Plan it before you do it

Kudos to Dr. Cathy Key for a superb article (“Are you an Event Planner or an Event Doer?”) published recently by Event Manager Blog.

“Every event has so many moving parts that it is easy for Event Planning to turn into Event Doing,” she wrote. “But the danger with all of this doing is that we can lose sight of why we are hosting the event in the first place and what success really means.”

Dr. Key makes some powerful points:

  • Planning starts with strategic and creative thinking about what you want the event to achieve. Then, based on the event plan, you create a plan—a roadmap to success. This happens before you do anything else—including booking the venue.
  • Her planning model consists of defining audience segments, deciding what kind of experience you want each group to have at the event, creating a central theme, and defining how to fulfill your desired outcome.
  • Close monitoring of the plan makes it a compass for keeping everything on track and assuring success for you and your attendees.

The bottom-line in Dr. Key’s post is simple: Don’t dive into event tactics until you’ve thoroughly planned, refined and vetted the event strategy.

In several posts on this blog, I’ve covered similar ground. For example, this post—Keep asking ‘What’s the problem?’ — drilled down on the most important part of the event planning process: building a consensus on who are we inviting, what challenges they are facing, and what would incent them to attend.

It’s a message all event planners have heard time and again. But, if we’re going to be measured ourselves by the results we produce, we need to keep hearing that message. As you read this, another category of experts is rehearsing fundamentals they know extremely well, too. Football players at high school, college and professional levels throughout America are practicing two prerequisites for scoring: blocking and tackling.

Marketers: Connect the dots between content and events

Marketers: Connect the dots between content and events

What if you had an event and few showed up? You’d look for reasons, of course. Here are a few clues you might uncover:

  • Your promotions didn’t resonate with the audience.
  • Invitees were not “hooked” by the dull, uninspired agenda.
  • Your past events failed to impress attendees, so most aren’t coming back this year.

All three event problems have a common root cause: poor content.
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Does one of your biggest budget items need a makeover?

Heads up, B2B marketers. Did you know that events are typically the second-biggest line item, after sales force costs, in corporate marketing budgets? According to a report by the Convention Industry Council, spending on hosting, attending, and exhibiting at events constitutes 21% of marketing budgets.

That’s big bucks—and much of it isn’t being spent wisely, say the authors of “Get More from Your Event Spend,” published recently by Harvard Business Review. “Three of five marketers use no tools to measure event ROI, and most companies plan and execute events without specific business objectives,” the article states.

The authors make the same points I’ve espoused repeatedly in this blog (such as here, here and here, for starters):
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Keep your meetings focused on one goal

focus
An excellent post recently at Event Manager Blog, 5 Principles to Make Every Minute of Your Meeting Count, hit the mark on a major planning sin I’ve often seen at events of all types and sizes: Trying to do too much. “Most meeting schedules are crammed from minute one to the last second,” wrote guest blogger Jan-Jaap In der Maur.

The root problem, he stated, is setting too many goals for the meeting. That leads to scheduling too many speakers trying to say too much in the available time, with cascading consequences. Things start running late. Q&A gets shortened. Breaks get shortened. Lunch gets shortened. Lost in the fallout is a major benefit meeting sponsors and attendees both seek: Time for interaction and networking.
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A survival guide for federal event planners

federal event planners

Remember the uproar over federal agencies hosting boondoggle meetings? Recently, the Washington Post reported the aftermath of the executive branch’s crackdown on travel and conference expenses. Anyone desiring to attend a meeting of any kind faced massive roadblocks to approval. “Conference” and “travel” became dirty words. Those who won approval to attend local training sessions had to buy their own lunches. Ditto for coffee.
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What marketers can learn from the State of the Union address

state of the union

Did you watch President Obama’s State of the Union address last night? I did, but I’m not going to get into what he said. Rather, this post was prompted by a story I read yesterday on Yahoo: “Why Obama’s State of the Union still matters in the Twitter era.”

The story makes the point that dropping television viewership has forced the White House to seek new ways to get more value out of the speech.  So I’m going to piggyback on four key takeaways from the Yahoo story and draw parallels on how we, as marketers, can extract more value from our big events.
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5 social media marketing mistakes to avoid when planning your next event

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Heads up, B2B marketers. Did you know that events are typically the second-biggest line item, after sales force costs, in corporate marketing budgets? According to a report by the Convention Industry Council, spending on hosting, attending, and exhibiting at events constitutes 21% of marketing budgets.

That’s big bucks—and much of it isn’t being spent wisely, say the authors of “Get More from Your Event Spend,” published recently by Harvard Business Review. “Three of five marketers use no tools to measure event ROI, and most companies plan and execute events without specific business objectives,” the article states.

The authors make the same points I’ve espoused repeatedly in this blog (such as here, here and here, for starters):

  1. Marketers need to show top management how event spend contributes to achieving specific goals—especially the C-suite’s financial goals.
  2. Technology can be a huge alley in tracking event effectiveness. “There are tools to track ROI milestones that are currently dark holes in most marketing budgets,” the article notes.
  3. If attendees are distracted by their smartphones, turn the lemons into lemonade. Give attendees a mobile app that goes beyond content distribution—give them networking and new ways to engage before, during, and after the event.
  4. After the event, don’t rely on “smile sheets” as your key metric of event effectiveness. Find real ways to measure whether the event’s outcomes met your goals. (Here are the steps we recommend at Omnience for marketing events —and the process is strikingly similar for government events, too.)

I’ll finish with my mantra from many past blogs: Get the C-suite to stop viewing the company’s events as point-in-time costs that break the budget.  Instead, show them proof that your events are strategic assets that can produce measurable, ongoing value long after each event has ended.

Life as a HIPster – Hospitality Industry Professional

HIP-Atlanta

At Omnience, we love seeing our employees involved in the event industry outside of work. In previous posts we’ve shared Allyson Wagner’s commitment towards greener meetings. This week, we’re featuring a post from our own Chris Bonnett, who is heavily involved with Hospitality Industry Professionals (HIP) Atlanta. Learn more about his involvement in the organization.

HIP-Atlanta was founded in 2007 with the express purpose of bringing together persons of various hospitality industry backgrounds to cultivate prosperous business relationships and to prepare individuals for leadership roles in the industry. We want to be THE catalyst organization for the growth of diverse leadership within the broad-based hospitality industry through education, professional development, mentoring, and networking.

Since joining the organization, I can confidently say that HIP-Atlanta has done exactly what they set out to achieve. I have cultivated lasting relationships with the board members and several HIPsters because of my involvement in this organization.

I joined HIP-Atlanta in 2012 as a student member while attending Georgia State University (GSU) and pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Administration. Over the years, I have seen HIP-Atlanta grow as an organization by developing partnerships with other organizations, and enhancing the relationships we currently have with our sponsors. The Atlanta Marriott Marquis, for example, has been our corporate sponsor since we were founded, providing us with financial backing and a beautiful website.

We have had many sponsors over the years, but the ones that stand out and frequently host our meetings are Coze, Floral Matters, Southface, and Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC). Two of our annual kickoff meetings have been at Coze, an intimate event space in Downtown Atlanta, opened by past president Joy Pittman. Floral Matters over the years has graciously provided us with beautiful floral arrangements at a few of our signature events. Southface has hosted HIP-Atlanta for several events including a networking wine event on their “green roof” which was a hit with the HIPsters. HIP-Atlanta and GMIC have partnered for the past few years to educate HIPsters on sustainable meetings and the steps involved to achieve sustainability in the workplace.

As Atlanta’s only organization for minorities in the hospitality industry, we focus on bringing together minorities so that we can learn from each other and develop new relationships. This unique aspect of our organization allows HIPsters to be face-to-face with like-minded minority professionals. During my time at GSU, I connected with HIP-Atlanta past president Lisa Clement, an excellent mentor who helped me while I searched for job opportunities.  Now that I’m employed at Omnience, she continues to provide advice on ways to stand out in my current position and how to grow within the company.

As HIP-Atlanta’s 2014 Marketing Chair, I promote our organization to hospitality industry professionals located in Atlanta via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Additionally, I manage all of our e-mail campaigns which include general information about our organization, upcoming events, and a section to highlight HIPsters and their achievements.

My membership with HIP-Atlanta has introduced me to other facets of the hospitality industry which in turn helps with my position at Omnience in the registration department. I am able to speak with travel professionals, other meeting planners, and other hospitality industry professionals at HIP-Atlanta meetings and not only tell them about how great HIP-Atlanta is, but let them know how Omnience can help with their next event!

Learn more about how to become a HIPster here.

Four Experts Predict 2015’s Top Meeting Trends

As 2014 comes to a close, a big question remains for event professionals: What are the big meeting trends for 2015? Omnience asked some of the leading experts in the industry to share their thoughts on 2015 meeting trends and here are their top trends.

 

 

1. Data

Liz King – CEO, Chief Event Specialist, Liz King Events

2015 will be all about DATA. Thanks to robust registration systems, mobile apps, online communities and other event technology, event planners have more data at our fingertips than we know what to do with. The New Year will bring a large focus on collecting, analyzing and making decisions based on data.

 

2. Smartphone Omnipresence

Brandt Krueger – Consultant, Meeting & Event Technology Instructor, Event Leadership Institute Co-Host, Producer, Event Alley Show

We’ve seen steady growth in the adoption of smartphones, and not surprisingly, event/meeting apps. I think that growth will continue and we will reach the point we’ve all been waiting for since about 2011, where we’ll see not just a slight, but a solid majority of all conference, meeting, and event attendees in the US, Europe, and much of APAC having a smartphone. Likewise, the vast majority of conferences or meetings will have an app associated with it.  Apps like CrowdMics only work if the vast majority of an audience have smartphones.  Once we’ve reached that stage, where we’re not worrying anymore about the users who don’t have smartphones because they’re such a minority, then the real innovation will begin.  Event apps will start to move to the next level, and by 2016 we’ll have a whole new set of criteria for what we expect from event technology!

3. Time-Shift Learning Opportunities

Jeff Hurt – EVP, Education & Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

In times past, the majority of learning was appointment based. We had to show up on a specific date, at a specific time at a specific location to listen to a scheduled speaker share their knowledge. Today, attendees want to time-shift learning opportunities. They want a mix of scheduled and available just-when-they-need-it opportunities. This means conferences need to repurpose some education sessions into smaller chunks of time, tag them appropriately for SEO and then make them available online. Some conference sessions are recorded and scheduled for a replay where attendees can interact with each other about the content with the speaker.

Jeff, shared a few other conference education trends on his blog and you can read more here.

 

4. Content Marketing

Elizabeth Glau – CMP, Building Blocks Social Media Founder

Events are the best place for your customers or members to experience your organization’s story and culture – which helps create loyalty. Why not capture that experience to use and share after the event? For such a long time, we’ve only thought of events in a silo. They should be intimately connected to all other sales and marketing efforts. 

Event professionals, we’d love to hear from you. How are you preparing for these trends?  What other trends do you see emerging? Comment below with your answer or prediction!

 

Just for you: A short video with a BIG idea

Remember the good old days, when marketers could get their budgets approved with nebulous justifications, such as “building brand awareness” and “generating leads”?

Not any more! Today, the C-suite wants proof of what it is getting from its investment in marketing.

In-person events, of course, are no exception. Management will demand metrics on how similar events have performed in the past, and the plan to show value in the future.

That’s the framework for a powerful short story Omnience just produced in our new video. Watch what happens when a CMO is “thinking big” in her budget – and needs help with measurable results to show management. Hint: CFOs don’t like big surprises!

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