Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – October edition

Kate Pojeta, conventions and exhibitions manager

Kate Pojeta, conventions and exhibitions manager

Q & A with Kate Pojeta, conventions and exhibitions manager, Event Garde

Q: What are you looking most forward to in your role with EG?
A: Event Garde has some amazing clients and I’m excited to be on the team to help conventions succeed. Conference planning was a part of my work experience for years, and then I took a little hiatus from it. I missed it, yet was able to work with some of my clients on small bits and pieces of their conferences. Now in the role of conventions and exhibitions manager, I’m looking forward to being involved in the full process and experience again.

Q: Give us one little known fact about you.
A: I earned my degree in deaf education from Michigan State University but never used it, as I was working in the association industry at the time. However, I have spent years teaching “Baby Signs” to families around Michigan, and I am an instructor for American Sign Language through Michigan Virtual University.

Q: Which season represents you best, and why?
A: Fall! It’s cozy (hot cider anyone?) and I love being cozy, and because it’s such a variety of colors. Fall speaks to the variety of skill sets I’ve acquired through some unique careers and job opportunities throughout the years.

Q: If you could spend the day with a famous person, who would it be, and why?
A: I’m going to extend the question to include “living or deceased” and pick Franklin D. Roosevelt. He would be incredibly interesting to converse with about the many political and societal changes he made while in office. I find his life work, and that of his wife, inspiring. Our third son was born with a birth defect that resulted in partial paralysis of his lower legs and overall weakness in the lower half of his body, so I would love to learn more from FDR about his experiences and struggles living with considerable physical challenges, especially given the demands of being president.

Q: It’s a Friday night…what would we find you doing?
A: My husband and I have four kids, 6 years and under, so Friday nights are often spent at home! We’re exhausted from the week and usually have busy weekends. Friday nights we try to lay low so you would probably find our family watching a movie and snacking on popcorn until the kids go to bed. Then, depending on our own level of sleepiness, we might attempt housecleaning or some end-of-the-week work or we might just stay on the couch and relax until we fall asleep or one of the kids wakes back up!


Cool app! Now what?

5-steps-to-launch-checklist(infographic)It seems there’s an app for everything, right?

Meeting and event professionals are raving about event apps, which allow everything from registration to hotel check-in to real-time social media conversation.

But if no one knows about an app, it’s worthless. The trick, according to Results at Hand, is to promote it.

Results at Hand just released “5 Steps to Successfully Launch an Event App,” an infographic with tips for gaining loyal app lovers.

The five steps: email marketing; website; publications; social media; and venue signage.

Think about these “steps” as touch points – the vehicles through which you reach your event attendees. While text can be different depending on the audience – you probably want fun text for social media but serious for your website – the goal should be the same: promote.

Email marketing

Email is an effective way to reach a large group of people, and with email, you can provide event participants with directions about how to use the app. Start with your registration list, but also, when you email people about attending an event, make sure to plug your app.

Thanks to Google, a company’s website is probably the first place event attendees looking for details will visit. So create a new section with details about the app. Or, better yet, let them download it from the website.

All written communications should include information about the app, especially program materials. For event guides, explain to attendees how to get the event schedule via your app. Or write a feature story about the app in your trade magazine.

Social media
Messaging may be different across social media platforms, but leading up to the event, use social networks to share app tips and submit feedback.
Tip from Results at Hand: Remember to have fun with your posts! Run a contest, start discussions, share setup pics and shout out to your speakers.

Venue signage
Signage should be placed around the venue and should display download instructions for the app as well as QR codes.


Making friends…not just a sale

Event/meeting planners: Remember the days of paper RFPs?

Well, some of you may still be doing those…but technology has revolutionized the meetings industry – on both sides.

According to a new Social Tables report, technological advances and social media have changed the way hotel sales teams network with meeting planners.

Full Report_ How Technology is Increasing Group Revenue at Top Hotels_Page_06“With most people now familiar with a wide range of devices, software and apps, this is spurring a rise in ‘social selling,’ where hotel sales teams are often building relationships with planners on social media to establish common bonds outside the sales process,” the report says.

Social selling is the philosophy that sales people approach customers first as a person, then as a sales person and lastly as a company. It’s about being empathetic and genuine, rather than just trying to “land a client.”

And LinkedIn is proving to be an effective tool, which sales staff use to research clients’ profiles to determine their needs. LinkedIn and other social media platforms allow sales teams to gather important company information, such as business philosophies, missions and goals.

“Social selling and social media are ways to rebuild relationships between buyers and suppliers, as long as both parties come to the table in the spirit of co-creation to strategize about meeting design and deliverables as much as hammering out a sales deal,” the authors wrote.

And with the advent of technology comes digital sharing systems. The report states hotel brands are creating internal systems to share client information among venues. This knowledge sharing is a huge boon for meeting planners, who as a result don’t have to start from scratch with every transaction. At the same time, hotels are using the portals to earmark client preferences, which in turn fosters loyalty.

In addition, mobile and cloud-based technologies have allowed hotel sales teams to work with event planners more strategically and efficiently.

“Key is being able to make changes and track analytics from remote locations on mobile devices in real time via cloud-based platforms, with the additional ability to customize levels of access for different partners and colleagues, if desired,” Social Tables says.

Full Report_ How Technology is Increasing Group Revenue at Top Hotels_Page_03In other words: Meeting planners rarely work strictly 8-to-5 jobs, and cloud technology allows information to be stored and accessible 24-7.

Some key takeaways from the report:

  • Beyond rates, dates and space, hotel sales executives are delivering more content and are being asked to provide much more detail about the “experience” of the hotel. Mimicking other industries, hotels are abuzz with content marketing.
  • Technology is now integrated into the entire sales process, with electronic RFPs and registration software. Social Tables says, “Major hospitality brands are developing a full suite of event technology products in-house that are significantly assisting planners with end-to-end meeting management.”
  • Meanwhile, independent hotels and smaller hotel brands are using technology to partner with third-party venues and software vendors to provide highly customized, full-service meeting and event programs. Regardless of size and space, hotels are investing in integrated digital content platforms. And they’re also engaging in social media conversations with community players, suppliers and buyers.

So…what do you think meeting planners? Have things changed?


Millennial-friendly meetings: Bring on the couches and big screens

millennialsGoogle images of millennials and you’ll find young professionals connected to their smart phones and tablets. You might also find images of colorful workplaces and nontraditional desks. Maybe even a collaborative thinking space.

Much to Baby Boomers’ chagrin, it’s a different world, especially since Gen Y now comprises the majority of the workforce.

And with that comes a different set of expectations: Skype meetings and coffee shop conversations have replaced hours-long meetings.

All this aside, while millennials crave technology, they still value face-to-face meetings – albeit with a different flare – and understand the importance of networking, according to a new report by Skift and Meetings Mean Business.

“Meetings and events offer the best possible platform to help millennials expand their networks, customize their self-education and personalize their career paths,” the report says. “That is why millennials are advocating for more effective meeting design and better ways to connect, both physically and virtually, in a shifting and highly competitive global marketplace.”

Translated: Associations should think differently about events.

Video plays a huge role in the lives of young professionals, as evidenced by the boom of YouTube and Vine. So event planners shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate video into presentations, and, better yet, dabble in live streaming for their events.

networking3In fact, hybrid meetings are becoming increasingly popular, but not just for attendees offsite. Since millennials value networking opportunities, associations could explore broadcasting sessions throughout a venue to allow attendees to learn and network simultaneously. This could spur the advent of “networking places,” comfortable rooms with computers, couches and food and drinks.

At the same time, the report suggests mobile is the future of millennial-friendly meetings. Gen Y wants event apps and social media platforms. Real-time updates via social media allows attendees to join group conversations, regardless of their location.

Of course, all this is good news for vendors and IT providers, both of whom, the report predicts, could see steady growth in businesses from organizations looking to improve their events.

The Skift and Meetings Mean Business report offers dozens of case studies and examples of organizations that have successfully embraced millennials. But here are some key takeaways:

  • Millennials value face-to-face networking experiences (in fact they rank them as the top motivation for attending events), but such experiences should be enhanced with social media capabilities and technology. Enter the rise of hybrid meetings.
  • Millennials expect technology, including fast Wi-Fi, hybrid content, social media conversation, web-based audience participation platforms, comprehensive event apps and other technology to be seamlessly integrated into modern meeting design.
  • More than previous generations, Gen Yers choose professional events based on location. Cities that offer a rich nightlife and awesome attractions will attract young professionals much more than traditional conference cities.
  • Despite common perceptions, millennials’ top communication preference is face-to-face. Second was email and third was texting.

social_media_strategy111Finally, the report offers some additional tips for engaging millennials:

Include millennials in social media and website development — Even though many millennials are still developing their skill sets, they want to feel like their opinion is respected and they’re helping co-create meeting content and experiences. Create a millennial task force for special projects so they can work together on shared goals like new social media campaigns, pre/post online content, app content conversion to web-based platforms, etc.

Kill the cocktail reception — Well, maybe not kill it but definitely add some interactive knowledge sharing that helps millennials develop personally or professionally. Many millennials in this report said the traditional cocktail reception is intimidating because it feels so unnatural to start a conversation without some kind of shared interest beyond the event theme. Apps like MeetingMatch are becoming popular, where attendees can find people with similar interests, and app developers like DoubleDutch and QuickMobile are integrating similar functionality into their products.

Create young professional SIGs — Everyone loves special interest groups because they’re smaller gatherings with people who identify with a niche subject. Planners should think about creating one solely for young professionals, especially at association conventions, where millennials can let down their guard and network in a more relaxed ambiance.


The new association “normal”

John Graham

John Graham, president of ASAE

This month’s guest blog post is an interview with John Graham, ASAE president. Association Adviser conducted the interview and posted it on Aug. 18.

ASAE The Center for Association Leadership, which supports the interests of more than 22,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations worldwide, sat down with President John Graham about new membership models and game changers he sees happening for associations during the coming year.

Association Adviser: John, we’ve been talking about the “new normal” for a few years now. How do you think associations are handling the transition to the faster-paced, “what’s in it for me” demand from their members?

John Graham: Actually, it’s a huge opportunity vs. being a challenge for associations. But a lot of these tech advances are expensive. Many associations don’t have the resources in reserves, but you do have to make the investments. For instance, we’re a larger organization, and we invested about $5 million throughout the last three to four years in our website redesign. We had to take money out of reserves, not from the operating budget. That’s a big commitment in the future.

AA: You referenced ASAE’s hybrid membership model in your opening remarks at ASAE’s annual convention in Detroit. Can you tell us more about how it will work and how other types of new membership models are working for other associations?

JG: It’s going to work exactly like the small staff association model works for us now. If you look at small staffs, generally only the CEO (or executive director) is the member and [the] rest of the staff has to rely on the CEO to share what they learned [from ASAE]. Our new model lets [staff] who wouldn’t normally be members access the same information and resources as full members. That, coupled with our education loyalty program, gives us the opportunity to reach a much larger cohort of an organization’s staff.

AA: John, can you walk us through this new membership model?

JG: Sure. Membership will be based on how many staff members an organization has. So for the price of “X,” the CEO and/or directors will be regular members (including receipt of print member magazine) and all the other staff, if they opt-in, will be electronic members. They’ll have access to the same benefits, but will get the magazine electronically. I think many other associations will adopt hybrid and transactional membership models.

AA: What do you think the biggest membership communications challenges are for today’s association?

JG: There is so much information flowing to people from all different sources that it’s easy for your message to get things lost in the clutter. Even in simpler times it was hard to get your message through. What’s the old marketing rule — it takes seven touches to make your message resonate? Now there are so many other ways to reach people. I don’t [know] what the magic number of touches is today.

AA: Are any new channels particularly affecting the touchpoint equation?

JG: Mobile! It changes the dynamic of how people communicate. Associations used to drive information and content out [to members]. Mobile allows the individual to [proactively] seek the content they really want from the organization and not have it pushed to them. So your organization needs to be nimble and flexible enough to make it easy for the individual to seek content from you in a very efficient way.

AA: Now that members of Next Gen are starting to assume leadership roles, what are you seeing as the biggest differences between their management styles and those of older generations?

JG: What changes more from generation to generation is personal experience each generation had growing up. Every leader, regardless of age, seeks face-to-face interaction and interpersonal relationships. But, technology actually enables communication. The younger generation is much more comfortable with technology. It’s viewed more as a communication enabler as opposed to “something I have to learn how to do.” It’s part of their way of life.

AA: So we can expect more technology-based communication from the next generation of leaders?

JG: No. I don’t see it that way. It’s just that younger people have a much higher expectation for technology. Their management style is not that much different. People think every generation is different, but I just don’t see it. Some of the [perceived] differences have to do with the economy when young people came out of school. For kids coming out of school today, it’s a very different experience than it was for kids coming out of school 20 years ago. The other thing we see is that younger leaders put much more emphasis on work/life balance and are drawn to organizations that value work/life balance.

AA: What is the next “game changer” you see on the horizon?

JG: It’s still mobile. The use of mobile today is as much a game changer as the advent of the personal computer was 30 years ago.

AA: If a typical association team leader got an unexpected 50 percent increase in their annual budget, how do you think they would (or should) spend it?

JG: Two areas: technology and messaging platforms. In terms of tech, associations don’t need to be on the “bleeding edge,” but they should at least be on the cutting edge if they want to remain relevant with their members. In terms of messaging platforms, it’s critically important — especially for trade associations — to invest wisely in their messaging platforms. As they try to get the message out about their industries — from solar to petroleum to mining to beverages — messaging is a critical component of what you do and what members expect.

AA: John, there have been some great speakers and sessions here at ASAE this week. How can attendees put all the great tips and insights to use after the daily grind swallows them up?

JG: An excellent practice is to bring multiple staff to the meeting and make sure you don’t cluster. Network with different people and attend different sessions. Soon after you return to the office, get together and share what you learned — not only with those who were at the meeting, but with many others who couldn’t attend. And think about having more people join under the new membership model for next year [laughing].


Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – September edition

Cora Geujen

Cora Geujen, director of event planning, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa

Q & A with Cora Geujen, director of event planning, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa

Q: If you could live someone else’s life for a day, who would it be, and why?
A: Princess Catharine’s, of course. For the hair and wardrobe.

Q: What’s your spirit animal, and why?
A: The first animal that popped into my mind was a tigress; I’m fierce when needed, protective of my team and always in the background to keep informed of what’s going on with my team. But of course I had to take an Internet quiz and it turns out I identify with the butterfly, with a secondary connection to the tiger. Go figure.

Q: Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla ice cream, and why?
A: Chocolate with a side of mint chips. Because I’m fresh.

Q: Which adjectives best describe you?
A: Snarky…

Q: If you could eat only one food for a week, what would it be, and why?
A: My mother’s Thanksgiving stuffing. It tastes like family and transports me back to my childhood.


60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth

Editor’s Note: This is Event Garde’s busiest time of the year, so we’ll be back to original content soon. In the meantime, we’re happy to share a guest blog post by Hank Berkowitz, Association Adviser eNews moderator and chief, who reported on a breakout session from ASAE’s annual conference earlier this month.

David Lutz

David Lutz, managing director of Velvet Chainsaw

The session “60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth” featured David Lutz, who is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw, and Sandra Giarde, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association. The session aimed to revamp attendees’ sponsorship menus and refine their investor-to-opportunity match-up skills.

Most exhibit floor plans are shrinking due to increasing digital activity, Lutz said, explaining that associations need to have a more diversified revenue mix. Ideally, he said, you want a 3-to-1 expo to sponsor ratio or better—that means 75 percent of your non-registration revenue for a conference should come from exhibitors and at least 25 percent from sponsors. You also want at least 65 percent of companies to renew every year.

Lutz identified four key attributes that exist in the most successful event-based sponsorship models:

1. Fewer investors, but bigger investments
2. Benefits beyond eyeballs and logos
3. Activation plans that span 90 days plus
4. If the attendee doesn’t win, nobody wins

Sandra Giarde

Sandra Giarde, executive director, California Landscape Contractors Association

Giarde added that to land the big sponsors, you really need introduction from top board members and volunteers. She called this “leadership door opening” and explained that you want “power-to-power” introductions, which is something that’s been very important to her personally, as she’s only two years into her role as an executive director.

Both speakers agreed that most associations have way too many items on the menu. They suggested simplifying your media kit to get rid of things that aren’t selling. That review needs to happen annually.

Lutz said attendees are the primary arbiters who determine what matters and what doesn’t at your events. When you deliver “experiences that matter” to your attendees, everyone wins:

  • It’s a win for your attendees (target market) as you improve their show experience
  • It’s a win for your sponsors as you connect them and advance their positioning within their target market.
  • It’s a win for your organization as the conference revenue and value improves.

Finally, Lutz and Giarde offered three filters to ensure attendee win and premium pricing:
1. CHOICE — Attendees can always opt in or opt out. Sponsorship (benefits) can’t be forced on them.
2. ACTIVATION — The attendee consumes or appreciates it, takes it home, shares it and provides alignment with their values.
3. MATTERING — The attendees feels entertained, engaged, appreciated and helped personally or professionally by the sponsor….. “Helping before selling.”

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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