Blog

How to Get and Nail a Guest Blog

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 @ 09:10 AM

ladywithlaptopEarlier this month, the registration software evangelists at ABC Signup invited customers to share anything interesting, entertaining or informative about their programs and events in the ABC Signup blog. We think it’s a win-win opportunity: customers get exposure and show their subject matter expertise, and we get great content for our website.

It’s such a great idea that we encourage you to spread your wings and view the whole blogosphere as your open skies. Blogs everywhere welcome good content.

So how do you go about guest blogging?

First, determine your objectives.
Do you seek to put information in front of a target audience? Are you hoping to establish yourself as a subject matter expert? Or is your goal as straightforward as trying to get additional publicity for an upcoming event?

Knowing what you hope to achieve drives what you are going to write about and gives you a starting point on what vehicles make sense to carry your message (a not-so-subtle segue to the next step).

Second, research target blogs.
If your objective is to present event information, what blogs reach your potential attendees? If your topic is more of a “how to” or “lessons learned” pertaining to event management, what blogs reach your peers? You know your customers, you know the industry and you know how to Google – the appropriate blogs are a few keystrokes and clicks away. And, once you’ve identified appropriate blogs, finding contact information is typically a snap.

Third, make the ‘ask.’
Send a note to the contact asking if they accept guest blogs. Explain your subject matter and what you hope to accomplish (inform, educate, etc.), and what value (fresh content, new perspective) your effort would bring to the blog.

If you’ve done your research and write a legible, grammatically correct ask, your offer will be difficult to turn down.

Fourth, write your article.
Don’t be intimidated as if you are writing the cover story for Time Magazine. Do follow any parameters the blog may have pertaining to work count, link restrictions, style and so on. If allowed, create a link back to your website where appropriate in the blog or perhaps in your contact information as the author. In simple terms, this helps your site win Google searches.

Most blogs are more conversational and not overly lengthy. They are typically casual, and presented in more of a storytelling mode rather than journalistic-style. Don’t “bury the lead” (reveal your purpose early) and if you have some call to action, be sure to provide the means to act (contact information, event details, etc.). Also, you may want to send a photo/image/logo that complements the content, if possible.

Fifth, submit your blog.
Send it, and don’t be crushed if it receives minor edits. If the edits are major, you might want to have a quick conversation with the blog owner, either to fix it or to pull it entirely (this is pretty rare). Also, watch the blog’s comments section to see if there is feedback, and work out an arrangement with the owner to be able to respond accordingly. You will also want to get permission to display a link to the blog on your social media sites and website.

Sixth, if you are happy with your work, show it to your boss.
You earned your kudos. Once the blog is live, help the Internet spread information like it is supposed to by sending links to your work. Let your VIPs see it first. However, we advise that you clear the whole guest blogging opportunity with your boss well before your work gets published.

That’s our six-step approach to guest blogging. If you have thoughts, questions or experiences you would like to share that pertain to the subject, please post away in the Comments section below.

If you would like more information on topics such as registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: blogging, registration software

Tweet Post Pin - Promote Your Event Through Social Media

Posted on Thu, Oct 09, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

Most Americans get their news from the Internet. The migration from traditional media to new officially tipped the scales earlier this decade, and one of the key drivers – social media – not only spreads news but in some cases, breaks it.

lady_bullhorn_social_mediaFacebook and Twitter, together, are the first source of news (usually via posts and “tweets” with links to media outlets) for nearly half of Americans. This means you must use social media to promote your events. It’s no longer an option.

With a couple of things in place– the basics you should already be doing – you can immediately begin to publicize your events via social.  

  • Get access to social media, either through your organization’s existing accounts or by creating new accounts. Start with the big three – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – but other social media platforms may also make sense for your offering(s). The demographics of your target audience should dictate your social media choices.  
  • Create a web presence for your event – an event page or site – perhaps through your registration software or a mobile site builder like MeetingZilla. This will be the link you share often while promoting your event through the various social media tools.

All set? Dive in.

First, put that event information on your social media platforms. Do any or all of the following:

  • Post multiple tweets on your Twitter account with an invite and link to your event page. Be sure to create a “hashtag” – e.g., #nameofevent – so that your event can be searched and found by Twitter users.
  • Write a blog about the event, perhaps adding details not covered on your event page, with a link to the event page (and its registration link). You should blog leading up to the event to build interest. You might event pursue “guest blogging” opportunities at relevant sites to promote your event to a broader audience. Not only will this promote your event, but it could establish you as more of an expert or authority in that space.
  • Post a note about the event on Facebook (with link to the event page), or even create a special event page on Facebook (just click on the offer/event tab above where you normally post, then select event, and fill in the info).
  • Share an update for your professional peers on LinkedIn with that link to the event page (again, assuming the audience is appropriate for your event).
  • Make it easy for registrants to like or share or post to your social media when they sign up for the event.
  • If you have a database of past or existing customers, be sure to use it to e-mail them an invitation to your event.

Next, use any of a number of promotional tactics with your social media accounts to create buzz and interest in the event.

  • Post “tickets/seats remaining” updates to create a sense of urgency to possible attendees.
  • Post pre-event video interviews with some of the event’s speakers.
  • Create a contest – e.g., when the event attains 100 likes on Facebook, one individual “liking” the event will win a free ticket to attend, or a similar prize for who “shares” or “retweets” the event the most.
  • Post regular updates about the event – such as news about the speakers committed to present, details about the venue or information on attendance numbers.
  • If you have footage, post a well-edited video of last year’s (or last month’s) event on YouTube or Vimeo (and link to your other social media sites).

Once the event is live and filled to capacity thanks in part to your promotional activities on social media, your work is done, right? Wrong. There are a number of social media activities you can do on site (not at the expense of managing the event) during and after the event that might enhance the experience of attendees and help attract participants in future events.

  • Tweet an event welcome and watch your Twitter feed for attendees’ comments (see next bullet) and respond accordingly.
  • Encourage attendees to live tweet during the event. Perhaps show the twitter feed on a big screen (good for event photos, too).
  • Take photos that can be posted on Facebook or Twitter or other social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Capture video vignettes from some of the presentations and post on your social media sites.
  • Capture video testimonials from event attendees and post to the appropriate sites.
  • Create a post-event blog and use it to thank presenters, sponsors and attendees.
  • Post a thank you to all parties involved on your various social media outlets.

Keep in mind that what you capture during and after the event might make excellent content for your social media platforms in promoting the next event, or the same event a year later.

This all might appear more daunting than it is – but with a smart phone, an event web page, social media accounts and Internet access, it’s all right at your fingertips. And since social media is mostly for quick consumption, your content should be brief, concise and compelling. No need to write a thesis on the event – use photos, quick videos and brief snippets of copy.

Those are a few of our ideas. Your turn. What tactics on social media work for you in promoting your events? What doesn’t work? Please share your thoughts on those questions and this article in the Comments section below.

If you would like to pick our brains on topics such as social media, registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: registration software, event planning, event marketing, events

An Invitation to Enlighten

Posted on Wed, Oct 08, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

Since we launched our blog a little over three years ago, we’ve penned on average an article a week – around 150 overall – that the majority of you don’t read. No finger-pointing intended – that’s the typical interaction rate for customers and blogs in the blogosphere.

The Internet is now a 150 million-and-growing blog universe – a new blog article is posted every half second. And as competition for your eyeballs has grown exponentially, your amount of free time has likely diminished. A blog has to offer some special sauce to pry you from all of those other options.
guy blogging on computer about shoesFrom our perspective, the biggest thing missing from our blog is your perspective. We can research and present trends and tips and talk about our software until the scroll bar disappears, but we can’t always replicate the in-the-trenches perspective of a program or event manager.

We want you.

We need guest bloggers to give us first-person perspective and insights – content that will resonate even more with readers and maybe even build a virtual community or roundtable for you and your peers.

There’s a wealth of topics aching for your viewpoint. Our customer base and audience would value reading things like your tips for using ABC Signup, how you build out a project plan for an event, your secrets to picking venues, how you get the most useful intel from your evaluations, or your keys to finding and securing outstanding trainers/presenters/speakers.

No one is expecting Hemingway-esque prose, and we will be glad to edit any Faulkner “stream of consciousness”-missives so readers can take a breath once in a while. All we ask is that you, our customers, send us your topic idea and expected completion date in advance so we can keep a loose editorial calendar. We will then take each submission, format accordingly, send back a draft for your approval, and publish thereafter.

Are you ready to share your subject-matter expertise and help us make our blog as good as our software? We hope so! Send us an email to get started.

Topics: blogging, registration software

Someone Took a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque

Posted on Fri, Oct 03, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

Some Friday afternoon goofiness...

We get a few chuckles internally when the “ABC” in our name results in misguided phone calls, like “Is this where I get tickets to Regis and Kathy Lee?” or “How do I get on the Bachelorette?” Okay, the latter call may have come from inside the building.

internetsurfIt’s not quite as funny when Internet searches for “driver registration,” “gun registration” or “cash register software” cost us money via our Google Adwords account. We use exact matches with most of our keywords (the search terms that trigger search results) and we cull through our account monthly to remove mismatches, discarding them in the “negative keywords” file.

A recent culling effort sparked a visit to our negative keywords listing. Some of them are just funny; others have us scratching our heads. People search for crazy things. In our tiny segment of Google’s universe, the search terms used are relatively tame and as you will see below, mostly suitable for work.

In the funny category, we have:

  • “How to sign up for pirates online” (We think they meant "Pilates," or perhaps it was some shady individual Googling in Somali.)
  • “How to hack the registration system” (That’s subtle. Kind of hope they trusted all of the sites that come up in that search.)
  • “Sibelius registration help” (We don’t think this has anything to do with the Obamacare rollout mess.)
  • “ergistration,” “gistration” (There are lots of misspelled searches, which challenges marketers to consider using misspelled keywords. Seriously.)
  • “Make my own marriage license online” (And make my bride Kate Upton!)
  • “Medical marijuana registration system” (I guess we can now take this one off the negative list, at least in certain states.)
  • “Free online citizenship registration” (There are millions who wish it were that easy, and millions more who don’t.)
  • “Register alien online” (There’s a couple of ways to take this one – the ET version tickled our fancy.)

In the head-scratcher category, here are a few mysterious keyword choices that somehow led to ABC Signup:

  • “Free bible software” (We are a pretty pious group at ABC Signup, but we’re not sure how we came up as an option in this search.)
  • “Free unblock private caller ID software” (Could this be some stalker unhappy having his/her calls being blocked?)
  • “Sign up for sex” or “Sign up sex online game” (No comment, other than see item number one under “head scratchers.”)
  • “Get your web license” (With apologies perhaps to Spiderman, what even is a “web license?”)
  • “Nigerian navy online registration” (Okay, we get the online registration part. But, who knew Nigeria has a navy?)
  • “Online free karaoke” (There’s no connection between ABC Signup and karaoke, at least during business hours.)

The only take-away from these paid-search-gone-awry examples is to be careful with your keywords if you use Google Adwords. The software is relatively intuitive and will make great suggestions for adding keywords, but they are typically in broad-match format, meaning if any word in the keywords matches any word in the search, your paid listing may show up. Put brackets around your keywords and those Google suggests. This simple addition requires searches to be exact matches. Also, use the negative keywords feature to remove ineffective strings that may have slipped through the cracks.

If you have anything you’d like to share about this article – perhaps some odd ways folks mistakenly find your organization – please post away in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, search

Promote Events With These Email Essentials

Posted on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

event_promo_graphicIf there is an indispensable tool for event promotion, it’s email. It’s inexpensive, immediate and when done right, it seems to deliver more for less – as in more attendees for less time and effort.

You only need three things to build email promotions: a well-targeted contact list, an adequate delivery system and compelling content.

Start with your contact list. You should have a database of customers – past and present – that will serve as your core target group. Supplement that list with contacts you may have garnered through your various social media platforms. You can expand it further through paid lists or researching websites to find similar personas as your current customer base (e.g., if you serve a lot of HR professionals, find HR professionals at organizations not on your list). Keep it targeted – the shotgun approach not only doesn’t work with email, it may earn you a reputation as a spammer.

Next, establish an email platform from which to launch your promotional efforts. It’s okay to use your organization’s Outlook or Gmail, but neither (unless you enhance with add-on software) offer analytics to help you determine “open” and “click through” rates, the intel that helps you figure out what format and content gets results. For these kinds of bulk, promotional efforts, your organization may deploy third party email providers with analytic tools such as MailChimp, ConstantContact or etouches. Complete registration software solutions also provide an email solution integrated with a contact database and designed for event promotion.

With the infrastructure in place, create an email that’s engaging enough to get opened and persuasive enough to lead to action.

Your “foot in the door” is the subject line. This is your headline and your “hook,” so you want to be direct but clever enough to make the viewer want to read more – even if they have a pretty good idea what they are about to see from the subject line. Use actionable language, but err on the side of telling them what’s inside rather than selling them what’s inside.
Do: Your new career working from home starts today!
Don’t: Why are you not working from home?

Copywriting trainers teach a “4 U” approach to writing headlines. They should be Useful to the reader; provide a sense of Urgency; convey that the subject matter is Unique; and be Ultra-specific in doing all of the above. Think of something like “Got 90 Minutes to Master Microsoft Office?” versus “Microsoft Office 101.” Here’s more on the subject from copyblogger.com.

To avoid an immediate redirect to your target’s junk mail, do NOT use any of these words or phrases in your subject line: free, visit our website, click here, X% off, call now, discount, winner, special promotion, great offer/deal, signup now, call now and any other words we all associate with spam emails.

Your email’s content should deliver what the subject line promises. Establish relevancy (e.g., “as the region’s leading provider of childcare training and certification programs…”), and generally speak in the second person (“we”). Talk more about benefits of your program or event (what’s in it for the target), and less about the features.

The body content should be brief. It should establish a value proposition with an actionable call to action, e.g. “register today,” linked to the event page/registration form. You might also want to include links to your social media platforms as a way to cross-promote the event.

Your email and its content should conform to spam regulations, meaning you need to ask your targets to opt in, which is typically done by offering them an extremely easy way to unsubscribe. Most experts suggest a minimal use of images – due to variations among email servers that can make a mess of your “artwork” – and recommend constructing a plain text version as a backup.

Here’s an example, content-only, of an email that hits the mark (courtesy of a Hubspot blog). You’ll find plenty like this just by searching “great marketing emails” on the Internet, or looking at your own Inbox.

sample_email_w_border

If you’ve read this far, you’re now ready to craft a promotional email – or two or three. One email is great, but multiple emails, even campaigns, are much more effective.

Schedule emails around important dates for your event, such as the registration opening, any speaker announcements, registration deadlines, and so on. If you are creating a campaign of emails, position your initial round as a means to create buzz around the event (e.g., speaker announcement), with round two designed to drive registrations (e.g., registration deadline) and round three to maximize attendance (e.g., event reminder).

Finally, use email analytics to test your messages. Using a small sample of targets, send two different version of your email (an A version and a B version) and analyze the opens and click-throughs. You should be able to determine the more effective version in your A/B testing, and send that version to the bulk of your targeted email list.

So, what did we leave out? What email tactics work for your events? Please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts about the article or your tips about using email to promote your events.

As always, if you would like additional information about ABC Signup or registration software, just email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: event planning, e-mails, event marketing, events

Are Discounts Worth It?

Posted on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

At first glance, pricing discounts are all about perspective. The typical consumer greets them with a “yea,” the seller a “meh.”

MM900223799_(2)Sellers’ hesitance is likely more due to the challenge of rolling out and managing discounts, not the actual impact they have. You don’t need to see the lines camped outside of Best Buy prior to Black Friday to know that discounts work.

Assuming your lean, nimble organization is committed to testing discounts and has the tools1 to carry it out, there are a number of goals you can achieve through pricing "deals," whether you are a program or event manager or a retailer.

Introductory Promotion
Offering a discounted price on a product or service at the beginning of its life cycle can create a buzz that drives demand. For instance, you might launch a new series of events at a discounted, “introductory” price from your typical events. Once customers discover the value, they will likely be willing to pay more for the event (e.g., your typical price) down the road.

Increase Short-Term Sales
If your programs or events have a slow season, discount pricing is an effective way to increase your sales for a short period of time. The goals is to increase sales volume – with discounts as the “carrot” – that help revenues exceed what you would normally achieve in that slow period, even with the lower pricing.

Fill Your Weaker Events
Some programs and events, for whatever reason, aren’t filling seats but instead filling the wrong column on the P&L statement. One effective way to sell your less attractive offerings is to discount them. Again, the goal of discounts is to create a revenue scenario [higher volume X lower price] that exceeds your existing situation [lower volume X higher price].

Reward Your Loyal Customers
Customers love to feel loved. So, show them some appreciation. Reward loyal customers by offering them discounts once they reach a certain spending limit or participation level. This is a great tool to persuade customers to stay loyal to you as opposed to shopping elsewhere for programs or events. Think of it as your version of retail’s reward cards.

Market Penetration
Let’s assume you aren’t the only organization in the region offering volleyball camps or cooking classes or an annual motivational conference. If you want to increase your market share for that targeted customer base, consider discounting your events that go up against the competition. You will likely attract new customers to that particular program or event – customers that may one day sign on to more of your offerings.

Creating Brand Loyalty
If your brand is in need of a loyalty boost, consider discounting. Offering reduced pricing on your next program/event might be just what you need to retain customers and make them come back for more of your offerings.

Get an Edge on the Competition
If a discount gives you more competitive pricing, your customers are likely to see more value in your offerings versus the competition. It’s not brain surgery, though too deep of a discount can have the opposite effect. You can gain leverage in your industry or niche – and possible market penetration – with discounts designed to beat the competition.

Loss-Leader to Sell Something Bigger
One way to sell an entire series of events is to offer the first one at a deep discount (or even free), with the expectation that once the attendees recognize the value of the program, they will purchase the entire series of programs/events. Think how big box stores offer an amazingly cheap TV (that’s already out of stock when you get there) to get you in the store, where you will be exposed to far more expensive items. Well, that with a slight exception – you actually provide the event being discounted.

As you can see, there are several good business reasons for offering discounts. The type of discounts can vary according to the objectives listed above (e.g., price cuts to beat the competition, next event discounted to build loyalty, or even “Xth event free” for loyal customers). Similarly, even the depth of the discount and how it’s presented should align with your objective. Pricing is an art in itself – and a topic for another day.

One thing to always be conscious of with discounts – if you go to the well too often, you risk market position (do you want to be considered the discount provider?), brand loyalty (customers thinking your initial price is never the “real” price) and potential sales (customers always waiting for the discount before signing up). Also, if your discount is too complex, you risk confusing customers and potentially losing their business.

If you have tips on how you make discounts work for your programs or events, feel free to tell us about them in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about ABC Signup, registration software or how to set up discounts using registration software, please email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

1Customers using ABC Signup can create any number of discounts using the registration software’s robust pricing/discount functionality.

Topics: registration software, event marketing, pricing discounts

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