Category Archives: Event Planning

Crowdsourcing Your Next Event: 5 Helpful Steps

Crowdsouring for your next event
Crowdsouring for your next event

Crowdsourcing can make many heads better than one for your events

As event professionals we plan our events to make our attendees happy – draw them in, engage them, make them want more, and return next time.  We want to make sure that we are meeting their needs and ultimately getting a positive ROI for them and for our company or organization.  Arranging speakers and topics often 12 months in advance is a challenge.  Delivering quality up-to-date content to your attendees isn’t always as simple as highlighting trends, buzzworthy topics, or celebrity speakers.  Now attendees not only want to participate in the event itself, they also want to play a part in deciding what it is.  One tactic that event professionals are starting to use with the process of selecting topics and speakers for their events is crowdsourcing.

What is Crowdsourcing?

So what exactly is crowdsourcing and how do you use it for event planning? Crowdsourcing is the process of collecting information, content, and ideas by asking for contributions from a large group of people.  For event professionals, that large group of people should consist of those who have attended similar events in the past as well as the members of your target market.  You can use it in many ways – selecting speakers and panel session content topics as well as choosing attendee activities at your event.  Done right, crowdsourcing can be a great way to delegate some of your event work to attendees, find innovative solutions to problems, produce new ideas and generate excitement for and personal investment in your event.

Getting Ready for Crowdsourcing – Ask Questions

But are you ready to use crowdsourcing? How far do you want to jump into this type of planning process and in what areas?  How do you effectively implement crowdsourcing into your event?  Before jumping into using the crowdsourcing, you need to understand crowdsourcing an event is a co-creation process between you and your crowdsourcing participants.  It involves managing your ego as well as the egos of others in the planning process.  If also involves letting go of some of your control over every aspect of your event. Deciding if, and how much, of your event content you want to crowdsource will depend largely if these realities cause you anxiety or if you are willing to share some of the responsibility of planning with others.

If you get past this initial soul searching, the other part of deciding if, and how much of your event content and speaker selection you want to crowdsource will depend on your audience.  Some questions you should ask before you begin implementation include:

  • What kind of information are you gathering and for what purpose? New ideas? Topics of discussion? Great speakers?
  • Who do you plan to ask? What is your demographic?
  • How many sessions and speakers will participants have input on? Are you going to be adventurous and go all out or are you going to be more conservative and limit the areas of crowdsourcing?
  • What feedback have you already received from past attendees and stakeholders which can help set your direction and event framework?
  • How will you collect ideas and suggestions, evaluate them, and make the final selection?
  • How will you promote your crowdsourcing to your target audience and interested participants?

You may have others you want to include in your decision making but these should help you get moving on the right path.  Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to set reasonable expectations for your event.  They will also provide you a framework within which to do your crowdsourcing process.

Crowdsourcing Process in Action – Setting the Framework

Once you decide to use crowdsourcing as part of your event, make it easy for your audiences and stakeholders to suggest ideas by utilizing your digital and social media online resources, implement a smart evaluation and selection process, and do plenty of promotion to reach people.  Let’s start with soliciting input.

Every event has a theme providing a framework within which topics and speakers relevant to the theme are created and eventually selected.  Using your framework, you have planned your thematic messages and topic strands that are going to be delivered at your event.  But not everything needs to be determined by you – include your crowdsourcing participants in the process.  Let them choose what topics they want to learn about or speakers they want to hear from too.  Someone might come up with a new and fresh speaker or topic that you have never even heard of.  Here’s where you can crowdsource ideas from your interested participants and begin your co-creation process.

Crowdsourcing Process in Action – Soliciting Input

As an event professional, you can provide topic strands within the event program that appeal to your intended audiences and encourage their participation in the decision-making.  You can do this in various ways.  Probably the easiest is to ask them in person or online what topics or keynote or panel speakers they want to include within your thematic framework.  You also can provide topics or speakers and get feedback from them.  Exploring the feedback will give you a better idea of what is in demand and important to them and not just what you think is in demand.

Some other tools for crowdsourcing include surveys, questionnaires, social media or blogs which illicit suggestions.  Employ that email list you created and your most active social media accounts and post your questions to your target audiences.  Be innovative and engage your participants.  Maybe use a unique event crowdsourcing hashtag or a contest where you reward the winner (winners) with something valuable (maybe a free pass to your event, an opportunity to introduce a speaker or chair a session).  Offering incentives is a great way to get their involvement.  Perhaps you write a blog post about your event and solicit comments and suggestions.  E-mail a survey to your mailing list.

Finally, what feedback have you received from past similar events?  Using responses and data collected from surveys and live polls taken at the time is a direct link between your event and your attendees.  This information offers a multitude of opportunities you can easily act on.  The insights gleaned can be used to design better events and attendee experiences and help you make your event as relevant and engaging as possible.

These are just some initial suggestions to get you moving forward in your crowdsourcing efforts.  What is important is to start the process and get the input so you create your event.

Crowdsourcing Process in Action – Evaluating and Selecting

How democratic do you want to be in evaluating and selecting?  This is your call and can range from opening it to all interested people in your audience to “vote” on suggestions made or establishing a smaller group of “judges” to make the final determinations on topics and speakers.  If you decide on an open process, you need to determine who gets to be a “voter” –  the entire public or only registered attendees.  Most events that use crowdsourcing require that “voters” be registered as they have more of a stake in ensuring a quality lineup at the event they are attending.  One of the big trade-offs of this type of democratic process is that final selections can delay your overall event programming and cause last minute time crunches as you finalize topics and speakers.  To avoid this, voting deadlines need to be established.  Also focus and quality may suffer but again, you hope your potential attendees are selecting for the best and hottest topics and speakers to make the event program.

On the other hand, just because you are involving the outside talent of your audience and stakeholders with crowdsourcing doesn’t mean you have to be totally democratic in your evaluation and selection process.  There needs to be some limits or restrictions here to avoid the whims of fancy.  Also setting some safeguards for evaluating and selecting topics and speakers can maintain your event focus and theme as well as ensure a certain level of content and speaker quality.

Here is where creating an advisory board or committee and using their expertise to help curate the most relevant content and speakers is beneficial.  Adding such boards or committees help you with the evaluation and selection process in some way lightens the burden and responsibility for you to make these decisions alone.  It also is a great way to gauge the kinds of topics that will most interest your event audience, especially if they have history with the event or the subject matter which has been selected as your event theme.

Once again a middle or hybrid course may be the solution for you.  An option is to use the advisory committee or board to do the initial screening of topics and speakers before opening the process to voting by the public or registered attendees.  It can be easier and more effective for those who participate in the selection to have a refined list of possibilities rather than an endless, and perhaps confusing, list.  It also helps you with a bit of quality control.

Crowdsourcing Process in Action – Promoting Your Efforts

Don’t forget to promote the opportunity to get involved in your crowdsourcing efforts. Whether you are crowdsourcing ideas before your current event or during a previous event, make sure everyone knows they are invited to contribute and how to do it.

As with soliciting suggestions input, use your email list of current and previous attendees and other stakeholders; actively engage with your target audiences on your most active social media accounts and hangouts; and don’t forget in-app push notifications to get the word out.  Your website and blogs are also great promotional tools to let people know what you are doing.

Whatever methods you use to promote your event crowdsourcing efforts, it is important to reach as broad and diverse a segment of your targeted audience as possible.  It provides you a great pool of talent and ideas which you alone may never have thought of or even considered.  Perhaps two heads are better than one?  It also engages them as potential attendees to your event and provides them an opportunity to engage with you and your brand.

Crowdsourcing Conclusions

The benefits of crowdsourcing are clear – not only do you gain ideas from a diverse group of people and get more interesting results for your event but it also allows you to actively engage your attendees and ensures you are covering what they really want to discuss and learn at your event.  The potential for a richer attendee experience is greatly increased by involving them.  They will be much more engaged with your event and more likely attend if you include them in the decision-making process.  For you, it positions you as creative and innovative and if that isn’t enough, it can lighten your event programming load by including others in the process.  Between you and your crowdsourcing partners, you are creating a successful event.

About Us – rsvpBOOK

rsvpBOOK is an online event registration and event management software.  We help you streamline your event processes, from beginning to end, from creating your event website, to on-site resources, attendee and stakeholder feedback technology, and final accounting reports.  Use your time to take care of more demanding matters – creating an outstanding attendee experience.

rsvpBOOK.   It’s smart, simple, saves you time and money.  Let’s you work smarter, not harder.

Try rsvpBOOK at www.rsvpBOOK.com.  Start your free trial today!

 

 

Post-Event Debriefs: Important for Event Success

Post-event debriefs are important for future event successAfter putting a lot of time and effort into an event, it can leave you exhausted and ready to forget it and move on to whatever is next on your list (including maybe that vacation you dreamed about).  But an event professional’s work is never done not even when the event itself is over.  Just as necessary to planning and getting all the details right for a successful event, is sitting down after the event and reviewing your results – the good, bad, and ugly.  Enter the important but often overlooked – sometimes feared – post-event debrief.

Debriefing an event simply is asking yourself and your team focused questions about the event itself.   Taking the time to analyze helps you get a firm understanding on what happened and how you can build upon that experience in the future.

Were our goals reached? What is the feedback from our attendees and other stakeholders? What processes worked or didn’t work?  What lessons did we learn and how do we apply them to our future events?

Why the Post-Event Debrief

Even if you think you know the answers to these questions, holding a post-event debrief meeting to review the event while it is fresh in your mind is absolutely essential.  Don’t view it as a negative experience.  Post-event debriefs are not just about pointing out the mistakes that were made, but also about celebrating successes.  The post-event debrief process helps identify how to replicate success, grow from challenges, and improve and innovate for your next events.  It does not have to be hard or time consuming and it yields great results.  Consider it the first planning session of your next event.    You have all the knowledge from the event that just took place – what worked, what didn’t, attendee and stakeholder feedback on their experience, and how it can be improved.  This is the framework to build for your future.

Honest and accurate feedback and discussion allows you as the event professional to make better business decisions about each event you do.   This is the big reason for the post-event debrief.

How to Do a Post-Event Debrief Right

Just because a post-event debrief is done following your event doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for it in advance.  Start early by setting your objectives for the event and communicate them to your team before the actual event.  Help them prepare by letting them know what your expectations for the event are and your measurements of success.   Who are your key stakeholders (partners, sponsors, attendees, exhibitors) and how the event is intended to serve them.  Once at the event, have them observe and get feedback on your event processes (registration, check-in, program, food services) to see how they were successful, how they could be improved and be more efficient going forward.  Encourage everyone to keep their eyes open while onsite and write down observations and ideas as they come to mind. Take their observations and comments and fold them into your post-event debrief meeting for discussion.

Scheduling a short informal debrief “download” onsite immediately after the event concludes is really effective if you can arrange it.  As time passes, insights, observations and experiences begin to get fuzzy compromising your ability to act on them.  A quick review on what went well, what could go better next time, obvious problems at the event provides some instant feedback to take away for the subsequent formal debrief back at the office.

It almost goes without saying that if you want attendee and stakeholder feedback for your post-event debrief, you must ask them right away.  Whatever method you use to question them, whether it is through onsite poll, a mobile app, next day online survey, social media, or email, knowing and using their feedback for your next event is what will influence its success.  Some survey questions will apply to all participants but be careful not to distribute a “one-size-fits-all” piece.  Write questions which are very specific to the needs of each participant segment in order to get right type of feedback.

For the actual post-event debrief, you want answers from two different groups of people based on their role in your event:  the back-end “behind the scenes” participants and the front-end participants, essentially the attendees.  Debriefing the back-end of your event requires you to evaluate the physical planning and execution of your event and how effective and efficient it was.  Aimed at your team and vendors, your questions here focus primarily on efficiency, ease of task implementation, and flow of information.  The front-end analysis concentrates on attendee experience and engagement with your event.  This also includes checking in with your sponsors and exhibitors.  These questions are posed directly to your attendees and these other stakeholders and deal primarily with program content, satisfaction with event activities, customer service, and attendee/stakeholder experience.

Post-Event Debrief Questions

As mentioned previously, debriefing an event simply is asking yourself and your team focused questions about the event itself.  As part of the back-end and front-end reviews, here are some possible post-event debrief questions to consider.

Back-End Post-Event Debrief:  These are questions aimed to work out how well the event was planned and executed.  Ask them of your team members, vendors, and sponsors

1)  What were our original event objectives and were they achieved?

2)  Were there challenges meeting those objectives and what were they? (think budgetary constraints, revenue goals, marketing performance, AV or other technology issues)

3)  Were those challenges resolved and how?  Do they need to be discussed further for better results next time?

4)  Were team member roles and expectations clearly defined and information available to ensure individual and team success?

5)  What were some of our successes?  How can we replicate at our next event or make even better?

6)  Did our event serve our stakeholders (sponsors, partners, board members) as intended?

7)  How effective and efficient was our registration process?

Front-End Post-Event Debrief:  Your front-end post-event debrief is entirely about assessing attendee experience and engagement.  You want to know if their expectations were met, if they had fun, found value for their investment of time and money, and how you can make their experience even better in the future. Ways to get feedback have moved from the traditional mail-in questionnaire to getting the same information through the use of technology.  Simpler. Faster. Easier.  More immediate.  Here are some ways to get attendee and stakeholder feedback.

Spot Polls. Onsite spot polls are fast and immediate.  Attendees will have the most to say, and be the most likely to give you feedback, if you ask soon after they have interacted with some aspect of your event.  And the possibilities of what information you can get from them via a poll are virtually endless – program, food, entertainment, speaker.  Without the time delay of other feedback methods, the information you get from them while it is still fresh in their minds is considerably better.

Mobile Apps.  Not as immediate as spot polls but certainly up there in getting fast responses, is using your mobile app.  Good for a variety of purposes at your event from information sharing to networking, your mobile app also can be a platform to check-in with your attendees and get valuable feedback quickly.  Again, you are tapping into their comments when they are best remembered.

Social Media.  You used it to market your event, now use it for getting comments back about it.  Put questions up on your social media.  Surprise!  It can be amazing the responses you will get by simply asking pointed questions after your event using Facebook or in a dedicated Twitter chat.  Be prepared for the good, bad and ugly being out there for all to see.

Email.  Still probably the most used method to get attendee feedback is the email survey.  Send it out as quickly as possible after your event.  Having it sitting in their email inbox when they get back to the office is best to prevent time delays making attendee and other stakeholders’ recollections fuzzy.

Final Thoughts on Post-Event Debriefs

Don’t fear the post-event debrief.   Honest and accurate feedback and discussion is what you want.  It allows you as the event professional to make better business decisions about each event you do.   It provides the knowledge and understanding about your event to keep attendees and stakeholders happy and coming back for more.  That is proof of your event success – and that’s what you want.

About Us – rsvpBOOK

rsvpBOOK is an online event registration and event management software.  We help you streamline your event processes, from beginning to end, from creating your event website, to on-site resources, attendee and stakeholder feedback technology for your post-event debriefs, and final accounting reports.  Use your time to take care of more demanding matters – creating an outstanding attendee experience.

rsvpBOOK.   It’s smart, simple, saves you time and money.  Let’s you work smarter, not harder.

Try rsvpBOOK at www.rsvpBOOK.com.  Start your free trial today!

 

 

Event Websites: How to Make Yours Stand Out

Creating a stand-out event website
Creating a stand-out event website

Creating an event website doesn’t have to be overwhelming but does require creative and strategic marketing thinking

 

So you have just been given the green light to get working on that event which has been waiting in the wings for the past couple of months and you have a “to do” list a mile long of things you need to get done –  Invitations, flyers, e-mails, sponsors, program, speakers, marketing campaigns, social media posts, event website.  Wait!  Event website?  Yes, you knew about the event website part but now are wondering how to create one to be as great as that event you’re planning.  Where to begin?

Creating an event website does not need to be an overwhelming task but does require time, creativity, and strategic thinking to rise above basic functionality.  What a lot of event professionals forget is that your website is the primary point of contact and first impression of attendees to your event.  Before people even arrive at your event, your website is the initial face you present to people and they will be judging your event on the basis of your website.  As such it is your most important marketing tool.  If you want to sign up more attendees, attract exhibitors, sell more sponsorships, then you need to create your event website that will attract attendees and compel them to invest their time and money in your event.   With this in mind, we are sharing some important “how to” tips to create a stand out event website.

Your Stand-Out Event Website is Functional and Informative

Ok, so this isn’t the most exciting part of creating your event website but event professional hubris has been the downfall of some otherwise great event websites.  A well-designed website should offer all the important information you need for your event and be engaging and encouraging prospective attendees to register.  When creating your event website, use the best practices and fundamentals of a good website design – simple pages with an eye-catching image which engage your visitors.  Emphasize clarity in your information and ease of navigation for your website so people will get what they need in the shortest possible time – seal the deal while the intention is there.  Make sure the most important content – event location, date and details, event description, registration button – are front and center.  Have a clear navigation bar which is well-organized, visible, and prioritized based on your popular pages.

Don’t ignore the event description.  It needs to convey in as short as possible text, what’s great about your event, what you do and why people should register for it.  Why? When people search for your event in Google, they’ll most likely get a title and description for your event homepage in the search page results.  That text is coming directly from your website and you can control that with tags in your html head section.  There are important restrictions here:  title tags should have fewer than 65 characters and description tags should have fewer than 150 characters.  Anything beyond that will not be seen by search engines or people.

Your functional website also will be adaptive, meaning it will look good on all devices (desktop, phone, tablet) and on all screen sizes and browsers.  The registration button pops out and catches attention and takes prospective attendees to a very straightforward online registration process.

Your Stand-Out Event Website is Search Engine Optimized

Your event website also needs to rise above the other event noise and be optimized in order to be found in search engines by prospective attendees. Start with a memorable website address and descriptive event title.  Keep the address as short as possible and make sure it matches your event title.  Short and original makes it easier for prospective attendees to remember, search for, and share your event.  Also, search engines use titles to help group your event with other keyword searches and to indicate what the main topic of the page is.

Without keyword stuffing, use keywords in your title and event website content which will get you picked up by search engines and found by your target audience when searching.  Especially use your keyword(s) in the title of your event.  Ideally you should work your keyword(s) into a title that’s also compelling for readers in order to get clicks from people who are browsing the search results.

Of course, good SEO means knowing your audience and the right keywords they would use to search for your event.  Understanding the right keywords will help you better optimize your website title, content, headings and website address.  Keep this in mind when creating them.  Need a little help here? You can try Google AdWords (free) or Moz’s Keyword Explorer (free trials available) to create good keyword list.

Because SEO is based on links, the number and quality of other sites linking to you link early and link often.  Link to other relevant pages from your event website as well as any blogs or websites you have access to.  Be sure to link appropriate things to appropriate places and make sure your links include your keywords. When it makes sense, include a few outbound links to non-competing pages in your content.  Search engines crawl the web by following links to and from other pages to get a better idea of how your page interacts with the rest of the web.

Your Stand-Out Event Website is Social Media Optimized

One of the main reasons people attend events is networking so anything you can do before, during and after your event with your website to improve networking is going to add value to your efforts to get people to attend and become loyal audience members.  Social media provides such an opportunity for your prospective attendees to, well, socialize and network.  Optimizing your website for social interaction creates an environment in which your attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and other stakeholders can participate in your event on personal level.  Optimizing for social media makes use of the fact that your attendees and your other stakeholders are your biggest champions and uses the power of the social media as a valuable marketing tool.

Optimize for social media, primarily Facebook likes – and don’t forget Facebook Events – Twitter tweets and, increasingly, Linked In.  Each platform has its own quirks so keep them in mind when optimizing for social actions and use best practices for each specific platform like best time of day to post for each platform, using the hashtag for Twitter, writing in the right content format, and the extra engagement value of great images.

Also, when doing social media optimization, you should think in terms of both technical and content.  On the technical side, make sure you have a set of unique html tags included in titles, descriptions, links, and shareable images.  And how about those ubiquitous social media site share buttons?  They are important to encourage prospective attendees and make sharing easy.  On the content side, think strategically about your session names.  Are they catchy, clear, concise and specific?  How will they read as tweets? What would someone say in a retweet or a Facebook comment?  Increase your creativity here and the social media benefits can provide great rewards.

A word of caution: if you optimize for social media, you must be prepared to invest the time and energy into keeping the social buzz about your event alive.  It requires constant attending to as you are constantly talking to its visitors, pushing out fresh content by the way of news, tweets, posts, and blogs.  So let the social sharing begin!

Your Stand-Out Event Website Has Unique Content

Take an honest and strategic look at the language you use to describe your event.  Is it unique?  Is it compelling?  Would anyone notice if you switched it with text from a competing event?  Does it show what is different about your event and make people want to sign up to attend?  It should.  Is other key content such as the speaker bios canned and boring?  A bit more creative effort by you can make your event website the one that sticks out because it has new information.

Functionality and optimization are important but you need to help prospective attendees connect the dots of how you are unique and are going to deliver the education and connections they are looking for.  Your event website must convince them that your event will deliver value and be worth the time and money investment they are making to attend.  Here is where great “sticky” high quality content is crucial, content that is simple, credible, and elicits positive emotions.

Simple:  Create a simple message that conveys the reason(s) people should attend your event.  This requires you to think like an attendee and discovering why you event matters.  At the same time, generate interest and curiosity in your event which will be satisfied by attending.

Credible: We all want people to attend our event but promising and not delivering will kill your credibility and reputation.  Tell how you will deliver on your promises of a great event by painting a clear picture of the specific things people will get from attending your event.  Perhaps it’s highlighting specific event activities or a major influential speaker.  Show with images how these promises have been fulfilled in the past to add to your credibility.

Elicits Positive Emotions:  Our decisions to attend events are not always logical choices.  They are often influenced by our expectations and anticipations about what we are going to receive in return for our investment.  We invest time, attention and money into things we care about and think will make a difference.  Your event website content needs to address the question: how will my event make people feel?  You can help people by featuring testimonials and stories on your website from past events and encourage attendees to tweet and blog before, during and after the event.

One other consideration for your content – structure it so it is easily shareable.  For example, if the focus of your event is its speakers, make sure each speaker has his own page, image and link – it’s easier to tweet about and pass around.  You’re also empowering others to leverage their own networks.  The same goes for panels, special event features and your sponsors!

Having a functional and attractive event website fully optimized (SEO and social media) to do its “technical” job is important.  However, to maximize your event website you will need to dedicate time, creativity and thoughtful effort to make sure you have fresh, relevant high quality content that speaks to your audience.

Your Stand-Out Event Website Creation

So back to that event you are planning and creating that stand-out event website.  Remember your event website represents your organization and your event to your audience and others.  It is their first impression of you even before they get to the event so make that first impression count.  Most people will make their decision based on how your website looks, functions, and what it says.  Don’t use no money and no time as excuses for having a poor website that turns people away before registering for your event.  Put in that extra effort and creativity and it will pay huge dividends for you, your event, and your attendees.

About rsvpBOOK

rsvpBOOK is an online event registration and event management software.  We help you streamline your event processes, from beginning to end, from creating your event website, to on-site resources, and final accounting reports.  Use your time to take care of more demanding matters – creating an outstanding attendee experience.

rsvpBOOK.   It’s smart, simple, saves you time and money.  Let’s you work smarter, not harder.

Try rsvpBOOK at www.rsvpBOOK.com.  Start your free trial today!

 

 

 

Attendee Experience – 5 Ways to Make it All About Them

Attendee experience is important to event successSo I have been reading yet another article or two on improving attendee experience at events and meetings and felt I needed to chime in here on the discussion.  Why another blog on this topic? Well partly because I have been both an event professional and an attendee – as I am sure most of you have – and want to provide my own two cents from seeing both sides of the event table.  I also have noticed that the articles I have read are either focused almost exclusively on the logistical angle (ok I am guilty of at least one blog focused on this) or totally focused on how to help attendees party like it’s 1999 (did I just date myself here?)

Surely there is a happy medium of where one can merge the two to discuss the best of both topics – managing traditional logistics and creating experiences that engage attendees and encourage social interactions and relationship building.  Both play an important role in the overall attendee experience.

Attendee Experience – What it is, What it is Not

Going out on a limb here and giving my perspective of what the attendee experience is and is not.  It’s not just having all your logistics lined up so you’re not panicking.  It’s not your attendees fed, moving around effortlessly from session to session listening to speakers and no one complaining (yet) about the WiFi connection.  It’s not just having the right content for the right audience.  It’s not just about having loud audacious receptions and the latest gaming technology available for them to play with during your event or meeting – although in some situations, these are not the worst ideas.   It is, however, expertly packaging all these event essentials and seamlessly incorporating them into your event or meeting.  It is the logistics essentials worked out as well as the intangible element ensuring the attendees’ desire for social interactions and relationship building is also part of your event plan.   In reality, it IS all about them.

So if we are going to discuss the essentials of the attendee experience, we can discuss the key logistics necessities which put smiles on their faces as well as the ways which events and meeting can ensure those other intangible needs are met to ensure people really are the ultimate focus.

Attendee Experience – What Do You Really Want?

What do attendees really want?  This is the $64,000 question and getting inside the heads of attendees to learn the answers can be challenging.  I can’t write about everything but I will discuss a few big “I wants” I’ve heard repeatedly and provide some simple solutions.  I’ll then discuss addressing the intangible needs of attendees and how you can make them part of your great event attendee experience.

Attendee Experience Really Want – Online Event Registration

Attendees have gone digital and you had better be by now.  That’s where they want and expect to register for just about everything.  Ditch the paper registration forms – if you haven’t already – and get online now!  With the plethora of online event registration and management software platforms available, doing paper registration must not be even a consideration.  Collect registration details once and use the information provided to quickly and easily compile future marketing data, print name badges and rosters, personalize all future communications, and check-in attendees on-site or before your event.

Attendee Experience Really Want – Fast Check-in

Checking in should not be the event version of the Beatle’s song, The Long and Winding Road.  No reason for this at all with today’s on-site check-in technology readily available.  Attendees want to be checked in quickly, not with several minutes of organized chaos while you look for their registration information.  On-site line management is both a science and an art for event professionals which can be mastered with the right tools.  With technology like scan guns and barcodes and QR codes , scanning keeps lines moving is fast becoming the norm at events and meetings.  In addition, on-site self-check-in kiosks are another way attendees can move along without your involvement.   Making event check-in as seamless as possible for attendees makes your life easier too.

Attendee Experience Really Want – Communication, Early, Often and Via Mobile

Do we really need to discuss this?  Probably not but I will briefly.  Your attendees are connected to the outside world via smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices so connect with then wherever and whenever.  Send them up-to-the-minute event details, program changes, email notifications and automatic alerts.  Give them easy access to event materials that they can share on their social networks, downloads of handouts and relevant links.

Communicate with them early and often.  You are not the only email or text message they receive.  You are up against stiff competition but you can get through to them.  It just may mean being repetitive perhaps through a series of email notifications or alerts over a period of time rather than just one.  And email is not the only channel to use – you do know about social media.  Communicate with them across all your platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, wherever your target audience is found.

Finally speed is paramount.  In a world where connectedness reduces time delays, attendees expect and demand fast action.  They are happiest when you respond to their questions or messages quickly, usually within the same business day.

Attendee Experience Really Want – You to Be Prepared

To paraphrase the words of a song in Mel Brooks’ movie The Twelve Chairs, hope for the best but expect the worst.  Perhaps a bit dire, but you do need to be prepared for the unexpected and make such happenings as painless as possible for you and your attendees.  The most common “unexpected” is when an attendee can’t make it and wants a refund.  Make sure your policy is clearly stated.  What’s your viable back up plan for inclement weather?  Or if the staff at the hotel you are having your event goes on strike. (this last one did happen to me – oh boy!)

Recently, there is a movement to establish an event code of conduct.  Setting up your expectations upfront and ensuring your event is a safe place for everyone is increasingly becoming part of your event or meeting preparation.   A code of conduct is your public statement that you value your attendees and will protect their rights to attend and learn without harassment.

Attendee Experience Really Want – The Important Intangibles

So well planned logistics put the smiles on attendees’ faces and lowers your stress level.  What about those intangibles which are harder to measure but are critical to the attendee experience?  You cannot shy away from addressing this part of the attendee experience just because it is more elusive to design and plan or difficult to measure success.

As Jeff Hurt with Velvet Chainsaw wrote about improving attendee experience, “Successful conferences will focus less on the logistics and more on creating experiences that foster communication, interactions and relationship building of their attendees.  They will focus less on providing experiences that transfer information and more on experiences that will allow people to discuss content, share stories and build connections.” (Improving Conference Attendee Experiences, Velvet Chainsaw, March 19, 2012).

This statement is as true today as it was four years ago when first written.  Today’s event attendee demands and expects more time to connect and communicate with other attendees at an event or meeting.  Large audacious receptions and gaming opportunities may provide some of this for certain types of events and attendees.  However, it has been my experience both as an event professional and an attendee, people are looking for more intimate one-on-one or small group opportunities to discuss, communicate and build the important relationships.  My perspective has a lot to do with the type of events I did but even so, peace and calm are eventually where people go to get their best interactions done.

What are some ways to design these attendee experiences?  Going back to articles by Jeff Hurt again, he validated some practices I have used (after trial and error and making many mistakes) but also provided some additional great ideas.  Let’s start with the typical event or meeting format.  When possible, move away from the large sessions with talking heads and promote discussion among attendees by designing for small group interactions within the larger session.  Better still create smaller sessions for the more intimate exchange of ideas and greater attendee participation.

Craft sessions which lead with questions that encourage attendees to participate and ask more of the right questions rather than provide “the” solutions to problems.  This format encourages out-of-the-box thinking, new insights and fresh ideas to address old professional or work problems facing attendees.  What value that adds to an attendee experience!

Move away from the “expert” speaker monologue with PowerPoint slides and actively involve attendees.  Facilitate this with a dynamic question and answer format that immediately engages attendees.  Speaker or panel interaction with attendees reduces the droning head and heavy eyelids of attendees.  The sleepy one-sided presentation is replaced hopefully by buzz and energy as people talk more informally and share insights and ideas more freely.

How about those networking and relationship building opportunities?  Creating the small group sessions is a great beginning.   Attendees are interacting already on a more personal level.  Although meeting up at receptions is still common, deeper dives and closing the deals are often best left to private conversations.  Provide attendees with comfortable physical space on-site if possible to conduct these conversations.  You also can help match them up in advance using the registration information – with their permission of course – to help make initial connections.

Finally, be thoughtful and creative with physical setup. Design purposeful seating arrangement so attendees have all the tools and encouragement they need to achieve their personal goals for attending your event or meeting.  Facilitate social interaction and networking opportunities.   Create meeting spaces, networking spaces which simplify interaction attendees’ desire.

Attendee Experience – rsvpBOOK

Although rsvpBOOK cannot provide you the intangible needs for your attendee experience, we can provide you more time in the day for you to focus on creating them.  The tools in the rsvpBOOK online event registration and management software are made to make your life easier.  We’re here to save time and money so you can work more efficiently and be successful, no matter the type or size of your event or meeting.  We want you to work smarter, not harder.  rsvpBOOK lets you use your time to take care of more demanding matters – creating an outstanding attendee experience.

Try rsvpBOOK today!  Smart, simple online event registration software.

 

Feeling Your Pain – Five Pain Points of Event Professionals

Feeling the pain - pain points of eventprofs

Blog Title - Pain BlogIt was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  Or so the phrase goes in Charles Dickens’ book, A Tale of Two Cities.  That’s how I often felt in my days as the event director for a small non-profit when the thrill of a great event would send me soaring but often the pain of getting there would make me so stressed and miserable that I would question “why am I doing this?!”

You get that roller coaster ride too?  What are some of these “pain points” that we share as event professionals and what can we do to make it the best of times… at least more often.

What I experienced, and what other event professionals I know considered their biggest pain points of event professionals include:  shrinking budgets and controlling costs, shorter lead times, not enough event staff, rapidly changing technology demands, continuing with time consuming event planning practices, and demonstrating the return on investment – ROI – to the “powers that be.”  Not saying this is a complete list but this blog can only discuss so many at a time.  So here we go…

The Incredible Shrinking Budget – WHAT Budget?

 Shrinking budgets and controlling costs are almost enemy #1.  OK you can’t hate the reality of working within a budget and controlling costs – it’s important for any company or organization to have a budget framework to work against.  But it appears most event planners agree that shrinking budgets competing against rising expectations of company management, clients and attendees is a painful experience.

The “traditional” cost structure for events and meetings also has permanently disappeared in the last several years shifting the focus toward smaller gatherings of shorter duration, scheduled regionally or locally to reduce travel and expenses for event staff and attendees. Sponsorships usually geared toward large sit-down dinners and elaborate event signage often is used for less extravagant but more necessary and functional event needs.  And this is just spending for the actual event itself.  What if there is the need for additional event staff to plan and execute?   Coffee and donuts at the local coffee shop anyone?

As event professionals we are faced with this reality so must set the tone for management, clients and attendees to reign in some less important expectations while creating memorable meetings and events.  You can cope with these challenges by making small, often easy changes which appear natural and planned for the attendees.

I’m Late! I’m Late! – Shorter Lead Times

Isn’t it great to come into the office each day feeling you’re already behind the 8-ball? It isn’t fun.  Event professionals invariably mention shortened lead times as one of the big pain points of event professionals.  I remember thinking “this should only take a few months to make it happen” I also recall when things got crazy with all the numerous moving parts going sideways on me asking myself why I didn’t start planning sooner.

Not to make excuses, but shortened lead times are a challenge of modern event planning.  Given that many organizations and companies don’t know their meeting and event budgets until the most recent fiscal results are available, the planning cycle has shrunk (along with those fun event budgets).  One or two years has been reduced to a few months or weeks for event professionals to plan everything.  No fun, lots of pressure, lots of pain.

However, as an event professional, you still have to work within the given time frame.  So let’s shake hands with some of your challenges – like venue availability, caterers, sponsors, event personnel resources, attendee lists, marketing for attendance, competing events.  The list goes on but you get the picture; you may have lived it.

Good Today, Better Tomorrow – Keeping Up with New Technology Demands

This is not a “keeping up with the Joneses” frivolous concern.  Incorporating the latest and most event audience engaging technology has grown from being a novelty to critical necessity.  The use of mobile devices has conditioned attendees to expect information, interactivity, and connectivity to be constantly available.  A well thought-out event website now has the essentials including apps, mobile sites, and the use of the familiar social media channel buttons to enhance event and meeting attendance and attendee experience.

And now the most current disruptive technology change happening on social media with important ramifications for the event industry – live streaming.  If I may quote Julius Solaris, Editor of the Event Management Blog:  “The live stream revolution is happening.  In the space of a few months, what used to be written is now live video.  The social networks’ mantra ‘tell us what’s up’ has been replaced by ‘Show us what’s up.’ (Italics added)

And have you noticed the Pokemon Go craze?  If you thought this was just a game for people with too much time on their hands, think again.  This is the use of augmented reality to play a game but with wider implication for us as event professionals who want to provide attendees with the best attendee experience.  Both live streaming and augmented reality are slow coming to events, but to ignore their importance – at some level in your event – is to lose out on a great engagement opportunity and a better attendee experience.

So maybe you don’t need the fanciest dinners or can eliminate that extra reception.  Sometimes skimping on the necessary technology may be more detrimental to the attendee experience than that extra ounce of food and drink.

But We’ve Always Done it This Way – Using Outdated Planning Practices

Well this is one of the most painful of all pain points of event professionals.  The use of multiple spreadsheets to track attendance and event financials; manual payment methods; malfunctioning databases and CRM systems; manual email invitation distribution; manual check-in (and the long lines);  paper evaluation surveys.   You name it, I experienced it all.  Do. Not. Laugh.

So what are some of your old event planning practices you hang on to?  Do you really want to keep them or do you want to move forward?  OK, I get it – as event professionals we are always short on time and money and sometimes we rely on tried and true practices as it seems like the quickest or easiest thing to do. Or maybe “we’ve always done it that way” feels comfortable and taking the leap to do things differently fills you with dread.

But it’s really time to stop and reconsider.  It’s time to come into the twenty-first century and lose some of those very labor intensive, extra work generating event planning practices.  Break those old event habits, or at least the worse ones, and push your boundaries.  When you do, you will realize that if you update your tools and choose the best modern practices to support your organization, it can lead to much better event and meeting success outcomes – with more hours in the day for you to focus on creating a better attendee experience.   To work smarter and not harder and provide your attendees the best event experience, it’s time to change.

You’re Only as Good as Your Last Event – The Pursuit of Good ROI

When your event or meeting goes well, everyone will let you know and shower you with kudos. If it doesn’t go quite so well… watch out!  You’ll DEFINITELY hear about it.  Every planning and execution step taken is scrutinized and questioned so being ready for a successful event or meeting is essential.  Sure, every event professional experiences hiccups along the way but positive ROI breathes long life into any event or meeting.  But what are you measuring to determine ROI?

Proving return on investment (ROI) is the biggest struggle for event and meeting professionals.  Sure you can measure the tangibles such as attendance goals met, expenses, evaluation feedback but what about the intangibles?  Placing values and determining ROI on the intangibles hinge on measuring a variety of hard to measure facets and quantifying them to determine the overall effectiveness of a meeting or event.  Such as how much time attendees spent in sessions, with key board members or partners or clients; how many attendees interacted with exhibitors and became customers; what about tracking social activity and attendee engagement after the event – just to name a few.

How attendees spent their time equates with interest, engagements and relationship building.  Knowing this helps you create better events and to guide future action around what has proved interesting and useful to your attendees.  In addition to time, knowing how many people actually interacted with exhibitors and engaged with sessions influence event attendees to return again and helps you justify the investment in your event or meeting.  All these intangibles are important to ROI and a struggle sometimes to measure.  Therein lays some pain for us all as event professionals.

Who Ya Gonna Call?  No, Not Ghostbusters

So you’re feeling the pain and at rsvpBOOK, we’re feeling your pain too.  Smaller budgets, shortened lead times, keeping up with new technology demands, stuck with labor- intensive event practices, quantifying good ROI and more.  So who ya gonna call?  No, not Ghostbusters.

rsvpBOOK can’t be your savior on everything.  We can, however, provide you a smart, simple online event registration and event management software to save time, save money and allow you to work more efficiently to get things done right and on time in this era of increasing constraints but high expectations.  And, the versatility of rsvpBOOK event management software meets your needs no matter the event type or size, from professional training meetings and workshops to large conferences.

Our powerful software brings together all the online registration and event management, marketing, onsite check-in, evaluation and attendee feedback reports, online payment processing tools you need into a single place. We help you streamline your event processes from beginning to end.  No need to duplicate information, manually process, and drag huge binders of forms with you everywhere.  rsvpBook has you covered so your event can manage itself.   Smart. Simple.  Efficiently.

So ditch the spreadsheets and reduce the paperwork!  Alleviate some of the pain points of event professionals.  Save your time and money, so you can use it to take care of more demanding matters and focus on what’s important – creating the best event and valuable attendee experience imaginable.

Come try us at www.rsvpBOOK.com  Work smarter, not harder.