There are also lower-tech low-cost solutions that shouldn't be discounted.

Over the years, we have visited scores of trade shows and conferences around the world. We are passionate about finding new ways to inspire a better world by shining a light on responsible innovation. So we started to collect ideas for the Contented team to develop.

Talk to us about your ideas. We can advise you, train up your team or even manage these activities for you.

Creative exhibition stand ideas

Below is a selection of some of the creative activities that event organisers and exhibitors use to document insights at their events. These are great ways of drawing a crowd -- inside and outside the event, both during and after.

High-impact ways to add value to trade shows, conferences or other events include Pop-up TV studios, Live blogging, Graphic recording and Pledge & poster walls.

Pledge and poster walls

Pledge walls are a simple low-cost way of capturing insights to increase the value of your event. They can showcase your values and start conversations. Visitors can write their own pledges, creating a wall of support for your purpose. A variation is to set aside a table for people to create A4 posters illustrating their journey -- make sure there are plenty of coloured pens of varying thicknesses. If you'd really like to show your company's creative side, you can add other arts materials such as glue and glitter.


First, you'll need to identify a thought-leadership theme. Allocate a space for the activity and prepare some simple written guidelines to inspire them. Make sure you display these prominently, along with some of your own inspiring goals, to get the ball rolling and encourage others to join in.

Don't forget to make sure you have permission from any identifiable authors and to observe any applicable data policies.

You'll also have to make sure you find a wall or board that you can attach the pledges to with tack of pins. Check whether you need permission to fasten them up on the wall.

On the day

Talk to visitors and tell them what you’re doing. Ask them what they think about the challenge and invite them to set a goal to address it. If you want to, you might invite them to leave their details for follow-up after the event.

With permission, use a smartphone to snap the results to create a digital image for sharing. Pay attention to any identifiable logos, trademarks and people. You can share the photo with the visitor and help post to his/her own social media. You could also encourage people to take selfies on their phone and share on social media using an appropriate hashtag.

Graphic recording

Hire an artist or use the combined creativity of your participants themselves. The final result can be animated too to create an engaging video.

Use a long roll of thick plain paper (not forgetting to recycle afterwards) or a wide roll of write-on/wipe-off whiteboard film. You can also give your visitors A4 sheets in white or colours, which you can tack to the wall.

To share them online or in your future presentations, take lots of photos to create a slide show, or use video effects and music.

There will be people who don’t want to make a pledge but encourage them to read some of the existing ones and, if they do, start a conversation!

Tips: A5 or A4 cards are more visible from a distance. If you laminate paper, you can offer people whiteboard markers. Then, after the event, you can wipe clean and reuse them another time.

Video interviews & Podcasts

Pop-up TV studios 

Pop TV studios are a great high-profile way to attract attention. Choose between one or two-camera solutions according to your budget and the desired quality. A good production company will pay attention to detail: note the background messaging in the example here, the flowers in complementary colours, the green tape-markers on the carpet to keep everything in position -- and the refreshments for guests and crew!

Picture, right: Pop-up TV studios are a great way to add value
to your trade show, conference or other event.

Smartphone interviews

Today's smartphones have the potential to record broadcast quality images. The challenge is to capture good sound. With a little time and training, and a few small accessories, your staff can generate powerful interviews with the people they encounter during their events and meetings.

With a focus on your target audience, we can prepare your staff to manage the business risk and master their smart devices to publish with confidence. Our practical course improves videos, podcasts and blogs and covers the potential legal and reputational pitfalls of digital media.

Take a look at our ILM-endorsed training programme, Creative Leadership for Innovation.

Audio podcasting

The advantage of sound-only recordings, over video, is that your audience can listen while performing other activities: in the gym, the car, the garden, or while carrying out less intellectual activities. With a little time and training, and a few small accessories, your staff can generate powerful interviews with the people they encounter during their events and meetings.

With a focus on your target audience, we can train up your staff to manage the business risk and master their smart devices to publish with confidence. Our practical course improves videos, podcasts and blogs and covers the potential legal and reputational pitfalls of digital media.

Take a look at our ILM-endorsed training programme, Creative Leadership for Innovation.

Hybrid solutions

Remarkably, the whole scene on the left has been set up and managed by a single person. The interviewer framed the video camera and set it running before returning to the bench to conduct the interview using a separate professional quality audio recorder. The secret is knowing which part of the chair will be visible! With a little time and training, and a few small accessories, your staff can generate powerful interviews with the people they encounter during their events and meetings.

With a focus on your target audience, we can prepare your staff to manage the business risk and master their smart devices to publish with confidence. Our practical course improves videos, podcasts and blogs and covers the potential legal and reputational pitfalls of digital media.

Take a look at our ILM-endorsed training programme, Creative Leadership for Innovation.

Step 3: Promote insights from your events

Live blogging

If you don't want to tie-up your sales team with media production, consider using a dedicated journalist to post commentary throughout your event, in the form of frequent short updates on your blog or other social media platform. Take time in your preparation to research which platforms your audience prefers and to create a list of key tags, to help spread your messages. Live blogging is a powerful way to increase the value of your events.

Tips: make an audio recording of any presentations so that you can verify exactly what was said - label, log and archive these in case of any future query. If the sound quality is high enough, you can edit short clips and add them to your blogs and social media postings.


Data visualisation and data journalism

Data, both quantitative and qualitative, has always been an important tool for understanding our world. In the digital era, most machines and devices generate data, creating the possibility of exciting new insights into our economy, society and environment. We can collect data into tables or spreadsheets, and compare them to create visual representations of a particular system we are analysing. Data can create some marvellous patterns, from traditional graphs to 3-D animations -- and makes a most-engaging exhibit.

Humans are great at spotting patterns. Data visualisation helps us do that, using design and computer science to generate images. Data journalism takes these images and interprets them to communicate those insights through content, especially infographics and written articles. Data visualisation and data journalism help us generate, capture and promote insights in order to address complex problems or challenges we are facing.

Pre- and Post-event Publishing & Broadcasting

There's a wide range of options available, from blogs and white papers to audiovideo clips and documentary. You will want to align this with your business plan and communications strategy. Contented can help you with that.

Online forum

An online forum offers a number of benefits: in particular, it allows you to continue to interact with your audiences between physical events, and to harvest and aggregate thought-leadership. In a business-to-business setting, your preferred platform may well be LinkedIn or Twitter - or one of the non-English language platforms like Xing, the largest business network in German-speaking countries; or Viadeo, the leader in professional social networking in France.


A picture paints a thousand words, it's said. In an organisation, 'storytelling' refers to "describing, explaining or illustrating something in such a way that it touches people’s emotions and sticks in their heads." (Institute of Leadership & Management). A good story creates images in the minds of the audience. We sometimes talk about people 'spellbound' by a story. Your organisation will have it's own stories. These are powerful promotional tools because they can persuade, influence, build rapport and inspire action.

We can think of ourselves - as individuals or our organisation - as the protagonists, or heroes, of our own stories. Based on myths from time immemorial, heroes (both masculine and feminine) move through stages of preparation, journey and return, aided by other characters, which psychologists call 'archetypes'. We can think of these characters as catalysts, or 'guides' that influence us from time to time. Often, we see that these archetypes are really just aspects of the hero's character.

While businesses and their people don't grow in a defined, linear way, story frameworks are useful models for generating and communicating learning. Furthermore, the pattern repeats like a spiral: the final stage of the journey merges into the first chapter of the next. Each time, the hero is wiser. Each time, the hero gains new insights at a higher or deeper level of development.

This is a great approach for responsible businesses because it explores aspects of being human in ourselves and our organisations. We learn about the different roles we take on and how they can help us understand ourselves and deepen our knowledge. People, and therefore organisations and societies, are highly complex, with many layers of thought. Using a story approach makes us look at things in different ways and allows us to discover more about why we act in certain ways in different situations.

The story acts as a container. It facilitates people and holds their attention. Humans are programmed to recall stories better than information.

Summary: the value of generating, capturing and promoting insights

To summarise, how can you increase your return on investment in trade shows, missions, conferences and other events? Consider the value of each of the following:

  • Capture insights from your event and promote these internally or externally.
  • Help position organisations as thought-leaders, becoming the go-to organisation for solving their customers' problems.
  • Increase the value of interactions between exhibitors, delegates and sponsors.
  • Create study tours outside the expo to showcase local innovation in operation.
  • Practise a range of communications skills and learn about their customers.
  • Develop an action plan for implementing their learning from your event.
  • Help individuals measure their performance by recognising their learning, such as through CPD of their professional body.
  • Help individuals capture contact details of the people they meet and follow-up afterwards with calls and actions to apply their learning.

Explore our Creative leadership for Innovation programme