A question of timing

Synchro-Diving-300x230

Ever since the emphasis for event marketing switched to content generation, one of the biggest questions has been when to broadcast.

The same message sent out at 08:32, 11:45, 13:15 or 17:22 can have vastly different response rates so there is always that difficult decision as to which, if any or all, time to choose.  Does it matter when the original message is posted so long as any additional prompts hit home, or do we need to be careful that our tweets, emails and other electronic nudges aren’t so frequent that they turn potential audiences off?

At Who’s who in events we have been spending the last few months experimenting to work out when blog posts and email announcements get the best response.  Since we don’t do the latter more than once a week it is absolutely imperative that it arrives in the recipient’s inbox at exactly the right moment when they are likely to read it.

Another big challenge for events marketers is that because we essentially ignore our audiences for six months of the year or more, when we turn the promotional tap on it can feel like we are using a water cannon.  There is nowhere for the hapless audience to hide as we bombard them with advertising, tweets, emails, announcements on LinkedIn (or invitations to join our newly formed groups) and any other method we can think of.

Plus we often haven’t bothered to find out that much about our audience either.  Any research will consist of an exit survey conducted at last year’s event, so we really have no idea how things have changed, what new directions businesses are taking, if there have been legislative changes or simply what devices the potential audience is most likely to look for information on.

It would seem therefore that getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is actually a game of chance – like bees pollinating flowers – if you spread enough around some of it will eventually stick.  But does it really have to be like that?

Taking a long-term approach to your event marketing will mean that you can identify the content which generates the greatest response as well as the time of day when it is likely to be read.  You will find advocates and champions, as well as connectors and influencers.  Rather like the divers in the picture, by constantly practising your marketing messaging, you will ensure that you hit the target in complete synchronisation.

Advertisements

The importance of data

470049-listslistvoterphotosxc-1353643038-653-640x480Despite the fact that a significant proportion of event marketing is now conducted via social media and other channels, the majority of the response generally comes from audiences that are already known to us.

Visitors and pre-registered non-attendees are the two most important sectors for any B2B conference, exhibition or meeting. From the moment they registered they were showing a firm commitment to attend, regardless or not of whether they actually made it to the venue.

How these individuals are managed post event can have a crucial effect on the success of a follow-up marketing campaign, whether this is for the next year’s event, a new launch project, an electronic newsletter or any other point of contact.

Here are five steps that every event marketing team should take to ensure that its most important data stays fit for purpose:

  1. Clean the data post event: check that capitalisation is correct, addresses are correctly formatted and in the right fields and that any missing information is researched and added.
  2. Make sure that you have just one version of a company name rather than lots of different abbreviations: this will enable you to create peer-to-peer marketing campaigns, or even spot an opportunity to host a lot of delegates from a single organisation.
  3. Ensure that the data has been deduped: it may look as if someone did not attend after registering, but it might just be that they forgot and did it again onsite.
  4. Make sure your data has been properly coded: if your next marketing campaign is to be personalised, it is imperative that you know what kind of visitor everyone is. Have a hierarchy so that you don’t refer to someone who has given up their time to be one of your speakers as a visitor.
  5. Don’t just leave your data as a dusty spreadsheet, waiting to come out again in a year’s time: every time a customer comes into contact with your organisation you should be building a picture of their activity.

There has been much talk about Big Data and how this can revolutionise customer contact but sophisticated marketing pathways can only be created if the originating data is looked after in the first place.

Is our love affair with technology destroying the visitor experience?

IMG_2921As event organisers, the advent of computer technology has transformed every area of our business.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone with less than ten years’ experience just how laborious the job of registering and managing visitors and delegates used to be. Telephones would ring off the hook as we tried to manage enquiries, bookings, cancellations and name changes.  Registrations came via post and fax and had to be entered into a database if you were lucky (though I do remember some organisations that used to keep carefully typed files) and managed on a day to day basis.  It was unusual if, by the end of your event, you couldn’t name at least 75% of your audience individually.

Websites, automated registration processes, apps, onsite wifi and linked communications make all of these processes obsolete.  And frankly good riddance. (Not least because any spelling mistakes on entry badges are the registrant’s own!) It is so much quicker to find and amend individual records, to send appropriate messaging and to link suppliers to relevant delegates. Exemplary customer service is so much easier when every bit of information is at your fingertips.

Like spectacles for the myopic, technology provides a clear and uninterrupted view.  So now we are on the lookout for other areas to fix. The only problem is that we aren’t researching first if this is what our audiences really want.

Sure, we need to ensure that we give potential visitors, particularly in the B2B exhibition and conference arenas, reasons to attend.  But broad brush, generalised emails and e-newsletters aren’t necessarily the best way to do this. Simply broadcasting constant bland content is unlikely to push visitor numbers up.  Clever use of database information and pre-defined customer journeys will generate far more response. Less is definitely more providing what you are serving is of the highest quality.

At the event itself, there is little point in creating online directories and apps if the visitor cannot find them on your website while standing in the foyer to the exhibit hall.  Or, for that matter, if it requires a registration to the venue wifi or the download of a piece of software incompatible with mobile devices.  By doing this you are already making key information inaccessible  to a proportion of your audience – and that is inexcusable.  Or, you could have the experience I had last week where I couldn’t download the exhibitor list for an event, so I was consulting one of only two you are here boards to try and find the exhibitors I wanted, but I was still thwarted because the stand numbers were printed so small and so high up that I couldn’t actually see them.  This lack of attention to detail is just plain shoddy.

Interruption by technology can be very positive, but why, when we have actually got the visitor in the room do we feel the need to nag them constantly. Some events are worse than going shopping with a toddler.  Every five minutes or less a text or email or notification pops through on a smart phone.  Each one taking the focus away from what you want your delegate to remember from the day. There was a reason why event organisers stopped excessive use of the tannoy system at events… and the same needs to be applied to delegate ‘engagement’ via electronic means… because after a while no one listens any more.

Technology has been revolutionary in event production, management, marketing and operational terms, but that doesn’t mean that it should be used any and everywhere it can be deployed.

 

Digitising the event registration process

World Travel Market 2011. ExCel London.This week the UK event industry will be gathering at the annual Confex exhibition.  Like many other B2B events, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that pre-registration figures are high and that visitor tickets are handled in an efficient and timely manner. Equally, environmental concerns mean that many organisers are looking for ways to reduce the paper usage at their events by removing the need for visitors to bring printed barcodes and badges with them in order to gain entry.

One such organiser is Reed Exhibitions, who tasked Event Advantage Solutions to digitise the entire registration process for the UK’s largest trade exhibition – World Travel Market.

WTM2011_123 smallIn addition to managing volume of exhibitors and visitors, the task was further complicated by the wide range of visitor categories and admission criteria and how best to convert the existing manual system to a digital one.

In order to achieve this Accredit (EAS’s inhouse accreditation solution) was adapted to meet the needs of the various visitor categories attending the show during different periods of build-up, open days and break down.  Press, students, hosted buyers and VIPs to exhibitors, suppliers and contractors were all categorised to enable automated allocation, virtually eliminating any manual processes.

The result was an intelligent registration system which delivered electronic badging for thousands of attendees before, during and after this four day show.  Following the successful migration from manual to digital EAS was retained to manage all WTM data as well as the implementation of registration for the actual event.  EAS were also contracted to handle Reed’s new Arabian Travel Market and World Travel Market Latin America.

While the supplier/organiser relationship is very important, what this case study shows is that visitors are also ready to embrace digital registration, and that in many markets the need for physical tickets and barcodes has all but disappeared.

Women in events

MPI_EMEC_women-20150203110242427Last week, Conference and Incentive Travel magazine published a piece by Jack Carter entitled Women must ‘brag’ more to succeed in events.  This was based on a presentation from the MPI European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC) 2015.

Why are we still having these conversations?  And why, as women do we continue to allow ourselves be manipulated into these silo discussions by statistics created by organisations seeking out headlines?

Jane Baker, vice president of client services at Freeman XP, commenting on the statistic that it generally takes a woman 24 years to become a CEO while it takes a man 15 years seemed to think that women didn’t get to the top because they stayed at the same company slowly climbing the greasy pole.  People who are driven to become CEOs within 15 years generally don’t work their way up, they move position regularly, and it has very little to do with loving a company or enjoying its culture and working environment.

Baker also suggested that big businesses are generally beset by bureaucracy and politics, something that turns women off. Well I know plenty of women who are brilliant at navigating both of these things, slicing through them like a hot knife on butter, and I would also struggle to name more than a handful of events companies with cultures like this.  She states that many women who are successful leaders have stepped away to create their own agencies – isn’t this a symbol that the events industry is very empowering for women rather than the opposite?  Surely success isn’t only measured by your position on the board of a FTSE100 company?

Apparently, according to Karin Krogh, owner of Nyt Potentiale, ‘Men are very good at bragging.  We all have to make sure that we brag as well.  If we do everything right then nobody notices…’  Really? Nobody notices when an event has gone off without a hitch; when the budget is met; when the VIPs write to say thank you; when your audience is giving you five star ratings?  Events are only as good as the personnel who put them together, and if no one notices then you have got nothing to brag about. Just shouting louder only creates a cacophony, not the best environment in which to work.

There are some phenomenally creative, experienced and talented women in the events and meetings industry; many of whom are creating environments which challenge the boardroom status quo, with flat management structures and the opportunities for everyone in the organisation to shine.  This is what we should be celebrating, not trying to emulate the business structures which have been a stricture on not just women’s, but also men who don’t conform to the boardroom norm’s, progress.

Hellen @missioncontrol

What does 2015 have in store for event badging?

RFID badges have been talked about in the B2B events industry for a long time. Now that near-field communication technologies are getting more commonplace, will this technology finally come of age? What investments will venues and organisers have to make to ensure that all of this technology works brilliantly all of the time?

Badge & ScanThere are three acronyms that we just can’t seem to avoid in our events industry at the moment:

– RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

– NFC (Near Field Communication)

– UHF (Ultra High Frequency)

As one of the front-runners in event badging, IDentilam are always looking for the next big thing. It looks like there’s just no escaping from RFID technology when it comes to events badging, as people in the events industry are continuing to look for more convenient technology that will really change the way conferences work. Although IDentilam have been providing RFID solutions for a long time now, the prospects are ever-expanding and it appears to be the hot topic as we move into 2015.

This all makes sense, as there are lots of advantages to using RFID and NFC technologies for events. Not only is it a popular choice because of the quick and effective registration solution…

View original post 449 more words

Choosing the right event technology

images (2)I went to a presentation last week held by a leading event technology provider because they keep popping up everywhere and I thought it was about time that I got to know them better.

Now, just to be clear, I consider myself to be pretty technology savvy.  There are lots of things I don’t know but I am at the earlyish end of adoption. And I like things that increase efficiency and engagement.  So I am a receptive audience.

The technology on view was pretty clever, it did a lot of great things and I’m sure that it is as best of breed as the sales team say it is. That isn’t my issue. The big problem is how technology firms present their solutions to what is essentially a non-techie audience.

In the events industry, the majority of people buying into these services are operations or marketing focussed, not IT professionals.  We need to understand in bite sized chunks how a system works, what the benefits are, how the solution replaces some processes and how flexible it is when we need to tweak things at the last minute. After an hour of listening and watching a very good presentation I still hadn’t nailed down the specific benefits which I could take back to a client in order to get them to invest the time and money in utilising the system.  Rather than running through a shopping list of features and benefits, with a link to the app, it would have been much more useful to have a number of examples of how people were using the software in different scenarios. I was left with a feeling that I had seen something great, but I couldn’t actually tell you what it was, and I know that some of the other guests who were there felt the same.

Technology is like rather like the dessert trolley at the end of a three course meal.  Everything looks delicious but which one, in what quantity, will leave you feeling satisfied and replete rather than bloated or disappointed?  The trick is to know your capabilities and capacity before you make your decision.  If you know that what you really need to sort out is your attendee registration systems and you have a team that can handle it in-house, then this is where you must focus in the first instance.  If you want to dovetail your marketing into a full-service CRM system, then you must specify a solution which does this within the parameters of your existing, or planned, skillset.  For a better onsite attendee experience, you should have a clear understanding of your audience, both their technical capabilities and the venues before searching out your app supplier etc.

It is very easy to get bowled over by the bells and whistles of technology, particularly when you are being influenced by the techie evangelists. The most important step you need to take before even entering into a conversation is to create a specification based on your audience and their needs. 

As an old boss of mine once said: “Don’t let technology lead the process, make it your servant not your master.”

Hellen @missioncontrol