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

 

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The best events are non-events. An event professional’s perspective.

flash_or_graphic2064“I just got back from a fantastic event. Brilliant!”

“Where was it?”

“The Whitsundays. Had a ball!”

“What was the event about?”

“Sales. Usual stuff.”

The ‘usual stuff’. If that’s what your last event was like, chances are your event manager didn’t have a clue.

Anyone can find you a great venue, stunning catering, fun activities and a memorable MC.

However, the best event managers will find out from you what you need your event to do. Or, if you don’t know, they’ll help you define the need.

The best event managers will get to understand your business, your goals, your challenges and your people.

Only then will they work with you to make absolutely sure your event does what it MUST do: motivate, inspire, foster change and reinvigorate teamwork.

You know the business imperatives that should drive your next event: sales growth, reward and recognition, education, launching new ideas and products, seizing opportunities or making your existing resources sing like the sweetest choir.

After 25 years as an event professional I continue to hear the conversation I quoted at the top of this blog. Every week I see or hear about event companies delivering the most fantastic ‘usual stuff’.

flash_or_graphic2069An event is just a day off or a holiday if it’s memorable only because it’s an event.

The event business should be about one thing: business. Event managers must be more than social organisers. They need to be payoff strategists who understand results and deliver the right outcomes.

Drawing from their experience, event managers who are true professionals will not be afraid to tell you what can work, and what won’t. They’ll talk more about targets than canapés. And they’ll ask you what you want your event to achieve long after it’s over. You see, an event shouldn’t just be an event – it should be an immersive campaign that resonates, and even amplifies, over time.

Most events aren’t cheap. That’s why I believe clients must focus on their events as an investment, not simply a cost. Event managers and their clients need to agree upfront on the risk/reward factor. The best event managers will be able to eliminate risks and maximise rewards.

Events need to engage audiences intellectually, emotionally and behaviourally. Delegates need to walk away from an event understanding and buying in to your messages and underlying strategies. Results must be measurable.

I believe that for most corporate or organisational events a new perspective is needed; a fresh perspective that demands a new approach to event design. That’s why clients need event professionals who are, in fact, professional in their approach and experience, and empathetic to clients’ ambitions for their event.

Working with your event manager you have to apply the ‘outcome blowtorch’ to every element of your event. You should ask this question of every decision you make: how will this impact on the desired results? If the answer is ‘nothing’ or ‘very little’, you obviously need to take a different tack.

There are four other fundamental questions which should form the basic strategic blueprint for an outcomes-focused event:

  • What does the audience already know?
  • What is the desired strategic shift?
  • How do we want the audience to feel?
  • What are the behavioural changes and results that we can measure after the event?

The answers to these questions will help you deliver a powerful event that guarantees a lasting effect on your people and transfers back to your business.

Rob Frank is the managing director of Verve Creative Events, one of Australia’s most awarded event companies.

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.

EVENT MARKETING BLOG

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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?

View original post 1,067 more words

A question of timing

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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.

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.