2024 has certainly got off to rocky televisual start, with the downturn of advertising revenue, real terms reduction of the BBC license fee and commissioning turmoil at Channel 4 – we’re all looking for new markets and opportunities… And so, as the 2024 TV festival season begins, we’ve been pondering whether we should broaden our horizons and dig into those not so deep pockets to pay for the trips or stay at home and watch the sessions online?

For larger companies the cost of registration, travel, hotels maybe aren’t an issue – but for smaller indies like Chatterbox, is being there worth the expense? And which one should we pick? The choice is almost too overwhelming – do you grab your passport and sunglasses and head to MIPcom known as ‘the mother of all entertainment content markets’? Over 3,000 companies descend on Cannes in the south of France for four intense days to share ideas about the shows or films they are developing and looking to fund or to promote and sell existing shows to buyers from around the world – but haven’t all the deals been done well in advance of the sun-kissed photo-op handshake? 

Do we stay closer to home and the stick to the familiar – signing up to Content London or maybe Edinburgh TV Festival to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of Telly and inevitably end up at the George for late night discussions and drinking after the Mactaggart. The WCSFOP promising intel on the latest AI innovations sounds tempting, as does the NAB trade fest in Las Vegas….the options are vast, and the FOMO is real!

We spoke to our industry friends and colleagues to get their views – before pressing the green light and booking our flights to the states this weekend for a trip to Real Screen New Orleans, described as “a buzzy unscripted content event to connect and do business”.

A one-stop shop for the global market – sounds good!

We would love to see friends and colleagues out there, so do get in touch if you’re also hoping to fast pitch, slow pitch, attend a power breakfast, learn from packed day long sessions of impressive keynotes and panels – finally unwinding with a few cocktails in the French Quarter… before doing it all again the next day!

Lots of people love a good 4-day conference – the amazing speakers, the goody bags, the connections and even the sponsored early evening drinks. One regular says “you always learn something new and get to meet some incredible people you’d not otherwise come across”. A producer who went for the first-time last year feels “it makes the industry more accessible, and networking easier, also you get to meet cool people who’ve made stuff you like”. For others, the keynotes and sessions put on are the draw “you hear from experts and leaders in their field – and that can be fascinating, inspiring surprising”. 

Well, that’s the glossy brochure version – attending a conference can also be hard work: walking around humungous venues with a bag full of pamphlets, novelty pens and branded chocolate bars, while also searching for a phone charger and finding a spot to eat your sandwich.

So, before you drop thousands of pounds, block out valuable days in your diary and dust off the (now digital) business cards – take a moment. We’ve compiled a do’s and don’ts list randomly gathered from friends and colleagues – please feel free to add and amend as you see fit!

Be focused – good networking is about building new relationships and strengthening existing ones – work out what you would like to get out of the conference – who you want to meet and why.

Pack a conference survival kit – a phone charger, a portable back up charger, snacks you can pop in your bag, ear plugs to drown out party people – and a pack of paracetamol.

Try something new and push out of your comfort zone – don’t just attend sessions with familiar speakers or content, after all you’ve invested time and money to be there.

Think ahead and prepare – presentation materials can help make your meetings better, essential to help you to communicate your ideas to your audience effectively. Rehearse your pitch.

Get out of the conference venue – go for a walk, hire a bike, take in the sights – you’ll be grateful you did!