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  • Writer's pictureDrake Donovan

Final Thoughts On Conclave 39

I've written about my experiences at Conclave as both an attendee and as a presenter. This year I gained another perspective as a member of the Conclave Board of Directors as well as a moderator for two panels. I have to admit that this year's experience was the most intense visit to Conclave.

I equate it to hosting a party. While all of your guests are enjoying the gathering you've helped plan, you spend most of your time getting drinks, answering the door, tossing coats on the bed and giving the "nickel tour" of the venue. So it may not have been my usual, 'sit-and-soak-up-knowledge' m-o, it did provide me an opportunity to meet a lot of different people and interact with them on a different level than before.

All in all, I believe we put on a very fine event this year. The agenda was constructed to hit the audience right down the middle: some basic information for the smaller market operators and students with a few nuggets of more technical info for those more experienced veterans to confirm that they're on the right track in adapting to today's broadcasting challenges. In contrast to past Conclave Learning Conferences, this one felt very intimate. We had more attendees than in the two previous years yet the venue was set up to keep everyone in close proximity. Add in the compressed schedule of a single day of sessions made it easier for folks to fly in on Friday, learn all day Saturday, and fly out on Sunday.

Probably the biggest difference in this year's Conclave Learning Conference, besides the frigid November date, was the partnership with the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. Jim Du Bois and his organization helped us find a new audience for the Conclave's mission of education. As we move forward, it is our hope that more partnerships with other state broadcast associations can bring the Conclave to other parts of the country and help educate the next generation of broadcasters while teaching some old dogs a few new tricks!

Here are some things that this 'old dog' picked up from various sessions on the Programming Track at Conclave 39:

"The New Fundamentals: Things Every Player In Our Game Should Know"

The "Best Practices" are still relevant, especially in the PPM world. Rob Roberts of Q100, Atlanta described a scenario with a jock who is feeling under the weather, leaves the studio and folks say, 'great show'! Why? Cause he just did the basics.

Social media has added another layer of engagement with the audience. Mark Pennington of The Riff, Detroit explained that while PPM has taught us to be more concise and focused with what we say on the air, social media allows us to expand the conversation and interact with the audience in more ways than just the request line.

When you can "lock down" your talents' social media, you can retain those fans. In Detroit, Mark Pennington gave the example of how his morning show left their old station but kept up with their audience via social media during their non-compete period. Because the talent controlled their Facebook & Twitter profiles instead of their former station, they were able to bring those 100,000 fans with them to the Riff on day one.

"Socially Unacceptable"

Lori Lewis preaches that social should be an engaging, two-way conversation:

Instead of posting "(Station) will be at (night club) for (event) on Friday Night!" which is a one-way announcement and doesn't engage the audience, start out a few days before by tweeting a question like, "What's the worst hangover you've ever had?" Suddenly you've begun a conversation with the audience. Follow it up the next day with another one like, "What's the dumbest pickup line you've ever heard?" Now you're set up to promote your event by saying, "Come get a hangover and hear some bad pickup lines at (night club) Tonight with (Station)."

And Kevin Robinson, PD of WARH in St. Louis, says you can't force talent to post to social media. Once it becomes mandatory, the content becomes wallpaper. It has to be organic and real to truly connect with the audience.

"Finally...A Production Panel"

Diego of iHeartMedia's KDWB & Cities 97 gives this suggestion about boiler-plate corporate copy. A lot of times promos come down from on high and scripts cannot be manipulated, so the best a production person can do is create something compelling with music and sound effects to "image around the parts you can't touch to make it feel more like that station".

If a client wishes to voice their own spots but isn't the best person for the job or wants to make changes to an otherwise effective campaign idea, Tim Burt of CBS-Radio St. Louis/Tim Burt Media suggests telling them, "Hey, if you wanna waste your money, we'll do it." After all, you may know your business and your customers, but you don't know how to speak to our audience in a way that can make them your new customers.

At a loss for an idea, "allow the music to tell the story," adds Justin Case from Benztown. As someone who creates imaging for a service like Benztown, Justin says that presents a challenge in creating elements that are creative & compelling without being too specific. But everyone in that format plays that artist, so sometimes having Taylor Swifts songs tell the story about Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour can be just as effective at getting the audience's attention as "Taylor Swift, March 1st at Staples Center!"

When it comes to re-energizing yourself and fighting "Cranky Production Director Syndrome" both Diego & Justin "get out of the studio" and live their lives. Tim Burt, however, had only 3 words: Call...Of...Duty. Tim explains that nothing washes away the stress of the day like "picking off twelve-year-old latch key kids with a sniper rifle!"

"Penciling In Promotions: How To Fill Your Promotional Calendar, No Matter Your Budget"

Just as I've been doing in imaging in keeping things topical, Paige Nienaber of CPR Promotions says to stick with the "Hallmark Holidays" to populate your calendar and then fill in the areas between because you should always be doing something promotionally.

Paige also suggests that if you have multiple stations in a cluster doing radiothons during the "season of begging" have them ask for different things at different times. For example, if the country station is doing a fund raiser for St. Jude, have the Hot AC do a Toy Drive for Toys For Tots and the News-Talk ask for donations of coats for the Salvation Army.

"The Battle Plan: How To Deal With And Beat Your Competition"

The takeaway for me from Joel Burke's session was to attack yourself. Meaning that you should examine your brand's weaknesses and how a potential competitor could exploit them. Kinda like what internet folks call, "dog-fooding". Consume your own product and evaluate it. Successful stations are always ready for a fight.

"Training Camp: The Two-A-Day Workout For Programmers & Personalities"

I found it very interesting that Bob Shomper, PD of WCCO-AM, doesn't have new talent go on the air right away. He lets them listen to the station for about two weeks prior to starting because, "you'll never hear the radio station the same ever again, once you are on the air or in the groove of putting together the programming."

Rich Davis' style of managing his personalities on KDWB & Cities 97 was to cultivate a fun atmosphere. He talked about tossing the football around in the office and having regular all-staff meetings that sometimes end in group hugs.

Mike McVay, SVP of Cumulus, likes talent that's "unbalanced" and a little off-the-wall. It's the kind of stuff you can't teach, but can reign in when necessary.

So that's what I came away with from Conclave 39. What was your experience? Ever been to a Conclave Learning Conference? Tell me about that one. And let's all make plans to celebrate Conclave's 40th anniversary in 2015.

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