Wash, Rinse, Repeat – Three Ways to Increase your Meeting Attendance

Are you hosting the same event over and over again? You’re not the only one who has the increasingly difficult job of hosting the same meeting with an expectation of more attendees on the same budget. The trick to success is thinking about your event from the attendees point of view. What would make this event worth the investment of my time and resources? Can you provide cutting edge education, access to connections and maybe the opportunity to bring my family? See below for 3 ways to refresh your event:

Rethink your venue

Try an unusual and unique space. More than ever, events are being held in unique locations. If you can invite your guests to a place they’ve never seen before, you are adding to the allure of the event, thus creating excitement and that translates into attendance. Call your local MPI chapter http://www.mpiweb.org/Community/Chapters and ask for a planner who can help. Meeting Professionals International is the nation’s largest association of meeting planners and has members who know your area and can help you think out of the box. Maybe your meeting is appropriate in a conference center but your networking events don’t have to be.

 

Tie it in with a vacation 

If your guests are traveling to attend your event, negotiate the room blocks with the option of coming early/staying over for the same discounted rate. How great would it be if your attendees are so excited about the location that they want to make a vacation out of it? Give them the perks of your buying power and get them the same rate for their vacation days. Or can they upgrade to a family friendly room at a discount? While we’re talking families, arrange childcare with a vendor like Kiddie Corp https://www.kiddiecorp.com/) who specializes in conference childcare. Call the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and get information on local attractions and discounts. Your attendee will be the family hero and they’ll have you to thank.

Adjust the schedule

The TED sessions are brilliant and wildly successful. Why? They are short, straight to the point and provide valuable information in a concise way. Attendees are looking for more bang for their buck so if they can go to 6 sessions a day instead of 3, that helps them justify their investment. Make the sessions no longer than 30-45 minutes, with a speaker only talking for 20-30 minutes and then pushing their content out electronically. Also, provide plenty of “hang space” – furniture seating in the hall or open space for people to meet and brainstorm. Add a charging station and some water and coffee and bam – you’ve just facilitated connections.

Make sure you spotlight what’s new and different in your correspondence. The invitation sets the tone for the whole meeting, so use this prime space carefully and pay it off in spades with new twists on the not-so-same event.

 

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8 bad habits event planners should stop to save time

Time.  It’s the event planner’s most precious commodity and yet it is also one of the main challenges of organizing any type of event.  Most of us feel that we simply don’t have enough of it.  Yet somehow, we keep calm and carry on.  It’s no wonder event planning is ranked as the fifth most stressful job in the world! Working in events is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  Determination, experience, good communications and creativity are all essential skills for success in the job. But good time-management is even more important.

Many of us today use all sorts of technology tools that help save time in planning and managing events. From event management systems like Eventsforce to event apps, engagement tools, marketing automation, analytics and so on. No one can dispute the countless benefits these systems bring in terms of time management.  They help us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources – a lot faster than what was once imaginable.

But let’s not forget about the human factor. Effective time management is a personal thing too. And most of us don’t get it right all the time. Whether it’s procrastination, personal distractions or tasks that take up a lot more time than they should, there are many things that waste our time every day.  And wasted time means rushed deadlines, a work-life imbalance and more stress and anxiety.

Have a look at the eight things you need to stop doing now to make better use of your time:

1. Stop Complaining about Time

We’re all a little bit guilty here.  We talk to colleagues, partners and suppliers about how much work we need to do in so little time. If you’re in the habit of complaining about time, it may be time to break the habit. And the easiest way of breaking any bad habit is by replacing it with a new positive one. Instead of focusing on your lack of time, be more vocal about what you do have time for.  If you value your time, others will do the same and you’ll see that it will not only have a positive impact on your productivity but everyone else’s too.

2. Stop Quick Internet Breaks

How often do you get the itch to quickly check the news or have a look at your phone to check Twitter or Facebook in the middle of a task? According to Forbes.com, research has shown that it takes 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task.  After that, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity – which apparently makes you five times more productive that you otherwise would be. Taking a mini-break to surf the Internet pulls you out of this state, which means you’ll need another 15 minutes to get back into it.  You do this enough times, and you’ll go through a whole day without experiencing the focus you need to get the job done. If these mini surfing breaks are essential, give yourself set times to do them in.  You can also use a tool like Pocket, which can save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a time that won’t impact your work.

3. Stop Multi-Tasking!

This may sound like the last thing an event planner should do but multi-tasking is a real productivity killer. According to research at Stanford University, multitasking has been proven to be less productive than doing a single thing at a time.  Why?  Because our brains lack the capacity to perform more than one task at a time successfully.  We may think we’re multi-taskers, but what we’re actually doing is shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as writing an email, then doing a conference call, then back to email and so on.   The research also found that people who multi-tasked a lot and believed it boosted their performance, were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. It seems they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information – they were also slower at switching from one task to another!

4. Stop Responding to Emails as They Arrive

Emails can be the source of constant interruption and this will affect how well you work with the time you’ve got.  Put aside specific times for checking your email, such as first thing in the day, right before or after lunch or right at the end of the day.  Unless it’s urgent, avoid checking emails outside these set times as it will definitely distract you from your high-priority work, especially when things are busy. You can also use features in your email software that allow you to prioritize messages by sender – so you can set alerts for your important suppliers and vendors and save the rest for your allocated email time.  You can even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when you’ll be checking emails again.


Learn how to save time, cut out admin work and do more with your event data with this FREE eBook from Event Industry News and Eventsforce: The Event Planner’s Guide to Data Integration.


5. Stop Putting Off Harder Tasks

You have to remember that our mental energy has limits.  When this energy is exhausted, time-management, productivity and the ability to make good decisions decline rapidly. When you put off tasks till late in the day (because they’re difficult, boring or intimidating), you are saving them for a time when you’re at your worst. Take on these tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh and you’ll spend less time getting it done.

6. Stop The Unrealistic To-Do Lists

Ticking things off your to-do list can feel good because it gives you a sense of accomplishment.  But is it really the most productive way of doing things?  Apparently not. We regularly underestimate how long something will take us and we forget to factor this in.  Setting unrealistic expectations with never-ending to-do lists can lead to frustration, exhaustion and a feeling that you’re not accomplishing anything. Prioritize your tasks from most important to least important and for each task on your list, figure out exactly how much time you need to get it done. If you set a deadline for yourself, then this will help you avoid procrastination and ultimately work more effectively in the time that you have.

7. Stop Unproductive Meetings

Meetings take up a big part of your time.  Sometimes you may even have meetings about meetings. Well, according to Forbes, ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible.  They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so whenever they have one, they inform everyone from the start that they’ll be sticking to the intended schedule.  This sets a clear limit that encourages everyone to be more focused and efficient with their time.  When you are running meetings with your colleagues or suppliers, take five minutes beforehand to decide what it is you want to achieve.  This will help you stay focused on your goals.   Take another five minutes afterwards to check the results.  You can also make better use of time by creating boundaries for these meetings, such as keeping laptops closed (unless needed), not checking phones and making sure everyone participates and provides an opinion at the end of the discussion.

8. Stop Saying Yes to Everything

Yes, it is mostly your responsibility and the work does need to be done.  But saying yes to everything will load up your plate to a point where it becomes unmanageable because there simply isn’t enough time.   Try to take on additional tasks when you know you have free time or that the task at hand will help you meet your goals.  Figure out what the task involves before you say ‘yes’ and you’ll avoid neglecting other tasks that may be more important.  If you feel it isn’t a priority, don’t be worried about saying ‘no’ – people tend to instinctively respect those who can say no.  And if you don’t like the confrontation, you could try saying something along these lines – ‘I’ll be able to work on it once I finish doing XXX’ or ‘It would be great if I could do this another time, as I would like to focus my energy on what I’m doing now to get the best results’.

Conclusion

Some of these bad habits may not be such a big deal, but they do add up.  As an exercise, track the time you spend doing different tasks using an app like Toggl.   Look at the time you and your team spend meeting venues and suppliers, dealing with emails, setting up event websites, managing registrations and attendee enquiries, copying data, reporting and so on. You don’t need to do it all the time – use a set timeframe for your exercise.  Knowing how much time you spend working on different tasks will put you in a better position to figure out what you’re doing right and where there’s ways to improve.

Are there any other bad habits you can add to this list?  Please share and let us know – we’d love to hear your comments.

Sources:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2017/01/31/eight-bad-habits-you-must-break-to-be-more-productive/2/#326994935a80
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2017/02/06/want-to-be-more-productive-stop-multi-tasking/#5360b75a55a6
https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbooth/2014/08/28/30-time-management-tips/#676a6bfb75e5

What your wedding guests really care about

So, you’re throwing a wedding and you have a budget. While you have grand ideas about how every detail matters because it must match your vision, you need to know that you can kill yourself over things that no one will notice or you can focus on the areas that your Guests will remember. Here they are:

The Venue

What is more exciting than going to a unique location for a party? Exposed brick, a garden, festoon lighting and curated grounds are all characteristics that make for a beautiful space and photos to swoon over. Your Guests will want to take more pictures – and post them with your hashtag. What a way to make your memories last forever!

The Food

They just sat through the ceremony; now reward them with great food. Don’t default to “Package 2” – customize your menu to make it look like you. While a standard pasta dish is appreciated, a tuna roll station or do-it-yourself smores bar is a fun addition. I recently had a bride who loves Taco Bell. She is a well-respected, refined lawyer who loves to eat Taco Bell after fun nights out with her friends. I had the chef prepare four cheese quesadillas and portion them into bite-sized pieces and we placed a Taco Bell sauce packet in each portion. When these hit the crowd around 11:00 pm, it was a huge hit. People appreciate you feeding them. Don’t skimp on it.

Cake

People normally only eat cake when they are at weddings. Make it worth their wait. Along those lines, don’t make the cake such a unique flavor that it won’t appeal to the masses. If you want orange marmalade-strawberry cream cheese, have one layer of it and then have the other layers be more traditional.

If you keep in mind that all your Guests want is to celebrate with you, you’ll take pressure off of yourself and be able to enjoy your day.

 

Peddling myths to harry the innocent

Like wasps to a pot of jam, the buzz of experts rushing onto the GDPR bandwagon is incessant. Leading cyber security entrepreneur Jane Frankland posted just two days ago ‘Can we really trust GDPR Products, Services and “Experts”?‘ and I found myself agreeing with much of what she said.

Given that a good deal of my time at the moment is spent trying to understand the GDPR and how it applies to clients mainly in the B2B events and publishing industries, I have trawled my way through lots of different articles from “experts”. My current role involves a constant picking apart of the legislation to understand how it applies to the nuances of individual organisations and their business operations. There is lots of great advice from the ICO and the DMA but the scope of what these bodies are covering is vast and much of it is generic so it is important to supplement their information with more specific details from elsewhere.

This research process does occasionally throw some complete curve balls, and today served up an absolute belter. While looking for insight into double opt in I came across the following comment in a blog by a Marketing Automation company:


Take a really good look at the last sentence in the first paragraph… Yes – you are reading it correctly – apparently people who attend B2B exhibitions are so naive that when they give a business card to a company on a stand they don’t think this is for marketing (i.e. contact about products and services) purposes and it’s the last thing they want. Really?! If you are having a chat with a sales rep at the bar and you give them your business card, are you just expecting them to add you to their Christmas card list or would you be more than a little surprised if they called you up to ask you if it’s OK to email you about the product you were discussing with one another? Surely personally handing over a business card is the most unambiguous form of consent there can possibly be…

I’m not entirely sure where the writer of this article has been hiding, but patently they have zero understanding of the way networking happens and business relationships are built. If you aren’t interested in a product, or you don’t want to be contacted by someone, you don’t give them your business card in the first place. They also haven’t grasped that in many instances business cards aren’t exchanged at B2B exhibitions; there’s this really cutting edge technology called a scanner where visitors voluntarily allow their personal data to be collected by the company whose stand they are on with a data protection notice already printed on the badge telling them not to do it if they don’t want to. Nor, I suspect, do any of the authors of the GDPR legislation intend it to hamstring business interaction in such a draconian way.

Double opt-in or confirmed opt-in is another favourite of this same marketing automation ‘expert’:


Now, there is some merit in a double opt-in process, as described by Mailchimp:


The above describes clearly how double opt-in is a mechanism for keeping your data clean and relevant, saving you time and money. As opposed to the previous one which is peddling it as a legal necessity. Think about this – some commentators say you need double opt-in because someone might be signing you up for multiple porn sites as an act of revenge – but chances are that if they are vindictive that person also knows how to access your email account or the stream of ‘please confirm your subscription to …’ emails will cause more than enough distress. In the B2B context, is this likely?

If you are following the pathway to GDPR compliance, you should have a very clear ‘opt in’ statement on your data collection forms at the point at which the data is collected as specified in Article 7 of the Regulation. In my humble opinion this is sufficient proof that someone actually intended to sign up for an event/requested to receive a newsletter/asked to download a piece of content. Given that at every contact point from there on in, the recipient is able to opt out again, suggesting that double opt-in is mandatory is a mendacious attempt to extract fees for unnecessary services from credulous companies who have not had the time to study the legislation in detail.

GDPR will affect your organisation in one way or another, and undoubtedly you will need help along the way. But please, let common sense prevail, and make sure that you filter the advice you are being given according to the agenda of the person giving it.

Event businesses risk all

Leading law practice Irwin Mitchell have recently conducted a survey of 2,129 senior decision makers within business and the results are pretty astonishing.

With just under a year to go until implementation, only three in every ten have started to prepare for GDPR and 35% are unaware of the new rules, including fines for data breaches.

You would like to hope that one sector at least, marketing and advertising, would be completely up to speed; but no, only 34% admitted in the survey that they were aware of the GDPR and 17% admitted that the maximum punishment would force them out of business. Given that event companies are often included in this sector, it would not be too much of a stretch to apply the findings to them as well.

We do need to reign back on the worst case scenario a little, because it is the job of law firms to paint the picture as black as possible, but there is no doubt that any organisation that is not taking the legislation seriously could find themselves in dire straits. The fines are likely to be at their largest for those which cannot demonstrate the measures and processes they have taken to keep data secure and the mechanisms for spotting a data breach.

Firstly, what constitutes a breach? Essentially this is an incident where there is an impact on an individual’s privacy. At one end there is a wholesale hack of customer data, at the other a confidential letter put into an envelope addressed to someone else, with the downloading of un-encrypted data onto an unprotected laptop somewhere in between. Not forgetting of course, the member of staff who leaves you to go elsewhere taking your sales/marketing database with them. Where this begins to impact the business is that in certain instances you need to report the breach to the ICO within 72 hours.

So, if you can’t identify that you have a breach, possibly because you don’t know where all of your data is, how are you going to report it at all, let alone within three days? If you, like 63% of the marketing and advertising companies in the survey, aren’t confident that you can notify the relevant stakeholders within the timeframe, then you are automatically putting yourself in the frame for a fine.

Plus, just being able to identify and, potentially, report the breach isn’t the end of the matter. There is a specified format for the type of information you will need to provide, including the number of records affected and your mitigation procedures. If your data isn’t secure, compliant, your contracts with your Data Processors cast iron and your procedures professional, not only could you be facing a financial penalty, but you could find your business tied up in knots for a considerable period. If you are running a really lean operation, this could prove catastrophic.

Keep Calm & carry on emailing

As a data focussed company, getting to grips with GDPR is an imperative for Circdata. Having begun the lengthy process of conducting their own Data Impact Assessment under the terms of the Regulations, it has becoming increasingly clear what the implications for their clients are.

Another thing that has becoming increasingly clear is the number of misconceptions, and how, with such an enormous and broad piece of legislations, things can quickly get lost in translation.

It would be correct to say that the regulatory authorities and industry bodies are clearly focussed on the major players (or miscreants). A data breach by an internet provider, a financial institution or healthcare provider, or data misuse by a leading charity create unattractive headlines that only serve to bolster public mistrust of the direct marketing industry. Consequently these are the key industries which are currently being subjected to the most exacting of scrutiny.

Anyone involved in the B2B marketplace would be forgiven for self-interpreting the messages they are receiving as ‘business as usual’. But this is very far from the case because that advice is undoubtedly based on practices which aren’t currently being followed.

The events and publishing industry operates on a quid pro quo basis i.e. you give me your data and I’ll give you something in return, e.g. a free subscription to a magazine or entry to my exhibition. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. For the purposes of DPA, and now GDPR this would be considered to be a relationship operated under Legitimate Interests, i.e. there is a relevant and appropriate relationship between the individual and organisation.

Within the status of this relationship, an individual must reasonably expect that they will be sent further offers after they have signed up for a company’s product/service, even in the case of a paid for subscription. The individual must be told this, and given the option to ‘opt out’ at any point if they no longer wish their data to be processed in this way.

It isn’t all good news however. If you have been processing your data under Consent (i.e. you’ve been using lots of little tick boxes) then you are not permitted to claim processing under Legitimate Interests post implementation, so you still need to get your data in order before 25th May 2018 to continue using it. And, if you continue blasting your databases with masses of inane email messages then your opt-out/unsubscribe rates are going to rise – so it is time to reassess this strategy as well.

Meanwhile, remember that for most organisations, marketing permissions isn’t the thing you should be most worried about where GDPR is concerned. Your data security is. As one speaker at last week’s EventHuddle put it:

Remember that the minute you download an unsecured spreadsheet of Personal Data* onto an unsecured laptop you are in Breach

If you are still permitting data to migrate through your organisation via Excel, with no checks and balances on who can see it, then this statement should send shivers down your spine.

*Personal Data – any information that identifies an individual person.

Cutting through the cacophony of GDPR

Childrens party2So you just received yet another email from someone telling you ‘everything you need to know about the effects of GDPR’. You click on it, hoping that this time it will actually give you some guidance about what you can and should be doing. But oh no – it’s yet another person/company who has done a cut and paste job and that hard to decipher legalese is all still there on every single one of the 30 pages or more.

Sigh…

Having spent considerable amounts of time recently working through the 99 articles and 173 Recitals that make up the Letter of the Law, I can tell you it is a tricky old bit of legislation to get your head around. But it isn’t impossible.

Firstly, if this is the first you have heard of the GDPR then you are a little slow on the uptake. We’ve known it has been coming since 25th January 2012, with formal adoption starting early last year – so we’ve had a year of the two year transition period already. You’ll hear some people say that full details around the legislation are not clear – but that’s not true. The majority of it is set and it is just the greyer areas where more guidance is required that are being ironed out. So you can’t really use that as an excuse not to get a grip on it now either.

So what do you need to do? Don’t panic. Event companies are unlikely to hold Sensitive Data as defined in the Regulation. Nor are you likely to have lots of Data Subjects wanting to utilise the Data Portability option, or Subject Access Requests for that matter.

My suggestion for your first step towards GDPR compliance is to appoint someone to take ownership of the task. They are going to have to take a few things out of that notorious Too Hard box, so they need to be someone who is dogged in the face of obstruction and obfuscation. They need to have the ear and support of a member of the senior management team. And they need the discovery skills of Sherlock Holmes.

As soon as possible they need to make a list. And if your event company is anything like some of the ones I have worked with over the years, it is likely to become a very long one. Because this list is going to have to cover Every. Single. Database. Yes, every spreadsheet, .csv file, filemaker, Salesforce file on every laptop, computer and server that contains personally identifiable data. They need to know:

  • Where it is stored
  • What data it contains (i.e. fields)
  • How many records
  • When it was created
  • When it was last used
  • What is it used for

It’s not a pretty job. But this is your starting point. Until you know how much data you have, who has access to it, where it is kept and how much use it is, you will have absolutely no idea what solution you need and how much time it is going to take to become GDPR compliant.

So, don’t worry about the details of the legislation right now. That isn’t going to change any time soon. Just start with this one task and it will create your roadmap to compliance.
Hellen @missioncontrol