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.