Tag Archives: Event planning

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.

 

How Event Management Software Helps You Sell Your Event Tickets

How Event Management Software Helps You Sell Your Event Tickets

Tickets

Event management software enables you to manage multiple events quickly and efficiently. The software is easy to use and gives an overview of all activities related to your events. You can use it to input event details, communicate with participants, create reports and much more. One of the benefits of event management software is the ability to sell tickets from your event registration page.

How Can Event Management Software Help To Sell Your Event Tickets?

The software can be used to quickly setup an event registration page in which people can register and purchase tickets. The entire process of registering and purchasing ticket(s) can be completed in minutes. Using pen and paper event management requires you to employ a staff to manually process registrations and ticket payments. There can be errors when processing the information manually and the potential to lose information which results in problems with attendees and ticket sales. These problems are mitigated with a good Event Registration Software & Management tool because it automates the registration and ticketing process thus saving time and money. The payments are processed using credit cards which allows registrants to purchase tickets at their convenience. You can also go paperless by giving registrants a ticket number or including a Bar-code/QR in the confirmation email that can be scanned from their smart phone. All these features make the ticket processing easy which motivates people to buy tickets through the event registration page. The software not only offers an easy event registration page and secure payment processing but includes options for automatic discounts, group discounts, discount codes, and asking lodging and travel information.

Event Registration Software & Management can be used to easily market any event that you are managing. It can be integrated with social media sites so that your event page can be accessed by registrants through Facebook, Twitter, etc. This opens up opportunities for more ticket sales as more people know of the event registration page from these sites. You can use email marketing with the software. Email marketing is a very effective means of spreading information about an event and you can send out emails fast using the software’s email features. By making use of event registration software you can impress people with a smooth event registration page and increase ticket sales.

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Check-boxes or Radio Buttons?

Check-boxes or Radio Buttons?

Checkboxes

How do you choose between check-boxes and radio buttons? One is square and the other is round; which fits your event registration website? There is more to choosing than just looks or your favorite shape. Choosing the right option will decrease confusion for your registrants and increase the accuracy of your session selections.

Check-boxes in a group of sessions allow 1 or more to be selected while Radio Buttons allow only 1 selection.

Examples:

  1. If you have sessions that occur on different dates OR at different times, then you will want to place them together in the same group AND use check-box selection – allows more than 1 to be selected .
  2. If you have more than one session that begins at the same time, then you will want to place them together in the same group AND use radio button selection.

How do I decide how to Group my Sessions?

Grouping your sessions correctly is the key to insuring that your registrants are not confused by the selection options. A couple of general rules:

  1. If you have sessions that start at the same time, make it impossible to register for more than one session – put all of these sessions in one group.
  2. If you have sessions that start at different AND non-overlapping times, then you will want to make it easy to pick as many as sessions as they want – put all of these sessions in one group.

Tips

  1. There cannot be check-boxes AND radio buttons in the same group.
  2. If you require attendance at a session, then this session should not be in a radio button group with other sessions.
  3. You can require attendance at the session level; however, …
  4. Do not place 2 sessions, each requiring attendance, in a group with radio buttons

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Are you asking questions on your registration page?

Are you asking questions on your  registration page?

If you’re organizing an event—like a conference, a fundraiser, a training seminar, or a professional event— asking the right questions is critical and can determine the success of your event.  With an online registration tool like rsvpBOOK.com, you can ask the important questions to registrants easily. Not only will you save time but your guest will love providing all pertinent information before the event.

Lets face it, you will need the information in order to increase your chances of having a successful event.

What are good questions for event registration?

Some people are unaware of the types of questions that are useful when managing your event. Capturing useful information from your registrants can substantially affect the quality of your event management tasks.

These questions are intended to give you ideas about what questions can be useful to you.

FLIGHT ARRANGEMENTS GROUP ARRANGEMENTS HOTEL INFORMATION MISCELLANEOUS REGISTRANT INFO

Benefits of using rsvpBOOK.com to ask questions

  • Capture additional registrant information using  customized questions you create
  • Use conditional logic to display different questions based on specific responses
  • Use conditional logic to display Sessions and/or Sales Items based on question responses; can be used to display different sessions and sales items to different registrant types, for example guests, sponsors and exhibitors
  • Design your question responses using text fields, radio buttons, check-boxes, and drop-down menus
  • Show different questions for each registrant type
  • Organize and display your questions using section headings
  • Specify whether or not responses are required or optional
  • Easily export question responses to any spreadsheet program using our standard reports
  • View responses by question or by registrant
  • View and download attendee responses, easily filter by any specific question, such as arrival time, meal preferences, lodging arrangements
  • Use our standard reports or create custom reports to meet your specific needs.
  • Easily share question responses with vendors and include only the information they need. All reports are accurate in real time; send to the caterer, the hotel, the shuttle company, colleagues and managers

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