Once of the elements of meetings and conventions that captures the imagination of attendees is the notion of "swag" - free stuff, often useful and sometimes expensive, given out as gifts or promotions. Hardened industry veterans of a thousand press conferences will drop their air of experience and claw through a crowd for a free tote bag; there's just something appealing about free stuff.
ESPA is celebrating event and convention services managers for being "superstars of service." It includes networking events in cities across the country where ESPA members can network with colleagues, recruit new association members, and showcase to meeting planners the role they play in producing successful events. The host who organizes the most creative or unique event will win a complimentary registration to ESPA's 2013 annual conference.
"Event and convention services is vital to the success of any event," said ESPA President David Dvorak. "It's important that we take the time to celebrate our profession and all that we do...and what better way than with our peers on Sept. 20."
Green initiatives are front and center. The 2012 International CES recently tallied up its recycling figures, and found it had recycled a record 75% of all of the materials used at its Las Vegas show.
That equates to a staggering amount of materials that got recycled—that's more than 80,000 square feet of banners and signs, plus 50,000 pounds of show publications.
In all, the Consumer Electronics Association repurposed:
• 35,700 square feet of magnetic banners, weighing 20,000 pounds—or 10 tons
• 28,600 square feet of vinyl banners
• 16,000 square feet of show signs and materials
• 50,000 pounds of show publications
“As the International CES is the largest annual event in Las Vegas, and one of the largest expos in the world—in addition to the fact that recycling and e-cycling is a big initiative in the consumer electronics industry—we wanted to make sure we were carrying this through to the trade show floor,” said Laurie Lutz, Vice President of Operations for International CES
By repurposing used vinyl banners from the 2011 International CES, at this year’s January 10-13 show, CES was able to create 190,000 recycled badge holders—and collected 11,000 of those badges to be recycled for a “third life” at the 2013 show. Going a step further, CES has used recycled carpeting and booth materials for many years.
"While recycling has associated labor costs, it is not prohibitively high," Lutz notes. In fact, CES is considering securing a green efforts sponsor for its 2013 show, to defray some of those costs.
“When you have buy-in from everybody, recycling and repurposing isn’t that hard,” Lutz notes. “Green initiatives should be able to fit into a show budget.”
Why should you invest in face to face events when you can save time and money with virtual events and on-line seminars.? Here’s why!
1. Learning occurs through a variety of options: lectures, panel presentations, hands-on workshops, inspirational keynotes, and other unique opportunities, such as tweet-ups. You can pick a session in whatever style suits your learning needs. And don’t forget about the informal learning that happens in the in-between moments of an in-person event, during meals or waiting for a presentation to begin.
2. There are fewer distractions at face to face events. Have you ever attended an online event only to be interrupted by people stopping in your office, phone calls, emails or meetings? Even though almost everything is on demand these days, carving out time at your office to watch an hour presentation is difficult. When you book yourself a ticket out of town and turn on your “out of office” reply, you attend the event and focus on learning and networking.
3. You share in the energy and excitement of other fellow attendees. Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation, not even Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Having the time to talk to your peers, both in your industry and in other industries, gives you insight into what other people are doing and lets you benchmark best practices. You find that you aren’t the only one facing a particular challenge, and you just might find a way to apply what someone else is doing to your own situation.
4. You get to connect with the presenters. At in-person events, you get access to speakers and experts. You often have opportunities to sit down with industry experts at lunch, round table discussions, or one-on-one consulting sessions. The input received from asking specific questions in person gives you an edge you can’t get from a virtual event or online seminar
Though online technologies and social networks are critical to the way we work and have opened up countless new opportunities, we’re still human. Whether we’re working out problems with a colleague, closing a sale, or networking, better rapport is established in person.
A service charge does not always go to staff who provide service. Asking for the breakdown of service charge disbursements will help you decide which additional gratuities to put into your meeting budget. And yes, you should budget for them, even though it’s difficult to estimate what you will actually offer for superior service.
Cathy Clifton’s guide can be used for estimating tips: (the entire article can be found here:
Set-up crew: $5-$7 per person, per day worked, from set-up day to departure
Banquet servers: $5-$7 per function worked -- breakfast, lunch and breaks, each day; $10-$15 per person for elaborate dinner functions
Bartender(s): $30-$50 per event for bartenders (if no tip jar was used)
Banquet captain: $10–$20 per meal function
Banquet chefs: $50-$100 per event (only if there were carving stations); same tip for the head chef for the entire meeting if he/she was helpful
A/V manager: $75 per meeting (only if you used their equipment, and he/she provided on-site assistance)
Conference service manager: $100-$500 per entire meeting. Often this person is your main contact on-site and should get the largest tip. If not, give the best tip to the person who was most helpful
Reservations manager: $50-$100 per entire meeting, based on overall involvement in the reservation process (if you have a lot of housing fires to put out the reservations manager can be key)
Other managers (security, housekeeping, bell desk): $40-$60 depending on their involvement with your event and the duration of the meeting
Miscellaneous tips: $2-$3 per staffer, per shipped box delivered; tip a staffer $20-$30
for hauling in any boxes from your car.
Tips for maid and bell service typically are included in the hotel contract.
Exhibiting is expensive, especially for a small business, and when comparing your efforts to the larger companies surrounding you, it’s hard not to worry about getting lost in the shuffle. Here are five free ways you can stand out as an exhibitor by investing a little extra time and attention (instead of cash) to impress your target audience.
1 – Revise your company description
Your company description (often included for free in online and printed event directories produced by show management) is the most overlooked opportunity to effectively market your company. Attendees plan their time on the show floor according to these listings. Stand out by taking full advantage of your presence within this resource. Hook your target audience with a great opening, highlight your unique offerings, and make yourself easy to find by providing clear contact information.
2 – Cut the clutter
Organize your booth to minimize distractions and allow your company’s offerings to shine. Remove unnecessary furnishings (like trash cans and chairs) and don’t bother bringing redundant literature or boring giveaways. Don't put barriers across your booth (like long counter tables) that separate you from attendees. If you have trained your staff properly, the attendees who come into your booth will be focused on your offerings and remember your company positively for your clear message.
3 – Say hello
It doesn’t cost anything to maintain a positive attitude for full show hours and warmly greet each of the attendees walking by your booth. Remember that trade shows provide sensory and information overload to the attendees. If you don’t say anything, your target audience might not even notice you’re there. When you choose to engage those passing by, you provide them with an extra opportunity to become aware of your company and its offerings.
4 – Maximize your time outside of the booth
Even when you aren’t working in your booth, be present outside of set show hours. Attendees will notice and see that you care about participating in the event and that you are interested in strengthening connections. In order to accomplish this, you will need to schedule your time before you arrive – set appointments with clients, prospects, or partners for each of your meals, review the event agenda to select networking functions and educational sessions to attend, and plan to spend any free time in the hotel lobby or other areas where you are likely to encounter attendees. Also, keep a copy of your schedule in the booth so that additional meetings can be added on the fly.
5 – Follow up
Rumor has it that 80% of leads obtained at trade shows do not receive any follow up contact. This means that you will stand out from most of the other exhibitors just by taking whatever time is necessary to reach out to your visitors after the event has concluded. I recommend creating a plan before you leave for your trade show so that you will be able to jump right into calling, emailing, or using other methods to follow up immediately upon your return.
The best way for a small companies to stand out amongst all of the larger exhibitors participating in your event is to invest extra time, not money, in your exhibiting efforts.
Are you having trouble convincing companies that there is real value and a significant return on investment when they exhibit at trade shows? Then show them these findings from the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR):
The cost of an initial face-to-face encounter with a prospect is $96 for a lead taken in an exhibit, while the figure is $1,029 for a lead from the field (this includes $443 to identify the prospect before the initial meeting plus $596 for the actual sales call). Do the math! meeting a prospect at a trade show as opposed to generating a sales lead in the field saves $943 prospecting dollars.
Moreover, CEIR found that 54% of sales initiated by an exhibit sales lead requires three or fewer sales calls to close the sale, while 61% of leads from other sources require more than three calls to close the sale.
Closing a sale from an exhibit lead saves $914 over closing a lead from another source. CEIR noted that it costs $2,288 to close a sale from an exhibit lead, including an average of $96 to qualify an exhibit lead plus 3.5 sales calls. Closing a lead from another source, without a lead from an exhibit, costs on average $3,102. This includes $43 to qualify a prospect and 4.5 sale calls totaling $2,659.
Trade shows are rife with opportunities for gathering competitive intelligence. To gather the most CI, adopt a military mindset.
• Eavesdrop at the breakfast buffet; nurse a cup of coffee and listen!
• Pay attention on the elevator: you just might overhear sensitive discussions that begin on the show's floor and continue into the elevator. (Or the lobby or restroom, for that matter.)
• Listen closely in the bar: an educated eavesdropper can pick up useful tidbits when conventioneers let loose at the bar during the evening. Hone your people skills and initiate conversations while you sip on a single beverage.
• Volunteer to join the conference organizing committee: your volunteer work will not only bolster your own reputation in the industry but will give you access to all sorts of information.
• Work the break area: although professional on the show floor, exhibitor personnel love to vent while on break. Many shows have an exhibitors’ lounge where you’ll find competitors’ staff looking for someone to commiserate with them.
Protect your command center: guard your own intelligence. Caution your booth staff about mobile phone conversations, so easily overheard, as well as talking about the company in all the places listed above. Splurge on a suite or other private meeting place so that you can meet with clients and colleagues in a location that's off limit to competitors. Have your debrief sessions there, too, and shred the trash on your way out.
Customized menus, LCD projectors and meeting rooms with good acoustics top the list of things that meeting planners want most in a complete meeting package, according to the The International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), based on feedback from customer roundtables about conference center products and services.
The results, according to IACC, were the following top 10 rankings of the most important items in a complete meeting package:
1. Customized menu that accommodates dietary requirements
2. At least one LCD projector
3. Acoustically rated walls that guarantee no sound distractions
4. Wireless high-speed Internet access in guest rooms
5. Set-up fees included in the package
6. Meeting room rental expenses
7. Flipcharts with easels, pads and markers
8. Pillarless meeting rooms
9. An easy-to-read, one-page invoice
10. Skilled onsite audio/visual and IT technicians
Promoting your event on Facebook is no longer optional. Making the most of the opportunity is important. Here are some ways it can be done.
First set up a Facebook page for your event.
When promoting your event, post a link to your Facebook page on your website. You can also opt to integrate the actual Facebook Widget on your website so people can see who is “Like-ing” your page and yout page can even feed your latest posts directly into the widget. You’ll definitely notice a significant impact in the increase of “Likes” after Facebook is integrated.
Make sure that you upload an appropriate profile image and utilize the space to its full potential. Try using a vertical banner image that contains all the necessary phone and web details to your event. When choosing colors, make sure they match and are limited to 3-5 different colors within the image.
To make it easy for Facebook users to register and/or to purchase a ticket for your event, provide a direct link to the page where you are selling tickets online. Make the link attractive and visible so that your attendees will easily be able to buy tickets for your event.
Re-use the same page for every event. When you’re creating a Facebook page and actively promoting it, you’re essentially building a list that you can market to (in some sense it’s like an email database). So you should make sure that your page can be utilized for multiple events in the future!
Facebook has proven over and over that it is an effective event marketing tool. It reaches a broad audience for potential event attendees. Don't waste the opportunity!