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9 Mistakes Event Planners Make

Posted on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 17:02 PM

One of the few constants in event planning is Murphy’s Law – something’s going to go wrong (and it likely will involve the audio-visual). At times, the chances of Murphy’s Law rearing its ugly tenet are exacerbated by common mistakes made by event planners.

emptyeventThat’s not meant as a finger point – it’s the nature of a beast that typically involves choreographing a gazillion moving pieces for an audience with high expectations and sometimes disparate needs.

Nevertheless, knowing the common mistakes might help you prevent them, so take a look at this list and by all means add to it in the Comments section below.

1. Taking Your Eye Off the Customer
One tiny mistake on the customer accommodation front can sabotage an otherwise perfect event. Your itinerary could play out flawlessly, your catering surpasses expectations, your presenter(s) shine and your AV sparkle. But that long line at the coat check is the memory left with most attendees, and they let you know in the evaluations.

Here’s a quick checklist of some of the basics of taking care of your customers on event day:

  • Be sure to have enough help. Can there ever be too much customer service at an event?
  • Position that help properly. Have enough to work the attendee check in, and have enough to work the aforementioned coat check (and if the weather is cold, have a coat check).
  • Make sure staff arrives on time. It does no good to have enough help if they don’t show up at crucial times (like set up and check in) and aren’t in position when attendees arrive.
  • Place signage where and if appropriate to guide attendees to check in/the event. Sure, GPS helps us all find the venue, but it’s not so helpful finding the exact room.
  • Bring an emergency event kit. Remember Murphy’s Law? A customer might cut his or her finger eating lunch. They will be comforted by that Spiderman band aid you pulled from your kit.

2. Not doing a walkthrough with participants
Who hasn’t been at an event where a speaker or sponsor misses his or her cue? Where an honoree or award recipient stepped out for a break at the moment? You can send all of the itineraries and emails and schedule reminders in the world leading up to an event, but conducting a walkthrough eliminates gray areas and puts everyone on the same page.

3. Not allowing enough set up time
Setting up for a 20-person workshop is much different than setting up for a 1,500-attendee annual meeting. Plan accordingly. Allot enough time to place materials, display signage, set up your check in, position staff, test AV, and conduct that walkthrough. You don’t want workers scurrying around when the first guest arrives – it can leave an impression of haphazard planning despite the awesome planning you’ve done up until that point.

4. Forgetting to confirm your vendors
If you’ve been in event planning long enough, you’ve probably experienced that call with the printer or caterer or florist who tells you they thought your event was tomorrow. In their mildest defense, your AV, caterer, florist, etc. typically serves multiple customers each day, and have a lot on their plates. Don’t chance it. Confirm the time, date and place with them by email or phone a day or two (more for a service that takes more time, like printing) in advance of your event, reiterating expectations and attaining their confirmation.

5. Miscalculating the size of your event
Use whatever resources you have – past experience, frequent checks of attendee registrations, etc. – to choose a right-sized venue and right-sized everything else, from materials to meals to staffing. Then, monitor confirmations as the event nears with a backup plan should your attendee numbers vary greatly from expectations.

6. Ignoring external factors
You might miscalculate the size of your event if you ignore external factors. In Louisville, for instance, it’s not wise to schedule events during the NCAA basketball tourney or around the first Saturday in May (Kentucky Derby). Use your local newspaper or community websites to check for competing events. Monitor the weather. And stay apprised of the news to make sure your caterer isn’t about to be protested by PETA or your speaker under investigation for fraud.

7. Not having a contingency plan
Speaker sick (or in hiding because of that investigation)? Venue lost power? The laptop running the AV crashed? Miscalculate the size of your event? All event planners plan for such eventualities and create a plan B. You simply must have a contingency plan in place because, well, something is going to go wrong.

8. Going over budget
Unless you are able to lock in attendance early (and many events do this by putting a cap on attendees), event budgeting is an inexact science. You will incur a number of expenses – e.g., venue, printing, catering, AV, promotion/marketing, etc. – many of which are based upon an estimated number of attendees. Most err on the high side when budgeting, but a sharp uptick in last minute attendees or any of a number of surprises (e.g., an unexpected gratuity expense, a charge for overtime, delivery/shipping expenses, overestimating income from attendees) could blow your budget. Be meticulous.

9. Not following up
With free survey tools, mobile apps, social media and evaluation tools built into registration software, you would think every event planner follows up with their attendees in one manner or another post-event. That’s not the case. It should be, as feedback from your attendees is the most important intel to improving your events going forward.

Those are nine common mistakes made by those managing events. No doubt, you can add to the list. Please use the Comments section below to share mistakes you’ve either made or seen in your experience with events. You might save someone else some angst.

If you would like to know more about ABC Signup or our registration software that eliminates a few event mistakes itself, please contact us by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, event planning, ABC Signup

And the Award for Best Customer Video Testimonial Goes to…

Posted on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

academyawardNo one. At least not yet.

While dozens of ABC Signup registration software customers have provided wonderful testimonials over the years, we have yet to catch a single one on video. Kind of like bigfoot.

To fill this void and add great content to our website, we are challenging our customers to put their words to video to help us create a small library of customer testimonial videos.

Here’s what we are looking for:

  • Focused, quality video between 30 seconds and two minutes long
  • Your first name, organization and what you use ABC Signup for (e.g., training programs, conferences, workshops, other events)
  • Why you like ABC Signup and/or why you would recommend it

Here is how easily you can produce it:

  • Have someone with a smartphone video you sharing your experience (while covering the bullet points above)
  • Video yourself on your smartphone, “selfie-style,” extolling the virtues of ABC Signup
  • Use your computer’s webcam to record your testimonial (you will find it in the Start menu > Programs > [brand] webcam or camera or similar)

Once you’ve recorded your message, send the video file, via email (support@abcsignup.com), to ABC Signup. If the file it too big for email, you can upload it using our file upload tool here.

If we get enough entries, we may even have our own fake Academy Awards-type process and award those deemed most exemplary by our amateur panel of office film buffs.

If you have any questions, please email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: customers, ABC Signup, testimonials

ABC Signup Tips - Email Edition

Posted on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

If you are an ABC Signup customer, you are likely well aware that email is one of the many powerful tools built into our swiss-army-knife-like registration software.

woman_setting_up_e-mailIt’s simple to use and it can work wonders in promoting events, creating quick and targeted notifications and automating most event-related communications. Not surprisingly, we’ve offered plenty of tips over the years to help users get the most out of the software’s email functionality.

Fresh from the archives of the “inside tip” section of our newsletter, here are five insights into best leveraging this versatile email tool.

Create E-Mail Notifications for Before and After Events
A cool, easy-to-use feature of ABC Signup allows you to create custom email messages that can be sent to all registrants or a filtered group of registrants. While you are in one of your events, go to Event Control Panel and click on the Message Center (the envelope) icon. Click New Custom Notification at the bottom of the screen and you will see two options, Basic Notification and Notification Sent to a Select List of Registrants. Pick one, click continue and create some targeted, automated notifications!

ABC-emailsetup2

Keep Everyone in the Loop
You may have lots of people involved in your events (presenters, registrars, facilities people, etc.) who need to be notified immediately when someone registers, cancels, gets wait-listed and so on.  The Internal Notifications option in Event Setup > Notifications enables you to keep everyone informed. Check off the persons you want to receive a notice when a registrant takes an action related to the event. In the email field, you can enter multiple addresses separated by a semi-colon.

How to Stop an Event's E-Mails From Going Out
If you want to stop an event's emails from going out, you can disable delivery in the Message Center (envelope icon). At the bottom of the Pending or Delivered tabs, you will see the green link that says "Notification Delivery Enabled. Click here to disable." When you click the link, it will change to "Notification Delivery Disabled. Click here to enable." No emails will be delivered for that event until you click the link and turn it green again. In Pending, you can also delete all pending emails should you want to do so before re-enabling delivery.

Piggyback on Your Confirmation Messages
If you’ve got pre-event materials that you want in the hands of your attendees, why not attach them to your confirmation message? You can attach a PDF in any of the text editors within ABC Signup, whether it’s the email notification, event description, invitation or other pages. Go to Help > Basic Tips > How to Link a PDF for step-by-step instructions.

snowboarder_wmtg_postponedWell, the Weather Outside is Frightful…
This especially cold, icy and snowy winter has created hazardous conditions that resulted in school closures, dangerous roads and rapidly changing schedules across the country. Local television news cover closings and delays for schools, government and major employers, but how are you getting the word out when you need to postpone or delay your programs or events?

Here's a tip: Use your notifications tools built into ABC Signup. Email registrants with the news and makeup dates, if available. Also, post something on your event pages that will notify those more prone to check a website than their e-mail.

As always, if you have any thoughts on the content above, by all means share them in the Comments section below. Perhaps you can share some of the creative ways you’ve used ABC Signup’s email functionality.

If you just want to know more about ABC Signup and our registration software, send us your own email or contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, e-mails, ABC Signup

Refer Us And Earn $100!

Posted on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

Nothing sells like a referral. Hearing about a product or service from a peer simply resonates with a potential buyer more so than a website, cold call or marketing packet.

CTA-referralsOver the years, ABC Signup has benefitted from customer evangelists who’ve spread the word about our registration software to organizations in need. We’ve converted several prospects into customers via referrals, and believe it’s high time to provide some sort of incentive for those willing to extol the virtues of our registration management solution.

Starting today, any referral that leads to a sale earns the “referrer” $100 and the organization signing up a $100 discount. To make a referral, simply fill out the information at this link, which has also been conveniently placed on the ABC Signup admin site. If we are able to bring your prospect into ABC Signup within 12 months, we’ll send you a check for $100 (and discount their subscription by $100). We will continue to do the same with each referral. And if by chance your organization has a gift limit, we’ll send you a check for that amount and send the difference to the charity of your choice.

We truly appreciate your support as a customer. We strive to deliver a product that you would recommend to others. If this incentive makes it more worth your time to do so, great. If you have any questions about our referral program, send us an email or give us a call (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, referrals, ABC Signup

10 Big Events That Started (Relatively) Small

Posted on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

It’s okay to dream big, whether you are a blog reader, a registration software company or someone who manages programs or events.

SuperBowl 49, for instance, just answered the dreams of the New England Patriots and their fans; the 50% of those on the winning side of the more than $1 billion bet on the game’s outcome; the broadcasting network (NBC); and a handful of advertisers (not you, Nationwide) who scored with their creative but incredibly expensive ads.

The SuperBowl itself is one of many examples of events that started out with modest goals and little fanfare but grew into something much bigger. The storyline for these success stories usually follows a vision, hard work, persistence, technological innovations and perhaps a little luck. Check out the incredible growth of these 10 events and how it happened, and maybe envision bigger things for your organization.

SuperBowl
The first SuperBowl, held in 1967, paired the National Football League (NFL) champion against the champion of an upstart league, the American Football League (AFL). It wasn’t even officially called the SuperBowl, as that name was flippantly suggested by a team owner who had watched his children play with a hard-rubber “super” ball. (We were so easily entertained back then.) While the inaugural game drew a respectable 28 million television viewers, 30,000 seats were left empty at the venue, the Coliseum in Los Angeles. As a side note, a 30 second ad during the 1967 broadcast cost $37,500.

superbowlContrast that to today, when the SuperBowl draws more than 110 million television viewers in the U.S., and approximately 1 billion overall across 200 countries. The venue itself is always sold out, the game is often the most watched broadcast of the year in the U.S., and a 30 second ad costs north of $4 million. Of note, SuperBowl Sunday is also the second highest food consumption day in U.S. (behind only Thanksgiving).

How did they do it? The SuperBowl soared in tandem with the popularity of the NFL, which rode the explosive growth of television to become the country’s most popular sport. The SuperBowl itself became a national-holiday type event by adding halftime entertainment featuring famous recording artists, moving the game’s start to prime time, and in 1984, having a Ridley Scott-directed Apple ad ignite an entirely different competition for the best SuperBowl commercials. In an odd twist of that old line about “only reading Playboy for the articles,” some of the millions that watch the SuperBowl today only do so for the ads.

TED
The TED Conference began in 1984 as a one-off conference on technology, entertainment and design (TED). The first TED included then cutting-edge demos of the compact disc and the e-book, as well as 3D graphics from Lucasfilm. The inaugural event lost money, and wasn’t tried again until six years later.

TEDlive2Today, TED might be the most anticipated motivational and instructional conference in the world. The roster of presenters now includes scientists, philosophers, musicians, business and religious elite, philanthropists and many others considered to be some of the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and teachers. By 2012, TED talks had been translated into more than 100 languages and had over 1 billion online video views. Today, there are 17 TED page views on the Internet every second.

How did they do it? Organizers took a number of steps to grow the event. They launched a sister conference, TEDGlobal, held in locations around the world; they created the TED Prize, which grants its winners one wish to change the world; and they built an audio and video podcast series, TED Talks, in which the best TED content is released free online. TED is a prime example of an entity using free Internet distribution of content to spur explosive growth.

Burning Man
Launched in 1986, Burning Man began on Baker Beach in San Francisco as a bonfire ritual among 20 friends on the summer solstice.

burning-maneffigyThe event quickly outgrew its beach location and ventured away from the city to escape its “materialistic” trappings. Burning Man added an art festival, camping, impromptu classes and all-night dance parties in its new home since 1991, Black Rock Desert in Nevada. As the size of the wooden man burned in effigy grew in stature (from approximately nine feet tall in 1986 to over 100 feet tall today), so, too has the festival. The 2014 event sold out (the event has sold out since 2011) while attracting some 66,000 participants. There are now regional chapters in 28 countries. And as a side note, the busiest time of the year for the Reno-Tahoe airport isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas – its late August, when nearby Black Rock Desert becomes Black Rock City for a week.

How did they do it? Burning Man embraced its event as a cultural movement, creating an almost anti-capitalistic, communal environment built around 10 guiding principles all related to giving of yourself to others and to yourself. In part by word of mouth and in part by it being embraced in pop culture, Black Rock became the city to escape to from the life of selfish, money concentrated and materialistic societies.

Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby broke slowly out of the gate in 1875 as one of four races held on the first Saturday in May before an estimated 10,000 fans – pre-grandstand – at Churchill Downs’ then-fledgling racetrack.

ky_derby_bingFast forward 140 years to May 2014, when more than 160,000 fans filled the mammoth, six-story grandstand and clubhouse at Churchill Downs – as well as its sprawling infield – to watch what today is the country’s longest continuously running sporting event and known around the world as the “Run for the Roses” and “the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.” Tens of millions watched the event on television, and more than $186 million was wagered across the country on the day’s race card.

How did they do it? It helped to have an innovator and P.T. Barnum-like promoter in Matt Winn, who brought in pari-mutuel wagering to circumvent gambling prohibition laws, tirelessly pitched the event to the national media, invited entertainment moguls to elevate the Derby’s social status and added all sorts of touches that would later define the event, from the playing of My Old Kentucky Home to the garland of roses awarded to the winner to the Mint Julep drink and glassware. Winn staged some incredible promotions along the way, opening the infield for concerts, fairs, locomotive crashes and the first plane takeoff in the state, and also using the 26-acre space to grow potatoes during WWI and set up camp Winn in WWII.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a compilation of free, online courses that traces its origin to 2006 when then-hedge fund analyst and MIT-educated Salman Khan recorded video instruction on the Internet to tutor a cousin. Khan soon after began adding courses with the intent of providing free education to anyone through micro lectures posted online in video format on YouTube.

khanacademyA funny thing happened over the next few years. Khan’s videos went viral. His free online education platform garnered the attention and funding of the likes of Bill Gates, Google and the then-richest man in the world, Carlos Slim (the Mexican billionaire wanted Khan to expand its Spanish library of videos). Today, Khan Academy has grown to 80 employees and 150,000 learning exercises on everything from Physics to Psychology. Its 15 million registered students in 70 countries have amassed 500 million YouTube views of Khan Academy-created courses.

How did they do it? Khan started with a simple idea that married his instructional acumen with the Internet’s anywhere, anytime distribution capabilities. It certainly helped that his outstanding content got discovered and attained funding, allowing him to hire teams to create additional subject matter in numerous languages to reach an even larger audience.

ComicCon
ComicCon – the annual conference celebrating the comic book industry – had its first run in 1970. The three-day event drew 300 attendees to the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego.

comic_con_intlToday, the original, San Diego-based ComicCon International draws more than 130,000 to the San Diego Convention Center and includes close to 700 separate events. The event draws national media attention in large part because of its cult of fans who dress in full comic-character regalia.

How did they do it?  ComicCon tapped into our love of comic books and then rode the wave of comic-book character mania as movies and television brought fictional heroes to the mainstream. Look at the comic book subjects who’ve become television and/or movie hit franchises since 1970: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, IronMan, Captain America, Hellboy, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Men in Black, Thor, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Four and many more.

Dreamforce
In 2003, customer relationship management software newbie Salesforce held its first users’ conference – dubbed Dreamforce (see, they dared to dream) – attracting a respectable 1,300 attendees to a hotel ballroom in the Bay Area.

dreamforceIn 2014, Dreamforce drew 150,000 attendees to its multiple venues in downtown San Francisco and another seven million participated online. The 2014 event featured presenters such as former Vice President Al Gore, entrepreneur/author Anthony Robbins, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and entertainers such as Neil Young, Bruno Mars and Cake.

How did they do it? Salesforce sold their CRM software to virtually every business with a pulse, invited users to their annual conference, and built the event as equal parts educational, inspirational and entertaining. Word of mouth apparently helps, too, as approximately 95% of Dreamforce attendees recommend the conference to others.

Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival debuted as the U.S. Film Festival in Salt Lake City, UT in 1978. It was moved to Park City and named Sundance in 1985 after Robert Redford (and non-profit, Sundance Institute) took over the event’s leadership. At that time, Sundance comprised 13 staff and screened 86 films in two theaters.

sundanceCut ahead to 2014, when the Sundance Film Festival boasted approximately 50,000 attendees and 186 films screen in nine theaters (and served by more than 200 festival staff). It is one of largest film festivals in the U.S., and has become an incubator and launching point for independent films, including the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Blair Witch Project, Clerks, Little Miss Sunshine and Napolean Dynamite.

How did they do it? Getting Robert Redford involved with anything related to movies probably greatly enhances your chance of success. Holding the event in a resort location during skiing season creates an enticing lure to the Hollywood crowd. And “discovering” so many future blockbusters certainly builds credibility for a film festival.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
The first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival rocked the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California in 1999 with a strong lineup of bands (Beck, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Moby, Ben Harper, Modest Mouse, etc.). Unfortunately, only 37,000 showed up for the two-day event in October, and financial issues prevented it from being held in 2000.

coachella1Fifteen years later, Coachella has gone platinum. Now held for three days over two weekends, the 2014 event attracted nearly 580,000 attendees. Organizers not only have a hit on their hands, but the Coachella model has been copied fairly successfully in the U.S. at such venues as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

How did they do it? Coachella successfully copied the European music festival model of a destination festival with multiple stages, related attractions, art and camping. They also booked up-and-coming artists over those already commercially successful, earning style points from music aficionados, critics and hipsters.

NCAA Final Four
With March Madness just around the corner, it’s hard to believe that at one time the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and its Final Four wasn’t the biggest game in town. In 1939, when the first Big Dance took place in Evanston, IL featuring eight teams, the more important college basketball tournament took place in New York City – the National Invitational Tournament or NIT. Not surprisingly, the first NCAA tournament netted a total attendance of just 15,000, and didn’t do much better in subsequent years.

finalfourcrowdFast break ahead to 2014, when more than 79,000 fans filled AT&T Stadium for the NCAA Finals. The NCAA tourney now includes 68 teams, and attendance for all games in 2014 topped 739,000, with each game averaging 10.5 million viewers via television.

How did they do it? Call it shrewd maneuvering, or maybe even bullying, but the NCAA pretty much blocked the NIT out of the action. First, the NCAA – as a governing body for many of the conferences – forced conference winners to only participate in its tournament. They delivered the killer blow in 1975 by expanding their tournament to 32 teams, allowing (and requiring) selected non-conference winners to participate. This sent only the also-rans to the NIT, making it a consolation tournament of sorts. In 2005, the NCAA bought the rights to the NIT and settled an anti-trust lawsuit with the NIT’s managing organization.

From a recent YouTube phenomena, Khan Academy – to an iconic horse race soon celebrating its 141st running – these 10 events have defied the odds to become American success stories and case studies for events done right. The examples above cover industries like sports, business, entertainment and education, but the lessons learned – things like creativity, aligning with burgeoning technology, producing excellent content and aggressive marketing – could apply just about anywhere. 

If you would like to share your thoughts about these events – or would like to offer insights on other events celebrating remarkable growth – please type away in the Comments section below.

And just in case you want to know more about ABC Signup or registration software, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, event marketing, events

10 Excuses for Failed New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on Wed, Feb 04, 2015 @ 10:02 AM

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t survive January. Many never get further than their initial thought or utterance.

dog-nyresolutionsWhy is this? From informal surveys, research and personal experience, there are lots of excuses why resolutions never see the shadow of Groundhog’s Day. In no particular ranking, here are 10 of them. See if any look familiar.

1. Too cold.
In most of the U.S., January is the coldest month. It’s also tied for the longest month, and most definitely the darkest month (most hours without sunlight). So, yeah, it doesn’t lend itself to outdoor activities such as exercising (one of the top resolutions). That’s why many folks join a gym and…

2. Quit the gym.
It cost too much. You can’t find time for it. You don’t like the people at the gym who looked at you like you were only there this month because of your New Year’s resolution. Your gym buds stopped showing up. Or you don’t like driving to the gym in cold weather. Yada, yada, yada.

3. Wussed out as usual.
You squeeze the Charmin. Tap on aquarium glass. Even buy stuff from the creepy guy in the ice cream van. Willpower never was your strong suit.

4. Too busy with work/kids.
Perhaps you are on your third day care due to the two-year-old’s biting issue, or providing extra homework assistance in support of your child’s New Year’s resolution, or spending evenings as a nervous passenger offering driving instruction to a 16-year old. On the work side, it’s easy to spend more hours in the office in January trying to help get the company start the new year with a bang.

5. Spouse quit his/her resolution, so you lost your motivation.
Quitting is contagious. If one spouse gives up on the resolution, the other is likely to follow – especially if both share a similar resolution, such as losing weight or arguing less.

6. Blew the resolution on the first weekend and didn’t feel like rebooting it.
Think about it. We start the New Year coming off the holidays and jumping back into the work routine. Is that the easiest time to quit smoking, start dieting or add something to our schedule like exercise or learning a new skill? Probably not, which is one reason we blow it early and call it quits.

7. It was a stupid resolution.
You aren’t going to lose 20 pounds and become a level 32 druid in World of Warcraft. One does not beget the other. Most of our resolutions are like that. They aren’t simple or realistic, and there’s typically no reasonable strategy in place to accomplish them.

8. Forgot it.
Somewhere in the midst of back to school, returning Christmas presents, football bowl games, performance reviews or getting your frozen water pipes fixed, your resolution slipped your mind. It happens.

9. Waiting until Lent/Ramadan/Yom Kippur/Other when resolutions count for something.
New Year’s resolutions, so the thinking goes, are guided by a calendar date. Religious sacrifices, on the other hand, heed a higher calling. So, after a fleeting dalliance with a New Year’s resolution, you resolve that it’s okay – maybe even enlightened – to put it off until that period when the Supreme Being is watching.

10. Why bother with the resolution when the world’s going to you-know-what anyway?
This excuse is mostly limited to avid consumers of the “news,” especially the evening local/national broadcasts and cable news networks.

It isn’t David Letterman material, but we can mostly relate to this list of excuses. More than a few of us have used at least two of them in our lifetimes, much less the past month. But no one need beat themselves up about it. According to statistics, more than 90% of New Year’s resolutions end in failure.

Ignore the rationalizations. Resolutions fail because they either aren’t specific or they aren’t grounded in your reality. They fail because we don’t properly plan to accomplish them, or we stumble along the way at the little things like tracking progress, rewarding ourselves, taking a break, etc.

If you are one of the nine out of 10 that don’t accomplish your New Year’s resolution, what are your best excuses for failing? If you are in the one-out-of-10 resolution achievers, tell us why you succeed and how we can do better. We’d love to read your views in the Comments section below.

Oh, and by the way – If you would like to know more about ABC Signup or registration software, feel free to contact us by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

 

 

Topics: registration software, ABC Signup, resolutions, excuses

ABC Signup Tips - Troubleshooting Edition

Posted on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 @ 11:01 AM

According to our latest data, one of the greatest secrets on the Internet is ABC Signup’s email newsletter. Published monthly for the past four years, it contains all sorts of useful information, including dozens of blurbs on new features of ABC Signup and tips on using the registration software.

computer-trainingIn this first installment of our “tips” series, we curate some of the monthly brain food we’ve been cooking related to troubleshooting issues ABC Signup users bump into. Please dig in below.

Clean Up a Recurring Error With ‘Search and Replace’
You just created 100 events and realize the description for each one has a misspelling? It’s going to be a long night…unless you use ABC Signup’s “search and replace” feature (Setup > Advanced tab > Event Maintenance). You can globally replace any word or phrase on any page that was created with the text editor.

Choose the data type, such as event page or confirmation emails. Then globally change all instances where the word or phrase appears within the data type. If you want to remove a section of text entirely, type in "Blank" in the "New Text" field.

When you’re finished, you can still tell everyone you stayed at work all night to make the changes, saying that’s the kind of team player you are.

Event Not Showing on Calendar? What to Check
You’ve gone through event setup, plugged in the details, created your registration form and when you click to see your handiwork, you event isn’t showing on your calendar. Don’t panic. Check the following:

Is the event posted in ABC Signup?
Are the registration start and end dates correct?
Are there seats available?
Does the event have a category in common with the calendar?

If the answer is “No” to any of these, the event will not appear on the calendar. 

Out With the Old (Events), in With the New
With the New Year (or new school year or new fiscal year) come new events. If you like a less cluttered view of your events in ABC Signup, move those past events into the “Archived” folder. It doesn’t delete them, but it does clean up your “Current Events” view. You can do this one at a time by selecting the event, clicking Event Setup, and checking the radial button for “Archived.” Or, do it in bulk by going to Setup > Advanced tab > Maintenance and clicking “Change Status for Multiple Events.” This allows you to select events by categories you might have created – or by their current position as posted, not posted, archived or all – and move them to the desired folder.

Case of the Missing Link
Aside from panic, there are three things you should do when the link to the registration form doesn’t appear on your event page.

One, check the event start and end date. You may have included the [RegistrationLink] tag, but the registration start date is still in the future, or the registration end date is in the past.

Two, you may not have included the [RegistrationLink] tag when creating the event page. Go look at Event > Event Control Panel > Event Page.

And three, carefully check your tag. Part of the tag – such as a bracket – may be missing or otherwise inadvertently corrupted when you added it to the event page. Remove the tag and try again.

You Don’t Want to See Red Ink Around Anything ‘Payment’
Typically, there is one of two causes for red “Method of Payment” text to appear on the registration form when there are no payment options.

One cause is that a payment option has not been checked (Event Setup > Financial), but there is a fee entered in the Cost per Participant. The other cause is that a payment option has not been checked, but there is a fee associated with a question option (Registration Form). Fix it and tell your boss there’s no “red ink” in your program.

Save the Wails by Saving the Changes
Nothing is more frustrating than putting in work on some software and proudly clicking “save” so you can show off your work, only to see a prompt that your save attempt failed. If you get this message with the text editor in ABC Signup, here’s what probably happened:

  1. You exceeded the 8,000 character limit. If so, “Message cannot exceed 8000 characters (including HTML formatting)” will appear at the top of the screen.
  2. You need to update your computer’s version of Java, which is necessary to use the text editor. Go to www.java.com for a free update.

Use the 'Help' Tab
Speaking of not seeing the forest from the trees, have we mentioned the "Help" tab in ABC Signup's top menu? In our effort to provide inside tips on how to get the most out of our software, somehow we've neglected to promote the software's Help function that's designed to connect you with the right guidance for your particular needs. You can find your solution via a few clicks into the Help menu, or simply type what you are trying to discover/accomplish in Help's Search menu. If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact us. Not only will we provide guidance, but we are always updating our Help section to make it as comprehensive as possible.

As always, if you have any thoughts on the content above, by all means share them in the Comments section below. Just don’t tell us how to earn $7,000 per month selling therapeutic leg warmers on the Internet.

And finally, If you would like to know more about ABC Signup and our cooler-than-Pat-Benatar registration software, hit us with your best shot by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, ABC Signup

7 Ways to Get More Out of ABC Signup in 2015

Posted on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 14:01 PM

This article initially appeared as the lead of the January 2015 edition of our monthly newsletter.

At its core, ABC Signup is software – like Excel or PowerPoint, InDesign or Photoshop or Salesforce or PeopleSoft.

And like any software, what users are able to accomplish with it has everything to do with their working knowledge of its tools and functionality. Typically, better versed = better productivity = better customer experience. So naturally, we want our customers to be PhDs in ABC.

studyingOur education starts during the sales process then ramps up in our training courses designed to get new customers up and running. Hopefully, we keep the conversation going throughout customers’ experience via periodic calls from sales and/or customer service reps. But, we also understand users learn in different ways, so we offer several options to help customers master our software.

Here are seven ways we think our customers can get even more out of what might be the most complete registration management system on the planet.

1. Read our email newsletter and our blog
Did you know that each of our monthly newsletters includes a brief on new features of our software as well as a tip on how to use some of our tools? Scroll down this edition and see for yourself. Or, go to the archive newsletters on our website and check out any of our dozens of past editions. Many of the tips we share reflect some of the more common requests from our customers, so they are likely relevant to what you are trying to do.

In addition, on occasion we unveil a new feature or provide in-depth instruction on how to use features in our blog, so don’t forget to either sign up for instant delivery or visit it every once in a while.

2. View our Video tutorials (we will make more, too)
After a dozen years of working with customers, we’ve become familiar with some of the areas in which more instruction is needed, and sometimes in a visual, step-by-step demonstration format. We’ve taken some of those key topics (e.g., creating event pages, exporting reports, etc.) and created brief video tutorials to walk customers through basic steps to utilize that particular tool. We will continue to make additional tutorial videos as we identify helpful topics.

3. Familiarize yourself with the Help section of ABC Signup
In that cluster of tabs at the top of your ABC Signup software is “Help,” perhaps the most useful tool in all of ABC Signup. It holds the key to unlocking all of those other tools that tubocharge the registration management process. We don’t expect customers to retain everything we teach them, and we don’t expect to cover every detail of every tool ABC Signup offers. But, we do our best to make sure all of the answers customers need are a click away in our Help section.

4. Attend one of our monthly New User Trainings
As many of our customers know from their own workshops and training events, live interaction is a great means to ensure content is learned. Each month, we offer live webinar training online via GoToMeeting and conference call that covers the basics of our software and leaves time to address participants’ questions. Date and registration information for these new user trainings can be found in the monthly newsletter (see below for info on this month’s session).

5. Periodically check out the What’s New tab of ABC Signup
Another vital tab located at the top of the ABC Signup admin page is “What’s New,” where we share information and usage instructions regarding new features and functionality added to the software. Since we post a new feature/function almost every other week – and since most of these improvements were requested by customers – users should make it a priority to regularly click this tab.

6. Try a feature or function you haven’t used before
Software is kind of like a foreign language in that you need to use it, practice it and even explore it to become fluent in it. Users should dig into the system and try things. For a while, you may want to make a copy of an event so you can test things without messing up your live event. And if something you try blows up, don’t panic, just move on to number 7 on this list – talk to us.

7. Contact your sales rep or our customer service team
Yes, we are busy. Yes, our customer base keeps growing. Yes, we probably get more calls than ever before. But yes, we really do welcome customer calls and emails. We want users to get the most out of the software. We want to know what’s giving them issues. We want ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Customer interactions give us the opportunity to help users work on that PhD in ABC while we garner feedback that might become the next great software feature. So by all means, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

From experience, we know that customers who dive into ABC Signup don’t typically look for a ladder out. We strongly (and selfishly) encourage users to pursue any or all of these seven options above to become more proficient users and ideally, more satisfied customers.

Topics: registration software, ABC Signup, registration management system

Are You Ready for These Eight Learning Trends for 2015?

Posted on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 @ 09:01 AM

Because our crystal ball broke years ago trying to pick Kentucky Derby winners, we defer to the experts when trying to pin down trends in areas such as training or events.

MM900282816In our quest to find something a little more useful than buzzwords like “technology” and “collaboration,” we checked out what trainingindustry.com had to say on the matter, and found an interesting presentation on Learning Trends for 2015 from Don Duquette of GP Strategies. Duquette offered eight trends that he believed would impact training and learning in the coming year and beyond.

Polls during the presentation found disparate interest and activity in his suggested trends. Take a look at our synopsis of his ideas and let us know what you think.

1. MOOC Mania
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – the open-access, unlimited participation, web-based instructional programs – ushered in Duquette’s list, similar to so many learning-related trend assessments of the past two to three years. In Duquette’s view, however, the next big thing for MOOCs is making them work in the corporate training environment.

That’s a challenge on at least two fronts. First, while MOOCs took higher education by storm with their ability to reach the masses (the New York Times called 2012 the “year of the MOOC”), their abysmal completion rates (Duquette cited statistics showing 96% of participants don’t complete MOOCs) won’t cut it in corporate America. Second, MOOCs for corporate training will be “closed” – as in only available to employees – but still require the technical platforms available.

Duquette cited a recent Microsoft MOOC as proof that the concept can be applied successfully at the corporate level. Microsoft built an eight-week course around “business strategy,” with completion earning participants a certificate from a co-content provider, the prestigious INSEAD. The curriculum coupled financial, strategy and other business-related content with a final assignment based on using business strategy learnings to solve challenges at Microsoft.

The online platform, content, peer review, time-bound requirements and the prestige of completion led to an 82% completion rate.

Of the webinar participants polled, less than 8% currently use MOOCs or expect to in 2015.

2. Do You Speak Visual?
Duquette references the effectiveness of visual learning – along with workers’ reduced time for learning and “moment of need” learning – as drivers for the trend of more visual learning content like videos, images and even emojis. He sees more and more short, quick videos and images being incorporated in training content, and cites the exponential rate of uploads of each (100 hours of videos uploaded every minute on YouTube, 28,000 images uploaded every minute on Instagram) as proof that its already happening.

Also accelerating this trend is the ability today for almost anyone to access this visual content anywhere via just about any device.

Of the webinar participants polled, almost 50% currently use visuals or expect to in 2015.

3. Paperless Education
The paperless movement is afoot – the U.S. Secretary of Education has called for textbooks to be obsolete in k-12 schools by 2016. Not only is learning content moving online via ebooks, videos and other formats, but the tools learners use to take notes on this instruction are as well. Duquette pointed to products like Evernote and Microsoft’s One Note as means in which learners can write notes, draw, schedule and even search their notes.

With respect to the impact on training and learning, going paperless points to more and more of a digital environment going forward for all parties.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 28% currently “go paperless” or expect to in 2015.

4. Predictive Personalization
Personalization is already built into a lot of training, whether through programs design for specific departments or employees, or specially designed content that asks questions to segment learners and then funnels them to the appropriate learning track. Duquette predicts that technology – specifically “beacon”-like products – will further advance predictive personalization.

He pointed to the ibeacon products currently in use that do things like broadcast radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets, such as a restaurant telling you today’s special, your Fitbit suggesting you workout, or that Disney “magicband” personalizing your experience at the theme park. In training circles, Duquette sees beacons providing instant learning content about equipment or a product as a worker moves into its vicinity.

Of the webinar participants polled, around 13% currently use personalization or expect to in 2015.

5. Expectations for Speed and Ease
Another trend – and likely another reflection of our shortening attention spans as learners – is the move toward “short learning bursts” versus hour-long (or more) courses. Participants want to know how long it will take to complete the training, and typically from their perspective, the shorter the better.

Duquette showed a menu from the Slate website – that indicated how much time was required to read various articles – as something we should consider when posting our own brief training programs, courses, videos and so on.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 63% currently use short learning bursts or expect to in 2015.

6. 3D for Learning
3D printers and Occulus Rift (the 3D, virtual reality headset) are cool gadgets that one day soon will impact learning, according to Duquette. Both offer applications for manufacturing such as creating models for training or giving virtual tours of an industrial plant.

Of the webinar participants polled, a little over 2% currently use 3D tools or expect to in 2015.

7. Big Data
Nationwide recently hired a CDO – Chief Data Officer – to find value in the mountains of data the insurance company has accumulated over the years. The company is now better able to predict life transitions (and the subsequent need for insurance products) from analyzing customers’ digital trails. Soon, suggested Duquette, companies will use big data to better develop training programs that best advance the goals of the organization.

Of the webinar participants polled, about 10% currently use big data or expect to in 2015.

8. Mobile Apps
Seeing “mobile” in a trends article is a bit like hearing “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” if you are old enough to remember the Brady Bunch or happen to watch TV Land. The fact is, mobile continues to become a bigger and bigger part of any training/learning program. At the time of his presentation, Duquette pointed out that there were 33,886 learning apps available in the App Store. As we figure out how to develop, control and use mobile apps for learning – and make them corporate or training specific – mobile will become less of a trend and more of a solution.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 23% currently use mobile tools or expect to in 2015.

What do you think? Are you seeing any of these trends in your training environment? What trends are you seeing that aren’t mentioned here? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

And as always, if you want to know more about registration software or ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, trends, learning trends, training trends

Do You Know Your Software History (Infographic)?

Posted on Thu, Jan 08, 2015 @ 15:01 PM

The kind folks at software directory Capterra put together an infographic on the history of software and carved out a space for a certain registration software pioneer in their timeline. Pretty cool, and very informative. Take a look below.

The History of Software

Topics: registration software, software