September 21, 2010

How The CIRA AGM Became Interesting

CIRA AGM 2010 700x670 An Annual General Meeting (AGM) can be very dull. Organizers who know this and care, take steps to add interest.

That's what CIRA did today. Their techniques can help you improve your events.


The nonprofit Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) manages .CA domains. You wouldn't normally think about them unless a problem arose.

Your clients also have more on their minds than your product, service or event.


Like CIRA, here's what you can do.
  • pick a good name
  • feature keynote speakers
  • compress the dull stuff
  • give extras

What's In a Name?

Would you rather go to
  1. the CIRA Annual General Meeting?
  2. Canadians Connected?
A name makes a difference but it's hardly enough of a draw.

Keynote Speakers

The speakers were the big lure. The afternoon started with Terry O'Reilly (The Age of Persuasion). He's in the advertising business and was excellent at answering questions. He pointed out that Canadian ads aren't well understood in other countries. Here's a classic example.

Depending on your niche, you may not require international appeal. A country-specific domain may extend your mystique in your country. Strict rules govern who can get a .CA but anyone can get a .COM.

Chris O'Neill (new head of Google Canada) was on a panel. He just moved back after 12 years in the US and is in listening mode. He said the future's already here but not evenly distributed yet. Many searches have local connotations — about 20% from the desktop and 33% for mobile.

Mitch Joel (Six Pixels of Separation) ended the day with his usual perceptive thoughts. He said he's more likely to trust me over a stranger because we're already connected. That's proof of intelligence! Unfortunately, there was no time for audience questions.

The Dull Stuff

What's an AGM without a treasure's report, a couple of nitpicky questions from members, and a vote? This mid-part of the agenda took less than an hour and was engaging.

I didn't have an appreciation of what CIRA wants to achieve and why. One goal is to position .CA as the preferred domain name over the pervasive .COM. If you're travelling abroad, which flag would you rather have on your backpack: American or Canadian? The maple leaf engenders more trust. Perhaps a .CA is the same.

Maybe that's "obvious" but it wasn't for me. Terry said there's a risk in assuming your story has been told ... and remembered. The solution is to keep telling your story.

I thought of a .COM as essential for credibility and a .CA as a necessary extra expense. Depending on your business and target market, the .CA may be more effective. Maybe it's time to redirect the .COM to the .CA?

Because Microsoft Windows and .COMs have so much market share, they're the primary targets for security threats. That makes the underdogs Mac OS/Linux and .CA safer.

I was worried there'd be geeky technical details about CIRA and the Internet. We were spared that too.


Part of exceeding expectations, the food was excellent. There were even Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars and an after-event reception. A webcast allowed remote participation (including voting). There were prizes like iPads and a $1,000 gift certificate to Future Shop.

A high quality folder with rounded edges held full colour handouts printed on nice paper. No keynote speaker had an insert (apart from a bio). They missed an opportunity to give us a valuable takeaway such as a summary, visual or related article.

Other Opinions

Consensus is the 5th universal principle of influence. Here's what others said via Twitter.

Improving Results

There are currently 1,468,337 .CA domains registered by about 800,000 registrants. Despite all that CIRA is doing, only about 15,000 are currently CIRA members. That's when registration is free. Maybe next year's AGM will attract more.

There's certainly room to grow. Here, .COMs have 62% market share with .CAs at 25%.


PS If you can get to Montreal, why not see Mitch, Seth Godin, Jeffrey Gitomer and others at The Art of Marketing on September 30th? Some tickets remain. I'm tempted but will be at TEDxToronto.