Sunday, December 28, 2008

Recession Proofing your Green Event

Two of the most popular topics right now are recession proofing your meeting and running a green event. Companies are tightening their budgets and activating cost-cutting measures controlling which meetings they can attend. Simply charging less may not be enough. Running a green or sustainable event means eliminating waste, making tough choices in venues, and selecting food and beverage options that are better for the environment and the surrounding community. Traditionally the two goals sit in opposition to one another. This two-part article will discuss the new creativity and technology being used to establish green events that are profitable.

We’ve only recently come to understand these ideas overlap to provide a dual benefit. For example, we like a process that allows an attendee to “bookmark” a booth, speaker or person they meet. As the event comes to close, this information becomes available on line. The speaker, vendor or event manager can see which attendees reviewed the brochures, website and speaker materials. Identifying those more interested and qualified attendees is the true value of their efforts.

When the physical event is over, the online version helps people connect, review and share information. By using the Internet, more people are exposed to the event which helps it evolve and grow. Eliminating brochures, handouts, presentation materials and surveys is the best way to green your event and in doing so you actually improve the event. Imagine the number of steps a brochure travels from tree to paper to printer to event to hotel room trash can to landfill...never once letting someone know a qualified person is reading it.

In the current state of technology, we’re halfway between traditional and electronic. While it’s still easier to grab a colorful pamphlet off of a table, a growing percentage of us carry a phone with an Internet connection and color camera. Technology can show us what we want when we want it. The shift from sorting through a stack of papers in a filing cabinet versus Google-ing any document at any time on a number of devices will continue to become more of a reality.

While these ideas sound very green, the primary goal is to provide more qualified leads and data analysis to establish a proper value for the investment in booth space and sponsorship programs. Knowing what was popular or not, and feeding this information back into the event creates a more profitable and better experience for attendees and stakeholders.

Recession proofing isn’t just about how to lower costs or trim the features out of an event to make it affordable. If we measure why people participate in an event and use this to make a better event, then we have an opportunity for future success. In any economy people decide to attend an event based on a combination of the following:
  • Social Networking for new business, a new job and new ideas
  • Subject matter experts who are speaking on interesting topics
  • Continuing education that cannot be found in their local city
  • Researching new products and services in a one-day walk of the show floor
  • A general feeling of being inspired and invigorated for another year of success
An event that offers this combination can create something not found anywhere else. Content is still king and measuring the popularity of what people found to be the best goes well beyond a paper survey.

From audience response devices to kiosks to text messaging, there are many ways to survey that are faster, greener, and more successful. Instead of a post-mortem after the event, gather information in real-time and tweak the event in progress. Give attendees a voice during the event for an engaged and attentive audience. Electronically poll a group at the beginning of a breakout session on topics they would prefer and then use the same method to survey what they thought at the conclusion of each session.

Not to ignore the discussion of trimming costs as part of the recession proofing process, next time we’ll look into the hard costs that go into running an event. In the meantime, review your event expenses and ask, “How many truly add value?” So much of the traditional process can be reduced and even eliminated. In part two we will discuss how to modernize the event process while trimming costs.

May you all have a happy and prosperous 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where's the Value of Conferences These Days?

It's all about, no, it's ONLY about the information and the connections. Gone are the days (and good riddance) when an event was about cocktails and entertainment. They're about getting down to and doing business.

Event managers that 'get that', will thrive and the tools they use to put on a better, more information rich, more ROI-focused events are critical to this evolution and their success.

Based on our experience, here's what our clients are asking for:

- Create an event where the attendees, vendors, sponsors get out of it more than they have to put into it, and you'll be successful.

- Traditional lead management is dead. It's a list of a list, and an unqualified one at that. Foster the development of relationships and the distribution of meaningful information.

- Foster networking and by that we DO NOT mean 'business card exchanges'. Help your attendees bring their virtual network to the event, communicate with them while they're on site and grow their network while attending the event. Make it easy and non-intrusive and useful once your attendees/vendors/sponsors leave the venue.

- Data or information? A thousand business cards, which one's to call? Thousands of dollars in brochures, which one's were looked at? Dozens of conversations, which one's were of any value? Oversubscribed, underutilized, wasted or efficient?

- Green . . . aren't we all tired of 'talking' about that? How about doing something about it (

NOW is the time that the events industry, and those that are tired of the traditional and inefficient ways of doing things, have been waiting for. Tools like the BusyEvent Event Bookmarking system provide the opportunity; let's see who has the guts to make it happen.

Here's a very well written article published by Paul Wehking that takes a new approach to what we've written above.

Are sponsors, exhibitors and attendees starting to question the value of conferences these days? Is the meeting bubble starting to break?

Well consider these two recent occurrences:

First, Association Forum is still looking for major event sponsors for its flagship one day event Holiday Showcase. For example, still up for grabs are the $55K luncheon and the $35K reception sponsorships among others. Both huge items when you consider the event is only seven weeks away.

Second, there is ASAE’s Springtime event that had its booth sales go live in a lottery format two weeks ago is now only partially sold with plenty of booths still available. Maybe it’s because this one-day event rivals the ASAE Annual Meeting in overall cost for an exhibitor – and that’s for just 4 hours of exhibit time!

OK, I’ll tell you what’s eating at me. Sure, we produce conference materials so you may think I am biased but I also ATTEND over 12 conferences each year (both industry events and some outside). I am appalled at the dwindling value that some of these events offer.

Attendees airfare costs more, the hotel room costs more, the meals cost more, etc., etc. Then attendees hear “paperless this” and “green that”… C’mon! I am for greening initiatives but not at the expense what is (used to be?) one of the core mission of most association events – EDUCATION!

Here’s what I suggest (from a sponsor and attendee point of view):

  • Cut back on all the fluff - The coffee breaks, the luncheons, banquets, the gobos, etc and take those sponsor dollars to the education side of event. Take a cue from HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings and make the education the focus, not the shrimp cocktail. Most waistlines (mine included) could use the break.
  • Align Sponsorship with Education - Make the sessions themselves sponsor opportunities where possible. This way, sponsors could be associated with the lasting value of education versus the coffee and pastry that cost $20 a head and will be gone from the mind (and body) within an hour or two.
  • Build Better Programs - Put money into developing killer programs using the latest social networking tools that will engage attendees before the event. (NOTE: BusyEvent is partnered with the premier Pre-Event Social Networking system that addresses this exact issue. Embedded in the Professional tools that are part of every BusyEvent - Event Bookmarking is the onsite carry-through experiencce of this pre-event social networking element). That way, sessions presented at the event are of interest to the attendees because they helped develop it.
  • Engage More Members - Make it easier for the common member to participate as a volunteer staffing registration, session rooms, email stations, stuffing bags, writing session summaries for web postings, helping speakers in the session rooms, etc.
  • Deliver Education! - Lastly, provide tools that facilitate learning. Printed books, workbooks, handouts, etc in the best format possible for the learning styles present – print or digital media. Then offer links or options to get additional content if work products were produced at the event. If your event is large enough, offer attendees a choice or a “buy” option. I’d gladly pay another $15 to have the materials in my hand during the event… Since I’ve already paid $1000 to $2000 just to eat, fly and sleep.

The core missions of most events are education and networking right!?!

Let’s get back to the mission and improve meetings today — Then sponsors and attendees will see the value.

P.S. Regarding sponsorship, Association Forum recently posted some keen insights from frequent industry sponsors. Find their comments at the Association Forum newsletter archive. It’s worth a quick read as sponsors eye their opportunities carefully for 2009. They also point to some other useful sponsorship resources.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our #1 Favorite Tip for GREENING an Event

Ditch the brochures, bags, paper surveys and anything else that needs to be transported by planes, trains and automobiles and you will have eliminated the number one waste producer.

Pallets and pallets of brochures make their way to every trade show. Just think of the number of steps from tree to paper to printer to event to hotel room trashcan to landfill a brochure must travel. And never once in that process letting the business know a qualified person might be reading it.

We like a process that allows someone to express interest and then review the brochure or content electronically which, in turn, notifies the business that out of the 1,000 people they met at show, which 100 are most interested by their reviewing the electronic materials during and after the show.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Economic Impact on Events

It was inevitable that the events industry would be impacted by the current economic climate. As we continue to work with our clients, our ROI focus becomes even more valuable.

Given the way our tools work and the continuous quality improvement, it's intriguing to read an article by TSNN on their most recent survey results and what Events Industry clients are looking for.

Here are some thoughts on the increasing value of live-events, including the need for efficient ROI creation elements such as Event Bookmarking:

Tradeshow Activity Indicator Reveals "Flight to Quality":
Face-to-Face Interaction Is Even More Valued

Healthy figures suggest that participation in events is still a vital part of the marketing strategy for businesses, although they are proceeding cautiously seeking out the highest ROI possible.

TSNN's 3rd quarter report shows a significant increase in the amount of research by professionals across a wide range of industries who seek the most cost-effective solutions with tightening budgets. While that may be true, an even larger number are seeking the most return on their 'spend' through effective ways to meet and then nurture valuable relationships.

"Marketing and sales professionals are under greater pressure to deliver with tighter budgets in a market that is getting smaller across all verticals,"

"Marketing and sales professionals are under greater pressure to deliver with tighter budgets in a market that is getting smaller across all verticals," said RD Whitney, CEO of Caroo Media USA, the parent company of TSNN, "Therefore, interest in our industry continues to grow because smart decision makers recognize that you can combine branding, outreach and business development by investing in industry events that get you in front of targeted and captive audiences."

TSNN affiliate, the other half of the TSAI™ formula, showed a 168% increase in visits and a 31% increase in Potential Meeting Room Nights in Q3 2008. The number of Meeting Planner Leads (or Requests for Proposals) showed a slight decrease of less than .01%, which shows that event planners are reacting carefully to market conditions.

"The sharp increase in online research on trade shows could be telling us that there is deeper scrutiny being applied for each dollar of trade show spending," says Whitney. "This could signal a future flight to quality in the industry. Trade shows that deliver value and the right buyer/seller mix will be rewarded with growth. Events that fall asleep at the switch and don't appeal will feel the pinch of this scrutiny."

Either way, the message from the TSAI trends is clear: professionals recognize that tradeshows are an extremely efficient way to get visibility with customers and drum up business in every market condition. Face-to-face events continue to be an essential investment and an important component of the marketing mix -- just expect more selectivity from the stakeholders according to TSNN.

Tradeshows . . . Where Good Leads Go To Die (Part 2)

Written by David Schenberg

A Very Brief History from 3500 BC to today
There’s an amazing amount of money invested each year in events and tradeshows. Everyone wants to interact with new products, educational seminars, social networking and the buzz of simply being in the place where business is happening. But how much business is really happening?

“What are we getting out of that show?” asks the counter of the beans. That question created a culture of sponsorships and lead tracking dating back to the first Wheel Technology Expo in 3502 BC. Back then leads were written in stone. When you said you were interested in a follow-up you really meant it!

Ever since then, technology has done its part to speed the process; the automatic ink pen, printed business cards and thermal tape lead printers. More recently we’ve seen RFID tracking, handheld computers, e-mail blasting, text messaging, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate with people faster and more often. But are we getting messages we either don’t want or don’t have time to respond to? How can we be sure these leads are “rock solid” and worthy of a follow up?

The Exhibitor’s Perspective
As an exhibitor, we attend shows because it’s the fastest way to meet new people. Our competition is there so we have to come. Occasionally we launch a new product and this is the best way to show off our latest stuff. It’s hard work and taking the time to follow up is difficult. We take notes on some of the better leads but there are dozens or even hundreds more we never seem to get to because we’re preparing for another event.

The current lead management process simply doesn’t work for us. Expensive equipment rentals are followed by days or weeks to get a list of mostly unqualified leads. We spend thousands to participate in a show and then another $500 to $1,000 to capture the results of that investment. Especially since the CFO says we need to justify why we went. Technology has sped the process, but nothing is in place to qualify the leads; leads that are mostly followed up by phone.

And the calls are grueling. “Hi, this is Steve with Innocuous Technology. We met at the Expo... do you remember stopping by our booth? We were giving away the combination flashlight/mint dispenser. SO, I was wondering if we can schedule a time to visit with your group. Yeah, I know those were awesome… no we don’t have any more… so can we talk about helping your company?”

The Attendee Perspective
As an attendee, I decide which show to attend by reviewing the mix of speakers, educational sessions, an expo of new products and the opportunity to network with others in my industry. Getting approval to go and taking the time away from work to sharpen the saw is important. Therefore, returning with useful information to share with the group is important.

So here I am at the Expo. There are hundreds of booths to visit and new stuff to see. I grab a mint after lunch and the exhibitor asks if she can scan me. Sure I say, without thinking as I pick up a brochure. And just like that, I’m on another list of calls after the event. Will I ever have the time to look at this literature and will I remember who everybody was? Hey, this is a cool flashlight/mint dispenser!

After stopping at 147 booths, which ones had the best technology and ideas for my business? Which salesperson did I talk to and will I remember the booth? Or will it be the combination flashlight/mint dispenser?

Changing the Responsibility
What if the responsibility of lead management shifted to the attendee? Think about the simple act of browsing the Internet and capturing a bookmark for a favorite site. Now bring this idea to a live event. Wouldn’t this reduce the amount of brochures and help enable “Green Meetings?” Bookmarks might be speaker presentations, people you met, specific products, electronic brochures, event photos and just about any information you can capture at an event.

But where do vendors and sponsors see the benefit? In the current model, they are fisherman casting their lines into the great big pond. By reversing the process, they still meet the same people and discuss opportunities during the show, but instead they get a high-tech fish finder to see which areas are best for success. Attendee interest is electronically tracked once when they add a bookmark and a second time when they review that bookmark. An exhibitor will meet 100’s of people during a show. With event bookmarking, they can know which 100 to contact immediately.

And if an attendee decides they are not interested in some of their bookmarks and even opt out of certain connections that can send a message as well. What a company does with a non-lead is often as useful as a good lead.

Reaching the right people with the right message at the right time
After awhile we can know quite a bit about event attendees. That knowledge
is key to creating a high-quality experience. For example, during the event check-in process we see that Joe, a financial analyst has selected three breakout sessions; e-waste disposal, technology leasing strategies and reducing the cost of corporate software acquisition. We had an opportunity to survey Joe during registration to see that he enjoys golf, wears a large shirt and is responsible for “Green Initiatives” at his organization. We know that if we offer Joe a premium golf shirt (with sponsor logos) and an opportunity to learn about new EPA compliance laws for 2010, we have a good match for a number of technology sponsors and vendors who will gladly participate in a special event where Joe can have some fun and learn.

And during the show we see that Joe bookmarked almost every sponsor that participated. He went back to his office and reviewed his links resulting in activity from a number of vendors at the show. Bean counters rejoice… we have ROI!

Year over year improvement – Capturing the Voice of the Customer
Information over multiple shows can reveal potential improvements to the event experience. Reviewing what was most bookmarked and most visited can only increase the value of an event. Attendees vote with their actions, but surveying and polling an event in progress captures the voice of the customer. Event improvement based on real data creates more valuable sponsorships, higher booth rates and higher attendance year over year.

Can Everybody Win?
Everyone deserves to win. They put in their time, money and hard work to make the best experience. When done properly the following should happen:

  • Attendees meet new people, products and get introduced to the latest ideas

  • Exhibitors get to show off their latest stuff and find out exactly who is interested

  • Sponsors and exhibitors entice the right people to learn more about their company. Getting your logo on signage is good but there should be more of a direct payoff.

  • Event Managers should easily tweak and improve an event in real time based on high-quality information. Why should they wait for the next event to make improvements?

  • Directors of sales and finance see full reporting of the level of success of every dollar spent on event activities.

"Tradeshows . . . Where Good Leads Go To Die"

I almost fell out of my chair when a partner of ours said this yesterday.

We were discussing how event lead tracking works, or more accurately doesn't work, when he came up with this gem; and it's tragically accurate.

  1. Leads that are appropriate, but never get followed up on.

  2. Leads that are the wrong person, the wrong time or just wrong.

  3. A list of scanned attendees that only came to your booth for <<insert reason here, but not the one you wanted>>.

  4. The expense.

  5. The delays.

  6. The inefficiencies.

  7. The meaningless data.

  8. The different tools (swipe, scan, insert, write your name here).

  9. The inconsistencies . . . it goes on and on and on.

For all of the effort and poor results, it would almost be better to just collect business cards - if anyone carries them anymore.

Over the next several weeks, we will be publishing a series of white papers and articles in the business and event press that will outline the problem, the opportunity and our proposed solutions.

Viva leads . . . we're about to do something about that.

Recession Proofing Your Events

Apryl Asks: I am currently working on a meeting/convention planners publication and am in search of ways to recession-proof meetings and conventions.

BusyEvent Answers: Over the years we've experienced under economic pressure and a demand for greener meetings that planners, attendees and sponsors want to be able to extend a 2-4 day expo into lasting communications to get the most out of their investment.

Recession-proofing an event is a combination of offering attendees an experience they cannot find anywhere else, vendors high-quality opportunity tracking, sponsors a chance to get qualified exposure to their brands and a lower overall cost to operate an event for producers.

A recession will force people to be more selective of where they will invest their time and money. All parties involved will always need the expo experience to advance their success.

Love Your Events . . . Hate the Logistics?

CEO David Schenberg, interviewed by the Small Business Brain.

Read and Listen to our take on the event industry and how BusyEvent is turning data into information and generating revenues for event managers by doing less work to prepare for and manage an event, and enjoying it more.

The SmallBizBrain Interviews David Schenberg about BusyEvent, Event Management Tools to Manage Information, People and Events.