Friday, June 29, 2012

Event attendance - relationship or transaction?

Engaged learners at #ECV11
Reality check: event attendance is not a decision made as a simple transaction. A potential attendee does not consider attending an event the same way they consider buying a coffee, or even purchasing a product online.

The decision to attend an event is much more complex. As a potential attendee you need to consider the resources, time, money, travel distance and potential return. You will choose to attend because you see value in attending. Where does this value come from?

As event planners you know it comes back to education and networking. The primary consideration is actually emotional. It is the relationships you have the potential to build while you are there.  How do you sell attendance to your boss though? With rational clarification about the knowledge you will gain by attending, which is where we come back to "content is king" and where the participant driven knowledge model becomes a tougher sell, even if you may leave a conference with a participant driven agenda richer for the deepened relationships and deep-dive education you may achieve, it is still hard to take a blank agenda to your boss and sell your participation. The transaction is tougher to make.

How can you build relationships with your potential attendees? One excellent way pre-event is with effective social media, the kind where you begin conversations that can be continued when you meet face - to - face. Where potential attendees encourage each other to attend because they are excited to share ideas f2f, and where your sessions are stronger because there are more people willing to share ideas, knowledge and resources with each other.  Where connecting for future potential business is a natural extension of your event - the attendance is about the relationships, and people will not only return, they will give you the word of mouth marketing you cannot create without them.

What are you doing to use your meetings as leverage that enhances connections?

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Airports Need

Like many of you who take the time to read my blog (thank you) I travel by air frequently. Not Super Elite frequently, status which takes some of what I am about to write about out of the pain of flying. I am a bit spoiled as my home airport YVR (Vancouver) really strives to create a pleasant experience, but this is not always the case. This is for the rest of us, and here are some of the things I wish all airports had.  (Note this is not about the staff, or the airlines, this is just about the facilities and amenities for the regular people)
  • washrooms that are located at regular intervals
  • washrooms with stalls that you can fit you and your carry on bag in without turning yourself into a pretzel
  • washrooms that have dry counter space (hey, it is my wish list)
  • charging stations for the thousands of travelers relying on their laptops and mobile devices to stay charged through several time zones
  • or how about plugins that are marked and with lots available
  • tiny tables or cup holders in the waiting areas
  • complimentary sockettes for when you have to take your shoes off in security and haven't brought your own
  • good, even great food at street pricing
My food rant: there is no reason with hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of people are passing through your gates every single day that delicious, fresh food cannot be available. It is in fact an opportunity for heaps of dough to be made given that very few airlines offer food, or have limited food options. People are hungry and bored - give them options!

  • complimentary wi-fi (and thank you to the many airports that do offer this, we road warriors appreciate it)
  • kids zones - if not a full play area, a few coloring sheets like family restaurants offer would go a long way for parents and fellow travelers
  • hours of operation for vendors that match travel schedules

What else would you like to see?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's about filling the Holes

Cantrav Services, a night begins...
Recently I have seen a few posts on the job titles in event planning. It is indeed a job which from the outside looks pretty simple. After all, nearly everyone has been part of hosting or attending an event, and every day, all around the world, thousands do just this. The basics are obvious. You book a venue, decide on a theme, lay out an agenda, bring together some vendors, guests arrive, enjoy and you accept the accolades and move on to the next great event. 

Of couse, any event professional reading this now thinks I must have lost my marbles. But let me ask, has this ever happened to you as you are introduced - "this is Tahira, she plans parties."  Simplistic, yes. Reality, quite often. To describe the qualities of thoughtful strategic thinking combined with a solid logistical knowledge of transportation, environment, entertainment, theme / decor, technical production and venue management (to name a few) with the magic that is the creative overview and flow that brings together event after meeting after event in a way that people leave just knowing they had a great time, through knowledge gained, food and beverage and environment or entertainment enjoyed, connections made or relationships deepened is a nearly impossible task. This is not just me, but many industry professionals who may not be fully appreciated for the skills and experience that make our jobs look simple.

Great event planning goes beyond the agenda, objectives and the strategy. The value in choosing your meeting professional does not come from finding the person (or company) that can put together the agenda or recommend the decor, the value comes from the experience that fills in the holes. Those gaps that begin as committee members (corporate, association, fundraiser, third parties with clients - they all have `committees` under various guises or names) all head off with their own agendas, each filling in their parts. The gaps are all the pieces in between that can either tie things together or create yawning chasms that interfere with flow and can negatively affect the overall experience. 

Great professionals fill in the gaps - with music, with experiences, with entertainment or directional signage, storytelling the content to tie it together, allowing for the white space where reflection and discussion deepen the learnings. They make sure that each session has the right floor plan, that the silent auction is in the right location, that the live auction happens at the most auspicious time, that routes between events are mapped and interesting, that every single presenter feels their specific requirements were heard, that the venues and authorities find their myriad rules were adhered to - all those things that almost no participant will ever know has happened. Without attention to the holes, events would have multiple opportunities to be less than successful, so the next time you see an event going well, thank the professional who paid attention.

The next time someone asks what you do, how about, Ì pay attention and make your events memorable.