For using the artificial-intelligence language bot ChatGPT to create session content and speaker lineups for large b-to-b shows
When ChatGPT was released for public use in November 2022, the timing could not have been any better for Maxwell Kelly, a novice event organizer who’s part of the team at London-based Oliver Kinross, which operates four annual construction shows in New York, Chicago, London, and Sydney.
After coming straight from university to Oliver Kinross early in the Covid pandemic, the tech-savvy Kelly spent about 18 months as a marketing manager before the re-emergence of face-to-face meetings brought about a transition to event manager, part of a 10-person staff that creates the construction shows. But with a compressed timeline of three months for executing the 12,000-attendee New York Build Expo in March—followed four weeks later by the similarly sized Sydney Build Expo—Kelly learned quickly that ChatGPT could be a valuable planning partner.
In the weeks after ChatGPT’s release, “my boss saw that our sales reps were using it a bit to identify and strengthen their exhibit-buyer leads,” says Kelly. “He asked me to see how it might be able to create session-content ideas and recommend speakers for those, so I took a deep dive into that.”
Kelly says he “did a lot of experimenting” with the questions he asked of the bot, learning that “it’s quite good at adapting its replies to any tweaks you make to your wording.” For instance, instead of simply asking ChatGPT to suggest conference topics related to the future of technology or sustainability in New York’s construction industry, Kelly slipped in words such as “exciting,” “challenges,” and “opportunities,” which “gave us so many other avenues to go down for ideas” because ChatGPT could discover more related content from across the Internet.
In addition to catchy session titles and themes, “we asked it for companies’ architects, government officials, and other industry experts who could speak and who had a certain title or level of experience, and it gave us really relevant sources.” In fact, the most popular session at New York Build 2023 was one suggested by ChatGPT along with its panel of speakers.
With the bot’s assistance, Kelly was able to build a strong conference agenda in less than two months. “In 30 seconds, it was giving me 10 to 15 title suggestions that I could go through for a given session and say, ‘No, don’t like that one; that one’s not bad; that one is really good and not something I would have thought of.’ It just stimulates the process and gets you farther along much faster. It can even provide image ideas for social-media banners to promote speakers and their topics, which saves us so much time.”
Through this trailblazing experience, however, Kelly has also discovered limitations around A.I.-generated content. “You have to be careful with it, especially for marketing purposes,” he warns. “We want the human touch to be apparent with our shows, but sometimes the bot will write copy that’s slightly off from our style or from natural conversation. We’ve found it can get too much into ‘corporate speak,’ and we surely don’t want that reflected in session descriptions and marketing.”
“On the other hand,” Kelly adds, “it is only going to get better and better.” And with a longer lead time for November’s London Build Expo—where there will be 500 speakers appearing before an expected crowd of 15,000—who knows how much more ChatGPT will be doing for Kelly and Oliver Kinross in the coming months.