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.

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Getting to know you…

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Like the medical profession, familiarity is a crime that many event organisers are guilty of.  Not in the sense of being over-friendly, but forgetting that the visitor does not experience an event every day, nor do they spend many waking hours planning, discussing or thinking about every minute detail of how the spectacle is created and produced.

Often our only communication with the visitor is via their credit card or post event survey. In the latter we are frequently more interested in creating statistics that look good on the sales brochure than actually finding out how the experience matched up to their expectations or what they would suggest to make things better.  After months of preparation, it’s all to easy to hide away in the organiser’s office during the live period, safely out of reach.

Events are unique in that there are very few jobs where staff come face to face with every single one of their customers. And, because of our tendency to hide ourselves away, it means that more often or not it is the ones with grumbles who force their way through. Sometimes it can feel like a constant barrage of complaints, and more often than not it is a junior member of the team with little or no customer relations training or experience left to deal with it.

Success comes with knowledge, and experience tells me that the best way to get this is by making yourself available. Interacting with visitors and exhibitors throughout the opening hours, making small talk and asking them what their motivation for attending is. It also gives you the opportunity to explain areas where they believe there are shortcomings. Nine times out of ten there are clear explanations for perceived issues which the visitor has not considered and is happy to accept.

But perhaps one of the key benefits of this approach is that you get to speak to happy people, those who are thoroughly enjoying every moment, who feel like they are getting value for money and an experience they will savour.

Hellen @missioncontrol

 

Dynamic pricing for events

imagesBack in June last year, for reasons known only to parents of other participants at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree, I found myself in a very long, snaking queue at Earls Court, London. Not only was it the longest line I have ever experienced for a venue based event of any kind, but it was also the first time I had ever waited alongside Ninjas, Lolitas and other cosplayer characters. I was seriously considering paying extra for the Sake Experience.

All of this aside – one of the key experiences for me as an event professional was the ticket purchasing process. Dependent upon when I went onto the booking site, the cost of attending the event would change, so that I was left with the feeling that the tickets could only get more expensive. Now this may not have been a deliberate ploy, i.e. there may have been a human being sitting in the back room changing their minds on a regular basis with a view to managing crowds and income, but there is no doubt that it encouraged me to part with my money sooner rather than later, even though no early-bird discount had been announced.

With this in the back of my mind I read a very interesting piece by Mark Ritson on dynamic pricing. Appearing in Marketing Week magazine, the article took many examples from consumer marketing but one particular passage is very pertinent to event organisers:

…most prices are set with a reckless disregard for event the faintest whiff of analytics. Pricing remains an entirely amateur confection in most cases. Equal parts bingo and voodoo.

For an industry that has really got to grips with the absolute intricacies of dynamic pricing you need to look no further than the airlines. Sophisticated technology enables them to ensure that every seat on every flight is delivering the best possible fare, determined by time, route and demand.  These processes are changeable, enabling them to charge significantly more for just a handful of tickets, manage the volume of promotional fares available or create premium pricing on popular flights. My industry source tells me that sometimes the profit on a flight will come from the sale of the very last seat, so you can see how important this intelligent approach to pricing is.

In marketing terms, what airlines do is to announce that tickets are available from a certain price which gives them the flexibility to change according to demand. Now that most event booking processes, even for the premium rate conferences, are online and conference brochures publishing prices are rarely printed, there is a greater opportunity to change pricing according to demand. For consumer events, analysing the ticket purchasing cycle would allow clear parameters to be set regarding the number of promotional tickets being made available or indeed when to raise the ticket price to manage demand.

Any event can be sold out.  The trick is to ensure that this happens with the optimum amount of revenue achieved. This is usually measured by performance against budget, but would it not be better to measure it by price v demand. It is one thing to have sold out, quite another to have done so too cheaply and too quickly. Dynamic pricing would also give a real marketing boost in terms of attracting loyal visitors to come back time and again. These individuals could be offered a ‘club’ membership where they can book tickets at a guaranteed price regardless of which day they want to attend while everyone else would need to get their skates on to get the lower prices.

Back to Hyper Japan.  Not only did the ticket prices fluctuate, but they also kicked you out at lunchtime on the most popular days.  Which meant that if you wanted to spend your whole day looking like a character out of a cartoon, sorry – anime, series you had to pay twice…

Hellen @missioncontrol

Eventex: My Five Takeaways From Sofia

As always some fantastic thoughts from Michael Heipel taken from his own attendance at Eventex.

It is very easy as event organisers ourselves to be hyper-critical of the events which we go to, or to get stuck in a rut with what we are providing to our potential audiences. Michael describes a great meeting design seminar which looks like it will have provided some real food for thought and hopefully some action plans on how to rearrange our meeting environments to make them as good as they can be for our delegates.

Michael also touches on a topic which we covered a short while ago about technology – he comments “There is a thin line, though, between offering tools for enhanced audience engagement and networking – and asking too much both of the speakers and the delegates.”  Great technology really does enhance an event experience, but only where there is a defined need or identifiable improvement in service provision.

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They say, when you attend an event, and you take away at least five things that you learned – or five people that you met who will potentially play a role in your personal or professional life – then it was a good event for you.

Well, according to that yardstick, Eventex in Sofia was a fabulous event!

Not only have I met lots of great people (speakers, tech providers, attendees, all of them Eventprofs). There are at least five takeaways that will definitely influence the way I go about event management, and they will also have an impact on the way I do consulting and training for event organizers .

What were the most sticky learnings from my personal perspective?

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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.

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…

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