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.

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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

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.

 

Exhibition industry research 2015

Capture2Registration specialists have access to a great deal of data across many events and markets. To illustrate just how useful analysing this data can be, today’s guest post comes from Bart van Bijnen at N200. Over the last two years, they have worked on various research projects, including one in 2014 where they looked at over 500,000 registrations and 320,000 visitors across 46 trade shows to bring the key facts on B2B visitors in The Netherlands.

Here are the top 10 facts that were found in their analysis:

  1. 91% of visitors register online
  2. Average age of visitors is 42, mainly generation X
  3. Over 28% of visitors are from outside The Netherlands
  4. Three out of five registrations turn up!
  5. More visitors are male (82%), though they both convert to attend in roughly the same percentage (60.4% male, 61.2% female)
  6. You have a higher attendance, if a visitor has been recommended your show by colleagues, exhibitors or the trade press
  7. 78.5% of visitors register less than one month before the day of opening
  8. The younger the attendees – the more likely they are to register via social media
  9. You have very loyal visitors, with over 55% of them attending previous events
  10. You have a higher attendance if your delegates register via social media (69.8%)

In addition, N200 conducted some B2B Exhibition Visitor Profiling in partnership with FaceTime in 2013.  This time it was to look at the profile of the average visitor to UK B2B exhibitions. N200 looked at over 250,000 attendees of B2B exhibitions in the UK across more than 30 shows throughout 2012/2013.

The headline Capture3findings included:

  • In the UK 10.1% of professionals are in board level positions*, at B2B exhibitions 23% of visitors hold this position. More than double the UK average.
  • 20% of visitors to B2B exhibitions come from big businesses employing more than 100 employees. This compares against an average of 1.4% of UK business matching this profile.
  • At B2B exhibitions 27% of board level visitors are women, way over the FTSE and UK average regarding board representation.
  • On average 29% of UK businesses achieve a turnover of £250,000*. At B2B exhibitions 48% of visitors represent these types of companies.
  • Foreign visitors account for 18.6% of all visitors meaning exhibitors can have a home-based route to international markets at UK B2B exhibitions.

If you would like a copy of the full research on either of these two projects, please contact N200.

 

 

Don’t be so afraid to embrace cannibalism…

Here’s a scenario for you to consider:

Your organisation runs an annual conference and exhibition.  The attendance figures are steady and you are attracting on average between five and ten per cent of your calculated total universe.  Exhibitor and sponsor numbers are holding up and revenue is on target.

So far so good

Two years ago you introduced a specialist pavilion for one of the sectors of the industry you serve.  It’s been a huge success and now attracts 15% of your total audience and generates 20% of your sales.  But there is a problem.  The companies and visitors involved want their own event.  They want to be the focus rather than a sideshow and they are getting very vocal about it.

What are you going to do?

  1. Stick to your guns, but pacify them by giving them a bit more space and a couple more sessions in the conference programme.
  2. Create a ‘mini’ co-located event.
  3. Grasp the opportunity and develop a second event.
  4. Nothing.  Very happy with the status quo thank you very much.

Why would anyone answer yes to the last question?

One simple reason – they can’t get past the cannibalisation problem.

It seems like forever that this thorny old issue has been hanging around, with the publishing and events industries particularly sensitive.  From whether a successful supplement should become a publication in its own right; to investment in websites and social media that would take readers away from the printed page; and currently whether or not a virtual conference or meeting space will reduce footfall at a live exhibition.

The main argument against developing a pluralist strategy is that it causes a reduction in revenue or perceived market share.  But the truth is that when carefully planned and executed such a strategy can result in a larger share of an increased total market.  Examples within the retail industry abound: when Coca Cola introduced Diet Coke, sales of Coke fell, but ultimately led to an expanded market for diet soft drinks.  Forward thinking and successful FMCG companies positively embrace the idea as Apple CEO Tim Cook explains:

“iPad has cannibalised some Mac sales. The way that we view cannibalisation is that we prefer to do it to ourselves than let someone else do it. We don’t want to hold back one of our teams from doing the greatest thing, even if it takes some sales from another product area. Our high-order bid is, ‘We want to please customers and we want them buying Apple stuff.'”

Why then are B2B publishers and events organisers still struggling with the idea of creating virtual experiences in addition to their current physical and online activity?

Hybrid and standalone virtual conferences, training and meeting sessions may affect audiences but the truth is that they are likely to deliver more visitors, both from a wider geographic area and from a demographic that would normally be too time-poor to engage in a live event.  Detractors suggest that viewers online are not as engaged; but neither is every visitor at a conference (particularly at 2pm).

The bigger question is not how many visitors or delegates you are going to lose from your live event, but how many people from your total market universe are you failing to connect with?  Anecdotally we know that membership organisations attract on average 5% of their total membership to live events.  In commercial event organisations, marketers need to hit a target universe seven or eight times in order to pursuade between five and 10 per cent of them to attend.  Plus, if you only engage with this audience once a year you are putting up constant barriers to retaining and growing the audience and its levels of interaction, which in turn diminishes your opportunities to drive and grow your revenues and profit.

Tony Rossell from Marketing General, Inc. has done some excellent research on this subject in the context of Association Membership: his work shows that Associations which create multiple opportunities for engagement with their members, whether via annual meetings, professional development, webinars, social networking etc. are more likely to show increases in overall membership in both the long and the short term as well as an increase in new members and renewal rates.

It stands to reason that the more you engage with your audience, both exisiting and potential, then the more likely they are to engage with you.  Hybrid events don’t have to reproduce your live event verbatim and virtual events don’t have to be restricted to specific times and dates dictated by venue contraints.

Where virtual events are concerned, it’s time to put the issue of audience cannibalisation to bed once and for all and embrace the concept of market colonisation instead.

Hellen @missioncontrol