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.
Planning events takes time, thought and effort—and for a really successful event, hiring an event planner to help is a must!—but the pay-off is worth it, simply because at events you have the opportunity to meet with your customers and a have a real, human face to face interaction. Writing in Forbes, Dave Lavinsky points out some of the advantages of events that nothing else can provide:
Read the entire article here.
Thanks to Tim Brown, CEO of Meeting Sites Resource, for this amazing blog post.
He reminds us that "managing meeting stakeholder expectations" is a critical part of our job description. On the surface, this topic seems like a no-brainer, since most meeting planners' core skills are meeting planning, execution and logistics. But often, that is the problem: with a complete focus on being "efficient," many meetings today are not "effective."
Now don't get me wrong, meeting logistics and implementation excellence is a must in our rapidly expanding Strategic Meeting Management (SMM) environment, but equally important is a meeting needs assessment process that identifies all stakeholder goals, objectives, and results in a specific plan to deliver and measure success.
The need for measurable meeting ROI and expanded collaboration to achieve big picture meeting goals has increased the number of people with their hands, or fingerprints, on the overall meeting management process. The key is to identify each stakeholder, understand his role and specific contribution, and then become a resource to him to assure quality outcomes. Think of yourself as a general contractor working with many internal and external sub-contractors to build a magnificent house (in this case, a meeting).
In the SMM world, managing expectations is called Return on Objectives (ROO). Simply put, this is making meeting visions a reality. Here is my quick overview regarding Return on Objectives: “The ability to identify meeting stakeholder(s) objectives for each meeting and create meeting design, content and communications that address each objective. This includes post-meeting analysis that measures results and validates that meeting objectives are achieved.”
To assess the scope and complexity of stakeholder communications, an interesting exercise is to create a stakeholder communications chart, “connecting the dots” to the many internal and external people, services and support essential to assure a highly successful meeting.
• Human Resources
• Corporate Communications
Strategic meeting objectives go beyond meeting budgets and cost savings, and this requires both collaboration and value-based thinking to achieve maximum results. When you meet or have a phone interview with a key stakeholder and identify specific goals and objectives for a meeting, it is important to present your recommendations and plan to assure that you are on the right track. Your post-meeting analysis of each defined objective, as well as measurement of the actual outcome, validates your success -- just making it happen is not enough, so “keep score” and report results.
• Hotel Departments
• Conference Services
• Business Center
• Audio Visual
• Registration & Housing
• Exhibits / Trade Show
• Cruise Ship
With your meeting stakeholder goals and objectives in hand, it is critical to evaluate and select suppliers and partners who will understand and embrace these essential visions and be part of the team that will deliver predictable and high-impact outcomes. Keep in mind there may be multiple suppliers to deliver on one objective, so the planning, communications, and collaboration processes are critical.
Meetings are big investments and today meeting planners must get in to the heads -- and hearts -- of meeting stakeholders at all levels to orchestrate a total meeting experience that raises the bar on meeting value, attendee interaction, and ROI.
A majority of planners are increasing the elements of volunteerism and charity at their meetings and events, in part simply because "it's the right thing to do," according to a recent M&C Research survey. Among other reasons cited most by the 114 respondents: Such activities boost participants' morale (48 percent), they often are part of a broader company initiative (38 percent), and attendees specifically request charitable agenda items (24 percent). Just 32 percent have no plans to increase volunteer activities at their meetings.
More than one-third (35 percent) of survey respondents would add a charitable element to meetings even if doing so increased their costs. See the Plan Ahead Events position on CSR on the home page of our web site.
A study released by the Kyoto Convention Bureau found that at least 10 minutes of meditation before a meeting can significantly improve event efficiency, boosting retention of taught information by an average of 12.5 percent overall, and by up to 117 percent for a single learning task.
According to Rev. Matsuyama, a Zen Buddhist priest who assisted the Kyoto Convention Bureau with its research. "People who come to attend seminars and meetings are often under pressure and tired either because of long journeys or work-based stress. If they are to take on-board new information, they must first make room for it. Simple meditation exercises can make all the difference. Enter the meeting in a calm state of mind; take a few deep breaths. The difference is profound and it can also have a brilliant effect in bringing out a lot of positive energy in you."
Memory, language, comprehension and listening exercises were performed by a group of 20 on two occasions, separated by 12 days. A task-completion improvement of 12.5 percent was found with delegates when they performed a 10-minute meditation exercise in advance of the session, versus the session preceded by no such preparation.
James Kent of the Kyoto Convention Bureau believes it’s likely that future meetings and events will include some form of meditation. “The findings of the survey are simply astonishing," Kent said. "Japan has traditionally been known for meditation, and we are very happy to have some of the finest schools of meditation and teachers here."
According to Kent, the Kyoto Convention Bureau is starting a pro-meditation campaign based on its findings. " Despite the challenges Japan is facing, we are so convinced by the research that we are starting a campaign to persuade organizers around the world to take up the use of meditation. Above all, these simple five- to 10-minute meditation exercises are not meant to take time away from people's work — but to help them be more successful at their jobs."
Exhibits at trade shows are a strange breed. The best spots generally go to companies who have long track records for exhibiting at the show. Frequently these are not only premium floor placements but also the larger exhibits. So what's a first time exhibitor to do when you're stuck in a less than desireable spot, can't afford a mega-booth and need to make contact with attendees? The answer is promote, promote, promote your presence in advance. Think about it: the average trade show attendee doesn't know that space 2301 is a less desirable space than 231--or vice versa, depending on the hall. Before the show, the trade show is an even playing field. Create social media buzz before the show opens; social media, for all we hear about it, requires work but little cash outlay. Create a special e-newsletter to send to clients and prospects that are already in your data base, and if show management has captured pre-registration email contacts, the value of that list is definitely worth whatever the price.Get on the phone and call hot prospects or people you certainly wish to see at the show. Even if you leave a well-scripted voice mail message, you are raising awareness. Consider spending the money on a 'room drop'--a special invitation delivered directly to attendees' hotel rooms. There are many ways to connect before the show that are only limited by your imagination!
Part of the event experience is getting something to reinforce the event itself and its message and to make the experience memorable. This year at the Advertising Specialties Impressions (ASI) Power Summit, the results of a study were released that included 3,332 completed surveys among business people in the U.S. Canada, Australia and Great Britain.
The survey showed that the most popular owned giveaway is a writing instrument, followed by shirts, calendars and bags. After that, there is a significant drop, and the next four are caps and headwear; desk, office and business accessories, food items, and glassware/ceramics, a category which includes mugs. Near the bottom of the survey, we find health and safety products, jackets (hoodies, sweatshirts, fleece included), electronics/computer (probably ranking lower because not frequently given away)and recognition awards, such as trophies and plaques. Automotive, again not a frequent giveaway, was last on the list.
The survey found that writing instruments are most frequently used after the event, while bags and wearing apparel have a high number of contacts beyond the person who received the item.
"Our 2010 study once again proves the undeniable power of promotional products," said ASI President and CEO Timothy M. Andrews. "It's important to note that the pass-along rate has actually increased 11 points from just two years ago — which speaks directly to the global recycling trend. Not only do ad specialties make impressions on everyone who sees them, but messaging is reinforced every time the item is used. Even smaller companies can deliver the kind of high-impact punch enjoyed by multi-million-dollar companies.”
For event planners, this information is valuable in helping not only to create a memorable event but also to create a budget. Also, according to the study, “These statistics show marketers get a more favorable return on investment from advertising specialties than almost any other popular media, with a very low cost per impression, high recall among those who receive ad specialty items, and increased intent among recipients to make purchases from the advertiser.”