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5 Easy Ways to Measure Event Success

Posted on Wed, May 13, 2015 @ 13:05 PM

For just about anyone with a job and some accountability, there exist some measurement parameters to gauge how they are doing and push them to achieve more.

In the events world, the factors measured might be a simple as total attendance or revenues versus expenses. Or, it could be as complex as weighing a number of metrics, from customer satisfaction surveys to continuing education credits awarded to participant’s demonstration of knowledge gained.

For event planners juggling multiple responsibilities, the goal of any measurement initiative should find a balance between gauging ROI and the amount of time and resources necessary to conduct the analysis.

Here are five not-so-time-consuming methods of measuring the success of your events. And, amazingly enough, many of them can be generated using your complete registration management system.

1. Financialspiggy_bank_event_budget
With very few exceptions (one being your event is free), the bean counters in the organization would like for your programs and events to bring in more money than they cost. Your mission as an event planner is to create a budget, stick to it, and market your event to increase attendance so that ultimately, revenues outpace expenses.

There are a gazillion resources out there to help you pull this off efficiently (plus tips on what not to do), and some registration software even includes a budgeting component and financial reporting to help you better manage the monetary side of event administration.

2. Registrations
If you offer multiple events each year, one of the simplest and easiest forms of measurement to track is your registration or attendance numbers. That data – typically available in your registration software – will allow you to make comparisons year-over-year, month-over-month or even week-over-week. You can break it down by event, by a series of events or by total events to get a great picture of how participation in your program is tracking.

You can combine that data with the relevant marketing efforts over specific periods of time for specific events to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to attracting participants.

3. Customer Satisfaction
Evaluation tools built into the better registration software systems will allow you to survey your event participants to assess their thoughts about your event(s). You can ask virtually any question you want to get the data you need, and if you keep your evaluations consistent year-over-year, you can gauge how customer satisfaction is trending over time.

A number of large organizations use what’s called the Net Promoter Score (NPS), an industry standard of sorts that uses a 0-10 scale to divide every company’s customers into three groups: detractors (0-6), passives (7-8) and promoters (9-10). So, if you were to ask a customer how likely they are to recommend your event to a friend or colleague, a mark from 0-6 would indicate that individual is a detractor, an unhappy customer who might damage your brand via negative word-of-mouth. A mark of 7 or 8 indicates a “passive,” a satisfied but unenthusiastic customer vulnerable to competitive offerings. A 9 or 10 indicates a loyal enthusiastic who will keep buying and refer others.

4. “Buzz” – placements in media and social media
lady_bullhorn_social_mediaFor some events, media placements and social media “likes,” “tweets,” comments, etc. are measures of the “buzz” created, which is one gauge of the effectiveness of related marketing efforts. For some organizations and occasions, events are used more as a marketing tool (e.g., a grand opening), so media and social media impact are important indicators of awareness created.

Tracking media hits is as easy as a Google search, and every social media platform has built-in tools that measure activity. This type of data is never more than a couple of clicks away.

5. Training Assessment
For those involved in training and professional development, your offerings’ true value often boils down to the learnings imparted to attendees. Without getting into the Kirkpatrick/Phillips model of evaluating learning levels, note that you can use the same evaluation tools used to gauge customer satisfaction to get a quick assessment of how well participants retained what was taught at the event.

Again, good registration software offers tools to create just about any form of question, from multiple choice to fill in the blanks to a text box for a detailed response.

Those are five relatively easy ways to measure your events and hopefully show great results and a return on investment for your organization. What other metrics do you use to measure success? Please share your ideas or thoughts about this article in the Comments section on our blog page. 

If you would like to know more about measuring event ROI and using registration software to do so – or just want to know more about ABC Signup or registration software in general – contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, event planning, event marketing, ABC Signup

April Showers, Do I Need May Flowers?

Posted on Tue, May 12, 2015 @ 17:05 PM

Yellow roses mean “friendship” and red roses mean “love” (or in pop-culture, “sorry”). That’s the extent of floral knowledge for many men, which means males in event planning should get to know a florist.

If you defy the stereotype, or happen to be of the fairer gender and know your way around a botanical garden, then perhaps you can order those centerpieces for the annual meeting or decorative arrangements around the podium for the speaker series.

flower_photoThere are still many potential pitfalls in incorporating flowers into your events – some of which you may not be aware of. Take this quiz to see if you’ve got the flower power necessary for selecting flora to enhance your event’s experience.

1. Give a reason why you wouldn’t use a flower like a hyacinth as a centerpiece at a dinner event.
A. Hyacinths attract bugs.
B. Hyacinths have a strong scent, which doesn’t mesh well with a palate trying to enjoy food.
C. Hyacinths block everyone’s view.
D. Hyacinths aren’t edible and people at dinners always assume they can eat the centerpiece.

2. Name the official flower of your state.

3. Why order flowers a few days in advance of your event?
A. Ordering a few days in advance makes it more likely they will be in bloom when you receive them, and it allows the buyer to make sure the provider has them available.
B. Ordering flowers a few days in advance gives you the opportunity to use them multiple times, even for non-event purposes like impressing your special friend.
C. Ordering flowers in advance will definitely get you the early-bird special.
D. Ordering flowers in advance gives the florist time to hand-pick the flowers from the meadows in the country.

4. What are two reasons to check with your venue (especially if it is outside of your organization’s facility) regarding floral arrangements?
A. They may have a contract with a floral vendor or they may have restrictions/may not allow flowers.
B. The owner may be allergic to flowers and not a plant person.
C. The venue is located between rival gangs of bees and bringing flowers in may start a turf war.
D. The venue is a women’s club and only mums are allowed in.

5. What is the effect of room temperature on flowers?
A. It doesn’t really matter – some flowers while indoors (looking at you, pansies) only want to soil themselves.
B. Warmer environments help flowers bloom while cooler environments delay the petal opening process.
C. Flowers can’t tell the temperature – they can’t even read a thermometer.
D. Flowers only like it hot if it is a dry heat.

6. What country is the largest exporter of flowers?
A. USA
B. China
C. Netherlands
D. Wisteria

7. Why place flowers like lilies far away from attendees?
A. Some lilies are carnivorous.
B. They can drop pollen which can stain clothes, so a little distance is recommended.
C. The scent of a lily is an aphrodisiac which can be very disruptive in an event setting.
D. Some lilies can attach themselves to human organs, hence the expression lily-livered.

8. What is the flower of your birth month?

9. Why order flowers in season?
A. It is generally less expensive when flowers are in-season and better for the environment.
B. It shows that you are a flower hipster and even know that they have a season.
C. Exactly. Ordering them out of season makes them more rare and special.
D. Because they taste better in season.

10. This flower’s meaning is “remember me forever.”
A. Carnivorous lily.
B. Black-eyed Susan
C. Iris
D. Forget-me-not

The answers are 1.B; 2.A; 3.state flowers; 4.A; 5.B; 6.C; 7.B; 8.birth month flowers; 9.A; 10.D.

Congratulations if you aced the test. But, if you are going to have flowers at your event, we’d still recommend you work with a florist to nip any problems in the bud.

If you would like to know more about flowers, use Google. If you would like to know more about ABC Signup and registration software, contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email at your convenience.

Topics: event planning

11 Mostly Quick Sources for Cultivating Ideas

Posted on Thu, May 07, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

Anyone who’s racked their brain trying to come up with the perfect annual meeting theme, sought to refresh a training program or hit a wall formulating an interesting blog topic knows that new ideas don’t grow on trees.

Brain-BulbSometimes, we need a little bit of help. And almost all of the time, two minds are better than one, so broadening the idea funnel is typically a good idea. But who has the time, right?

You do, especially if you go about your idea cultivation in a speedy manner using any and all of the following 11 resources.

Twitter feeds
One view of Twitter is that it is the desired medium for vain people who like to talk about themselves – maybe tell the world whose dress they just spilled caviar on, in 140 characters or less. A more enlightened view for those who want to actually put the tool to work for them is that Twitter is an extremely efficient news (and idea) aggregator, bringing the latest right to your fingertips. All one has to do is set up a Twitter account and use the Search function to plug in topics relevant to you and your idea search, e.g., #eventprofs, #eventsmanagement, #professionaldevelopment, #workforcedevelopment, etc.

Social Media bookmarks
Similar to following Twitter, you should also bookmark (or sign up for email distribution for) blogs and online publications associated with your industry or profession. It’s not only a great way to keep current with the latest trends and best practices, it’s also typically a good resource for cherry-picking ideas that can help you improve what you do.

Google search
The default answer to almost any question is “look it up on Google,” and that response has merit when you are searching for ideas. Type in something like “corporate training venues in [location]” and you might discover awesome digs for your next event. The same goes for presentation tips, catering, learning platforms, registration software and much more.

Customers
The best organizations constantly solicit feedback and ideas from the folks whose opinion matters the most, their customers. Use surveys, evaluations, phone calls and just casual conversations to pick your customers' brains as a means to find ways to deliver a better product or service.

Co-workers
Without getting into “silos” and confining corporate cultures, suffice it to say that an oft-neglected resource is your co-workers. Even if they don’t specialize in what you do, they may have great ideas borne out of past work experience, outside-of-the-office experience or maybe just something they’ve read. 

Friends and family
Like your co-workers, friends and family can be a great resource for ideas, and asking them not only empowers them to be of assistance, but also gives you something else to talk about besides cousin Nickie’s odd new significant other.

Peers
One of the best sources for ideas is people who do what you do but aren’t in competition. You can build relationships with such individuals through professional associations or just create your own private “roundtable” of experts to bounce ideas off. Those who are proficient at what they do never seem to have difficulty sharing what works for them.

Competitors
You shouldn’t expect to get a lot from a competitor by calling them and asking for ideas, but you can gain useful intel monitoring what they do by perusing their website, social media and news releases. Not only is this a good source for ideas, but the information garnered can help you with essentials like pricing and marketing.

Associations, trades
Associations and trade groups are the gathering point for peers and competitors, and a breeding ground for the latest best practices and ideas. Sometimes what you’ll “discover” is just today’s “pet rock;” other times it will be a lasting practice that will forever elevate what you do.

Experience as a participant/customer
They say experience is the best teacher, and that applies to experiencing the customer-experience end of what you do. Try out what you do, but as a customer. If that’s too awkward, go experience something similar put on by a competitor or peer.

Books
Okay, the headline of this article says “mostly quick,” and this is the reason for the qualifier. Books aren’t quick. But, often times the best ideas are curated in books, with only bits and pieces revealed to encourage purchases. To get the best practices, the case studies, the awesome ideas of the best in the business – you have to read the book.

That’s just short of a dozen resources for ideas to help you do what you do better. What did we miss? Where do you find your ideas? GEt us to an even dozen, or even a baker's dozen, by using the Comments section below to share your thoughts on cultivating ideas.

If you want to know more about where we get our ideas – or just want additional information on ABC Signup and registration software – contact us at your convenience by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, ABC Signup, ideas

6 Discounts That Can Drive Event Attendance

Posted on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 @ 09:04 AM

You needn’t look further than Black Friday, Amazon’s Gold Box promotions or January white sales to know that discounts drive sales. Your event, assuming it has a cost, is a sale. Do you use discounts to promote it and maximize attendance?

Good registration software provides multiple options to create special offers meant to drive your volume of attendees or how quickly you attain them or even who you sign up. Here are six types of discounts proven to boost attendance – and more.

Early-bird discountsearly_bird_discount_image
One of the most popular discounts for programs and events creates one or several price breaks based upon arbitrary (ideally, well-publicized) registration deadlines. This, in turn, fosters a sense of urgency among potential event attendees, many of whom might value the benefit of attending an event for less cost in exchange for an earlier commitment.

These deadline-sensitive discounts not only can increase attendance, but most event planners greatly appreciate getting registration revenues as early as possible. In addition, having a large number of early registrations can be used to further market the event with pitches extolling how many have already signed up or expressing that a limited amount of openings are still available.

Group discounts
Another common event discount, group discounts, provides a price break based upon the number of attendees signing up from an organization, family or some other grouping. It could be a parent signing up four siblings for the price of three at a summer camp, or an office manager getting a discount for registering 10 employees to a conference.

Similar to volume discounts in retail, this discount makes the buyer feel they are getting a deal by purchasing in larger quantities. The event fills seats faster, with potentially happier attendees.

Series discount
If you provide multiple events, an effective way of offering a discount is to package them as a series and make the total price of all events for those buying the series reflect a lower price per event. If each of your series of five events cost $25 apiece, for instance, you might offer the entire series for $100. A variation might market buying the first four events and getting the fifth one for free.

Again, the benefit of this kind of a discount is delivering a value-added deal to your customers while you boost attendance and get revenues much earlier than just prior to each event. It can also increase attendance at one of the traditionally less popular events that becomes part of the series package.

Special code discount
Who hasn’t typed in a special code to get some sort of discount online? In the event world, it could be tied with other discounts, like those mentioned above, or it could simply give the registrant X% or $X off of the regular price of attendance.

The beauty of special codes is that they are tangible, kind of like finding a Willy Wonka bar with the golden ticket. Event planners use various marketing tools (e.g., email, direct mail, social media) to get the codes in front of prospective attendees, and the select recipients feel valued, even special, and often compelled to give the event a closer look.

Specified segment discount
An effective discount, albeit targeted, offers a price break or something else of value to special segments of the event’s prospective attendees, such as students, senior citizens, members of the military or veterans.

These discounts might help you reach a demographic your event struggles to attract. They might simply give a discount to someone who needs it or has earned it. They certainly will build goodwill with the segments you target, and in many cases, even with attendees who don’t receive the discount.

Member discounts
Most organizations with a membership component offer discounts to their members attending their events. This not only encourages attendance from the members, it encourages others with an interest in the events to become members. The beauty of member discounts is that on occasion, to drive participation of non-members (perhaps as a means to influence them to join), the organization can offer an event with special “member pricing” for non-members, sort of a non-discount discount.

Those represent six of the more prevalent, more effective discounts used by events to encourage registrations. Now the zinger – many events combine multiple discounts to promote attendance. Be warned, though – while some registration systems can support combining more than one of these discounts, most cannot.

Use the Comments section below to share your thoughts on event discounts, including what works for you and what doesn't, plus any other tips you might have on the topic.

If you would like to know more about event discounts, registration software or ABC Signup, please send us an always-free email or give us a call, toll-free at 866.791.8268 ext. 0.

Topics: registration software, event marketing, event registration, ABC Signup

Taking a Program or Event ‘Virtual’

Posted on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 14:04 PM

Maybe your event or program is so popular that corporate wants to take it nationwide – but without cloning eight of you. Maybe you’re simply looking for a cheaper way to reach more people, more quickly with a more consistent message. Perhaps your targeted workforce or attendees are mobile, demanding some sort of off-site offering, but in several sites at once.

virtual_programWhatever the reason, more and more programs and events today are going fully virtual, or have a virtual component to expand their reach and accessibility.

That poses significant challenges to individuals and departments accustomed to delivering traditional, location-based events or programs. Specifically, what technology platform do you use to present the content, and how do you repurpose content to fit this system of delivery, look good on the devices it will be viewed on, and leverage the technical tools available?

So, what are my delivery options?
When it comes to delivery platforms for virtual programs, the options are practically endless. Larger companies can access tools provided by their network communications provider or even use their internal tools to deliver programs to their associates’ desktops. Smaller organizations might simply leverage free tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to broadcast content directly to their audience.

Somewhere in the middle falls the webinar, the most common delivery method used today for virtual programs and events. The market offers a myriad of webinar and conferencing tools, and finding a provider that fits your needs shouldn’t be too difficult.

A quick search will reveal a nice features grid and pretty comprehensive reviews of 10 providers on toptenreviews.com (click “sort by standard rankings” to see their picks). You might also want to visit Capterra’s directory of providers, where you will find a lot of customer reviews. And if you want to see one individual’s testing of various providers, go to wpcurve.com.

Information that might help you pair with the right provider is your expected audience size for each webinar; how many webinars you intend to conduct; how many licenses you will need; and possibly, can you integrate it with your registration software. You might also seek some desirable features (easy to use, nice interface, works on mobile, allows screen markups, provides chat/other interactivity, etc.), some of which will become clearer once you’ve developed your virtual content.

What’s so tricky about creating virtual content?
Creating content for a virtual platform is as easy as streaming your program or presenting that same presentation on screen but sharing it through the webinar tool, right?

Wrong.

According to Learning Solutions Magazine, “simply moving the content and lecture portions to an electronic means of delivery is what leads to eLearning at its worst: slide after slide of bulleted information and loss of engaging activities and the contributions of individual instructors.”

They suggest looking for ways to capture what a good instructor brings to the classroom, such as responsiveness, interesting stories and examples, a sense of humor and immediate feedback.

To accomplish this, content needs to be repackaged into smaller pieces (perhaps as a PDF or PowerPoint), delivered in short segments and interspersed with questions to promote interactivity says speaker, writer and training consultant Cathy Moore. She suggests that presenters leverage webinar technology like “chat” to further promote participation and make the session more of an activity than a presentation.

“This one change – your commitment to ask a ton of thought-provoking, open-ended questions – means that you’ll design a series of mini-activities instead of an information dump. Your participants will stay with you, thinking and participating, instead of clicking away to plan their Bali trip while you talk to an empty room.”

This SHIFT blog maps out five steps for converting classroom instruction into an eLearning course where webinars are just one means of distribution. Readytalk.com offers additional and insightful best practices pre-event, during the event, and post-event, guiding you through content preparation, engaging delivery and follow-through to get the most out of your program. They give common sense advice – like designing your program for your audience – but also provide tips on webinar promotion, ideas for interactivity and ways to get value from the recorded event.

Here are some of the better content tips picked up from these and other sources:

  • After welcoming attendees, explain how the technology works – including how (and when) to ask a question or participate in a poll – and what you intend to cover.
  • Make any handouts available at the beginning or shortly before the presentation, so participants can use it to take notes.
  • Stop talking and listen on occasion (explain why so it doesn’t feel awkward to participants) to catch up with chat and respond to it.
  • If you’re recording the session and the chat won’t be recorded, read chat items aloud so the recording makes sense to someone who wasn’t there. Just as you do when presenting to a big group, repeat the question aloud before you answer it.
  • Share applications or your desktop as a good way to engage attendees. Rather than show a screen shot of a website via PDF or PowerPoint, go to the website and navigate through the content you are discussing.
  • Use slides to illustrate your points but don’t simply read content from the deck.
  • Conduct a post-event meeting for all the presenters, to get feedback on their experience of the technology, the content and the audience reaction. Keep track of what worked and what didn’t.
  • Within 24 hours, provide attendees with any materials you offered, such as whitepapers, the event recording or a copy of the presentation.

What additional tips do you have? If you or your programs are already being presented in a virtual format, please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts on this article as well as any best practices or ideas that work well for you.

If you would like to know more about the value of having registration software that integrates with webinars – or just want to know more about ABC Signup or registration software in general – contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, elearning, ABC Signup, webinars

Is Your Training Ready to Get in the Game?

Posted on Thu, Apr 09, 2015 @ 14:04 PM

One of those “next big things” in training – “Gamification” – is here. It hasn’t yet turned learning on its head, but companies are getting results using game-based mechanics and aesthetics to engage people, motivate action, solve problems and promote learning.

gamification_chalkboardM2 Research estimates that by 2016, the market for tools, services and applications related to the deployment of gamified strategies will reach $2.8 billion. Learning platforms such as Axonify, Badgeville and Bunchball today help organizations present course material in a game-like environment that uses animation, simulation and storyline frameworks.

“2015 will be the year gamification inside the workplace migrates from a few isolated pilots to a new way to engage and recognize high performing employees,” wrote author and workplace consultant Jeanne Meister in a recent article in Forbes.

It hasn’t been the easiest sell. In corporate America, the executive suite often viewed game-based learning as employees wasting time playing Halo on an X-box.

“A few years ago, people couldn’t say the word ‘game’ because it was a four-letter word. But now that we’ve added ‘ification’ to it, it seems to be okay.” Karl Kapp, author, consultant and professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University.

Kapp recently presented a webinar on gamification, detailing how elements such as leaderboards, badges and prizes combine with game mechanics – a challenge, a competition, fun and engagement – to motivate participants to take part in the exercise. While working toward recognition, status and even achievement in a game-based platform, participants gain knowledge, retain learnings and even make behavioral changes.

Plenty of case studies provide evidence of gamification’s effectiveness.

  • Walmart began using gamification two years ago to deliver safety training for 5,000 associates in eight Walmart distribution centers, resulting in a 54% decrease in incidents.
  • Blue Shield of California used gamification to drive its wellness program, delivering an 80% employee participation rate in at least one wellness program, a reduction in hypertension by two-thirds, a decline in smoking of 50% and an increase in physical activity of 50%.
  • Xerox uses an app called Qstream (similar to the popular trivia game, Trivia Crack) to instill best practices in employees who are on the go and too busy for formal training seminars. More than 94% of Xerox sales people participate in the Qstream games.

Gamification is similar to any training, according to Kapp, in that it should have specific goals – an area of strategic value (e.g., increase product knowledge), a target group (e.g. sales associates), targeted behaviors, a purpose and defined success. The end product is based upon content that will achieve those goals in a format that pushes the buttons of the targeted audience.

The experts who design gamification typically build the programs with four key components: a story, a strategy, a score and support. The story encompasses the message, why it’s important and how it will be used. The strategy covers what the participant will do and how it will impart learning. The score will give status, achievement, instant feedback and measurement. Support makes sure the learner knows what to do in the activity and knows how to access additional tools, if necessary.

In TD Magazine’s excellent primer on gamification, they provide outstanding resources to help just about anyone get started, from presentations like “Gamification – Defining, Designing and Using It” and “Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right” to TED talks such as “Gaming Can Make a Better World.”

Gamification isn’t just adding badges or rewards to existing training. Headlines from the research firm Gartner illustrated that ill-conceived efforts at gamification might have been partially responsible for the "next big thing in training’s" delayed arrival.

"By 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes." Gartner 2011

"80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design." Gartner 2012

To get it right, Meister suggests applying these three lessons to drive engagement and results:

  1. Think strategy first, identifying specific business objectives you are trying to achieve with gamification.
  2. Understand what motivates your employees, as gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology.
  3. Engage employees at the emotional level, so that they aren’t just earning points, they are learning “points.”

So, what do you think? Is your organization deploying gamification in its training efforts? How is it working? Or, if you are on the receiving end, how do you like it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

If, on the other hand, you simply want information on how ABC Signup and its complete registration software can bolster your training programs, give us a call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or shoot us an email.

Topics: gamification, registration software, ABC Signup

March Sadness

Posted on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

By the end of the first week in April, 349 of the 351 men’s division I NCAA basketball teams will have lost their final game, and one of those two final-game winners will be the mostly irrelevant NIT champion. So basically, there will be one champion – the winner of the NCAA – and everybody else.

cuttingNETAs of this weekend’s games, we know that the champion will not be an ABC Signup customer. Our last hope, the University of Louisville, fell in the Elite 8. Other ABC Signup customers whose NCAA runs fell short included Maryland, University of Texas, University of North Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Congratulations on great seasons, and thanks for being great customers. For the record, you guys are all winners, always welcome in our brackets, and we will continue to team with you in taking the madness out of March – or any month – when it comes to your registration management challenges.

Topics: ABC Signup

When to Tell Them to Turn Off Their Phones

Posted on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

Most people accept the discomfort of not using their cell phones in certain settings.

kidoncellphoneinclassTake airplanes, for starters – it’s typically “airplane mode” or nothing (Alec Baldwin excepted). Phones are also mostly taboo during church services, at funeral home visitations and in many libraries. And certainly, phones aren’t allowed at the dinner table (that one either gets a laugh or an “amen.”)

Phone usage also needs to be restricted at some events. It’s an uncomfortable but at times necessary "ask." You want to accommodate your customers and don’t want to limit their tether to the outside world, but on occasion you have to say no.

When and why would I ever do that, you ask?

1. When attendees phones are disruptive to other attendees.
Few things can take the wind out of a keynote speaker’s sails than the occasional goofy ringtones or beeps from attendees’ cell phones. This goes for just about any presentation or remarks.

An audible dripping sound, reverb from the sound system, construction noises outside or sneezing from the person directly behind you might come close, but those are much less under the event manager’s control.

Similarly, if the program involves work groups, workshops, breakout sessions and the like, an attendee on the phone is at best, annoying. The room might be engaged in a team-like exercise and someone put himself or herself above the others by taking a call or responding to a text.

Make the rules clear with regards to phones and establish breaks when phones can be used. We are all on call – that’s what silent mode if for, and that’s why rooms have exits.

2. When allowing phone access allows pirating of your content.
You probably haven’t given this much thought, but you should. If your event covers anything proprietary, your content could be shared live via an attendee’s cell phone to the rest of the world. Apps like Meerkat or Twitter’s Periscope turn phones into video cameras broadcasting live to the Internet. (Side tip: these apps are exploding but use tons of data, so buy stock in companies that sell data plans.)

tipstosilencephonesIf your event costs money to attend, it probably wouldn’t be in your best interest to share it for free with anyone with an Internet connection (yes, you can make a promotional case to the contrary). If your content is private or exclusive, again, it would be wise to communicate and enforce no cell phone and no recording or broadcasting rules.

It’s kind of like when you go to a concert and they ask you not to record the event. Okay, maybe that’s a bad analogy (because concert-goers do it anyway).

3. When having a phone enables cheating.
Two fast thumbs, a cell phone and access to Google can make a lot of people Jeopardy-smart. But if your program or event involves training and a testing component to measure what’s learned, you don’t want answers coming from cell phones instead of lessons learned.

Unless your testing is open book, make the rules very clear about cell phones.

4. When your event staff uses their phones for non-event purposes.
Nothing screams lousy customer service than the support folks chatting up “sweetie” or playing Trivia Crack against each other. Unless cell phone communications are critical to an associate’s role in supporting the event, employee or event staff cell phones should be out of sight.

5. When your speaker, phone in hand, is presenting.
Often, the speaker is paramount to the event – the reason for being there for so many attendees. You don’t want them to “phone it in,” right?

Pa-dum-dum. We’re here all week.

To be serious, can you think of other times when event planners and program administrators need to deliver a phones-off edict? And how do you go about politely handling phone restrictions at your events? Please share your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section below.

As always, if you have questions about registration software or ABC Signup, please email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, event planning, ABC Signup

7 Training Resources To Sharpen Your Game

Posted on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 @ 11:03 AM

glasspencilsharpenerOnce upon a time, we learned how to do things better through a slow-drip of knowledge availed by resources like libraries, bookstores and conferences. Today, we quench that thirst almost instantaneously through the Gatorade of ideas that is the Internet.

Need to know the most recent changes to the tax code? Google it. Want to improve your skills with your registration software? Watch a video via YouTube or Vimeo. Searching for market research? Find SEC filings on companies, industry-specific data and much more online. Even when you need a book on the subject, you can typically find it, buy it and instantly view it on your tablet or other digital device, thanks to the Internet.

If you know where to look, answers are usually a click away. In the training industry, there are several great online resources for gaining knowledge and insights. We list seven of them here – resources we feel might be useful to you and your programs.

Take a look, and use the Comments section below the article to add your thoughts or recommendations of additional websites, organizations and other Internet resources that you find beneficial.

Trainingindustry.com
TrainingIndustry.com “spotlights the latest news, articles, case studies and best practices within the training industry,” per its website. “Our focus is on helping dedicated business and training professionals get the information, insight and tools needed to more effectively manage the business of learning.”

What you will find:
Numerous publications – from its quarterly magazine to research to more than a dozen categories of blogs – fill the training industry site with informative, cutting edge content. Staff, subject matter experts and third party research cover the latest trends, provide white papers and case studies on best practices, and share insights in areas such as leadership, workforce development and learning technologies

This content is free to access, and other learnings are offered for free via webinars and seminars, frequently published “Top 20” lists and a menu of resources that includes information on industry conferences, training opportunities, a supplier directory and much more. Trainingindustry.com also presents an annual conference, the Training Industry Conference and Exposition (TICE).

Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD)
The Association for Talent Development (ATD), formerly ASTD, is “the world’s largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. These professionals help others achieve their full potential by improving their knowledge, skills, and abilities. ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD supports the work of professionals locally in more than 125 chapters, international strategic partners, and global member networks.”

What you will find:
ATD offers a library of publications related to talent development, from the latest books on the subject to its TD Magazine to research reports, newsletters, blogs and more. Most of these publications are a benefit of membership in the organization, which starts at $229 per year.

ATD also presents several conferences, trainings, workshops and other events typically geared toward training the trainer. Perhaps ATD’s core value to its members is its education programs, offered across the country and world. These courses cover a wide variety of learning and development related topics, and can lead to various ATD certifications as well as the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation.

That’s not all. ATD provides webcasts, a job bank, awards programs, mobile apps, a buyers’ guide, enterprise solutions such as on-site education and much, much more.

International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET)
IACET’s mission is “to advance the global workforce by providing the standard framework for quality learning and development through accreditation. Our history includes development of the original Continuing Education Unit (CEU) and creation and maintenance of the ANSI/IACET Standard for Continuing Education and Training.”

What you will find:
IACET is all about maintaining consistency and high standards for any training that awards CEUs, the learning benchmark it created in 1970. Its focus, therefore, is ensuring that organizations offering CEU programs are accredited to do so by meeting IACET standards.

As a resource, pretty much everything you will find at IACET – from its publications to membership to workshops, webinars and blogs – is related to CEU programs and attaining and maintaining accreditation to offer them.

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is "the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates."

What you will find:
SHRM focuses on the broader world of HR, a chunk of which pertains to personnel development. It offers education and certification programs for HR professionals, a variety of publications, research and major conferences across the globe.

One of the great values of the SHRM site is the information it provides on everyday topics and challenges for HR professionals, from details on “trending” topics to its various “communities” discussion boards to its “HR Answers” section.

SHRM is membership based, so many of its offerings are available to members only. Membership starts at $190 per year, or $95 for an Internet-only membership.

HR.com
Similar to SHRM but with more of a social twist is HR.com, where you can “meet, network, share and learn from over 200,000 of your peers,” per HR.com. “As the largest social network and online community of HR executives, we provide thousands of worldwide HR Professionals and Suppliers with easy access to shared knowledge on best practices, trends and industry news in order to help them develop their most important asset – their people.”

What you will find:
HR.com offers training programs that lead to HR certifications; topical webcasts, virtual conferences and other live online events; and a number of electronic publications on specific subject areas pertinent to HR. The site’s many, many “communities” (e.g., technology enabled learning, training and development, onboarding, compensation, etc.) tie together blogs from subject matter experts, webcasts, virtual events and discussion boards to inform and engage users. Signing up for access to this content is free.

American Management Association (AMA)
AMA offers a comprehensive portfolio of leading-edge professional development and management training courses in 24 subject areas. 

What you will find:
Visit the AMA site and you will find an array of training programs for individuals, organizations and government agencies. Resources include webinars, books, podcasts, articles, white papers, seminars and online training.

Most of the resources are available to AMA members only. Individual membership is $250 per year, but there are specific membership packages for students, corporate, small business and e-membership.

The eLearning Guild
The eLearning Guild is “the oldest and most trusted source of information, networking, and community for eLearning professionals. As a member-driven organization, the Guild produces conferences, online events, online and blended training courses, eBooks, white papers, research reports, and Learning Solutions Magazine – all devoted to the idea that the people who know the most about making eLearning successful are the people who produce eLearning every day in corporate, government, and academic settings. Our goal is to create a place where eLearning professionals can share their knowledge, expertise, and ideas to build a better industry – and better learning experiences – for everyone.”

What you will find:
The Guild site features educational content such as articles and reports, a job board, events (including several Guild conferences), information on membership, and an entire section of courses, registration info and private training opportunities that comprise The eLearning Guild Academy.

The organization currently boasts more than 70,000 members. Membership ($99 annually) gives an individual full access to site materials plus a 20% discount on Guild conferences, online forums and Guild Academy live online learning.

That’s seven of many, many good resources. We could continue the list to include online publications such as Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Training Magazine, Chief Learning Officer magazine and more; distance learning organizations such as the Federal Government Distance Learning Association (FGDLA) and the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA); or third party training providers such as SkillPath. We could easily include a number of great education-specific resources we showcased in this education resources blog.

We will leave any additional listings to you. As requested above, we’d greatly appreciate your input on some of the Internet-based resources that make your life easier or your end-product better as a HR person or administer of training programs, continuing education, professional development, etc. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

If you want to know more about ABC Signup and our complete registration management system, send us an email or contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, Training, ABC Signup

Change Mindsets from ‘Required to Attend’ to ‘Want to Attend’

Posted on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 13:03 PM

Many ABC Signup-powered events – from childcare certifications to professional development to continuing education programs – require mandatory participation. Completion of the course or training is simply a requirement of the profession, organization, regulatory body, etc.

image of a smiley face in a see of frowning facesWhen applied in program and event circles, “mandatory” elicits all sorts of connotations – dry material, corporate-speak, warmed up oatmeal and so on – most of which are negative. The challenge then for administrators is to change the typically jaded, have-to-attend mindset into “want to” by making the experience rewarding for all parties involved.

To help with this challenge, we conducted some research, recounted a few personal experiences, and maybe even checked to see what some of our customers do. We arrived at the seven suggestions below. Take a look. Maybe even try a few out. And feel free to offer your critique, compliments or additional suggestions in the Comments section that follows the article.

Try these tips to make the mandatory feel more voluntary:

1. Improve the content
Sure, this is a no brainer. It’s also easier said than done. But to make mandatory programs engaging, the content should be relevant to participants, relatively easy to understand and compelling. Be creative. Use real-world scenarios. Add humor where possible. And don’t be boring.

In fact, be fresh. An elearningindustry.com blog advises that planners or trainers constantly update their content.

Create a framework that allows content to easily evolve and develop over time rather than repeating the same content each year. When employees see the same information over and over again, they can get lost in the course and not pay attention to what really matters.

Also, be targeted. Know your audience and craft the content toward them. Fast Company detailed how a company did this to make compliance training so spot-on participants couldn’t wait for more – literally.

Berland and his colleagues began to interview some of the company's associates, asking them about real-world "gray areas": What situations make you feel squishy? What have you seen happen in the field that gave you pause? Soon, they'd uncovered stories of ethical quandaries and anxious situations and strained relationships. It was exactly the sort of drama that was absent from the three-ring binder.

Then came their epiphany: Let's bring this drama to life. They hatched the idea to film a fictional series, modeled on The Office, that would highlight the activities of a single IT consulting engagement team.

The result was a compliance training series that enthralled employees to the point that they began seeking and finding upcoming courses on a staging site before the courses were even launched. 

2. Add action, interactivity
Getting talked at for 60 minutes – unless the speaker is a Matt Foley-type – does nothing to make a mandatory-type event more palatable. One of the easiest ways to engage participants is to actually engage them.

Ask questions and prompt participants to do the same. Give short quizzes. Encourage the sharing of ideas, experiences and information.

Many professionals pull activities from their bag of tricks (here are examples just for role playing, and here are examples of what not do to) to reinforce a teaching point. They might involve role playing, problem solving, team competitions or something else, but by fostering this kind of participation, you can’t help but engage.

3. Use a hook
If folks have to attend, at least tell what’s in it for them. Tell them why they need to take this, what they will get out of it and why it is beneficial to the organization, if applicable. And, it’s okay to sell it a bit, with a hook that maybe even gives the participants higher aspirations. Marketing is one of five tips suggested by a training industry blog to make the program more engaging.

In this excerpt from a DisplayNote blog, a learning advisor details a pretty aggressive use of a “hook.”

A colleague from another company once told me that he had promised a class that at the end of his session they would have taken the first step to becoming millionaires. This was before a short session entitled “Introduction to .NET Frameworks”, and kept everyone on task until eventually someone called him on it. The conversation went something like this:

“So, how exactly is this going to make me a millionaire?”
“Well, C# is an object-oriented language.”

“And?”
“So’s Objective-C. You can write an app and put it in the App Store. Eventually. This is step 1.”

“Oh.”

4. Throw in some fringe benefits
Everyone appreciates freebies. Some find mandatory programs acceptable only if they know they are “on the clock” while attending. Getting something for free ices the cake. So consider supplementing your program with food. Give away some corporate swag. Hold a door prize drawing for something a little nicer. Even an item as insignificant as a company pen might make attendees more receptive to and appreciative of your event.

5. Change the scenery
If the mandatory program is recurring, you probably need to freshen your content and you may want to do the same with your venue. This could entail a completely different set up of your meeting space, or new space altogether. Different environs naturally perk up the senses, which is a good thing if your program is instructive in nature.

6. Provide a certificate at completion
A certificate may seem like just a piece of paper as you print dozens of them (using your awesome ABC Signup functionality, if you are a customer), but it can mean much more to the individual completing your program. It’s physical, tangible proof of their accomplishment. It might end up posted on their Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn pages, or framed and hung next to their photo with Hulk Hogan.

7. Request ideas for future programs
This is how to make your program even more engaging next time. It is essential to find out what compelled and what didn’t in a post-event evaluation (something you can also create easily in ABC Signup). If attendees need extra motivation to provide feedback, hold the certificate above as hostage until evaluations are completed. What’s the big deal, you ask?

In his conferencesthatwork.com blog on conference evaluations, Adrian Segar writes:

“I think they’re very important – if you design them well, work hard to get a good response rate, learn from them, and integrate what you’ve learned into improving your next event.”

That’s our list of seven ways to help make participants who have to attend your functions want to attend them. Please share your tactics – or your thoughts on these ideas – in the Comments section below.

If you would like to know more about ABC Signup or our should-be-mandatory registration softwareemail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, event planning, event marketing, ABC Signup