Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Catch 'em ... Quick! Using Pokemon Go at your event

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

It's taking the world by storm and now and you chance! The 6-day-old Pokemon Go strategy should be swiftly introduced to your event plans immediately... you never know how long it will last!

Okay, that might not be true or relevant to your event in any way, but let's get creative for a second and talk about how you might ride the coattails of this phenomenon at your event.

What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game you play on your cell phone or tablet in which your GPS checks your surroundings and you are notified that a Pokemon is nearby. You point your device at it, and you throw a little virtual ball at it to catch it. It's like geocaching, but for Pokemon.

How can you use it at events?

There is a feature in Pokemon Go called a Lure Module. You purchase a lure and the likelihood of a Pokemon appearing there goes up. Yes, there's some bad press already about robberies and kidnappings from Luring kids to a Pokemon, but in the B2B and B2C world, you can purchase a Lure for your PokeStop (tradeshow booth or activation) and draw players over to you to catch them!

Build a Team
Invite attendees to join your Gym at your booth or activation. You'll have an entire army of devoted attendees playing with you throughout the event!

Run a Pokemon Pub Crawl
Whether it's an actual afterparty pub crawl, or an expo hall booth crawl, you can use Lures and PokeStops to get people to visit all of the places you want them to visit!

The Ultimate Booth Swag
iTunes or GooglePlay gift certificates will be sought-after event prizes now that people are using in-app purchases for more PokeCoins! But of course, anything themed Pokemon is going to be a huge hit with the crowd (be sure to get officially licensed merchandise, of course).

So get creative and share how YOU might use Pokemon Go at your next event.... and PLEASE share your metrics! The #eventprof world wants to know if it works!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Strategic sponsorships: Maximizing your sponsorship spend

“Money is usually attracted, not pursued.” —Jim Rohn

Why do you buy sponsorships? Beyond just the access to a booth and speaking slot, why are you paying for those other branding opportunities? The window clings, the lanyards, the coffee break? We've all done it... did we get what we wanted out of it? How do you know?

Unfortunately, a lot of organizations begin with the amount of money they have to spend and divvy it up accordingly, not spending enough time evaluating tactics that will bring results. So let's dive into some thoughts to consider before writing that check.

I know, it's just so cliche to say, "Start with your objectives," but.... well... duh.

If you're new to the market you are entering at this particular event, then an awareness play may be what you target. Blanketing the audience with your company name or logo through lanyards, signage, coffee break sponsorships, etc. might generate enough buzz to drive people to your booth to learn more.

Lead gen:
If you are looking to get new leads for your sales team to reach out to, then you want to focus on activities that will allow you to capture contact info. The booth is the obvious place for this, and if you need a place to do a demo, then a booth is the way to go. If the conference has other add-on events that allow you access to the attendee list with a sponsorship (a fun run, a special luncheon, etc.), that might be a consideration for your funds. It's important to note that these contacts are less likely to be pre-qualified as interested in your offerings, but if you are simply looking for names to nurture, this is a great way to get access to new contacts.

Thought leadership:
Getting a speaker in front of the crowd is your best bet at thought leadership and owning the narrative of your story. It can also support lead gen by activating the audience to go to your booth after the session. Sometimes you can also get the attendee info for those who participated in your session and can have sales teams follow up (note that these are generally semi-qualified leads since they actively chose to come to your session). There are a number of ways to get speaking sessions, including submitting to Call for Papers, purchasing speaking opportunities, or simply having a topic that is highly sought-after by the conference committee.

Brand loyalty:
If the event you are going to is a long-standing member of your marketing portfolio, you may have all the contacts you need from it and simply wish to deepen your relationships and provide a cheerful environment for your sales teams to interact with their clients. In this case, you might sponsor the evening event, throw your own hospitality activity, or simply take customers to dinner.

Of course, these are all standard off-the-shelf sponsorship purchase ideas. Don't be scared to get creative and work with the sponsorship sales team to build your own sponsorship package. I often bring up one of my favorite awareness plays that I saw at a pharma conference: A company was introducing a bladder control drug and sponsored all the bathrooms! Brilliant!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Feed the people!!

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

According to research from Successful Meetings magazine, when faced with budget cutbacks 49% of meeting planners cut the F&B budget first. 

And yet anecdotally, next to conference rooms being too cold, food is the top complaint from attendees on post-event surveys. 

As a conference organizer, I understand that budgets are not always based on the realities of an optimal customer experience. Most event managers (and their leadership) view food as something you have to provide, but fail to consider it as an integral part of the experience.

Since the intent of this blog is to wax philosophical about ideas (rather than prescribe how things "should" be done), here's my idea: Why not revolutionize the way conference food is brought to attendees?

Cruise ships excite their guests with massive buffet options. Food courts satiate mall-goers and air travelers with variety, speed, and price. And stadiums have even begun to wow their sports fans with amazing offerings. So what can we learn from these large-group-serving colleagues? It's about expectations and the experience. 

When you go on a cruise, you know you're getting crazy buffets with mounds of food and a variety of restaurant offerings to choose from, usually included in the price of your ticket. 

When you go to the mall or the airport, you know you'll get fast food, quickly, and you can pretty much bet that you'll have a choice of greasy fried food, salads, Asian options, and probably that ever-pervasive smell of warm pretzels.

And when you go to the stadium you may get that Club level food court, the hot dog & nachos stand, or the sit-down sports bar. 

Right now, as you think about conference food, you are probably conjuring up lines of chafing dishes with food that started out great, but has deteriorated as throngs of attendees attempt to dig into the now-crusty casseroles. Or maybe you're thinking of the box lunch with the rock-hard sandwich, itty bitty whole apple, package of chips, and individually-wrapped pickle. Or if you're a vegetarian, you're remembering that every time you make it to the only vegetarian option on the buffet line, it's already gone because (shocker!) meat-eaters eat vegetables, too!

What if you looked forward to meeting a colleague for breakfast because it was like a coffeehouse with some proteins, some sweets, some hot tea, and some coffee, and the environment elicited a cozy atmosphere, rather than that of an aircraft carrier?

What if you were excited to get to lunch because you could sit with colleagues (not yell across a 72" round with strangers), or join an informal education session, or even hang out in a TV room to catch up on CNN headline news (a la The Varsity in Atlanta, GA)? 

There's bound to be a creative way to bring the enjoyment back to conference meals; even for those 20,000+ person events. I encourage you to work with your conference facility team, your logistics teams, and your chef, and make food a universally AWESOME experience again!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Optimizing Your Event Portfolio

This is a guest post that was posted on Goombal's blog. Take a look at the other great content posted there!

In many spheres of human endeavor, from science to business to education to economic policy, good decisions depend on good measurement. 
  - Ben Bernanke

As your organization grows, you are beginning to manage a lot of events. You are being asked to report on results, return on investment, pipeline generated, revenue closed as a result of your events, and your team is spending more and more time evaluating opportunities for your next event engagement. So how do you make sure you are making the right decisions?
Like most companies, you probably go to some events because your sales team needs to support a customer, or an executive is interested in launching a product during a keynote, or someone just really likes to play golf with their customers, or you have a group of competitors going so you must be present (even though you don’t have a track record of ROI at the show).
You probably also have all the events where lead gen is job #1 and you have a solid track record of highly qualified leads (or a least a lot of leads). And then there’s that set of C-level events that your execs want you to run… So how do you know if you’re choosing the right events for long-term success?
I like to describe event portfolios as bouquets of flowers. The roses are your C-level events. The carnations are your lead gen events. The baby’s breath are those corporate sponsorship activations that keep the brand top of mind. Together, the flowers make a great bouquet, but individually, each flower has its own attributes; a.k.a. success metrics.
The secret formula is to start by identifying your corporate (or business unit) objectives.
If you are in awareness mode with your brand or product, you might focus more on brand awareness sponsorships and lead generating activities, and maybe some thought leadership events with the C-suite.
If you are in acquisition mode, you’re pretty much targeting lead generating activities for your sales team.
If you are in development and retention mode, you may focus on sponsorships and C-level activities, and opportunities to bring your customers together for upsell or loyalty.
But all of your events must tie to key metrics in order to know what to focus on.
Ideally, your C-level events are going to come with long-term pipeline and revenue numbers by associating those campaign members with active opportunities in your CRM system. If you are not currently using a CRM system to track the success of leads and relationships generated from your face-to-face events, then you’ll want solid sales anecdotal reports on the effectiveness of the engagement.
If you are unable to tie real opportunities or revenue to a C-level event, you need to get data to prove deal acceleration as a result of your event. in other words, was a deal pushed further down the sales funnel due to the content or relationships built at your event?
For your lead gen events, if you are using any kind of CRM system throughout your sales teams, this should be relatively easy to tie to pipeline. Once an attendee (or campaign member) is associated with an opportunity or revenue, you begin to see the value of the event.
If you are not using a CRM, or have dissimilar processes across your organization, this is an organizational challenge you’ll want to tackle first. Without the ability to measure the value of the leads you are producing, you won’t be able to evaluate your event’s effectiveness.
Sponsorships are a little more tricky. If it is a sponsorship in name and logo only, then your best hope is to measure using standard media metrics of impressions. However, if you are able to activate that sponsorship with an experiential element, you can get more detailed with leads, social media conversation density, or other engagement metrics.
It’s highly likely that you’ll end up with a balanced portfolio of lead gen, executive, and brand awareness events, but you may weigh more heavily toward one event type as it aligns to your corporate objectives.
No matter what your bouquet looks like, the most important piece is that you have some sort of consistent measurement in place by event type so you can reconcile your spend against investment or objectives.
You’re sure to have a few misses amongst your portfolio, but just weed out those dead or dying flowers and keep your bouquet looking fresh and beautiful!
For some tips regarding how you can go about doing this with a data-driven approach, read Vinay Iyer’s blog titled, “A Data-Driven Approach to Event Portfolio Management”. Vinay is the founder of Goombal, an Event Lifecycle and ROI Management solution, and he has an innovative solution that makes me excited about the future of event marketing!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Finally! An app that makes sense!

Update: We have launched a community in Skoop for Event Marketing Professionals - join us and try out this great new tool to keep up-to-date and in touch with other professionals like you! Download Skoop for Events and look for the "Event Socialshpere" community. To get the passcode, hit me up on Twitter @lizlathan

Eureka! - I have found it!
 - Archimedes

As you've seen me say many times (like here, and here, and here), I believe that events and social media are intertwined like lattice. I like to say that events were the original social media, since it's where people can join their tribe, meet up with like-minded individuals, and share experiences and stories together.

I've also talked about mobile apps (like this adorable post from 2010 where I saw my first event app! and this one where I talked about vendor selection), but apps have evolved and it's time to leverage that evolution for the benefit of your attendees.

Check the apps on your phone. Is there an event app on there? Probably not. I'm guessing you deleted it about 24 hours after you left that last event.

But do you have Facebook? Instagram? Maybe you have something like WhatsApp or Slack? Why? Because it keeps you in touch with the people you WANT to be in touch with and the goings-on of their lives and your community.

So how do we make event apps more relevant for us, and solve that problem of year-round communication, riding the wave of an enthusiastic community long after the event?

Enter Skoop for Events. They've recently been spotted at shows like Expo! Expo! And Event Tech, and they are excited to be the new kid on the block, with what they think is the solution to this challenge!

I'm not here to give a product pitch, but I do want to share some of the features that I think will revolutionize how we look at event apps. It does all those event-appy things like bring in the schedule, the sponsors, the expo details, etc. But then it goes further... no longer are those contact you meet at the event stuck in an app, forcing you to only communicate through it. Now, anyone you meet can exchange contact info with a shake of the phone (literally!) and you can put them in your contacts or even connect with them on LinkedIn!

I know that seems like the perfect reason to uninstall the app after the event, but here's where it gets useful: You can create subfeeds within Skoop, so if you meet a great group of folks in a breakout session and you want to continue the conversation, you can add them to a group and keep it up long after the event is over. Boom. Your own community right there. And now you have your tribe.

Just imagine all of your event attendees creating conversations on your event app and getting to know each other throughout the year. They get EACH OTHER excited about registering for next year's conference! You can leverage this community for polls about content, music, etc. You can ask this community to contribute photos, videos, quotes - right in the app - and crowdsource your conference highlights throughout the year!

Just thinking out loud here... If your event is one in a sea of shows that attendees go to, they may even use the communities they've formed in YOUR event app to meet up at other events. And you can keep an eye on the conversation and perhaps run a meetup or other gathering there.

I look forward to seeing what changes Skoop brings to the event world! http://grabskoop.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Death to the Albatross! (Let's get back to the basics on name tags!)

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
 - George Bernard Shaw

Name badges have gotten ridiculous. Event organizers have tried to capture so much information on the name badge, provide agendas at a glance, drink tickets, identification ribbons, sponsor level, event branding, and the kitchen sink all on one little name badge... it's gotten so bad that I feel like everyone is walking around with a giant albatross around their necks!

What is the purpose of a name badge? To help people connect. How can you connect when you have to fight to locate their name, look at their stomach (or a female's chest), or ask them to flip their badge around so you can find their name. How much of a jerk do you feel like when you can't remember someone's name, but there is zero chance of actually catching their name badge without them noticing?

We need to get back to basics on name tags. Keep them simple. Help people connect. Give them a large first name, a smaller last name, and their company. If you need security features (like colors to know if they are a sponsor or an attendee to keep them in or out of certain session), incorporate that seamlessly into the design. Let's get back to having name badges that can be worn higher up on the chest so no one has to look down the center of the body to locate a name.

And let's talk about ribbons: Ribbons no longer make people feel special. You know what makes people feel special? Having people call them by name and shake their hand. Maybe even hug. Imagine a world where you can hug without getting your name badge tangled up with your huggee!

And finally, once we've agreed to go back to name badges that clip or magnetically attach to the chest area, make sure your attendees wear their name badges properly. Wearing the badge on the upper right side of the chest, in line of sight with a handshake, is the most appropriate location for networking. Check out this great post by Carey Suevega on proper name tag placement
Who's with me for a name tag revolution?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

10 ways to save money on your tradeshow program

If saving money is wrong, I don't want to be right!
 - William Shatner

Let me guess, you were handed an extra $100k to execute your booth this time, right? No? Oh... your budget got CUT by $30k. Been there. Here are 10 tips to save money on your tradeshow program:

  1. Use less signage. Every sign cost money. Sign reprints cost even more. Can you reuse elements from another show to save on printing costs?
  2. Reuse the booth. If you're renting a new booth for every show, chew on this: Most of the attendees at this event were not at your last event. They won't know that you've used the same booth for both of them. Better yet: use the same booth for a bunch of your events! It sounds elementary, but it's amazing how many companies reinvent the wheel for every show they attend. Just by using the same rental kiosks from event to event, you can save thousands of dollars. 
  3. Cut the giveaways. You don't need to feed the trick-or-treaters. Be strategic in your gifting and only give premiums to attendees who engage with you in your booth. 
  4. Standardize the staff attire. Do you buy new shirts for every trade show you attend? Consider implementing an event uniform program, tracking who has been given staff shirts, and only refreshing their uniform when theirs is lost or damaged.
  5. Lighten up your booth. If you send full, heavy enterprise IT racks to your events, consider a virtual version. If you have a metal booth, consider going with more of a stretch fabric design. The lighter your shipping load, the less drayage you have to pay. Money in the bank. 
  6. Demo offline. You can save thousands by not using a wired internet drop. Try canned demos, or using a personal hotspot if you need to get online. 
  7. Skip the rented badge scanner. Try a mobile app that snaps pictures of business cards. Have a backup plan, though, if someone doesn't have a business card on them. 
  8. Plan ahead. You can save upwards of 20% if you just meet all the deadlines the show organizer has put in place. Miss it and you start getting penalties and rush fees added on. 
  9. Reconsider your rental furniture. If you need a meeting table and chairs, it might be cheaper to find a local IKEA and bring in your own, then donate to a local charity after the event. 
  10. Go to fewer shows! This may sound really insane, but consider your event portfolio. Are you going to every show at a lower level to spread your brand around? Consider hitting fewer, more impactful shows to get the results you need and stop wasting money on the non-performing shows.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You'll never look at your Outlook calendar the same way again

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
 - Peter Drucker

I came across this article on Facebook and it reminded me of the famous “rocks” story from a college professor. My calendar is usually how I run my day. This article has convinced me to completely reverse that. Enjoy!
The Chokehold of Calendars
Meetings may be toxic, but calendars are the superfund sites that allow that toxicity to thrive. All calendars suck. And they all suck in the same way. Calendars are a record of interruptions. And quite often they’re a battlefield over who owns whose time. Read the rest…

Friday, February 6, 2015

5 Tips to thinking strategicially about your 10x10

Failing to plan is planning to fail.
 - Alan Lakein

So your sales guy comes to you and says, "My customer gave me a free 10x10 at their show!" "Fantastic!" you say. "What are you going to showcase?" silence....

Trade shows are a great way to showcase your brand to attendees. Or they're not. It's really up to you. The most frustrating experience for a conference goer is to walk around a trade show floor and see a bunch of exhibitors sitting behind a 6' table typing on their phone. I.Would.Never.Stop.At.That.Booth.

The second most frustrating experience is to BE an exhibitor standing behind a 6' table, smiling at people who just walk by, hiding their badge from your scanner. "Aren't these people here to learn about new things?", you think to yourself.

So how do you make the most of your 10x10 booth on a crowded show floor?

  1. Know what success looks like. So your booth cost you $5k, and you spent another $4k on travel, branding, and giveaways. If one customer brings in $3k, then you need three new customers to break even on the event. If your close rate is 20%, then you need 15 hot leads from the show to make it break even. Aim for 30 and show real ROI!
  2. Plan ahead. Most conferences will give you at least a list of companies and titles of attendees who are coming to the show. Use it to bounce against your target prospect list from your sales team and reach out before the show. Make sure your top targets know you are going to be there, know where your booth is, and are planning to come by for a demo or conversation.
  3. Plan for drive-bys. The majority of conference goers know who they are going to look for before they step foot on the show floor. If you've done step 1, you are already on their list. But some conference goers may not know you're going to be there and are looking for products or services like yours. So plan for them. A branded backdrop and a smile may not be the most effective way to get someone to stop and talk to you. Take it a step further with an open-ended question. If you're selling widgets, try, "What's the best (or worst) think about widget today?" Even better - have something engaging in your space to draw this out of them: maybe a giant whiteboard where attendees can write in their favorite (or least favorite) thing about widgets. This will open the conversation and get people engaged. 
  4. You don't have to give to the trick-or-treaters. Everyone loves a good pen. But handing out pens is less likely to help your sales pipeline. Get attendees to USE a pen to write an idea on a post-it note or write about their favorite thing about widgets, THEN they can keep the pen. That makes it more memorable for them when they see the pen again later while cleaning out their conference bag, and allows you to only give out pens to people who have actively engaged with your brand. 
  5. Have a follow-up plan. How will you capture those great conversations? Will you take business cards? Will you scan badges? Whatever you intend to do, ensure that they are getting scored as leads for follow-up or leads for nurture and being put in a database/CRM back in the office... then make sure they are followed up on! Maybe your "nurture-only" leads don't need to waste sales resources, but they should definitely receive some sort of email follow-up thanking them for stopping by, and asking if they'd like to opt in to a newsletter or future communications. But most importantly, ensure those leads were scored at the event so you can follow up on the hot ones and book some sales. After all, that's why you went to the show in the first place!

Monday, May 5, 2014

CEMA Wine Country Women in Leadership Event Wrap-Up

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
 - Albert Einstein

I had the absolute pleasure of getting to attend the CEMA Wine Country Women in Leadership event May 1, 2014, in Napa Valley. DMC Viviani Tours did a spectacular job of lining up a day full of education, networking, food, and of course wine! More than 35 event marketers joined us for property tours and winery tours, and inspiring stories from winemakers and winery owners.
Our first stop was the Bardessano Hotel, where CEO of Visit Napa, Clay Walker, welcomed us to the famed valley of the grape. Here’s some fun facts that Clay shared with us:
  • 4/10ths of 1% of the world’s wine comes from Napa Valley
  • Napa is home to 400+ wineries, and 95% of them are family-owned
  • Napa has the most Michelin stars per capita of any wine region in the world (including two 3-star restaurants)
  • There is more than 200,000 square feet of unique meeting space throughout the Napa Valley
Then our Bardessano hosts took us on a tour of their breathtaking property… from the high tech bathrooms to the Leed-certified environmentally-friendly surroundings, our eyes were opened this unique luxury property nestled in the heart of Yountville.
Next up was Chimney Rock Winery. Little did we know that our tastings would begin at 10:30am… but I didn’t hear too much complaining! We learned about following your passion from Winemaker and General Manager Elizabeth Vianna as shared the history of the winery and her personal story of switching from medical school in her senior year of college to winemaking school to chase her dreams. Clearly a successful outcome, we “see, swirl, smell, sip”ed our way across her creations. I took away some incredible sound bites from Elizabeth’s talk, including:
  • Winemaking is an eternal learning curve
  • You’re only as good as your team and what mother nature gives you
  • I truly believe in following your instincts. But with reason.
  • Only 4% of winemakers are women
  • Winemaking is like events – it’s a place where control is very important
Our next stop was the breathtaking scenery of Hall Winery where we met Kathryn Walt Hall, owner and winemaker, as well as world-renowned caterer Elaine Bell. Kathryn shared her family’s history as grape farmers in Mendocino, and her story of following her passion and getting into the art and science of making wines.  I took away some great sound bites from Kathryn, as well:
  • What differentiates one great wine from another great wine is: Did you have fun?
  • 90% of winemaking is farming
  • This business is very relationship driven
  • I never want to make a profit at the expense of our pride and our team
  • Its said that cabernets are more masculine and pinot noirs are more feminine because they’re so elegant
  • We are, at the end of the day, fancy farmers and the experience needs to be enjoyable
Kathryn also talked about the event space on their newly-renovated property, and some teambuilding ideas, including blending wines. “Blending is one of the few things in life that is actually better done by committee,” she said.
We then had the luxury of a lunch catered by Elaine Bell, pairing perfectly with Hall wines. Elaine shared stories of her humble beginnings as a student chef, the first time she met Julia Child and how they became close friends, how she revolutionized the catering industry by actually cooking the food onsite with the little Kenmore range from her very own kitchen (which she hooked up to a propane tank and took onsite with her!). She talked about how she grew her business to more than $1m in revenue in two years, and how she expanded into the powerhouse catering company that she owns today.
We then were taken on an exploration of Hall Winery, through the exquisite art collections, past the tank rooms, and through the indoor and outdoor event spaces. The designers at the winery made every effort to bring the outdoors in and provide an organic-feeling experience at every turn. After a tour of the serene, artistic surroundings of Hall Winery, we embarked on our final adventure: Raymond Winery.
I have no words for this experience. Well, that’s not true. I have a lot of words. Here they are.
The first thing we were attracted to was the giant open frame garden, where we obviously had to stop for photo moments! This was our introduction to the theatrics awaiting us beyond the rose bushes… After a refreshing glass of bubbly, we toured the organic gardens of the winery (appropriately named the Theatre of Nature) and learned about the ecodynamics of the winery and garden. Our tour guide helpfully let us know that if there is a zombie apocalypse, Raymond Winery is the place you want to be. We saw Frenchie’s Garden, a dog park and kennel for winery guests’ four-legged friends. (The owner’s dog, Frenchie, even has his own wine! Not to worry, it’s for people).
We moved the party indoors (and thankfully out of the 90+ degree heat!) and began to take in the real experiences that Raymond Winery offers. This was the opposite of the winery we’d just visited… it wasn’t exquisite art with reminders to respect the work and not touch it. This was a hands-on, get-in-there experience. Touch the textures! Smell the aromas! Feel the dirt on your fingertips! And then… we met him. Owner Juan-Carlos Boisset. Oh the sound bites! Here we go:
  • We’re all actors of nature
  • You taste with your senses: Your nose, your tongue, your emotions
  • Of course the wine is great. We’re in Napa Valley. We want people to come here and have you say this is the coolest think I’ve done and this is a luxury product I want to be a part of.
  • We believe the best events are the ones that create an experience way beyond what you would expect… and this is why we have mannequins.
  • We want to make all our guests vibrate. You should see our parties!
  • We’re an experiential winery where guests can live something different
We thoroughly enjoyed the company of JC as he took us on a tour of the fermentation tanks, the wine-making experience room (a special event facility where guests can blend their own wine), and through other intimate meeting and wine education spaces like The Library (where you can taste the same wine from different vintages through the years to understand how a wine changes with age), and the Terroir Room (where you learn how the different soil throughout California impacts the flavor of the grapes and the wines). And finally outside to the outdoor event space, the learning kitchen, and the guest house, and into the JC Lounge.
This CEMA event was part networking, part education, part inspirational storytelling, part fam trip, and all a luxurious break from reality. It was a very unique CEMA experience and I look forward to more memorable experiential moments in the future!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An open letter to hotel room designers

Common sense is very uncommon.
 - Horace Greeley

I'm not a road warrior, but I'm in and out of hotels often enough to understand how most people generally use a hotel room. There's a bed, a bathroom, and electricity. For the most part, those are the important parts.

With that in mind, I would like to share some helpful tips for hotel designers.

1) The bed. Thanks for upgrading almost all of the hotel beds to be heavenly or signature or whatever. That's great! I really don't need decorative pillows that I'm going to throw in the floor. They look pretty, but they take housekeeping an extra 2 minutes to arrange, and I just push them off the bed anyway. Ditch that, please.

2) The bathroom. Sometimes I travel on business alone. Sometimes I travel on business with a colleague. Sometimes I travel with my husband. In all situations, I do not want a pretty sliding door with frosted glass. Or even no door at all. I want a door. A real door. One that I can close and that will keep in the noises that happen in bathrooms. If you are so inclined to provide me with a non-noise-barring solution to my bathroom, PLEASE at least consider adding a ventilation fan. I would like to have some option of masking those bathroom noises without having to turn on the TV and crank the volume. This can't be too much to ask, can it?

While I'm on the topic of bathrooms, I believe that the next revolution in bathrooms should be the bath sheet. Bath towels are teensy and I really like to fold a nice bath sheet around me when I get out of the shower. But if I had to choose a door or a bath sheet, please give me the door.

3) The electricity. I have a laptop, a phone, and a tablet. I need to plug them in. Please don't make me crawl under the desk or unplug the lamp to locate an outlet. Seriously. When you're designing your sleek, modern little built-in for the TV, just think about putting some plugs in a reasonable, reachable location.

Thank you for your consideration.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting re-inspired

Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.
 - Brad Henry

I disappeared off the map last year as planning for my company's 6,000-person user conference kicked into high gear.

Then I disappeared "for good" for 3 months as I had a new little baby girl in February!

So now I'm back at work and back exploring event trends and technologies and trying to reignite my inspiration. It may take me a little more exploring to find that right inspirational moment, but I have no doubt it will hit me soon and I'll be back on track with my regular posts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strategic Meetings Management Programs: Our Journey

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
  - Seneca

Today I had the great pleasure of speaking at the PCMA Education Conference on the topic of Strategic Meetings Management with Kevin Iwamoto, VP of Enterprise Strategy for Active Networks. Kevin is a person I would call "the father of strategic meetings management," and it was an honor to share the stage with him. 

Myself? Well I have about a solid month of strategic meetings management experience (plus 5 years of on-again, off-again research on the subject!)

My company began exploring an SMMP about 5 years ago, in partnership with our Travel Procurement team. That first attempt at an RFP resulted in so many requirements and wishlist items that the final printed file comparing responses was a 6 foot by 7 foot Excel spreadsheet! Completely incomprehensible, overwhelming, and was actually laughed at and put in the storage closet. 

So I made a friend in the procurement department and we began to exchange war stories. Together, we had informational sessions with a number of SMMP providers, and we explored from more of an RFI point of view, rather than an RFP. We even lightly and non-contractually partnered with a company that could act as an SMMP resource for teams to leverage if they needed event venue sourcing support. 

A few procurement directors and event marketing directors later, we tried it again, but couldn't get any traction with leadership at all.  

Finally, last year our company launched a savings initiative, seeking ideas from leaders within the company on how we can save money by doing simple things. My procurement team and I submitted the idea that we can save over $2M annually by implementing an SMMP (knowing full well that other companies our size have saved upwards of $10M by implementing programs like this!).

We dusted off our RFI and RFP responses and began to evaluate what we really wanted out of this program. By bringing us back to the objectives for the program (tracking meetings spend, mitigating contract risk, etc.), we were able to identify the true benefits of the program and what was really important to the company. While the first 4 RFPs were led and directed by procurement, this last one was supported by procurement with the event team writing the RFP document and evaluating the responses. Procurement managed the RFP process, scheduling, and support of the respondents. 
We determined that we did not have the funding to implement a fully-scoped SMMP at first, but allowed competitors with technology solutions to bid anyway to get a full understanding of the possibilities and what a full program could look like for us in the future. We knew that we needed to land on a solution that would be covered with commission-able rates. 

As we rolled out the program, we got three consistent responses from team members: 
1) They were concerned that we were forcing them to select the cheapest property – which is by no means the case. This process is simply to get competitive bids. Full control lies with the event manager to determine which property they wish to use. 
2) Event managers claimed that it’s faster to just call their national rep or local hotel contact, rather than fill out a form and wait on our SMMP to get back to them. As they’ve starting using the SMMP, though, they find that a 5-minute form and 10 minute conversation with their SMMP rep is much better than leaving 3 voicemails with their hotel contact and negotiating concessions on their own! 
3) Our APJ team has some team members who firmly believe they will get better pricing going direct. We have not fully rolled this out yet in the region, so we will continue to operate in pilot mode this year as we determine what the realities are in the region. 

The event team had concerns about moving to an SMMP for fear that they could no longer use some of the event management agencies they are comfortable with on large-scale programs. We agreed that any large program where the event management agency would use commission-able rates to lower their fees could continue to be used. If, however, the team was going to hire an agency specifically for a venue search, they should use the SMMP.

Knowing that this would be a giant change for our teams, we agreed with our SMMP provider that we would take year one and operate as a pilot program. We have monthly check-ins with team members to discuss bumps and bruises and get our program working smoothly. Once the 1-year pilot ends, we will evaluate together the results of the program and determine if it is beneficial to continue with an official 2-year agreement. 

We agreed to roll out the program in the US and EMEA, and roll out to APJ and LatAm later in the year. However, the APJ and LatAm teams were excited to try out the program and have begun leveraging the SMMP already as well.
We have worked hand-in-hand with procurement to draft policies, review addendums, write blog posts, send corporate-wide emails, and craft a newsletter to keep everyone informed of the program, the available venues where cancellations have happened, and hot dates and rates from our SMMP. The Event marketing team has taken the lead on rolling out training to the corporate admins, and the procurement team continues to be involved as the program involves. 

We’ve had the program rolled out for about a month now (48 programs are in process with a handful having been contracted) and are already seeing an average 10% savings off of the catering-only events, and 20% off the events with room blocks that have been contracted through the program. 

With the savings, event owners are able to show higher ROI from revenue generated from their customer-facing events, or are able to use the money saved for more strategic investments like speaker fees or marcom collateral.

Event managers are thrilled to not have to worry about contract clauses and concession negotiations.  And even more thrilled to not have to wait on legal and procurement to review contracts! 

From a procurement standpoint, by tracking our meeting and event venue usage, we are able to drive more business to our preferred hotel brands and thus negotiate even better corporate rates for the future based on volume. We are also able to have great conversations with A/V companies in these properties to drive those costs lower on volume, as well. 

By reducing the logistical costs of the events for customer-facing activities, we will increase the total income earned from the converted revenue, while not reducing the attendee experience in any way. 

If your company is exploring a strategic meetings management program, I highly recommend picking up Kevin's book from Amazon as step number 1!

Step number 2 is to develop perseverance. You  will try to launch a program. It will fail. You may try again unsuccessfully. You might even give up for a while. But keep at it! Eventually, the stars will align and you will have the right leadership in place to support your goals. 

Step 3 is to develop the right partnerships between marketing and procurement. Get the right people on board to help each other, develop relationships that are open enough to allow honest conversations about problems and outcomes. 

Step 4: go forth and conquer. It won't be easy. But it will be worth it.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Lifelong learning

Don't just learn the tricks of the trade. Learn the trade.
   - James Bennis 

In the never-ending season of budget cutbacks and layoffs, it's harder and harder to justify attending educational industry conferences - especially for corporate meeting planners. But if you have truly selected event marketing as a career path, and not just a job, you must find ways to stay relevant and keep learning your trade.

Personally, I get to pick one event industry conference per year that my company will cover, and I must do any others on my own dime. However, I find the content, networking, and environment so inspiring that I make sure I do attend more than one per year.

This year, I have the added benefit of getting to present at two of them! On June 11th, I'll be at PCMA in San Antonio talking about Strategic Meetings Management Programs, and July 15-17, I'll be at CEMA Summit in San Diego talking about the New Realities of Branded Conferences, as well as presenting a session on Social Media 101 for event managers.

But attending conferences outside of my own profession is highly inspirational, as well. I love going to corporate events that my company attends to take in and explore ideas (not just focus on making sure my booth setup is going well). I truly enjoyed the "Study Tours" of Oracle Open World and Dreamforce that CEMA hosted last year. And I'm very sad that I missed the one for SAP Sapphire - I REALLY wanted to see that one!

In March of this year, I spent a little time at SXSW, Austin's famous Interactive, Film, and Music festival, taking in the buzz, plugging into the socialsphere, and absorbing the creativity.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Word of Mouth Marketing Crash Course in Austin, an event I highly recommend to all event marketers who have an interest in social media and guerrilla marketing.

What other not-exactly-event-marketing conferences inspire you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The importance of events in pre-commerce

When you put yourself in the customers shoes and begin your dialog from there, an immediate connection develops that stems beyond basic commerce and encourages loyalty.
   - Steve Maraboli

I had the pleasure of attending the Word of Mouth Crash Course yesterday in Austin, Texas, and enjoyed every single session I went to… Truly rare at a conference! While some of the conference logistics could be improved, the content was well curated to provide really sharp speakers with really interesting case studies and points of view. 
The content primarily centered on word of mouth marketing and the social media tools that amplify it, creating customer advocates, and using behavioral analytics to provide better customer experiences.
One of the great sessions I attended was a fireside chat with Bob Pearson, a former colleague at Dell, and author of Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together. Did you know that only 1% of a consumer’s time is actually spent purchasing something online? 99% is spent researching, exploring, talking, evaluating, and engaging in other pre-purchase activities. And today, 3 out of 4 people look to their peers before making any purchase decision.
Events are huge part of pre-commerce. By bringing together like-minded customers and potential customers, you give them the opportunity to research, explore, touch and feel your brand, products, and solutions, and provide an outlet for them to talk to their peers about their options.
It’s important that your brand advocates are at your events to provide the customer voice that your prospects are seeking. While you probably already provide comp passes to your potential customers, be sure to keep some comps for your great retention accounts, too. The more you can have customer brand ambassadors speaking at your events and networking with your potential customers, the more word of mouth can influence purchase decisions on that coveted peer-to-peer level.