Friday, March 27, 2009

How to Waste Money on a Trade Show

Tradeshows . . . Where Good Leads (no longer have to) Go To Die. Almost a year ago we wrote a series of articles on the challenges that tradeshow attendees face: Tradeshows, Where Good Leads go to Die (Part 1 & Part 2), our version of a Jerry Maguire document. Taken as a whole, it outlines the problems in the tradeshow and events industry and describes a set of solutions.

So today, we are launching Event Bookmarking, a proprietary software and integrated hardware system designed to improve audience response, face-to-face social networking and lead management.

Everyday, we talk with event managers, vendors, sponsors, speakers and attendees discussing the good, the bad and the ugly about their events. One of the core issues we discuss is the pressure for a return on investment in the expo or booth area.

In any economy, participation in an expo is dependent upon the amount of qualified leads a vendor received for their time, money and efforts. But simply agreeing to invest in a show is only half the battle because traditional lead management only produces a list of who was “scanned”; a list of a list, if you will. It can’t produce a list of truly ‘qualified leads’.

The follow up on these lists can be daunting and is typically done by placing those new leads into the sales pipeline for eBlasting or even worse “dialing for dollars” phone calls made by the newest sales trainees or more expensively, top sales talent.

After a busy show, attendees get pounded with junk mail and emails and phone calls thanking them for stopping by and ‘pitching’ the product or service. As a result, little list qualification occurs and they simply become part of the database going forward. Solving that problem is what generated the lead management component of Event Bookmarking (PDF Download).

And now the story that started it all… Years ago, we attended one of the tradeshows about tradeshows. We happened across one of the dozen or so ‘event management’ companies (translation - event registration software), ate the candy, took a brochure out of guilt, and thanked them for their time. We learned a lot from that experience. We were two people in a show full of several thousand attendees. We came, we saw, we talked and then we left . . . For us, that was that.

And that’s when the emails and the phone calls and the invitations started coming. “We’re having a webinar!”, “We’re doing a luncheon in your town!”, “We’re offering new modules that we’ve stacked on top of the other ones… it’s all shiny and new and you MUST BE THERE to see it!!!”

Since we were relatively unimpressed with what we saw and were already well into the development of the BusyEvent Event Management Platform, we opted-out and took this one-time experience as a good dose of what not to do. Our event management clients were telling us what they wanted, didn’t like, wished they could have and we had already been building tools like this for over a decade as one-off software. The time was right for us to build an event platform.

But the lunch invitations kept coming. Even as we were launching Version 1 of BusyEvent and made no secret to who we were, nobody at the “we’ll invite you to a luncheon and show you our stuff” company had any tools or information to know if we were a qualified lead or not - so we’re still on the list today.

Last week, we received another email (the 4th in a period of 6 months) about another lunch and demo of their tools and that’s when we sat down and started doing some math. What did this one unqualified lead cost them and how many unqualified thousands more are rattling around in their system?

If they had just been able to sift through the thousands of contacts they gathered at the event we attended to find the 50-100 good and qualifiable leads it would have been more useful to them. What they do with the other 900 is up to them . . . so, here’s what we do:

  1. First, everyone doesn’t get a color glossy brochure that will sooner-than-later find its way into a landfill. Instead, had that original event had the Event Bookmarking system in use, every contact could be filtered and the qualified leads would get more attention.
  2. Then, we track who downloaded our PDF brochure, clicked on the link to our site, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc… and expressed ANY follow-on interest.
  3. By self-identifying as ‘interested’ each of those more-qualified leads would get a call from us about the real actions that occurred (we met, we talked, you clicked a link, etc…) and as appropriate, those qualified-leads would continue through the sales funnel until a more expensive contact, such as a meeting, a lunch, or demo, etc…made sense.
  4. The others would all get an invite to a webinar, links to downloads and perhaps a quick 3 question survey about what they’re interested in. And they’d remain in the ‘more qualifications needed’ list.

Before Event Bookmarking, Sales and Marketing would have no way to measure a successful show other than the number of contacts they gathered - qualified or not, “just get me names”. Those really aren’t leads, but rather, names on a list. Then inside sales is incentivized to get people to come to the luncheon no matter what their level of interest. This occurs over and over until nobody knows where the leads came from or what money is best spent on Marketing. It’s the “brute force approach” and we believe that budgets will never be there for that, ever again.

What you’ll see by downloading the Event Bookmarking brochure is what we’ll address for every attendee; the actual measurement of ROI and the identification of which contacts are worth spending time and money on and converting into leads.

That’s why . . . rather than continuing to be part of the problem, we’re offering part of the solution.

What is Event Bookmarking?

It’s a software and purpose-built hardware platform that combines Lead Management with Audience Response, Face-to-Face Social Networking and an online information source to extend a 3-5 day event into a 365 day year-round connection between attendees, vendors, speakers, sponsors and event managers.

So, feel free to download our ‘Green Friendly’ brochure and call us to discuss how to cut the cost of event management in half while getting quality event information as it happens.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fixing the Problem - A Series On What's Going On & What Can Be Done

Fixing the Problem - Part 3: Where do we go next?

Over the past decade we have seen vendors and sponsors demand more and better results from the dollars they invest in events.

This is a trend that will continue to challenge event producers to become more creative in the development of sponsor and vendor packages. And even when the economic trends reverse, the new "new" will be with us from here forward.

At the root of these improvements is better information and connectivity; communicating and 'listening' rather than waiting to talk.

Sponsors who traditionally placed their brand on signage in support of the event are looking for ways to get the voice of the customer, educate customers on better use of their products, roll out new product offerings and open up a year-round channel of communication.

Vendors are looking for ways to hasten and improve the qualification-process. Who, out of the thousands of people they interact with, have been sparked with an interest in what was seen and should be followed up with, first?

And everyone would prefer to skip the production, shipping and drayage of paper brochures.
As sponsors and vendors become more selective of which shows they will support/attend, the thing that will raise one event over another, is the ability to deliver their target audience, prepped and ready to go. If event managers can know their attendees and can help them make decisions pro-actively, then the successful events will know how to offer attendees more of what they need and sponsors/vendors more of what they want.

This is not an imposition on anyone’s privacy but rather a world view of what are the most popular items being reviewed on the attendee’s personal URLs.

In Part Two we discussed how the PURL gathers what each person saw and did at an event and then makes that information available immediately and long after the event is over. Measuring the traffic to those PURLs is just one way we can know what was hot and what was not leading up to, during and following an event.
The goal of this activity is continuous improvement which raises attendance, draws better sponsorships and attracts higher-quality vendors and speakers. Measurement offers insight and tangible numbers that drive better revenues. This is an important step to increasing the health of the event industry in any economy.

As a case study, the client mentioned in Part One has offered just some of what we have outlined above and they are seeing upwards of a 40% increase in sponsorship revenue over their 2007 numbers, a 10% increase in attendance and an excitement that was unexpected but a pleasant surprise, none-the-less.

So, what's it all mean? The new lessons are the same ones we've known:
  • Seek first to understand and then be understood.
  • Content matters.
  • "Love" IS the killer app and above all else, your mother was right . . .
  • Look both ways before you cross the street.
Those 4 pearls of wisdom have always been true, and they will be as we go forward.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fixing the Problem - A Series On What's Going On & What Can Be Done

Part Two – Assisting those who are left behind

In any economy, events with a good balance of speakers, educational content, social networking and interaction with new products and ideas do well.

People want to participate in an event because, for many industries, it is the best way to do business.

The good news is events are still happening.

The bad news… companies are sending fewer people, spending less money and putting incredible pressure on event planners to help them turn every penny into an ROI of more (not necessarily a bad thing).

In Part 1 of this series addressing how we can start “Fixing the Problem”, we discussed how to combat attrition. In Part 2, we're going to share how event attendees are including their co-workers back at the office and expanding the on-site ROI into the virtual and NO, we're not talking about Virtual Tradeshows.

While the event is in progress many have taken to Twittering, blogging, and camera phones to share the best finds. BusyEvent is about to launch an easier process that benefits everyone involved (for more information visit the BusyEvent blog to learn how we Integrate Twitter into Every BusyEvent).
Keeping track of the people you meet, breakout sessions, new products, learning and the general excitement of an event can be easily shared in real time through the personal URL you receive when you sign up for a BusyEvent. Getting your co-workers involved by letting you know what speakers, people and product information they want you to collect at the event, can be done in advance.

On site you are assigned a key-fob sized, wearable device that attaches to your badge/lanyard to capture your bookmarks; permanent people, product and information links that can be stored and retrieved later.

Meanwhile, back at the office, your colleagues can see what you are seeing and even text message additional requests along the way.

From a vendor and sponsor perspective, the benefits of exposure to the larger audience are still there and in fact, are there in a more permanent and penetrating way.

The benefits?
  1. The attending company reduces their travel cost.
  2. Electronic brochures, presentations, blogs, and links to social networking via LinkedIn and Facebook all come together to reduce printed material costs and add a Green benefit to the event.
  3. Real-time communications improve the overall experience and assure that the on-site attendee meets who they're supposed to meet and gets to follow up with them in a meaningful way.
Nothing can replace a face to face experience, but with Event Bookmarking we are making it easy for larger groups to glean useful knowledge from an event before, during and long after it is over.

Event Bookmarking also extends the reach for vendors and sponsors to connect with potential customers well beyond the days of the event.

Combine that with how we're integrating Twitter into the On-Site and Virtual event experience and you quickly see that content, communications and control make event attendance "on-site" just one component of the value that a company's overall event experience can have.

Tomorrow, in Part 3, we will discuss how to use this process to grow sponsorship and virtual presence revenues, as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fixing the Problem - A Series On What's Going On & What Can Be Done

Fixing the Problem - Part 1 in a series on "What's Going On & What Can Be Done"

We're fortunate to have clients that are so forward thinking, that are true leaders in their field, that working with them stretches and pushes us.

So, during the past year, we've had a chance to observe and contribute to seminal ideas that we believe will have a positive impact on the industry as a whole.

In this 3 part series, we'll share some ideas, along with specific examples, of things our clients have done to improve their events from an operational, financial and engagement perspective, along with those things that are in process or development right now.

Part One: Taking a Proactive Approach
In Spring 2007, using the BusyEvent Event Management System, we helped one of our first clients run their event for 4,500 people… a global event with attendees from more than 70 countries.

As you can imagine, 2009’s global event brought serious concerns about participation, costs and engagement; specifically how to utilize and harness the power of social media. But, as is their typical process, he client locked in a date and began the planning process with us last year and are reaping the benefits of starting early, communicating actively and surrounding themselves with the best events talent they could find.

Rather than negotiate larger attrition percentages, we took a proactive approach to work with the hotel by reducing the rate a bit. We went further to work together on an incentive package for early birds that included hundreds of free room nights, free future stays, show tickets, suite upgrades and other fantastic reasons to book early.

By getting those who were pretty sure they were coming to book early and encourage others to join them, the results have been fantastic. Numbers are up 10% over the same time in 2007, limited seating education sessions are filling up and there’s a positive buzz about how the event has stepped up in quality this year. Because this event happens every two years it is vital to building relationships, sharing new ideas and supporting the employees in the field.

Events like this are happening every week and while the show must go on, there are new rules for how to run more cost effective events.

Utilizing the BusyEvent system, we are utilizing new ways to deliver events for 30-40% less while providing better information that drives valuable relationships. Taking advantage of the tools that we provide, BusyEvent technology is quickly becoming the silver bullet to running a serious event in need of a serious return on investment.

We encourage you to get proactive and even creative about your events. How ? We’re seeing the trends shift to those who are tired of complaining and anxious to make good things happen.

While face to face events are still the best way to meet people and do business, in Part 2 of "Fixing the Problem" we will explore how to help those company employees who couldn’t make it to this year's event.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If The Old Model is Broken, What Will Work in its Place?”

If The Old Model is Broken, What Will Work in its Place?”

As an Events Management company, we're big fans of industries and companies that have faced what the events industry is facing, figured out a way to 're-engineer' themselves and grow to even great heights.Examples such as Domino's Pizza,, Twitter and others certainly have great lessons to learn from.

On the other hand, it's also intriguing to watch an industry re-invent itself right in front of our eyes, much like what's going on with the traditional media and newspaper industry, the venture capital markets, the auto and financial industry and so many others, today.

In a post on the Steve Mays blog, he writes about an article authored by Clay Shirky: "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable". Shirky provides some intriguing insights that significantly parallel the events industry of today.

Below, excerpts from his article edited with an events focus (our edits are in parenthesis).

"If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for (events) to replace the one the (economy and need for efficiencies) just broke."

"With the old economics destroyed, (practices) perfected for (an era of big budgets) have to be replaced with (those) optimized for a new era both economically and digitally. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about an (events) industry, because the core problem (events) solve — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of (meeting people and engaging with them) — has stopped being a problem."

"When someone demands to be told how we are going to (revitalize the events industry), they are really demanding to be told:
  • that we are not living through a revolution,
  • that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place,
  • that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril,
  • that core institutions will be spared,
  • that new methods of (meeting and engaging) will improve the previous practices rather than upend them.
In essence, they're demanding to be lied to.

For the events industry to weather this current storm, learn the necessary lessons from it and to once again thrive, initiatives like "Keep America Meeting" are good first steps. But, they're stop gap and certainly won't be enough; making the same argument over and over again is insanity.

Why? Because the events industry won't ever look like it once did. Improved ROIs will have to be there, true engagement will have to be there, events will have to transform from 3 day events to year-long sources of opportunity and the costs, that's all going to have to change.

For those of us ready for this change, the future looks bright. For those stuck in the 'old way', the march of the dinosaur's has already begun.

Rather than a clarion call or siren's song, what we're hearing in the wind is our clients telling us that we're going to have to be better for them and for the future of us.

Those that are ready to answer that call are what the future of the events industry will be.

In our next series of posts, we'll overview what we've seen work in both the near term as well as for the long term future. The series, titled "Fixing the Problem" will begin on Monday.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Debunking 6 Social Media Myths

BusyEvent uses social media for both promotional purposes as well as a tool for clients to get insights to their events and to encourage participation. But, as exciting as some of the tools are, it's not about the tools - it's about their uses and above all else, "it's the content"!

So when we hear about all the "social media buzz" and watch as people go frothing at the gills about Twitter, Flickr, Blogr, Shopr, et alr, it reminds us of Web 1. Remember when the web was going to kill bricks-and-mortar? Remember when the web was going to kill movie going? Remember when the web was going to kill TV and commuting to work and talking with people?

Yeah, not so much.

So, it was with great interest that we read, "Debunking Six Social Media Myths", from Business Week Magazine written by B.L. Ochman, the president of

BL's basic premise, learn from the past and remember, "free aint' what it used to be".

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We’re Hiring a Zen Garden Design Guru!

We’re Hiring a web designer to Zen Garden our event management application.

Our goal is to show off the flexibility of the visual design flexibility of the BusyEvent event management platform.

For more information, visit our blog at: