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When to Tell Them to Turn Off Their Phones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pa-dum-dum. We’re here all week.

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

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

Topics: registration software, event planning, ABC Signup

7 Training Resources To Sharpen Your Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics: registration software, Training, ABC Signup

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

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

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

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

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

Try these tips to make the mandatory feel more voluntary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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