Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

Thanks everyone for a great year. I put together a short Animoto video. It has a few pics of me with my family. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays 2012 - Animoto

Friday, September 21, 2012

3 Ways To Ensure the Long Term Profitability Of Your Conference

I talk to associations who tell me that their annual meeting is the bread and butter of the organization, not to mention upwards of 60% of the operating revenue.

Turning (or keeping) the event into a profit center is a long-term venture, tied to the attendees perception of value of the conference.

After serving hundreds of associations the past several years, here’s what I come up with:
  1. Maintain or increase the value proposition. Don't look to JUST cut costs to increase the profit margin. Removing a valuable hands-on piece like a flash drive or large syllabus book  to go online may save you money now, but will it make your attendees see your event as less desirable-valuable? (Penny-wise…) Balance the educational content and tangibles with the fancy Hors D'oeuvres and coffee breaks.

  2. Look for ways to increase revenue. Many of my customers are using their educational content as a carrot or leverage to increase membership and attendance. Some associations are having success with away some free content to attract new attendees. Once attendees have browsed a certain amount of content online, they are met with an offer to join the association, attend the conference or perhaps buy the content at a higher rate than members. (e.g. Amazon’s preview of the first few pages of books, or highbeam.com’s abstract view.) This has increased the conversion rate of people who browse to people who attend or become members.

  3. Offer a choice in educational materials media formats, and charge attendees if they pick more than one. A current client of mine still offers their large syllabus book, but is transitioning to digital media by also offering the handouts on a USB Drive.  Everyone gets a book OR USB as part of their registration fee, but not both. If they want both, then they have to pay for both. Attendees make this choice at registration time and it seems to ‘culture’ them to a slow change. (What’s that old story about boiling the frog?) It also adds thousands of dollars to the bottom line!
Those are just some strategies and thoughts that have been successfully implemented as associations struggle to save money, and try to keep everyone happy.—a big challenge!

Friday, September 14, 2012

As a Meeting Planner, How Do You Get New Sponsors (and keep them happy at your event?)

As a sponsor of many events, I want to get the most bang for my buck. If I don't see value in sponsorship, (i.e. new business) I may not return.

1. Sponsors want to know how you will get attendees in front of them. Nothing is as disheartening to a sponsor as having a booth on the exhibit floor when floor hours run concurrently the educational sessions. Try not to have a sponsor room or exhibit floor that is off the beaten path from where attendees will be walking from session to session.

2. Encourage all of the attendees to approach and thank the sponsors and exhibitors for attending. If applicable in your situation, sponsors help keep costs down, and that should be acknowledged.

3. Sponsors want to talk to the right attendees. Help sponsors understand who the attendees are so they can determine if attendees are in the target segment.

4. Encourage the sponsors to offer a "special show discount”. The more sponsors can tie the ROI of sponsorship to new business, the more likely they are to return year after year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Social Media for Events, ROI, & The Attendee Experience

In The Beginning
Now that many of us are getting to the point where we don't tweet every waking moment (meaning we actually apply social media to a purpose), some people are asking, "What's the return on my money/time/investment to be on social media outposts"?

That's certainly a fair question. First, that depends if you talk about eating oatmeal or depositing your check in the bank on your blog, Twitter or Facebook wall.

Is getting an ROI the unattainable Holy Grail with social media for events? Some event planners are looking for social media alone to increase attendance.

Recently I have taken the added position of Community Manager for Engage365, which is a knowledge community devoted to the purpose of helping people learn about the use of social media for/by/during/before/after events.

It didn't take long for someone in the community to ask the question, "Have any of you have used social media to market your conferences, events, and if you have data on it, is it increasing attendance?"

The Proof's in the Pudding
There aren't a lot of data points to answer this question. Many people 'hem and haw' when trying to answer it. It's difficult to see whether or not 2009 was made a little better or maybe just stemmed more bleeding because of marketing via Twitter, et. al. What I can tell you is that something IS happening.

At the 2009 ASAE Annual Meeting in Toronto, Bruce MacMillan, CEO of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) shared some compelling statistics in his session on Business Meetings of the Future.


Meet Different 2009 - Satisfaction Survey

2008      85.4%
2009      94.8%***

WEC 2009 - Satisfaction Survey

2008         84%

2009         92%***

***Mr. MacMillan reported an 8 % and 10% increase (respectively) in attendee satisfaction at both of their main events. He attributed a large part of the improvement “directly to the engagement on the social network site”.

Which Social Networking Site?
MPI used a conference community site to bring together the handouts and social networking, giving attendees one place to discuss the conference topics, and download the speaker materials, and most importantly, get to know one another prior to the event, not to mention stay in touch after.

Attendees, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors all networked on the site a month before, on site, and a month after the conference. Typically MPI's conferences are 3-4 days long. Now the conference experience for the attendees was months long!

Yeah But...
Now, this isn’t data that shows direct increased attendance. That’s tough to do in a year like 2009. However, it’s not too much of a stretch to say if an attendee had a better time than they did the year before, he/she will talk about it and come back next year.

Try It, You'll Like It
How do you increase attendance using social media? One way is to ask your attendees to spread the word through their social media profiles. By simply asking your members, attendees, speakers to talk about your event on their social media outlets and to their friends and followers, you are reaching far beyond your database.

As the old saying goes, "It's a numbers game". The more people who are exposed to your message, the more people will embrace it. Some will say "no" but some will say "yes".

If you want to know more about how to grow attendance with only social media, I encourage you to read SocialFish's Case Studies Page and Living Case Study of Buzz2009.

Many people tell me increasing attendance is the most important thing when planning their event.  However, don't forget about who's already coming to your event. Don't think of social media as a tool to only increase attendance. Consider using social media tools to enhance the experience before during and after the event.

What if:
  • A speaker can reach more people, get better exposure, and collaborate with attendees, would you encourage the use of the tools that would foster this?
  • A conference organizer could engage with the registered attendees, the public and other conference participants?
  • An exhibitor had an opportunity to connect with attendees before the conference, set up appointments and meet the right people vs. leaving it to chance
  • An attendee could walk into the event's opening reception and recognize several faces and not feel intimidated to talk to anyone?
They can if you apply certain social media to your attendee's experience.

The application of social media to your events is "worth it" because it can not only extend your marketing reach. Even if, worst case scenario, using social media tools doesn't increase your attendance by one person, (highly unlikely) it gives the conference participants a better experience. (See MPI example above) 

Now that's a return on one's investment!  

P.S. Still think it's all a bunch of hooey? Here’s another great video about the impact of social media marketing from the folks at Socialnomics.
P.S.S Want more Information on measuring Social Media and ROI?

Cited: Bruce MacMillan, Business Meetings of the Future, ASAE Annual Meeting 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The DOs and DON’Ts of Participating in an Online Event Community

An online event community helps sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and attendees get engaged with an event and connect with people before, during and after the event.
Participating in an online event community isn’t much different than communicating face-to-face. However, sometimes when we inject the word “online” into the mix, people need to be reminded of some simple rules of “online” interaction.
Follow this list and your chances of meeting the right people and building a positive personal brand at your next event will be maximized.

Online Event Community Participation DOs and DONT’s

1. Do Connect… Don’t Collect
Online event communities trust that other participants are registered for the same reasons they are – to make connections, have discussions and share resources. Don’t spend your time collecting names and trying to force relationships. You’ll reap more benefits in the long run by giving to the community instead of taking.
2. Do Engage… Don’t Promote
No one likes a spammer who jumps into every conversation with blatant promotions of his company. Instead, engage with other participants by asking and answering questions, reaching out to find common interests and sharing resources with the community. Exhibitors who spam may be banned or frowned upon from the event community.
3. Do Discuss… Don’t Disparage
An event online community may be open to all sponsors, exhibitors, attendees and speakers. You may see your competitors participating in the community. Please refrain from making negative comments about other companies or different points of view. Discussion is ok… insults are not.
4. Do Participate… Don’t Sit Back
Get involved! The more you put into the community, the more you’ll get out of it. Start discussions, chime in on conversations, find people with similar interests. Now’s your chance to really get to know the attendees.
5. Do Be Original… Don’t Copy & Paste
An online event community loves to share resources. Please make sure your contributions are your own or are properly credited to their creators.
6. Do Ask questions… Don’t Give Speeches
Online communities are not podiums for monologues. The beauty of a participatory community is getting feedback from multiple points of view. Take the time to respond to other people’s comments about your conversations, rather than stating your position and leaving the conversation. You’ll find that event attendees prefer a real discussion over a one-way presentation.
7. Do Be Yourself… Don’t Put on Airs
Online communities value authenticity. They are much more likely to engage with a fellow participant who shows his personality, not just his company’s tagline. Upload your own photo, and add personal tags to your profile. You’re likely to find people who are interested in you as a person with ideas, rather than a company with products.
8. Do Seek Colleagues… Don’t Stalk Clients
You may find some online event community members are very open to connecting with exhibitors, and others prefer only to interact with other attendees. If you reach out to an attendee and he doesn’t respond back, don’t keep pursuing. You should have plenty of opportunities to find attendees who want to interact.

Reblogged with permission from Chris Uschan, author of http://blog.omnipress.com.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ground(swell) Control to Major Tom

Every day I talk to customers considering using a private label community like Conference 2.0™ and the same question comes up: “We want to keep control of the community; can I delete something if someone says something bad?”

This is a learning moment for two reasons.

One, I learn that even after all the talk about Groundswell and Forrester Research, and the Keynote Speech by Charlene Li at ASAE Annual in Toronto, some don’t understand one main thing: You do not have control over your members, your community, or their behavior in social media (if you ever did).

Two, It’s a teaching moment for me. I try to break the news gently, if not challenge their thinking: “You never had control”.

I try to explain that your organization’s constituents, members, and customers have the control and they ARE talking about “you”. If you exhibit control, your members will go other places and talk. And, even if you offer the best online forum for talking, you might only get to hear what you want to hear.

Associations came to be because of likeminded people wanting to get together to share knowledge & perhaps get behind a cause. Occasionally people disagree with the direction or initiative of the association. As an association leader, dealing with “rabble rousers” is a delicate balance. Exerting dominion over them may turn them off and cause them to jump ship. They could be just be trouble makers, or…they may have a valid concern.

If they have a valid concern, do you really want to quell that? This concern or difference in opinion could turn into a “groundswell”.

You can’t fix what you don’t know about, so give your members a place where they can voice their concern, and don’t wince when they do.

If you haven’t read the book Groundswell, and are considering a foray into social media for your association, STOP RIGHT NOW. Read the book; and understand that you do not have control over the “groundswell” But you can harness it.

“THEY” are talking about you. Now, do you want know about it...or not?