Sanjeev Kotnala @ Goafest 2017: 12 Constructive Suggestions ‘coz Perfection is Work in Progress

12 Apr,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


In my last post, I had said that Goafest 2017 would surpass expectations and I must repeat that I do believe it has. Unfortunately, the expectations with the team of supermen and superwomen organising Goafest were super-high too. Hence, we delegates – personally, individually and collectively – found issues to crib with some of what they did.

This time around, I decided to be offensively constructive in my suggestions and observations. I decided to check delegate experience. I am thankful to 40 delegates who filled a short digital questionnaire. However, I will still point out things that I must.

This year, the speaker’s profile was full of promise. We were excited by the list. However, the promises remained partially undelivered. Somewhere, the culprit was too overt a brand plug and many times the presentation did not add much of value. Hence, I was not surprised when delegates appreciated interesting and entertaining conversations with cricketers, Bollywood and a spiritual guru than from industry experts.

Just for the record, this time, I surprised myself by attending every knowledge session. I only missed the masterclass and the awards on the third night.

I think it is fair to assume that most of the presentations were neither pre-screened nor curated keeping the event and the delegates in mind. Someone commented that in an industry event like Goafest, we need to be intoxiated with relevant functional gyaan, not booze. (In the survey, everyone is unanimous that we should never tinker with free beer!)

I loved the session with Acharya Balkrishna, the short informative speech of Maneka Gandhi and the session on Visual Hammer by Laura Ries. Amitabh Kant, retaining the core of his often-delivered presentation, managed to add newness with a few anecdotes and his unique delivery style.

The session on AR/ VR/ MR had nothing new for people following technological devolvement in the industry. The session with Vivian Richards was entertaining for his style to front fot any conversation. Sanjay Dutt engaged delegates but what did people gain! I am yet to find why Ishita Katiyal, the youngest TED speaker was there. Mandira Bedi added glamour with Babita and Geetha Phogat. It was a session of heartfelt conversation that hovered around Dangal and their lives pre-post the film. Facebook, Mobikwick and ITC presentations were covert brand plug-inns. Gaur Gopal Das delivered a presentation on expected lines. His delivery had nothing new to what one has seen in multiple Whatsapp videos. Nevertheless, his style was so comfortable that many missed the points he made.

The delegates, on the other hand (as per survey), found the Vivian Richards, Amitabh Kant, Acharya Balkrishna, Laura Ries, Sanjay Dutt and Julia Kalia sessions the best. Here are the top sessions as per the survey.


As for the five least relevant or interesting or engaging presentations, keep reading. Topping the list Miss Malini, she had all the promise but surprisingly no intent or content. Session by Upasana, Eric Cruz, Julia kalia and the unscheduled talk by Puneet follows the list. Sorry, it is impossible to pinpoint, if it was the subject, content, person or style that upset the delegates.


The app-controlled Q&A was a welcome sign. It allowed the moderator to manage the Q&A time. It is different that they were unable to manage the speaker’s time. The app did take away the spontaneity and fun of a delegate-speaker open dialogue and discussions. Few masters of commenting (not questioning), arbit monologues and experts in rephrasing (also applauding) the speaker’s statements and observation found it too much of bother. Overall, it worked. And so did the WiFi within the event area.

Q&A through the app, was seen as a non-transparent system. A simple flick of the finger on the iPad could decide the fate of your question. You could never be sure if your question will make the moderator cut. Many complained that moderator overlooked their questions, which were better.

SUGGESTION #1: Maybe create a window for the first 15 questions. Making it easy for the moderator. Bounce back a message to the delegate when 15 questions are over.

Nothing started or ended on time: I think it is a statement we make about our own interest and discipline. Everyone blames everyone else for it. No one agrees to an early close to after-parties to help the delegates come on time. These are the same delegates who don’t miss flights and trains. We do have options. We can continue to adapt to a delayed start and end, or we can take some action and get some discipline in.

SUGGESTION #2: Create rewards and penalties to promote such a behaviour.

SUGGESTION #3: And this comes from many people: use the huge crowd-drawing performances and celebrity sessions early in the morning and in afternoon to get started on time. Close doors five minutes before start and allow no entry-exit till the end of the session. It sounds impossible and impractical, but so does every problem.

The start of Masterclass is a good initiative, and we need multiple tracks running parallel. Whosoever attended has only excellent feedback. It is a concept to stay, and we must amplify it.
There was some ill-feeling among few who registered but failed to make the list for the Masterclass. Where registration was on first-come-first-serve basis, we managed over 300% registration! It surely disappointed many. What made us take 300% more registration for a restricted Masterclass. I heard complaints that organisers never informed the delegates who registered but did not make the cut. I am not sure about it.

SUGGESTION #4, At the time of registrations, like IRCTC, we should start tagging registration against cancellation and full house signs. Maybe Masterclass should have an additional penalty for not attending. How to implement it is another question.


Too many awards do not seem to be bothering people. In a fragmented media and multiple touch-points, awards are bound to explode. On the other side, delegates appreciate stringent jury standards. They understand Gold is not guaranteed; it is given for the work that is up to Gold Standard. However, hearing a repeated ‘No Gold In this Category’ is very disheartening. One is not sure, if it is a statement on the jury expectations or the failure of the industry to deliver. Hopefully, I have got it all muddled here.

SUGGESTION #5, Maybe, we should discontinue the category where there were no awards for two consecutive years, or where there were less than 10 entries.

It did lead to a heated discussion over cold beer. The point of debate and disagreement was simple. Will it be the case if the non-participating agencies participated? Nevertheless, that does not bother me.

It is important to note that  the statement ‘ABBY JUDGING IS FAIR’ only scored 0.27 in a -3 ( Completely Disagree) to +3 (Completely Agree ) scale. This is too low. In the pre-survey, the score was equivalent of approximate +2.

What would have led this change. Is it because of sudden polarised winnings that the delegates did not see coming. Or these were  sporadic instances which have created this impression. Frankly, I did not hear much cribbing about it, some amount of resistance is acceptable.

If we do not brand, the branding happens by default. The great Advertising Marketing festival somewhere restrains itself from announcing the Creative Agency, Media Agency, The Broadcaster and the Publisher of the Year.  I will go a step ahead to add the Radio Agency of the Year, the Print Agency of the Year, the OOH Agency of the Year. These are coveted positions. When the festival avoids taking this stance, it leads the space open for participants to create their own language. The metal tally without colour discrimination creates the most awarded agency title.

SUGGESTION #6: I firmly believe the festival can not shy away from its duty of announcing such position. They may use the Olympic tally or code the weights of Gold, Silver and Bronze at 5,3,1 or whatever maybe the transparent algorithm they decide. If there is a case (which I believe exists), they  may disproportionately value wins in integrated or craft.

The AVs that abruptly stop during award presentation not only looks shabby but insults the awards and the awardees.

SUGGESTION #7: Ask agencies to submit one slide to be screened in case they won. I am sure they will be able to capture the essence. In case of Radio and TV, play only a 30-second or shorter version for Gold winner (this emerged during a discussion with senior industryperson Sumit Roy). Illusion, reclassify the awards. What about havng only crafts award on Day 1.

I am not sure, what the Bollywood performances are adding to the event. Why not lexpand the scope of these performances?

SUGGESTION #8: Next time try magic, mentalist, illusion, etc.

Front empty seats are no encouragement to any presenter. We must create an algorithm to predict the RESERVED SEATS utilization?

SUGGESTION #9: Decrease the number of reserved seats or find a digital way for the VIPs to help predict the attendance

SUGGESTION #10: How about introducing fixed pre-booked maxi seats on premium. A possibility we should consider.

The delegates finally arrived, and we hit the magical mark. However, there is unfulfilled need and a possible opportunity for a complete package covering registration, travel, lodging and boarding.

SUGGESTION #11: Try it for under-30. Anyway, the delegates believe that the special, under-30 special registration fee and the option of a 2-day pass should be continued.

Now the NET SCORE for the Goafest has decreased from -18 (pre-event) to -29 (post-event). This is a worrying area.

SUGGESTION #12: the the registration data to widen the scope of experience exploration and connect with the delegate in person for an in-depth understanding.


It’s amply reflected in the answer to their probability of coming back the next year. Now, quite a few end the festival with ‘This is my last Goafest’. Come April, they change our mind. However, it is relevant to see that in the survey, around 54% of delegates are likely to come back, and some 22% are undecided.


One thing I must state. Media representatives are all praise for the Viacom18 team handling media delegates. Sonia, Pradeep, Deepti, Ritam and the others did a wonderful job. In the knowledge seminar hall, how about a narrow table for media representatives to use… it will facilitate their taking notes on whatever device they use.

The delegates wholeheartedly applauded the concept of the Marquees Awards. It’s different that they are unsure if it is part of Goafest or an independent award from The Ad Club, like Effies and Emvies.

PS. The the stage set-up was perfect and far improved, we do not seem to have mastered this small detail.  The stage craft and presentation styles can also be used to demonstrate the new technology. I don’t think, I have even seen any presenter or Goafest use a Live voting.

SUGGESTION- 13,  Live speaker voting post the session and live on screen voting of the best question. And you know, how easy it is to do.

The team from AAAI and ADCLUB has yet again given a fantastic improved event. And perfection is after all work in progress.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior industryperson, strategy consultant and trainer. As Contributing Editor, MxMIndia, he writes a weekly column that appears every Wednesday. The views expressed here are his own


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