DMA show agenda short on specifics

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Carol Krol, editor in chief, Direct Marketing News
Carol Krol, editor in chief, Direct Marketing News

Wikipedia defines "information design" as "the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning."

Statistician and retired Yale professor Edward Tufte is known among journalists and designers for his groundbreaking books and seminars on information design to help communicators present information. Information design seems simple, but execution is not. Hence, Tufte's cottage industry around it.

A recent example of what not to do was perpetrated by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Don't get me wrong: The trade group put on a good annual show this year. Sessions were well-attended, and the hallways, show floor and parties were buzzing. 

However, DMA also launched a social platform with Vivastream, which was a great idea on the surface. But in its efforts to bring social dynamics into conference planning, a core detail was left out of the printed materials: session descriptions! The booklet told attendees to "Go to for details." That is great if you have the technology. I've got my trusty iPhone, which might as well be surgically attached, but it was still not easy to log-in and get information on the fly.

Without Vivastream, I wouldn't know, for example, that the Thought Leadership two-day series featured 11 sessions that included a wide range of senior presenters from Acxiom Corp., Discover Financial Services, Gucci Group, Macy's and OgilvyOne Worldwide.

I had conversations with many attendees who were equally frustrated. One said "the DMA dropped the ball with its agenda." The way this email executive saw it, removal of session descriptions "made it virtually impossible to determine which sessions you wanted to attend on-site unless you were signed into Vivastream. Most attendees were deciding which sessions they should attend based on six-word title descriptions."

The sessions are a huge draw. Presenting information well is no easy feat, but I hope DMA will make sure the most valuable information is presented to customers clearly.

As the email executive said, "Smart marketing is about relevance. Think about customer experience from your audience's perspective, and never cut function for efficiency."

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