Archive for the 'Meetings' Category

27
Jan
15

4 Event Metrics You Should Be Calculating

This month’s guest post is by Courtenay Allen, a marketing specialist at Attend.com, which produces event management software. It was originally posted on the attend.com blog.

Courtenay Allen

Courtenay Allen, marketing specialist for Attend.com.

You’ve set your event goals and planned every detail, but how do you know if you’ve been successful? The word “metrics” gets tossed around everywhere, but it’s more than just a buzzword – it’s a necessity. Whether you’re hosting a nonprofit fundraiser or an alumni event, here are standard metrics to calculate your event’s success.

Event Surveys
After your event is complete, sending a post-event survey is an important tool to determine the success of your event. Most likely, not all your attendees will complete the survey. However, even without 100 percent completion rate, the feedback you’ll receive will be invaluable. Most importantly, ask your attendees if they’re satisfied with your event and if they’d be willing to attend next year. If attendee satisfaction is low, it may be time to change or even eliminate the event all together. In addition to your attendees’ general feedback on their experiences, ask them for more in-depth insights about the food or venue. While these metrics don’t necessarily impact your return on investment for your event, they’re helpful to know and can help you plan future events.

Attendee Demographics
Another crucial element to measure is your attendees’ registration process. For instance, did they initially sign up for your event really early? Or right after you published a blog post? Perhaps they registered for your event after seeing your event promotional video. Not only is it important to track when, but also how your attendees registered through your various event promotions. Did your attendees register through social media or by responding to your email? By tracking your attendee registrations, you’ll be able to determine which messages and media were the most effective for your event audience.

Tracking your attendee demographics is more than just counting the number of attendees that registered – it’s also determining the number of qualified leads your event generated. These attendees have a budget and authority to make purchasing decisions. Calculate the cost per lead for your event by dividing the program cost by the number of qualified leads that attended. This measurement is helpful for projecting budget requirements future lead generation.

MetricsEffective and Efficient
To determine if your event was cost effective based on the number of attendees reached, divide your program cost by total attendees. This calculation is not recommended as a stand-alone figure, but should be used in conjunction with others. For instance, what was your event efficiency ratio? This metric is also known as the expense to revenue ratio. To calculate, divide the total expenses of an event by the total revenue that your event generated. If your expense in running the event is higher than the revenue, you’re looking at problems with efficiency.

Social Impact
During your event you were probably busy live tweeting to keep your attendees engaged. However, after your event is over, track your event hashtag retroactively for all your event conversations. In fact, check all your social media platforms to see the results of your social media increase after your event. Examine all your likes, tweets, comments and number of fans and followers, and determine which of your social media channels was most successful.

Depending on the type of event, you may want to calculate your press impact. How many media mentions did you receive, and which publications wrote about your event? By calculating the cost to reach those same audiences with paid advertising, you’ll be able to put a dollar figure with the media reach.

Measure and Conquer
Different types of events have different goals, and to determine how successful you were at those goals, you need event metrics. Whether you need all these or just a few, these metrics will give you the information you need to continue improving your events.

06
Jan
15

Meetings mean money for hotels in 2015

RM_snip_hotel_sign_glassA new year means new professional development opportunities. Admittedly, I’m a PD nerd. So I’ve been excitedly surfing the web for all things writing, media relations and public relations.

But if I have to pick, I’m going to choose an event hosted in a hotel with comfy beds, free Wi-Fi, probably a restaurant….and the list goes on.

Thanks to PD nerds like me, in 2015 hotels should get a big financial boost. According to a new report by Social Tables, the meetings industry will hugely influence the profits of hotels.

First up: cybersecurity.

I touched on it last week in a post about MPI’s meetings forecast for 2015. But it’s worth repeating: Cybersecurity is becoming the No. 1 concern among professionals. Within the last few months, retail giants Target, Home Depot and Hobby Lobby have all experienced security hacks, resulting in the theft of customers’ financial information.

When businesses send their employees to a hotel for a conference, they also send crucial financial information – which they expect will be protected. And so, if venues want to attract clients, they’d better keep up with cybersecurity enhancements.

“The potential for valuable information to be hacked or stolen via insecure networks is a real threat,” said David Peckinpaugh, co-chair of Meetings Mean Business. “As such, cybersecurity at hotels will become increasingly important for events and meetings in 2015.”

In fact, according to the Social Tables report, it seems advanced technology will have the greatest effect on hotels and will be in great demand since Americans own, on average, four digital devices.

In addition to providing adequate Wi-Fi coverage, some hotels are experimenting with remote/mobile check in. Last year, Starwood Hotel and Resorts became the first chain to offer such a service, according to the Social Tables report. Think about the convenience for meeting planners: No more keys in packets.

Consumers are becoming more technologically savvy – and demanding – and hotels are following suit. In 2015, an increasing number of hotels will offer technological conveniences such as whiteboards, social media screens and mobile apps.

conference-preview-img“Meeting planners are becoming more and more creative in rewarding attendees who interact and use technology than ever before,” said Gene Hunt, director of event sales at the Grand Hyatt Washington. “They’re marrying concepts such as gamification with technology before, during and after meetings to develop program content – and it’s our responsibility to help them achieve maximum results on their investments in these technologies.”

Also listed in “9 Ways Meetings Will Impact Hotels in 2015”:

  • Virtual reality travel experiences
  • High occupancy rates (roughly 65 percent)
  • Measurable data on meetings and events

But I think most interesting in the report was brand expansion. As the economy improves in 2015, upper scale hotels will experience an uptick in occupancies for leisure travel, as more people can afford expensive accommodations.

Such a shift will most likely force event planners to seek out lower-priced hotels/chains for events, analysts predict.

“Couple this with the fact that over the next 20 years, the middle class will grow from 2 billion to 5 billion, and you have a powerful argument for the idea that an increased presence of affordable brands to accommodate the meeting needs of planners (affordable room blocks, meeting spaces and build-your-own meeting packages, etc.) will force diversification of hotel portfolios to include more affordably priced properties, and with them, more affordably priced meeting spaces,” the report said.

And so, hotels have a prime opportunity to attract budget-savvy meetings planners and a still precocious meetings industry.

What do you think? If a hotel employs you, we’d love to hear from you.

30
Dec
14

A Happy New Year for meetings?

Happy New Year hd wallpaper 2015The champagne is chilling and we’re pumped to watch the ball drop as we find ourselves humming “Auld Lang Syne.”

Yep. 2015 is nearly here. Maybe not quite so exciting for event planners, however. We know: It’s crunch time for you. Time to book all your conferences and events and finalize the budget.

The past few months have been a bit harried, no doubt. That’s understandable since it appears 2015 might be challenging for meetings and events.

That’s according to Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook (fall edition).

The report, developed in partnership with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, found that in general, costs in 2015 for event services are expected to rise, while budgets are expected to grow only slightly. Specifically, analysts predict air travel costs to rise 5 percent; room rates 3.9 percent; food and beverage/catering costs 4 percent; audiovisual costs 3.1 percent; and meeting room costs 2.5 percent.

Add to that limited guest room availability and shorter lead times for booking, according to the survey’s respondents. In fact, from June to September, the percentage of respondents who faced short lead times doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent.

“We are finding room rates escalating,” said Kevin Beckman, director of strategic accounts for Crowne Plaza Hotel Louisville, and a member of the MPI Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter. “We are adjusting our revenue goals for 2015 and increasing our rates for group business in 2015 and 2016.”

04_30_12_airfareThanks to rising costs, event planners are forced to be more creative. Examples from the MPI report include creating centerpieces from in-season flowers and simple craft supplies and using polyester-like tablecloth pieces. It also means choosing the right location, i.e. a rooftop terrace for a younger crowd (read: less décor needed).

“Great architecture goes a long way, if you highlight it with lighting,” said Pam Madewell, of the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter, who runs an event management firm. “Fabulous architecture means you don’t have to put a theme-y thing in that place.”

Coming off the heels of a recession, ROI for meetings continues to be important. Unless it’s worth it, companies aren’t going to send their employees to events, and once again, professional development may hit the chopping block.

As a result, MPI says meetings focusing on practical topics, such as training, sales and education, will see the most growth.

WiFiAnd, finally, there’s technology. I’ve written about it many times, and we can’t escape its influence. As technology advances, associations are expected to keep up.

With laptops, iPads and smart phones in hand, participants arrive at events expecting easy connectivity. But some venues don’t seem to have the appropriate Wi-Fi capability.

That’s why Christina Devlin, of MPI’s Oregon Chapter, may purchase a dedicated router to use onsite. She wants to ensure attendees can connect multiple devices simultaneously and enjoy reliable, hiccup-free Wi-Fi.

In short: Event planners may have to plan further ahead and stretch the dollars a bit more. But, from the sounds of it, if you provide good ROI, your guests will come.

As you prepare for 2015, Event Garde wishes you much prosperity. Happy New Year!

09
Dec
14

So long, chicken

Mason-Jar-Cocktails_heroJust as we all start trying to lose those holiday pounds, it looks like 2015 is going to be a fun year for food and drinks.

Drinks served in mason jars. Art installations created from donuts. DJ booths made from cookware. Out-of-the-box – and off-the-plate thinking – will define 2015, according to a new e-book by socialtables, which produces cloud-based software for the hospitality industry.

Socialtables asked top catering firms Four Five One Events and Windows Catering to predict the top 20 catering trends. Goodbye plated chicken and rice medley. Hello raw food with flare.

“The innovations within food and beverage in the past year have elevated catering to creative heights not seen before,” socialtables wrote on its blog. “In order to understand the scope of opportunities available to planners and venues in 2015, we asked two of the country’s most sought-after catering companies for their predictions on the food, beverage and design that will shape menus in 2015.” 

As the economy has improved, so have menus. And so, when planning your next conference dinner or post-work get-together for members, consider some of these new trendy twists.

Table to farm – Recently, the “farm to table” concept, in which organizations serve farm-raised meat and organic vegetables during meals, was all the rage. But now, “farm to fork” is catching steam. Meals will incorporate the regions from which ingredients are harvested: edible flowers; white asparagus; a rainbow of vegetables.

VIP treatment – Everyone loves to feel special. But not everyone can afford upscale reservations at swanky places. So creating a VIP dining experience leaves a lasting impression. Instead of a pre-plated dinner, organizations will offer restaurant-like ambiances in which hostesses seat guests who order from a menu.

mar2011-foodchain-07Comfortable seating – Workplaces provide provide beanbag chairs, exercise balls and stand-up desks to their employees. So folding chairs or traditional rounds of eight seem almost out of place, old-school even. Instead, event planners will offer loveseats, porch swings and rocking chairs to create a cozy and creative culinary sensation.

Mini morsels – Tasty, bite-size temptations will replace five course meals. Since food presentation will be key in 2015, caterers will offer small, colorful samples that blend flavors: soup shots coupled with tea sandwiches; mini-meatloaf cupcakes topped with a mashed potato frosting; pint-size éclairs filled with jellies, peanut butter, chocolate.

Family-style feasting – These days, it’s not often families eat dinner together. But laughing together while enjoying family favorites creates lasting memories. As such, organizations will provide more family-style dining experiences, serving food in dishes that guests share. Just like a family dinner, the concept creates kindred closeness, fosters networking and avoids awkward small talk.

Savory and sweet – A match made for the palate. Menus will offer stunning combinations such as bourbon bacon jam and maple-flavored bacon. (Let’s be honest: Who doesn’t love anything bacon?!)

Comfort foods – And while most of us will be on a New Year’s health kick, caterers will still be crazy about comfort foods – offering favorites like baked potato salad and cheesy corn bakes. That said, caterers predict Azian zing will find its place among traditional barbecue. Think Korean barbecued short ribs.

“Windows [Catering] CEO Andrew Gerstel believes that the coming year will usher in a renowned interest in small bites, while predicting that palates will expand to welcome specialty foods like Pink Himalayan salt,” socialtables wrote.

Hungry now?

What are some of the most memorable meals you’ve had at professional events? How do you spice it up for your event participants?

03
Dec
14

Instructional Design: The New Normal

I fled this week from the blustery temperatures of Grand Rapids, MI to a warmer climate in Dallas, TX. Always the bridesmaid (facilitator) and never the bride (learner), it was a chance for me to turn the tables and become a participant in ATD’s Master Instructional Designer Program.

IMG_0784It all started at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. I was booked on a non-Delta flight with a brief stop in the Bermuda Triangle (otherwise known as Chicago). For some reason, my flights through Chicago are always delayed – or, in this case, canceled.

Nevertheless, I found myself on a direct flight to Dallas six-and-a-half hours later. Other than a screaming toddler, the flight was relatively low-key. I digested much of my pre-course reading assignment before landing just yards from an occupied gate. After what seemed like an eternity, the other plane departed.

By the way, is this the new normal of airline travel? I still remember as a kid traveling with my grandmother on flights that were nearly empty. At that time, I had my pick of an entire row, not a measly seat.

IMG_0785But I digress. While the cool evening air and the endless road construction tricked me into thinking it was all a dream, the elegantly decorated hotel lobby pleasantly surprised me. If you follow me on social media, you know just how much I’m digging the magic of the holiday season this year.

Which brings me to today: day one of the program. If you’re not familiar, ATD stands for the Association for Talent Development and the Master Instructional Designer Program is a three-part credential comprising:

  1. A self-directed review of instructional design basics;
  2. A three-day face-to-face intensive learning experience; and
  3. An elective and a learning project.

So, what is instructional design? Fundamentally, it’s a systems approach to analyzing, designing, developing, implementing and evaluating any instructional experience. Put another way, meeting professionals often focus on meeting management and logistics (e.g., food and beverage, AV and function space) while instructional designers focus on the content presented.

Think back to the last conference you attended. Do you remember what you had for lunch? I bet it was a chicken dish of some sort. Now really think about the sessions themselves. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

  • Were the speakers well prepared?
  • Did they hold your attention?
  • Did they draw upon your prior knowledge?
  • Were you aware of the learning objectives?
  • Was the content well organized? Well delivered?
  • Did you participate in an activity that tested your proficiency?
  • Did you receive feedback about your performance?
  • Have you applied this knowledge to your workplace?

IMG_0787If you answered “no” to a majority of these questions, I’m guessing your experience was less than desirable. It’s also likely that an instructional designer could have improved the sessions by coaching/mentoring those speakers in the elements that result in quality instruction.

Now think about the education sessions your organization offers. How would your attendees answer the questions above?

Whether you mostly utilize industry speakers or professional speakers, it’s likely they have content expertise. That is, they’re recognized as thought leaders within their respective industries. They’re generally not instructional designers, though. That is, they’re not familiar with adult learning, cognitive processing, learning styles and learning objectives – all of which are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, on Feb. 26, 2015, I’ll be further exploring what this means to associations in a webinar I’m developing for the Michigan Society of Association Executives. I hope you’ll save the date and plan to join us. I promise to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” I’ll also help define what’s in it for your organization. Ultimately, instructional design is the new normal. Without it, you simply have chicken, chairs and water.

11
Nov
14

On screen or in a chair?

webeventMost of us would agree there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The email inbox is always full. Meetings seem to pop up on the calendar. And deadlines continue to loom.

Then, if you’re a working professional with kids, you have to balance sports, clubs, carpooling and snack schedules.

It’s exhausting.

No wonder so many of us are spending less time away from our offices and our families to attend professional development events or other workplace functions.

It seems associations got the memo as the industry experiences a slow uptick in virtual events.

Last week, consulting firm Tagoras released Association Virtual Events 2014, a survey of associations’ use of virtual conferences, trade shows and other events. Conducted in August, 33 percent of the 112 respondents indicated they have offered a virtual event. And about 21 percent indicated they plan to offer such an event in the next 12 months.

Tagoras found there are three standard technologies for virtual events: webinar or webcast tools for presentations; communication tools to allow for real-time conversations among participants; and document and resource sharing of event materials.

So why the boom? More than 75 percent of respondents said they offer virtual events for members who can’t attend an association’s place-based events. Tied for second place were “to be seen as offering cutting-edge technology for members” and “to support an overall strategy to deliver more services online.” The third most popular reason for offering virtual events? To reduce costs for attendees.

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

“These motivations clearly reflect necessity — organizations see a need to provide more options as travel budgets are trimmed and time becomes an increasingly precious commodity for members — but they also reflect a willingness to experiment,” study authors Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele wrote. “Many association professionals are embracing virtual events even before their members ask for them, and they’re doing so as part of an overall strategy built on online service.”

Obviously, virtual events aren’t for all associations, and several have yet to embrace the growing technological trend. Cost and complexity of technology were the top reasons for not going virtual, while concerns about cost ranked No. 3.

At the same time, most of the respondents indicated a virtual event has to be self-sustaining to be worth the investment, while 50 percent reported a virtual event should drive revenue. And most associations reported they charge both members and nonmembers to participate in a virtual event.

“Over time, we think associations will grow more adept at estimating realistic costs and determining a plan for covering those costs, whether through registration fees, sponsorships or both,” Cobb and Steele said. “That said, there’s skepticism on the sponsorship front.”

And then there’s fear of the unknown. Will virtual events cause a decline in attendance at an association’s traditional event? Tagoras doesn’t think so.

Is it possible to learn as much remotely as it is sitting in a room with colleagues, listening first hand to an expert? Data seem to swing both ways, but nevertheless, convenience sometimes wins.

(An editorial sidebar: Multitasking and distraction are justifiable concerns. But attendees will likely check email, text and tweet regardless of where they are. Just my two cents.)

LearnwithMouseTake a look at the stats Tagoras compiled about its survey. It seems virtual equals value.

  • While 58 percent of those who haven’t undertaken a virtual event cite technology concerns as a perceived barrier, 90 percent of respondents who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the ease of use of the technology.
  • Some 58 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about costs, but 74 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the cost of the technology. And 60 percent characterize themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the revenue generated by the virtual event.
  • Some 46 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about attendance, but 76 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with attendance.

“We are still in the early days of virtual events as a trend, but the use of this format across a diverse range of organizations — and its continued use by most who have tried it — suggests that virtual events will become a mainstay of association education and events going forward,” Cobb and Steele said.

So what do you think? Does your association offer a virtual event? Tell us about it.




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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