5 Great Things That RAG Will Never Do

I have been receiving lots of adverts for conferences recently, which is odd, because I spend so much time organizing free conferences that I am unlikely to pay to attend conferences run by other people. It is almost as if some conference organizers have no idea about who they are spamming but have adopted a strategy which says quantity always trumps quality. Nevertheless, all the spam makes me think about all the things that other conference companies do, and which RAG does not do. And that makes me happy. Here are five reasons why some people go to other conferences, although they are really five reasons not to go to other conferences.

1. Promotional videos

You know those three-minute videos where comments from a dozen talking heads are slickly cut together with lots of images of fancy hotel ballrooms and swish restaurants, whilst a catchy pop tune plays on the soundtrack? It costs a lot of money to make those videos. (Did you think professional cameramen and editors work for free?) That means the people running the event need to sell more stuff to cover the cost of producing the videos. So next time you see a video telling you how great an event is, you may want to think about how much you will be expected to buy after you arrive at the event.

2. Phoning to ask what should be on the agenda

Apologies, but I do not need to call you to discover what are the ‘hot topics’ in telecoms risk and assurance. That is because I am not some miscellaneous event organizer who ran a conference on pharmaceuticals regulation last week and will be running a symposium on the marketing of organic foods next week.

When those people call, they are not interested in your opinion anyway. The real purpose of the call is to flatter you so they can persuade you to attend the event. And that means their business will pay somebody to spend half an hour flattering you, and then to flatter the next person on the list, and then the next person, day after day, week after week. That is a lot of money to spend on flattery. Which means you will be expected to buy more stuff if you attend their conference.

3. Special treatment for ‘special’ people

“Dear Eric, though I have never met you, and I have literally no idea how telcos are run, I know that you are the top expert in blah blah. In exchange for speaking at our conference, we will provide you with business class return flights and free stay at our 5-star hotel…”

I used to get those emails, but not any more. The emails did not stop because I forgot the things I used to know, or lost the power of speech. They stopped because I changed jobs, and did not have the fancy job title that was the real reason they contacted me. All that matters to these people is the job title. In short, they send identical emails to everybody with a BIG job title at a BIG telco. That is why they always ask you for email addresses of people at other big telcos when they phone you. The people who take the hotel/flight offer are going to be featured heavily on the brochure, and they will also be touted around every sponsoring vendor too. So if you are one of those people who take the deal, the cost of your flights and hotel will be linked to the number of salesmen hounding you to buy stuff whilst at the event. And if you are not one of those people, your entry fee helps to subsidize the flights and hotel for those ‘special’ people on the agenda, who may not actually know any more than you do, because having a big job title is not the same as knowing what you are talking about.

4. Registering to download the agenda

Why would anyone demand you supply your contact details before they tell you what is on their conference agenda? Some firms must pretend that you are joining their community. But making it difficult to see the agenda would make no sense, if the goal was to get the most people in the room and hence encourage the community to grow. The main reason to demand your email address and job title is to determine if you are the type who will get flattery and special treatment, or you are the type who must pay the full entry fee. Then they will attempt to spam you into submission, because they hope you are the kind of person who lacks the time, knowledge and contacts to learn about better events. It is just a fringe benefit that if fewer people see the full agenda, there is less risk of complaints from the people named on the agenda who never agreed to take part.

5. Early bird discounts

Imagine you have an empty room. You want to fill it with people. And you want those people to pay you money. And the top reason why anybody would choose to be in that room is to meet the other people in that room. If you ask for too much money at the beginning, then the room will always remain empty. The solution is to offer early bird discounts, and special giveaways, and all the other gimmicks. People who confirm early get in cheap, whilst those who can only confirm late must pay a lot more. That means the people who confirm early are chumps, because they get to meet people who paid a lot of money just to be in the room. And the people who confirm late are chumps, because they paying lots of money just to meet people with relaxed work schedules. In contrast, RAG offers the same flat rates to every telco, no matter when they book: our conferences are free. How does that compare to securing an early bird discount?

That is why RAG is really unconventional compared to other conference providers. We promise the following:

  • We will never call you to ask your opinion. We do not have time or money to call you. We spend our sponsor’s money on running great events, not on calling you.
  • Nobody will receive VIP treatment. Screw your job title, no matter how big it is. Speakers get on the RAG agenda because they know what they are talking about, and because they are good at talking about it.
  • We will never make promises about the agenda. That is because the list of speakers on our website is the list of people who told us they would speak. They promised they would speak. RAG is just a go-between, helping you to meet them, and helping them to meet you. The most current and complete version of the agenda will always be on the web, visible to everybody, without needing to register first.
  • We keep costs low. The food will be okay, but we are not going to take you to the best restaurant in town. The website will have maps and advice about hotels but we are not going to book your transportation for you. Our events are aimed at professionals who come to learn and to network, not at people wanting a fancy holiday.

If RAG keeps these promises, and remains focused on the quality of the speakers and the topics they talk about, we will become the biggest and best global provider of free information, advice and events for communications risk and assurance professionals. The 2017 RAG conferences in London, Bonn and Johannesburg have shown we are on our way. Coming up in 2018 we already have conferences announced for Sydney in January, and a return to London in April. Wherever we go, we focus on what matters to risk and assurance professionals in telcos. That is why telcos choose to host our conferences, and why we avoid spending money on frivolity.

Every penny wasted on conferences must ultimately be paid for by telcos, either through the fees they are charged to attend, or because they will be expected to pay higher prices for software. That is why RAG never wastes a single penny. Though we want to help telcos to maximize their revenues, RAG’s goal is not to make money, but to maximize the number of telco professionals in the room, and their engagement with the agenda and each other. RAG sponsors understand why that is ultimately beneficial for them.

So next time you watch a great video for a conference, or are offered a special price that is exclusive to you, ask yourself if the event really is going to be good for you. Are you going for a holiday? Then you will probably meet other people who are on holiday. Are you going to meet hard-working professionals with ideas, passion, imagination, and experience they are happy to share with you? Then come to RAG.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.