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Promote Your Event – Call Geraldo

Posted on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Here’s a simple tip for event managers – leverage the media. Whether traditional or new, the media is still one of the easiest and most powerful tools for event promotion.

womanwnewspaperMedia placements reach a very broad contingent of your target audience. They will likely deliver more attendees, which might equate to higher revenues or more CEUs awarded or some other metric that puts a checkmark next to your event’s objectives. Also, attaining earned media can be a reputation builder for your organization and event, and likely be viewed as an affirmation of the value of your offering.

So, how do you go about placing your upcoming event details in the media? Try these four steps.

1. Identify your target audience and the publications/platforms (and their corresponding websites) that reach that audience.

Start with your daily newspaper (and its website). Consider the weekly business newspaper as well as trade publications, associations’ publications, and even community-type publications, e.g., those of local government, the chamber of commerce, and so on.

For some events, it might make sense to look at television and even radio. Does your event fit the profile of events you’ve seen or heard on those platforms?

Think about your constituents’ demographics and where they get information. Those findings may lead you to supplement your media activities with similar efforts in social media or email, direct mail, and even advertising (topics for separate blogs). From your media research, list all of those applicable resources, and move on to the next step.

2. Find the appropriate contacts at those “media outlets.”

You need to identify the persons at your target media most likely to be responsible for placing your event information. Start by zeroing in on the events calendar. In hard copy publications, you typically need to peruse page 2 or the inside of the cover to find editorial staff. On websites, browse through the “upcoming events” or “calendar” sections and see if you can find the name and contact info of the person responsible for that section. For television and radio, you’ll likely find a staff listing on their websites. Add these contacts to your list, but don’t stop there.

You also might strike gold focusing within the target media on your subject area, e.g. find the education reporter or contact if your program/organization is education-related. Sometimes the appropriate coverage area of media might decide to turn your event notice into something bigger – you never know. It doesn’t hurt, when trying to promote an event, to approach the calendar contact as well as a subject-area contact.

3. Send them your information.

Create a simple media advisory. Here’s a good sample. Be sure to cover, at a minimum, the who, what, when, where and why – and you can do it in that direct of a fashion.

To sweeten your pitch, perhaps consider teasing your contact with highlights of last year’s event, what’s new and improved about the upcoming event or the benefits of attending. You might score more points delivering it old school (by mail on letterhead), but today e-mail is probably preferred over mail or fax.

4. Follow-up with a call – or two.

If your event or program is of value to the community, you’ve got a pretty easy pitch to media who generally strive to serve the community through timely information. Call them. You want to at least secure a calendar of events listing. You might also be planting the seed for actual media coverage of the event, so be sure to be prepared to facilitate possible interviews.

Do note that most publications’ event calendars have limited space, so you might be competing with other events. The earlier you can send them your media advisory and follow-up with a call, the better your chances of getting a placement.

Two other things to consider: first, programs and events geared toward internal audiences probably don’t need media promotion; and second, if your organization has a communications department, work through them. They are there to help with these kinds of efforts, they possess expertise in media relations, and they likely have established relationships with contacts you may target.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this article and tips about getting media placement for your events, please use the Comments section below.

As always, if you’d like to know more about ABC Signup and registration software, give us a holler by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: event planning, event marketing, events

6 Ways to Make Events ‘Wow’

Posted on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 @ 13:09 PM

peoplecelebratingEvent planners manage a deep checklist of things to do, many of which their attendees will likely never notice, much less appreciate. In fact, you can almost count on one hand the aspects of events that leave a lasting impression on participants.

If you want to wow your audience, work your checklist but also strive to go above and beyond in the six components that can elevate events from the mundane to the memorable. These core elements of events stimulate the brain, senses or emotions – or all – to impress attendees and likely win their repeat business.

1. Content is king
You know the essential value of content, but we don’t want to look stupid leaving it off a list like this. Plus, maybe some of our elaboration will tickle your fancy.

What happens at the event – what is shared, what is taught, what is presented – answers the question “why” people are there in the first place. If your content answers that “why” in a manner that inspires, informs, motivates and moves, you’re cruising the fast lane to Wowsville.

Something a judge once famously said about a different type of content applies to what constitutes good event content: “You will know it when you see it.”

What content appeals to you? And how is it best presented (click for ideas)? We don’t all respond alike to various forms of content, but certain aspects – such as content that is informative, entertaining, anecdotal, research-based, presented by storytelling, etc. – strike a chord with most of us.

It’s your program – review the content and see if it moves you. If it doesn’t, what might make it more compelling?

2.  Venue is queen
When a pro athlete is traded, the inevitable cliché soon to follow is that “the change of address” might be just what the player needed to again excel. A “fresh” site can have the same impact on events.

Regardless of whether you are switching or choosing for the first time, the venue ranks up at the top of the list with content when it comes to elements that impact events. Attendees bring a baseline expectation of the meeting space, though it certainly varies by type of event (e.g., workshop versus an annual conference). Exceeding that expectation creates a positive visual and physical reference forever linked with your function.

So, how do you score with the venue? Pick something new or unique or non-traditional. Rent a suite at a sports facility in the off-season. Find space at a local museum or art center. Set up in a parking garage or airport hangar. Schedule your late October program at a location rumored to be haunted.

Upgrading or being creative with the venue might prove challenging due to budget constraints, technology needs, and even accessibility, but finding hip or interesting or stimulating or unusual environs is a tried and true method of elevating an event’s impact.

3. Technology is a dual-edged sword
Technology often creates the most memorable aspect of events, just not always in the fashion intended (e.g., those pesky audio-visual hiccups). When done correctly, technology can be an event highlight.

Sometimes the lighting or visuals or audio or special effects outshine the content and venue, and often they create a positive physical experience associated with the event. Work with a good AV team and you might realize the latter. AV pros are always seeking the next best thing, and always looking for an event where they can showcase it.

AV isn’t the only technology that can lift events. A complete registration software solution can market the event online, seamlessly sign up participants and send confirmations and reminders, track participants and payments, and facilitate evaluations of the event. That level of professionalism in just the registration process can improve your event.

In addition, mobile sites tied to the events build interest, allow for pre-event preparation, supplement event content and basically help attendees get the most out of the program. Some offer engaging features like social media and gamification to further enhance the event experience. And some of the tools used to create these mobile sites (e.g., MeetingZilla) are free!

4. Food&Beverage adds spice
In querying friends about an event, think about how early in their response they mention the quality of the food, good or bad. The food and beverage component of an event may constitute just a fraction of the itinerary, but our taste buds and stomachs carry disproportionate sway in our assessment of the function.

This is a challenge probably better left in the hands of the caterers or on-site professionals. Rely on their expertise to determine things like buffet, box or plated; portion size; balance; healthiness; and special dietary requirements. Your due diligence might involve making sure their food looks and tastes good.

Your goal first and foremost is to deliver quality food and beverage. The “above and beyond” might be in the presentation (e.g., live “chef stations” or even celebrity chefs), unique or “themed” food items (e.g., ethnic, organic, street foods), or even the cool arrangement lined up with a local food bank to make use of any extra f&b. A comprehensive guide on the topic can be found at meetingsnet.com (free registration required).

5. Activities engage
Events with exhibitors will often arrange “scavenger hunts” that encourage attendees to visit the exhibit space. It’s a simple activity that provides exhibitors with the face time they seek, but it probably won’t create any buzz from attendees.

Activities that immerse participants deeper into the content of the event engage attendees and often produce a more favorable imprint. Table activities spark group interaction and even competition. Crowd polling elicits further interaction. Graffiti boards allow for thought-provoking posts. And hands-on activities – such as building something – might reinforce the content or promote team-building

Resources abound for event planners interested in making their events more interesting with activities. You’ll find several books and articles on the subject online.

6. Customer service ices the cake
Your program or event, at its core, is a service being provided to customers. The care, convenience and comfort in the delivery of that service are typically the first and last impression your event will make.

Extraordinary customer service can push an ordinary event into a more exalted status. Make registration as convenient and effortless as possible. Keep attendees informed, and always be responsive and accessible from sign up to sign out.

At the event itself, attend the details, from aligning name tags to directing participants to their destination, break rooms, bathrooms and so on. Anticipate the unexpected (pack an event supply kit). Look for opportunities to assist. Be as enthusiastic with your thanks as you are with your welcome.

And once the event ends, pour over the feedback you’ve received and respond accordingly. If you implement some sort of change based on attendee input, let folks know. You’ll impress them even more with your desire to continually improve your offering.

The great thing about the list above is that you don’t have to absolutely ace all six to “wow” your attendees. Do several well and hit one out of the park and you’ll win a few hearts and minds.

As you plan your event and consider tactics to go the extra mile, keep in mind some very simple concepts – such as fun, surprise and spontaneity – that can serve as an undercurrent to the content, venue, technology and so on. Cleverly incorporate those concepts into the key event elements and you’ll produce events that wow – and have long waitlists.

Have some thoughts on this article? Please share them below in the Comments section.

If you would like to know more about event planning, registration software and ABC Signup, feel free to contact us anytime by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, event planning, events

Getting More Value From Evaluations

Posted on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

If asking questions that reveal beneficial answers is a fine art, some folks are finger painting when it comes to crafting useful evaluations, especially those pertaining to training programs.

First, it’s easy to trip up in just the structure of the questions asked. Think about how many open-ended questions you ask versus multiple choice, or whether your questions might be biased (e.g., “breakfast is important – how often do you eat breakfast?)? How many queries use scales inconsistent with other queries? And how many subtle variations in questions from an event one week (or month/year) to the next eliminate apples to apples data?

bw-wrenchwiredollarStructuring questions for consistency and usable data takes work, but it is essential to making evaluations meaningful. Here’s a simple guide from the government. Do note that you can craft just about any format of question using ABC Signup’s registration software.

The bigger obstacle to extracting value from evaluations is allocating the time and resources to dig past surface-level information. Several prominent surveys suggest that while at least four out of every five evaluations cover the basics as defined by level one of the Kirkpatrick/Phillips model, very few go beyond.

In the Kirkpatrick/Phillips (K/P) model – the most common practice of learning evaluation – the five levels include participant reaction (Level 1), level of learning achieved (Level 2), changes in learner behavior (Level 3), business results derived from training (Level 4), and the ROI from training (Level 5).

Level 1 assessment usually focuses on the activity of the program providers – and subsequently asks participants to rate things like the ability of trainer/presenter; the pace of training/presentations; the clarity of materials/content; and the suitability of the venue.

These types of questions – sometimes referred to in general as the “happy page” – are valuable for program and event design (to determine how happy participants were with the function) but offer little in terms of gauging the business impact of training.

In the training realm, Levels 2-5 of K/P require the real effort and art of evaluations, and generate an entirely different set of intel. These levels focus on the activity of the participants – specifically what they learned, how they put it to action and how those learnings bring value to the organization.

Questions in these levels might ask:

  • To what extent have you had the opportunity to use what you learned in your work?
  • To what extent has your line manager helped you to use what you learned?
  • How much do you feel this course has helped improve your performance at work overall?
  • How much has this course helped you improve quality/reduce costs/reduce time to complete tasks/increase sales/improve customer (and/or employee) satisfaction?
  • Please give up examples where the learning has helped to improve your performance at work.

The challenge with the learning evaluation component is mostly logistical. You can’t give this evaluation immediately following the program or event. You must pick a suitable timeframe in which learnings could be applied in the participant’s job, then circle back to participants. And, the more thorough and effective follow-up evaluations also seek input from co-workers and managers – sort of a before/after assessment of the participant – or leverage observation, focus groups, case studies, interviews and more.

These more in-depth evaluations are becoming more common practice. As more accountability is demanded from training programs, it’s fair to assume that more intensive evaluations – those that assess business impact – will be the norm to prove ROI and justify program expenditures.

If you are interested in delving deeper into the topic, you will find numerous evaluation guides, checklists, methods and more on the Internet.

If you have some thoughts on this article – or better yet, samples of great evaluation forms that might be useful to other ABC Signup customers – please share them below in the Comments section.

If you would like to know more about setting up evaluations with ABC Signup, registration software or ABC Signup in general, feel free to contact us anytime by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

 

Topics: registration software, Evaluations

Don’t Throw Cold Water on Crazy Ideas

Posted on Mon, Sep 08, 2014 @ 15:09 PM

So far since its summer inception, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $111 million to support the ALS Association’s (ALSA) campaign to fight the disease that claimed the life of baseball legend Lou Gehrig and so many others. The organization raised about $3 million during the same time frame in 2013.

icebucket_imageThis incredibly successful fundraising concept evokes a modern-day chain letter, except it leverages social media to virally spread a simple dare from friends, family and peers: get doused by a bucket of ice water (and capture it on video and post on social media within 24 hours of being challenged), or make a $100 donation to ALSA, or both.

Raise your hand if you would have voted the idea down while participating in a brainstorming session. It doesn’t seem to correlate with the cause, the act itself causes discomfort to the participant, it didn't seem celebrity-friendly and who in their right mind would put awkward videos of themselves on the Internet? Scratch that last thought.

The point is, there’s not an exact science to creating an Internet phenomenon. Someone comes up with an idea, puts a plan into action, spreads the word and hopes for the best. For every Ice Bucket Challenge, there are hundreds of unsuccessful campaigns. (To view some real failures, click here.)

If you are determined to score in some sort of viral marketing fashion, the lesson seems to be to create novel ideas, pursue well-crafted campaigns to promote the concept, be persistent, and try all over again with a different idea until you hit pay dirt.

The Ice Bucket Challenge tells us to be original, keep it simple, and don’t be bound by conventional thinking or even group-think.

Henry Ford captured the gist of the value of original thinking when explaining why he invented the automobile, a product based only upon his singular idea, and at the time, zero demand.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

If you would like to share your thoughts about this article, use the Comments section below. And as always, if you would like to know more about registration software or ABC Signup, e-mail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: event marketing

New Dashboard Gauges Your Events

Posted on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 @ 16:08 PM

ECP-Dashboard-1If you are an ABC Signup customer, you may have noticed a new addition to your Event Control Panel – version 1.0 of ABC Signup’s new dashboard that gives you a real-time status update on your total registrations, evaluations completed, payments and more.

We’re calling this version 1.0 for obvious reasons – it’s a work in progress. You will find the dashboard immediately below the Event Control Panel (Events > click on specific event > Event Control Panel).

Please look it over. Share your thoughts on what data you would like it to display. Throw in your two cents on how you might like to see it configured, or what options you might like it to offer. We’re already working on some of the feedback we’ve received, and will consider additional suggestions to make this feature as beneficial as possible to users.

Much like our registration software, this feature will improve quickly and significantly with your feedback. Send us your ideas by e-mail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: events, dashboard, ABC Signup,

Midways Offer More than Indigestion

Posted on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

When it comes to events, one group tips the creativity scale every year: State Fairs.

kidballoonsFAIRFrom their culinary experiments to their carnival-meets-x-games activities to their bizarre contests, State Fairs regularly push the mail truck in their over-the-top originality.

Start with the menus. While you will likely find such staples as corn dogs, funnel cakes and elephant ears at just about every State Fair, the Michelangelos of some midways are also concocting wonders like deep-fried kool-aid, chicken-fried bacon, deep-fried Snickers bars, fried spaghetti and meatball on a stick, wine-glazed deep-fried meatloaf and deep-fried avocado bites.

For those avoiding fried foods, these, too, are actual State Fair fare: hot beef sundae, chocolate-covered bacon, pulled-pork parfait, kool-aid marinated pickles and pretzel curds. And if you happen to be at the Texas State Fair, you can wash it all down with funnel cake ale.

Not to be outdone, State Fairs supplement their livestock shows, county exhibits, rides and entertainment with unusual activities, some that become popular and featured at many of the annual events. For instance, at many fairs, pig races feature little porkers racing around a circuit (usually chasing Oreos or some other treat) several times a day. Young humans take part in “mutton-bustin,’” trying their luck riding sheep rodeo-style. And several fairs are graced with trained bears looking dangerously cute while putting on a mini-circus act.

And then there are the daredevils – acrobats, acrobats on bicycles, even acrobats on motorcycles usually jumping things. Or maybe you’ll catch the guy who dives – okay, purposely belly-flops – from more than 40 feet into a kids’ swimming pool filled with about two feet of water.

State Fairs have always cultivated a core audience with their many contests, from the heaviest pumpkin to the largest cow to the best country ham, apple pie, watercolor painting, photograph, aquarium – you name it. They also generate a lot of interest and media attention with their not-so-traditional contests. Here are a few of the more creative examples:

  • Ugliest lamp contest (KY) – This started as a display of awful looking lamps and morphed into a design contest of “uglifying” existing lamps or building hideous lamps from scratch.
  • Beard and mustache competition (OH) – This competition, which has a female category, features some amazing facial-hairdos.
  • Rotten sneaker contest (UT) – Judges actually must smell the entrants to determine the winner.
  • Mooing contest (WI) – Anyone can say “moo,” right? Not exactly like this.
  • Super Farmer contest (MO) – Among the events to determine the winner of this competition are tossing a cotton bale, carrying a hay bale, hanging a gate, gathering eggs, an obstacle course and more.
  • Old Cow Lick contest (MT) – Participants decorate old cow licks or shave them into sculptures… it’s a Big Sky thing.
  • Redneck Relay race (ND) – This competition challenges teams to race through such activities as eating through a pile of whipped cream, tossing corn ears into a bucket, and carrying a greased watermelon.
  • Mother-daughter look-alike (MS) and twins look-alike (IA) contests – Genetics, attire and makeup are put to the test in these competitions.
  • Outhouse races (IA) – These “port-o-potties” are homemade and feature racing wheels, pushers and a driver.
  • Hay bale decoration (NE), llama costume (MN) and butter sculpture (IA) – Something about dressing up stuff that you normally wouldn’t resonates with State Fairs.

A lot of innovation such as that detailed above enables State Fairs to continue to draw large audiences even against demographic trends that diminish their typically rural, core audience. State Fairs also do their research, and borrow heavily from ideas that work at other fairs.

Those are some of the more obvious lessons anyone in the events industry can pull from the State Fair experience. These mega events encourage you to think outside the box. They demonstrate the value of creating activities that engage just about anyone. They tell you to have fun. And maybe they suggest you consider a deep fryer.

As always, if you have anything you would like to share about something awesome or peculiar about State Fairs, post away in the Comments section below.

If you want to know more about State Fairs, your best bet is to visit one. If you want to know more about registration software and ABC Signup, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: event marketing, events

10 Back-to-School Tips to Ace Your Registration Software

Posted on Tue, Aug 05, 2014 @ 13:08 PM

backtoschoolIt’s August, which to most of us means one thing – National Goat Cheese Month.

To others, August harkens the return of school, from the perspective of a parent, a student, a teacher, an administrator – or a combination thereof. And for many ABC Signup customers, back to school means planning, prepping and administrating a myriad of special events, training programs, workshops and more that complement the new school year.

These folks need to get their registration software ready for action, even if they are also busy buying number two pencils or sharpening lesson plans. To make the transition as painless as possible, we’ve got 10 back-to-ABC Signup tips to help customers get the most out of their registration software.

1. Review ‘What’s New’

On the admin site, second tab from the right, is a “What’s New” section that details all of the new features added to the software, including tips on how to make them work best for your programs and events. There have been a few items added over the summer, so take a look.

2. Clean up Your Database

Merge records where individuals have created more than one account. Delete bad accounts. Let us know if we can help.

3. Revisit Your Registration Form

When you first set up the registration form, you might have been in a rush to get the event posted with something that covered the basics. Now is a good time to review your forms and perhaps revise or add questions that might provide information that improves some aspect of your program, be it marketing, reporting, etc.

4. Watch Our New Video Tutorials

We spent summer break making videos that cover various aspects of using ABC Signup. We believe they will help users to better leverage the software, and we plan to make more. Take a look, and if there is some aspect of the software that you think could use a tutorial video, please let us know.

5. Invite the Right People

Perhaps while cleaning up your database, you noticed the list of potential invitees to your programs or events could use a boost. Upload additional contacts. They might be from another program or department, but with some simple formatting, uploading is a breeze.

6. Make Your Evaluation Form Valuable

Are you getting what you need from evaluation forms? The right questions can make a night and day difference on the feedback you get. And the feedback you get can make a similar difference on the impact and performance of your programs.

7. Give Your Events a Makeover

Perhaps now – before you become immersed in your events – is the best time to dabble with ABC Signup’s improved graphics tools to update the look and feel of your event pages and listings. There’s a tutorial video on that, and we’ll be glad to help, too.

8. Secure Your Data

By now, you are familiar with our security updates, new password requirements and our transition to only allowing access to ABC Signup’s software through our admin site. These steps help protect your data and our reputation. In the spirit of a new (school) year, maybe now is a good time to replace last year’s password with a new password.

9. Put Your Events on Mobile

We created a free tool, MeetingZilla, that enables you to post all of your event details and materials on a mobile site. It’s great for special events, conferences, conventions – any type of meeting with lots of attendees who would rather use their smartphone to view the agenda, read presenter bios, get directions, learn about the venue and so on. MeetingZilla is so easy to use there’s no training required.

10. Call With Questions

Finally, one of the best back to school tips we can offer ABC Signup customers is to virtually raise your hand and call us if you are stuck on something or have questions. You can reach us during normal business hours at our toll-free number, 866.791.8268 ext. 0, or e-mail us.

If you have some tips of your own you would like to share regarding getting up and running with ABC Signup, please use the Comments section below.

If you would like additional tips – or just want to know more about ABC Signup and registration software – e-mail or call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) us.

Topics: online registration software, registration software

A Newbie’s Guide to Social Media

Posted on Fri, Aug 01, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

No matter what your vocation – from event planner to physicist – someone is probably urging you to “get on the social media.”

socialmediausageAnd since billions of eyeballs and billions of dollars in marketing money have already made the leap, maybe it’s time you see what all of the hullabaloo is about. More than 70% of adult Internet users said they engaged in social media in 2012, compared to only 8% in 2005. You don’t want to be the last to budge – that guy who says “hash-brown selfie” – do you?

Below is an abbreviated guide to the most popular social media platforms and a look at how they are leveraged for free (many also offer paid advertising opportunities) to promote programs and events. If you are looking for a comprehensive look at social media and its key players, check out this outstanding overview.

Facebook

The most popular social network, with over 1 billion users, Facebook allows you to share just about anything with your social connections, those you “friend.” You post your ideas, links, photos and more, comment on others’ posts, “like” and “share” posts and so on. Facebook is ideal for sharing event links and info, inviting “friends” to your events, holding contests to generate interest, asking questions to gain intel and posting photos from the venue.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Individuals use it to do things like posting their CVs, connecting with other professionals, congratulating connections on their new jobs, seeking new jobs and referencing others for certain skills. Companies can also create LinkedIn pages. Occasionally, event professionals send information about an upcoming event to their professional network in LinkedIn.

Twitter

Twitter is a social communication tool where people broadcast short messages, called “tweets,” that are limited to 140 characters in length. Tweets can be as inane as someone posting that they just brushed their teeth to breaking such news as the 2008 plane crash on the Hudson or Michael Jackson’s death. Popular tweets gain “followers” (others signed up on Twitter) and are “retweeted” (resending someone’s tweet from your account). The hashtag component on Twitter, e.g. “#eventplanning,” is a means of organizing tweets by topic by adding the tag plus topic. Most use Twitter to follow others (thought leaders, athletes, organizations, etc.). Events use it to send links to their latest offerings or create buzz about upcoming programs.

YouTube

YouTube is the most popular site for posting and sharing videos. Anything “filmed” shows up on YouTube, from keyboard-playing cats to marketing campaigns to a gazillion “how to guides” that help some of us change a headlight, pretend to be a gourmet chef or play guitar. Events leverage YouTube for promotion, testimonials, training supplements, event footage and much more.

Vimeo

Vimeo is another site for posting and sharing videos. It’s much smaller than YouTube in terms of videos uploaded and its “audience” (account holders and viewers), but also less cluttered and typically skews toward more professional videos. Event managers can create a channel on Vimeo to showcase training tutorials, excerpts from events, corporate videos and more.

Google+

This social network is a collection of different social products that leverage Google’s many services (Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, Adwords, etc.). Google+ features include Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Circles (a friend management service), Games and Photos and more. There are a number of ways events leverage Google + (e.g., live stream an event on Hangouts, blog about it via your Blogger blog, etc.).

Instagram

Instagram enables you to edit photos you have taken with your mobile device using built in tools and then share them with others. You can also post brief videos, search for content, view various feeds, view and add comments, 'like' photos/videos and share multimedia with your social networks. There is an obvious “share any memorable visuals” application for programs and events with Instagram.

Pinterest

Pinterest is an online site where you can save (pin) and organize images and videos into different groupings called boards. You can upload images and videos yourself, or you can add images and videos that you’ve found on other web sites. Pinterest recently launched a mobile app of its service that makes it a lot more like Instagram. Event folks might consider creating a “board” featuring their event-related images.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a micro-blogging tool – great for mobile devices – used to publish short posts of text, images, quotes, links, video, audio, and chats. Event applications might use Tumblr to post any kind of relevant multimedia content larger than Twitter’s 140-characters but not as long as say a blog.

Blogs

Several free platforms (e.g., Wordpress, Blogger) allow anyone to pen articles on everything under the sun. You don’t have to be a professional writer, subject matter expert or technology whiz to create and post to a blog. Events can and should use blogs for promotion, marketing, feedback, recognition and more.

The above platforms represent the most popular social media currently used in the U.S., and in some cases, the world.  That’s not to say that some won’t merge or go the way of MySpace. And there are dozens of up-and-coming social tools (e.g., Vine, Snapchat, Quora) that may need to be added to your list as you become a social media maven.

If you would like to share how and what social media you leverage for your event – or turn us on to a cool platform not mentioned above – please use the Comments section below.

If you want to know more about ABC Signup and registration software, feel free to e-mail or call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, social media

When Murphy’s Law Strikes Your Events

Posted on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

custodianslippingWith events, anything that can go wrong will. It’s the nature of the business and part of life, from that misspelled name on the first birthday cake to the funeral programs that arrive a day late.

You can fight Murphy’s Law with over-preparation – but realize your efforts won’t always suffice. Below are a few ideas for dealing with the inevitable.

Lesson one: Plan a backup plan.

On the night of an annual meeting with 1,200 attendees a few years ago, the spotlight guy called in sick and another key person had a family emergency. No sweat. Each person with a role at the meeting also had a backup assignment, because our good event planners had set up contingencies that anticipated hiccups. In this case, Murphy’s Law was overruled.

Lesson two: Go with the flow.

I once crafted what I thought was a Ted-level speech for the board chairman at our organization’s planning conference. The speech, as written, opened with a flourish, revealed our challenges, and went a bit “Knute Rockne” while explaining how we would ultimately overcome. The chair complimented the speech before explaining that her participation in the previous evening’s social events left her “under the weather” and made it impossible to give the speech its proper due. Her version, perhaps to everyone’s satisfaction, was much shorter and softer.

Lesson three: Improvise.

Another time, I managed media and financial communications around a huge company event 2,000 miles from our corporate offices. This involved crafting the press release and managing its dissemination (at the company’s only facility still using dial-up Internet), setting up the live press conference and webcast, and preparing remarks and Q&A. The sound system, successfully tested the day before, failed at connecting the online reporters and analysts. No one in the room could hear their questions. We had to relay the online questions to the CEO, which he repeated for everyone else. In hindsight, that extra step gave him a little more time to consider each response.

Lesson four: Know your equipment.

Anyone have a laptop battery die in mid-presentation? How about struggling to get the laptop to work with the conference room projector? Connect cables, hit fn + F# (depends on laptop model) to toggle to your screen, switch the projector to the right setting… Years ago, while presenting at a conference, a certain registration software company’s founder assisted a competitor who couldn’t work the technology to set up and give his presentation. Guess who won a bunch of business that day?

Lesson five: Mother Nature’s events often take precedence over yours.

Churchill Downs, in its quest to inexpensively add expensive seats for its Kentucky Derby weekend, merged two gigantic tents in the center of its infield area about a decade ago. Hundreds, dressed to the nines, enjoyed their semi-private party in the center of it all – until the thunderstorms came. One section of the tents – where the downpour pooled – collapsed, drenching a few tables of patrons (and racking up a huge dry cleaning bill in the process). As most of the former tent-guests decided to seek more secure shelter, some of the regulars in the non-sheltered Infield targeted them with mud. And when the head of security and general manager (also in suits) went out to put an end to the shenanigans, they, too, were greeted with mud.

Lesson six: Know when to shut it down.

I once worked a press event about a waterway cleanup effort that toward the end got hi-jacked by a reporter with an unfriendly agenda about an unrelated topic. That was my cue to end the event. Yours might be when attendees start slipping out, your watch says you are 30 minutes over or your presenter sits down after no one asks any questions.

Lesson seven: Don’t leave eggnog in your refrigerator past New Year’s. And don’t let ex-employees back in the building.

In the early years of “Thunder Over Louisville” – billed as North America’s largest fireworks show that annually kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival – the family responsible for the pyrotechnics dined on the eve of the event in the first floor atrium area of a five-story building. In the late 1990s, an ex-employee of a building tenant happened to get to the fifth floor, find old eggnog in a refrigerator (in April), and mindlessly pour it over the balcony. Some of it reached those dining below, who thought they had been vomited upon. The Thunder event went on without a hitch the next evening, but some say the real fireworks occurred the night before, in what was informally dubbed “Chunder Over Louisville.”

Most of this collection of anecdotal event stories is meant to enforce lessons related to event planning and management. We’d also like you to view this article as an invite to share some of your “favorite” event experiences (removing names to protect the innocent, of course), lessons or not. The Comments section below is just waiting to become an awesome repository of Murphy’s Law/events lore.

If you don’t care to comment but would like to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, event planning

Could SMART Goals Enlighten Your Events?

Posted on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 @ 15:07 PM

image of a woman composing a strategy in a meetingIf you’ve spent any time working in a corporate environment, you are probably aware of the “SMART” criteria for setting organizational goals often tied to your job responsibilities (and performance review).

The concept is widely credited to management guru Peter Drucker, first put to paper in 1981 by George Doran in Management Review and eagerly spread by HR departments everywhere. If it isn’t practiced in your neck of the woods, you might want to give it a look.

The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable (or Assignable or Achievable)
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

In practice, applying those criteria while setting objectives results in meaningful, easy-to-track, quantifiable goals that – if achieved and aligned with the overall business strategy – bring value to the organization.

In the program and event world, the SMART approach can bring focus to basic goals such as “We are going to increase our number of programs offered” or “We are going to grow overall attendance” or “We are going to stay within budget.”

A SMART version of the “more programs” objective might read something like this: “Add four additional Introduction to Microsoft Windows 8.X courses by Winter of 2014. Ensure events reach at least 80% capacity.” This goal is specific and measurable, has a deadline, and we are going to assume it is attainable (definitely assignable) and realistic.

A smarter version of an attendance goal might be as simple as “increase program attendance by 5% in 2014” but the action items to achieve that goal might take a little work. But, if this goal supports the goals of the organization, those action items are likely going to be what you should be working on anyway, right?

You might wonder – aside from number of events, attendance and financials – what else makes sense to build SMART objectives around?

It certainly would be wise to create a goal that pushes you to improve the quality of your offerings. You can measure it by a post-event(s) evaluations. Shoot for a satisfaction metric you would like to achieve with your participants, or an increase of that metric from the year prior. Put in place action steps to improve your program/event, follow-through and evaluate.

Similarly, you might measure effectiveness by how participants do in a post-event testing (assuming it’s a course, certification or training-type program). Set a goal that X-percent achieve a certain grade or higher, or pass, or whatever.  You can do similar with CEUs awarded, childcare certifications completed, and so on.

Get as specific as you need to add value. If your programs or events perform below what you would expect with a certain demographic, make a goal to increase participation from the group and set action steps to bring them in the fold.

You can also develop SMART goals related to your marketing efforts. For instance, you might seek to increase your number of calls, direct mail, e-mails or e-mail response rates. A SMART goal can also be process related – perhaps you aim to reduce the number of unpaid registrations by a certain percentage and build or improve processes to ensure that happens.

Aside from the benefit to the organization, SMART goals bring focus to your responsibilities and quantify their impact. No doubt many of you managing programs and events devise goals in this manner to continue to improve your offerings and your performance. If you have some examples that work well for you – or just want to share your thoughts about the SMART methodology – feel free to post your insights in the Comments section below.

If you want to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext.0) at your convenience.

 

Topics: event planning