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.

 

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

Event industry fuels technology boom

2011-12-21T164417Z_4_BTRE7BJ1BM700_RTROPTP_3_INDUSTRY-US-SOCIAL-MEDIA-ADVISERSA newly published report has forecast that the Event management software market will be worth US$7.78bn by 2019.  Which would go some way to explaining why as event managers we sometimes feel like we are deluged with new products and services every five minutes.

The report from MarketsandMarkets pinpoints the drivers of this grown as the proliferation of smart phones, an increase in meeting spending, social media user platforms, a greater integration of solutions and the introduction of cloud platforms.  With MICE organisers looking to increase their volumes the researchers identified an additional need to implement best of breed technology that can manage the whole event lifecycle.  Price pays an important role in the choice of technology, with ROI required as quickly as possible.

The marketplace for event technology is vast, covering implementation and deployment services, support services, and training and education services offered by event management software vendors.Add to this event management software solutions such as payment processing software, online registration software, venue management software, event marketing software, event analytics software and it is no surprise that so many different companies of all shapes and sizes are rushing to take advantage of a market valued at US$5.10bn in 2014.

What this shows for event managers is that it is doubly important to interrogate technology providers to test the robustness of their solution.

For more information on the MarketsandMarkets report, go to http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/event-management-software.asp