The Podcast Movement – Is it for Real?

We all get caught up in the latest “shiny” thing. Sometimes it’s best to sit back and see how it plays out instead of investing our time and energy into something that might go away. Some might have even thought this about podcasting when it first emerged… boy, were they (we?) wrong!

While the original version of podcasting was called audio-blogging back in the 80’s, what we consider podcasting now started to emerge in late 2004. The data shows that more and more people are listening to podcasts in droves these days, which means it could be a very valuable place to spend some resources.

Of course, stats are always changing, but according to this article by MediaKix, over 35 million people listened to podcasts in 2016. And with the continued growth of mobile usage, this number is likely to continue to climb. 80% of people in a survey done by Edison Research indicated they listen to podcasts on mobile devices in their homes.

5 More Reasons Podcasting Matters:

  1. Mobile. People download the podcasts and listen to them everywhere (so they Podcast Notificationsneed not be “connected”). Between 2012 to 2015 the amount of podcasts that were downloaded (not necessarily listened to) almost tripled from 1.2 billion to 3.3 billion downloads.
  2. Invested. 4 hours and 10-minutes is the average listening time per person each week. This means you have an interested, captive audience.
  3. Affluence. Podcast listeners in the U.S. earn (on average) $10K more than the average American… this means they’re more likely have money to buy your products.
  4. Ad Revenue. They’re invested, and they have money, which means more and more businesses should be sponsoring podcasts.
  5. Emerging. It’s not completely unchartered, but apparently 9 out of 10 marketers believe this is “relatively unchartered territory.” And this presents an opportunity to start moving some of their radio ad-buying dollars over to podcasts.

Want to take the leap into podcasting?

Perhaps podcasting is something you or your organization might like to get involved with? Maybe set out as a guest first, and then determine whether it’s something you’d like to embark upon yourself. There’s no denying it’s a way for people to get to know the real you. If you’re doing it right, you’re prepared, but not scripted. You are authentic. There’s great appeal in getting to know people on a level where they want to hear you talk.

What is your end game, though? You’ll have to think about what you’ll be trying to accomplish. You’ll need to remember this is not a transactional thing. The only thing close to being transactional is the sponsorship element — you get paid by a sponsor to be mentioned on your show. Keep in mind, however, that your listeners need to find some value in what your sponsors are promoting.

Podcasters are helping people in some ways by imparting thoughtful opinions, data, and advice. And that’s absolutely part of why people listen… But they also want to be entertained! If you’re having some level of fun on your show, that means your guests and your listeners are too, which is like gold. But also understand that it’s a long-play; it’s likely going to be only one element of everything you’re doing with your business (or events).

Podcasting, like social media, is still quite new

I’ve been attending Social Media Marketing World for the past four years. It’s put on by Social Media Examiner, which has seen great success from their Social Media Marketing podcast. They’ve been giving a hat-tip to podcasting and providing sessions since the start, and I must admit I didn’t see how it related to me. I never thought I’d get involved at all.

Cut to today, and I’ve not only been a guest on four different shows, but I’m now on the crew of a podcast. I’m even hosting shows on live events and marketing, and I love it! Having a few guests and a crew for an hour-long show puts us in a unique position to have some fun. But I know it’s possible to also have fun and provide value to your listeners with just one guest at 15-minutes per episode.

Are EventProfs podcasting?

Podcast MovementHow can we apply this to the meetings and events landscape? Well, there are already a handful of eventprofs who are really doing it right:

The Meetings Podcast – the “OG” podcast in our industry. They’ve recorded more than 500 episodes! There’s a great depth and breadth of knowledge shared on these shows.

Event Tech Podcast – this is a really insightful podcast that makes technology accessible. John Federico asks great questions, and has fantastic guests who know their stuff.

EventIcons – this is a Webcast that airs live, and is then published the following week. Will Curran, Laura Lopez, Brandt Krueger, and Alex Plaxen help out with the show from hosting to live tweeting the show content as it airs.

The AV Life – this podcast has a large crew of pros who rotate between the different shows. They cover both integration AV and live event AV / technology.

There are a handful more, but not many. Doesn’t that show there’s a huge opportunity here?

It might seem like a daunting prospect. What kind of gear do I need? Will anyone listen? Let the excitement of the potential overcome the fear you might have. Here’s a great resource list for the equipment you’ll need, along with tips and tricks regarding how to podcast.

Every podcast expert I’ve heard speak has this piece of advice: just start. Your first podcast will be worse than your second, and your second worse than your third… you get the idea. They’ve all agreed that it might be scary at first, but you won’t get anywhere unless you start.

Conclusion

In my research for this post (which I had already titled) I came across a conference called The Podcast Movement — how appropriate! This will only be the third year they’re holding it, and I quickly decided I’m going to attend. Just as social media is still very new, so is podcasting. All of this new media is changing so rapidly — unlike anything else in the history of business — and we all have a ton to learn. Being a part of the movement is something I find really exciting.

I challenge you to explore the opportunities that podcasting provides. Dig in, check it out, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Maybe your association can do a monthly show? Maybe you could interview keynotes or other speakers on your podcast to generate buzz regarding your events?

Check out Mike McCallen’s Website where he offers resources to help you get yours going. Look into attending The Podcast Movement – it’s super affordable, and will be in Anaheim August 23-25. And listen to a lot of different kinds of podcasts to determine who is doing it right, and what kind of show you think you’d like to have. In addition to considering a new professional avenue, you might find your new favorite thing (and something else to listen to while you’re driving to work or running!)

BONUS: The “Podcast Man” is selling these equipment kits to help us get started – smart dude! Check it out.

 

Europe is Quicker to Adopt Event Technology

While all event professionals are exceptional, and understand they need to keep an eye out for new technology, we’ve noticed a difference between the U.S. and European markets. It’s been a fun ride being involved in meetings all over the world since we launched, so we thought we’d explore the difference.

When the opportunity first came up to apply for an award in innovation at an international conference, my first thought was, well… does it make sense to go that far from “home” for a tradeshow? And then I began really digging into both our Google Analytics and our user’s geographic locations. It turns out more than 50% of our users are outside the US, and the percentage is even higher of where the searches for our product are happening.

I joke that we’re “big in Ukraine,” but it really is because of how often I see the country when we get sign-ups. We have a really high percentage of searches (Google analytics) and sign-ups from both European and Latin American countries. Why is this? And then it hit me – one of the reasons could be that countries outside the U.S. tend to be quicker to make changes in the technology they use.

Innovation is key

EventCollab CEO Tommy Melancon, EventCollab Innovation in Motion Award

Tommy Melancon, EventCollab CEO & Founder holding the IBTM America Trophy

We didn’t win that innovation award, but we did make the “Top 10” two years in-a-row. This gave us the opportunity to have a stand in the Innovation Zone at IBTM World in Barcelona in 2015 and 2016. We were thrilled with the interest and the number of demos we gave to attendees. There’s a difference in lingo in the industry between Europe and the U.S., but we caught on quickly.

We won the “Innovation in Motion” award (along with InitLive) at IBTM America in 2016 (we’ll be there this year – make an appointment with us!), and made the short-list to participate in the IMEX Pitch at IMEX America. We know producers, planners, and all the vendors they work with need technology that helps them collaborate and be more efficient through the planning process (because we are still actively working in the events industry ourselves). This showed us there’s absolutely a place for our tool in the U.S. also.

It’s been awesome to share EventCollab with the entire industry, and especially at the conferences we’ve attended in Spain and London.

Running events is the same

Is there a difference in how we run our events? All events still have the same fundamental needs: venue, speakers, participants, audio-visual setup, food and beverage, and the team that makes all the magic happen – the planning team and vendors. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is the preeminent global organization providing the education and connections we all thrive on.

This past fall the Italian chapter of MPI celebrated their 25th anniversary, and there was a great write-up in The Meeting Professional magazine that spoke to how this first European chapter shares inspiration throughout Europe. It’s this awesome community we’re so happy to have become a part of since launching EventCollab’s event project management software almost two years ago.

Everyone needs help with event project management

Event project management is something that everyone in the industry is doing, but how many are doing it efficiently using available technology? How many event profs feel like they’re buried in email and addicted to excel spreadsheets in a slightly unhealthy way? Too many!

Why is it that Europeans tend to adopt technology more quickly than Americans? Is it systemic? That is, is it because U.S. organizations from the top-down are hesitant to make change (assuming cost is not the barrier)? Perhaps it’s because individuals in general can get stuck in ruts and it might be more difficult for Americans to pull out of “the same old way” we’ve always done things.

Technology best practices

Meeting Professionals InternationalSome “Best Practices” from MPI’s research (in the March 2017 issue of the magazine; pg. 66) includes developing a policy of trying something new every year to to stay on top of new technologies. This doesn’t just apply to the attendee-facing tech, but also to tech that will help your organization and planning team run more efficiently. Keeping up on programs that will help you run better events benefits everyone in the long run.

We love the European market, and we look forward to exploring conferences and tradeshows that are focused more specifically on technology.

Whether you’re in Europe or elsewhere, what are the reasons for slow tech adoption? Is there one thing in particular in your job that you think technology can help you with? We’d love to hear your perspectives – are we wrong?

 

Magic in the Madness – Can We Learn from Losing?

Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, it’s difficult to get through the month of March without hearing about the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. Cinderella teams like last year’s Middle Tennessee State emerge (they were a 15th seed out of 16; not expected to advance), and toss 2016 Middle Tennessee State Basketballfavorites like Michigan State (expected to be in the final 4) aside. If it busts your bracket, you’re bummed! And it’s incredibly sad for those kids who had the expectation of advancing *at least* past the first round.

But what about the MAGIC that happened to those kids who won that game unexpectedly? It was the biggest upset in the history of the tourney. It might not have been unexpected to them, and that’s part of what’s so cool about the tournament that starts with 64 teams… They were stoked to have made it to the dance. They played with heart. And they proved that nothing is certain, other than the fact that at least one team would emerge the victor in the end.

How can we apply this to the business landscape?

Everyone has an opportunity to “dance” among their competition, regardless of the product or service. Having a great product or service is important, but selecting the right marketing channels and sales people to help you win is crucial.

What do you consider your tournament? It could be CES every January if you have a consumer electronics product, SEMA Show if you’re in the automotive industry, or InfoComm if you buy or sell audio-visual equipment. It’s in these environments where companies have a chance to shine.

Practice time

Teams don’t just show up to the tourney, though, right? They’ve been playing all season, and practicing leading up to the tournament. How does your team prepare for the crucial events you participate in? If your team doesn’t “practice,” chances are you aren’t getting the most out of the money you’re Gonzaga Win March Madness 2017spending to be there.

I included a survey for my masters thesis that included exhibitors (sales/marketing people) and executives that make the budget decisions about attending tradeshows. One survey respondent had this to say when asked if preparation before a trade show was important:

“Trade show attendance needs to be well thought through before the show. Meetings need to be planned for and participants need to be prepped for each meeting. Do not let your company waste time, money and opportunity by going to a Tradeshow unprepared. Showing hardware is secondary.”

74% of the respondents indicated being able to communicate with other attendees in advance of the show enhances the in-person experience for them. In a way, laying that foundation in advance is that practice. Any time you speak about your product or business is practice. Think of everytime you give your elevator pitch of “what you do” as that opportunity.

Elevator pitch

Is there magic in your 30-second pitch? Think of it as a chance to surprise and delight each and every time, just like basketball teams do each March.

While it seems difficult to be authentic while riding an elevator with a stranger (it’s almost taboo to even talk on those things, right?!), it’s a good visual for how to condense your “what do you do?” response into a bite-sized nugget that can be consumed easily. Hopefully it will also leave them wanting to know more.

3 tips for creating a quality elevator pitch:

  1. Sharing your passion is a good way to say what you do. Instead of simply reciting your title, talk to *why* you do what you do.
  2. Talking to how your passion relates to what you do should be next. Mentioning the company you work for is only important if it gives you capital (would the fact that you work for Dell be a hook for this person you’re speaking to?).
  3. Closing with why you’re where you are (networking event, tradeshow, etc.) while speaking with them gives context for why they might want to learn more about you. This part might seem obvious to you, but it probably isn’t obvious to them.

There’s magic in serendipity

Serendipity in losingIt’s important to have a gameplan — to know the approach you’re going to take. However, it’s also key to be open to serendipity. Surely, Michigan State thought a 15-seed no-name-team was going to be easier to beat! They had to change their approach as the game evolved.

We typically have a plan when entering a business situation like pitching to win business or when attending a conference or tradeshow. As indicated by a respondent to my thesis, it’s not just important for sellers (the exhibitors), but for buyers also; “It is equally important for a buyer to do pre-work before a show to maximize the time on the floor.”

And what happens when a hot prospective customer shows up to your booth who wasn’t on your radar? You change your game. You listen. Then you respond accordingly, answering their needs. And you listen some more.

Planning is important, but being open to those unexpected, serendipitous situations on networking breaks and on the show floor are equally as important.

Learning from losing

I’ll bet if you ask a “ringer team” what they learned from losing that March Madness game, they’ll need time before they have an answer. Losing a game we expected to win, not getting the job we know we’re perfect for, losing a sale when we were SURE we had it — these are all things we can learn from.

Learn from losing in businessDo you even think about learning anything when your business loses a sale? Do you take the time to explore why you lost beyond just questioning whether the salesperson dropped the ball? The truth is we can do everything “right” throughout that process, and still not get the business.

Lauren LeMunyan is an executive leadership coach who learns from losing. She also isn’t afraid to expose her losses to help people learn from them. She wrote an article on LinkedIn about not getting a job. And it really resonated with people. It reached way beyond her connections, and she got a ton of positive feedback because she was being real. Exposing that wound and showing what she learned from it really resonated with people.

We all experience loss in business and in life. It’s what we choose to do with it that’s worth taking a second, third, maybe fourth look at. Perhaps there’s opportunity there?

Conclusion

Whether your team lost or your March Madness bracket is still fully intact, it sure is fun to witness the victories. It’s not as easy to witness “the agony of defeat” (how many of you just heard the ABC Wide World of Sports announcer when you read that?). It is, however, worth exploring what we can learn from them. The team I had chosen to win it all lost on Saturday, and I was bummed because it likely meant a “loss” of a lot of money for me in my pool.

A wise man I met that evening could have said to me “it’s just a game,” which would have been trite. Instead he said “You didn’t lose $1,000 – you only lost $40.” And he’s so right! Not only that, but I have gotten a ton of entertainment out of all of this March Madness, so I’ll still come out a winner.

Do all you can to prepare for things in life and business. But be prepared for serendipity. Be prepared to lose, and do your best to then look at the lesson. If you can learn from it, you might even see it as an opportunity. Sometimes the serendipity comes from the loss — you just have to look for it.

Here’s a great video with regard to losing: “Instead of getting mad, get curious.”
Wes Gipe via Forbes.com

Work (and Even Live) in the Cloud

Using cloud-based file management gets you organized, and your team literally on the same page, no matter where you are.

Rain comes from clouds. Computers help us create and communicate. Networks transfer data between computers. Why do people keep talking about networking and computing being in “the cloud”?! Of course, it’s a colloquialism, but it’s worth breaking it down.

All of this information still lives on a computer, and not up in the sky, right? As I type this in a Google Doc, it’s constantly being saved elsewhere. I’ll admit this scared me at first personally because my concern was “where is it actually going?”… “Will I really always get access to it?” As I write that, it’s a bit ironic because in my life I’ve lost SO MUCH data from hard drives failing on me! Sadly, I didn’t have my data “backed-up.”

By using “the cloud” our data is automatically being backed-up. We no longer have to be slaves to our hardware. It also means what I type on this laptop is also available on my desktop computer, my tablet, and phone. How powerful is that? We can easily work with people who are anywhere in the world, sharing documents, and even simultaneously updating the same file. Magic.

How does this apply to event technology?

Cloud-based tools vs. apps

I think people frequently ask if software comes in “an app” because they’re used to seeing the buttons on their phones that they can easily access. There are tons of “apps” out there that are web-based, and not native. Web-based app companies develop responsively, meaning the app work on any type of device with any size screen. All you need is an Internet connection!

Having a native app requires having to develop for many different platforms. It’s not possible to code it once and deploy it once because iOS and Android require different code. By maintaining an app in a responsive Web environment, developers can spend more time adding features, and keeping the software stable and secure.

Like anything else, it depends on who you ask, but we may be reaching a saturation point with app downloads… According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “…with more than 250,000 apps being released a year, there may come a point of overload from a user’s perspective. At that point, it is possible that if there are enough well designed mobile websites, that users will move away from apps and back to browsing and individual sites to provide their online experience. Then, apps might just become ‘launchers’ of mobile Websites.”

It’s with all of this in mind, and more, that EventCollab is a responsive Web-based app.

By the way, you can create a shortcut on your phone to any website, including EventCollab, by simply clicking “Add to homescreen” in your phone’s browser menu.

But what about security?

Security is an understandable concern to be sure! An organization going from using their own network that employees might VPN into when remote, to a cloud-based tool, is an adjustment. It’s something your CTO or IT manager might have a hesitation to do, but it’s worth talking through the stability and security with them, since that’s of primary concern to this department.

EventCollab is built on dedicated cloud infrastructure hosted by our industry leading partners.  Security controls are at every layer from physical to application, isolating customer applications and data, and with security updates happening without any customer interaction or service interruptions.

Bottom line, your data is safe, and no one has access to it other than you and those you work with.  Even Toyota has moved their 200,000 person workforce to Office 365! And it didn’t put their IT department out of work; “Toyota gave their IT staff a little extra time to focus on more worthwhile projects, rather than dealing with simple data storage maintenance and upgrades.”

Telecommuters and teams of people working together, apart

I often get asked where EventCollab is based, and I respond by saying we’re a virtual company. Although our address is in Florida, the team is all over the country. Heck, even our CEO is on the road at least one third of the year, still fully embedded in the meetings and events world from which this product was born! It’s the ability to work “in the cloud”  through using Google apps and EventCollab (yep, we use our product) that enables us to work from wherever we are.

Event planners are constantly working with suppliers that are based across the country. Producers are working with lighting designers and content creators who might even be in a different country, and it’s the internet — the cloud — that enables us to all work together more efficiently and collaboratively.

Doesn’t it make more sense to make it easier on your team members who work in different locations? It also makes the “work from home” phenomenon a bit more palpable.

EventCollab is integrated with Google Apps, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive, so connecting the documents you’re working on in your events inside EventCollab is seamless if you’re already using these cloud-based tools. What’s more, every document you change in those platforms outside of EC will always be updated in EC, real-time.

Conclusion

In the whole scheme of things, “the cloud” is a relatively new concept. Most corporations have likely had their data backed-up remotely for security reasons for years now, but working on the files where they’re being stored is something different. It’s only been since about 2008-2010 since the largest companies like IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft started deploying cloud-based services.

It’s absolutely worth it to get with your IT department and discuss making a move to the cloud. Of course, you can use EventCollab without requiring your entire organization to make the move, but this could be a good opportunity to get that conversation started.

Not only is the cloud environment perfect for work, but long gone are the days of losing all the photos that were on your phone that was stolen, or on the harddrive that fried (so many photos gone, and many a tear shed!). Link your phone to Google Photo, iCloud, or even an app like Shutterfly, and you’re automatically backed-up. Phew!

We look forward to seeing you in the cloud.

 

Disconnect to Reconnect

This isn’t your average “just put your phone down” write-up about disconnecting – promise! There are a few elements to reducing and re-calibrating the way we consume technology.

Have you ever played cell phone roulette? Dine with a group of people, everyone puts their phones in the center of the table, and the first person to crack and reach for their phone has to pay the bill. Brilliant!

You’d think we’d at least be able to get through a meal without having to look at our phones. We have texts, email, Facebook, Twitter, and more, pulling at us. A constant mental tug at our brains to see what’s happening. What if you didn’t even have your phone out? What if you left it in your bag or pocket? What’s the worst that would happen for that 90-minutes you’re spending during a meal?

I can hear you now – here we go with another write-up about how I should put my phone down (commence eye-roll). But stick with me — there’s some really interesting research that’s been done proving the value of putting yourself on a “technology diet” or getting back to nature to enhance your creativity. You don’t have to go cold turkey (unless you want to!), but we absolutely benefit from unplugging.

We’re in this together

A really good blog by Treehouse covered several people they interviewed about the topic. One woman they interviewed decided to unplug one March 1st — the official “National Day of Unplugging” (since 2010). She recommends telling others when you’re going to take your technology breaks (don’t want to concern your family!). Just like I recommended simply putting your phone away, she takes it a step further to putting it in airplane mode. She also thinks planning when you’re going to unplug makes it easier on the psyche.

Another person they interviewed is Daniel Sieberg. Seiberg is a senior manager and spokesman at Google. He got to a point where he realized technology was consuming him more than he was actually consuming it. Through his own personal exploration (an encounter with a shark where he wanted to reach for his Blackberry was his ah-ha moment!) about why and how, he was driven to do some research and then to write a book called “The Digital Diet.”digidiet

Through the 4-step plan in this diet, Seiberg explores how and why it’s important to unplug, but emphasizes you can do it gradually. It’s not about just doing it (even in moderation), but being aware of the need and benefits. You can see whether you need a digital diet by checking out the Virtual Weight Index – it’s a little quiz that might just be a wake-up call if you need it.

Do you know what happens when you disconnect?

A UCLA study concluded “technology overuse — and the stress of hectic lifestyles – can lead to an imbalance in the brain and damage to your concentration, attention and memory — and even spawn emotional disturbances like depression.”

The study also discovered, however, that this damage is reversible. By unplugging doing just about anything else with your brain (no screens), you can reverse the damage. So why not regularly give yourself breaks? Vacations are great AND necessary, but so are mini-breaks throughout the day.

The Pen and Paper as the “New App”

notebookThere’s also a resurgence (though not as rapid as tech) of returning back to our roots. Returning to a pen and paper allows us to process our thoughts in quite a different way.

Have you heard of the Bullet Journal? They dub themselves as being “the analog system for the digital age.” There’s a ton of research out there that indicates journaling – physically writing things down – has health benefits in all sorts of surprising ways as indicated in this Popular Science article.

I resemble this remark in the article, “To-do lists give nerds like me the thrill of checking something off. It’s a genuinely pleasurable experience.” It’s true! I’ll even add something to a list that wasn’t on it so I get the pleasure of checking it off. Not ashamed (and I KNOW I’m not alone).

Another awesome (analog) tool is the Passion Planner. It provides for developing out and seeing the big picture of what you’re passionate about, creating plans, monthly reflections, and a calendar. For those who like to actually write, it’s a really fun and effective way to map out just about anything.

Getting out in nature to disconnect from technology takes it one step further.

Apparently, you’ll not only be more rested, you’ll also be more creative as a result. This isn’t a granola statement–there’s research to back it up done by University of Utah and University of Kansas.

David Strayer is a co-author of the study and a psych prof at U of U. Backpackers as part of the study scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature (disconnected from electronic devices), he had this to say: “This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before. It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be brainrestoreremediated by taking a hike in nature.”

Now, you don’t have to go to Zion to accomplish this, but it drives home the point that simply stepping away from tech, and reconnecting elsewhere shows dividends.

Lack of connectivity can be a blessing

I overheard someone saying recently that she doesn’t get reception on her cell phone in her new office building… so she finds herself “actually less distracted” and “more engaged with co–workers face-to-face” now that she can’t constantly look at Facebook. This is telling in so many ways about all of the minutes we give away in a day on screen time vs. actually talking to people.

I had a boss once who (before I left for a long, well-deserved vacation to Europe) asked if he could reach me on my personal e-mail. My response (while laughing)? “Yes, if someone dies or something.” He was shocked — not because he thought I was talking back, but because he isn’t able to disconnect that way. Here’s the thing: it was known by all I would be gone, and I had backup in case anything came up in my absence. As I suspected, the business and everything carried on just fine without me for three weeks! And I was super-refreshed, ready to dive right back into the daily routine when I got home.

My top tips for being less distracted with regard to tech…

  1. Turn off any sounds and notifications associated with social media notifications or email you’re receiving on your phone. Truly, you know you’ll go and open those programs frequently anyway, so why not remove that mental tug that happens when you hear the noise or see the flash?
  2. Don’t have any pop-ups or sound notifications set up for email on your computer. These only serve to distract you from what you’re right in the middle of, and research shows it will take you much longer to ultimately finish what you were in the middle of if you go away and come back to it.
  3. Keep your phone put away when in most social situations. “Out of sight, out of mind” is cliche’ (and not totally true), but this will help us to stay engaged and in the moment when we’re face-to-face with people. Dinner roulette, anyone?

In conclusion (and a true confession…)

Everyone can stand to disconnect from time-to-time, and the research is there that it’s actually good for our health AND for our creativity. Like anything else, do what works for you. Perhaps you can write out a list of goals in your bullet journal of how you plan to approach this growing problem. And there are resources out there to help you–pick up an actual book to learn how to disconnect!

Confession: It took me MUCH longer than it should have to write this post! Why? Because I allowed myself to get distracted by a million other things. But, I took steps as I was writing to eliminate those distractions — I even went as far as to close my email client and Facebook to reduce the likelihood that I would stray. Ah, the irony… Baby steps.

What do you find hardest about un-plugging? Is it FOMO? Is it mostly habitual? What about putting yourself on a tech diet? We’d love to hear your thoughts! After you’ve checked Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, of course — this was a long article after all! 😉

Etcetera …

A couple other book recommendations:

– March 1st is the official “National Day of Unplugging” – perhaps you can set that day aside as a start? A day to “unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.”

– Digital dementia is a real thing – this article explains the research.

It’s Working – Can it Work for You?

So often we need to understand how something might work for us by hearing how it’s working for others. Again, the old “don’t tell me – show me” adage we’ve mentioned before. It’s interesting when something is born out of necessity, and even more so when it’s provable based upon other case studies AND your own!

EventCollab isn’t a tech company that found a niche in the events industry, it’s a company of events people who had a NEED. We had a need for a project management tool that makes it easier to involve everyone who’s working on the events we’re producing. We had a need to have one collaborative space online where we could take a lot of our workflow out of email and into one central space. And so EventCollab was born.

CEO had a need. Built it.
Our CEO and Founder Tommy Melancon has had his own technical services production company for more than 20 years. With dozens of employees all over the country, and different layers of clients including agencies and end clients, he was in search of one tool that could enable them to work seamlessly with everyone. After using several project management tools they tried to make fit, they realized it just didn’t exist! So, he hired a developer (or three) to build a tool his team and clients could use.ppp_ec

After using it with their clients with much success – including “surprising and delighting” the CFO of one of their clients with a speedy turnaround of their show budget from the previous year – something he indicated would have take two days to get internally… He decided to make it available to the industry. He took the leap to start-up an event technology company and produce tools he knows we all need.

Hours saved now. Hours saved later.
Level 2 Design is Tommy’s other event company, and they’ve worked on thousands of meetings and events over the years. Most recently they’ve worked on a couple of conferences for very big technology brands that were especially successful, in part, because of EventCollab.

By keeping a close handle on labor using this online tool throughout the show, Level 2 was recently able to save a client 13% on labor over the previous year – $107K in savings under budget!

Tommy shared a few of his thoughts on using EventCollab with Level 2. “We also save a ton of time internally as a team because we’ve removed any issues with version control from our workflow using EC’s integration with Google Docs and file sharing. Level 2 saves about 50 hours per week not having to email documents internally or look for the most recent versions. If we need to review info with another person on the team, we simply go into EC, click on the event, open the document, and start working in real time.

It’s important to focus your show information to the right team. Both in pre-production and onsite, so often the team gets too much info or none! We’ve built a process using EC to provide the info that is important to the needs of the team. For example, we’ll give the tech team the daily schedule, and not a master schedule with too much info… The lighting or audio teams do not need to see all of the videos that team is editing.”

Time saved means money saved.
Another power-user of EventCollab is Russ Callahan, and his team at PRG in Las Vegas. They prghandle many different kinds of events, and one was a large booth build for Airbus Helicopter. He was able to realize a $60K savings for his client by using EventCollab.

When asked what sets EventCollab apart from other tools, Russ had this to say:  “It is simple. It is made for the industry by people that have experience in the industry. The makers are always willing to listen to suggestions, and are constantly improving an already great product.”

When asked what issue EventCollab solved for him / why he chose it, he said: “How to communicate with multiple aspects of the show (clients, technical experts, suppliers, logistics) all in one place. I don’t have to send them to other programs for information and hope they remember to comment or send updates as to their changes. This is a product that you can work through, not report to. There is a huge workflow difference.”

And his favorite feature is the Google Drive integration. “Everyone is using the same forms updated on the fly, without having to leave the app.”

Process change is hard, but worth it.
Getting “buy-in” isn’t just about getting a financial commitment — that’s the easy part! Implementing process change in an organization of any size is difficult, and we get that. Using a CRM is a perfect example of a tool that everyone wasn’t using, but now if you aren’t, your organization isn’t harnessing its leads well. But! It’s garbage in and garbage out if it isn’t being used to its proper potential. Using an event project management tool is no different. The beginning will take a little bit of work in figuring out your “standard operating procedures (SOP),” but as you’ve seen in this post, it will absolutely be worth it.

Bottom line.
Managing the core of your work in email just isn’t efficient. Sending email requesting files, then receiving them back (hopefully), and having to put them somewhere, or having to forward them to someone else… Is that working for you? Aside from the reduced frustration of having to manage less email, saving your company (or your client’s) a considerable amount money is reason enough to make a change.

Process change is necessary as we all evolve in our work. Take some time as we approach a new year to evaluate whether you’d like to make it easier to work with your event teams. Think through whether you’d like to look like a hero by saving your client’s money. Those who have will tell you — it’s more than worth it!

Thankful for Perfect Internet at Events

You’ve never had any issues with Internet at your meetings or trade shows, right? Us either!

There are several things at play here when talking about Internet at meetings and events. We’ve all experienced situations where the in-house Internet doesn’t work, and then sometimes our own hotspots don’t work either. Given how prevalent Internet use is these days, and ever-increasing live-streaming by attendees with tools like Facebook Live and Periscope, we thought we’d look at the issue.

Do you survey your attendees?

When you order your Internet, do you truly know what your attendees will be doing on the network you’re providing? If you haven’t — or you haven’t in some time — it’s time to find out from your attendees what their Internet use is these days. Facebook Live is a game-changer, which can not only affect the performance of your cyc6m_cuwaaeegtInternet, but might go against any agreements you have with your speakers to not broadcast their talks.

As social media and the tools available to us change, it’s important to keep up on what your attendees will be doing. Some groups are much more low-tech than others. At a financial conference or an association with an older-aged demographic, this isn’t likely to be an issue. However, it’s worth asking the questions to be sure… There might be a small group that instigates a Pokemon Go competition, and you’ll want to know that’s coming!

Do you have policies regarding what attendees are allowed to do on the network?

Sometimes we’ll see a note on the app or in a program indicating attendees are not allowed to live stream any of the keynote speakers. But sometimes it’s simply announced at the beginning of the first general session. What about those folks who are late? I’ll admit I was a culprit myself, not having heard any such announcement. I was tweeted at to stop, and of course I did immediately (very effective for those of you with someone dedicated to keeping an eye on the network and social channels!).

The policy might be due to speaker agreements, but more than likely it’s due to the bandwidth available for the general attendees — if too many people are live-streaming, it could very well slow everything down for everyone involved with the event.

By all means, put the policy on your event Website, in your app, and in your program if you’re still printing one. AND… Put signs up. Make it clear.

Have you considered a solution outside of the in-house Internet?

It’s interesting how few planners understand they have the ability to bring in Internet, just like they would bring another vendor with them. If you have a general contractor and audio-visual company that travels with  you, why not consider bringing your Internet with you also? The FCC has ruled it’s legal, and if you’re having an issue portable_internetwith an in-house provider either not allowing you to, or jamming the signals for the Internet you’ve brought in from the outside, report it. It’s only been through numerous reports to the FCC that the fines have been levied, and this issue has truly been brought to light.

And, finally, having separate SSIDs for your attendees, staff/volunteers, and AV/production (three individual networks) will be key to making sure the operations end of your show is less affected by anything that might be happening on the attendee end. This blog post by Trade Show Internet talks about just that. Our favorite tip? The ability for your production staff to upload content quickly without the attendee use interfering! Using an outside vendor like Trade Show Internet is absolutely an option worth considering if it will work for your organization and attendees.

In a Nutshell

Over-communicate with your vendors, including your convention services manager, audio-visual company, AND your attendees! You’ll all be better off because of it. Understanding what “free basic Internet” is will ensure you don’t short your attendees on bandwidth, and your provider won’t look like they let you down either. One good resource is the CIC APEX Standards Guide, which includes a bandwidth estimator – http://bit.ly/cicinternet.

5 Top Things About IMEX America ’16

While this list won’t be exhaustive because there’s just so much good stuff about the IMEX America show, we thought we’d share our top five takeaways. This is the sixth show we’ve exhibited at in the last 16 months, so we have a pretty good perspective on what makes a show stand-out – what makes it truly valuable.

Of course, it’s about commerce. The “value” in dollars that will come from this show remains to be seen because folks aren’t purchasing on-site, but there’s so much more value than the benjamins that we’ve reaped already. So. Much.

Tech Pavilion

With Buyers – Tech Pavilion

1. Buyers – People who are genuinely there looking for solutions. Rare!
Certainly the hosted buyer program that comes with this show helps on this front. Some shows have folks just sort of going through the motions — they stand back with this stance of “I’m sure I don’t need this, but show me anyway.” At this show we had 29 scheduled appointments, and everyone showed up! We had a concern some were “filler” appointments because they were made late; we heard that can happen because buyers are required to have so many appointments and availability fills up.

Our experience? We couldn’t tell who those people were — even if they started out that way, we knew our solution was something they’d find useful, and they did! We also had a ton of walk-up demos we did both from people who saw us present in the IMEXpitch competition, and from attendees who were there looking for solutions to help them do their jobs better. Sweet.

Pitch Co's at IMEX16

Top 5 Innovative Co’s @ IMEXpitch Competition

2. Community – There is no community quite like we have in the meetings & events industry. Genuine.
We already know what a kick-ass community we have because we’ve been apart of it for more than 20 years. The thing about events, however, is that we get SO busy doing them, and executing for our clients, that we can lose touch. Our foray into the #eventtech space with EventCollab has fully immersed us in this community – this warm, welcoming, smart, inviting community.

Where else can you create a Facebook message group that starts with ten and ends up with more than 60 where everyone is still engaging with each other days after the event is over? Of course, you have to make an effort to be a part, but when you open yourself up, the possibilities are there for you to grow your network, and be a part of something special.

3. Podcasts – We had the opportunity to participate in two podcasts while on-site. Magic.
Our industry has so many awesome podcasts (future blog post coming on that), and two of them were recording during the show — both EventIcons (which is really a live vidcon) by Will Curran & Endless Entertainment, and The Event Tech Podcast done by John Federico & EventHero. These two guys live the example that giving back to the industry will come back to you — something that the marketing icon Gary Vee proclaims regularly to be the right way to go about your business (and life). 

We felt honored to be on the EventIcons live broadcast at IMEX, as part of a long list of super cool, and much more important industry people! And we were lucky enough to be recorded for a future-broadcasted podcast with The Event Tech podcast. John’s a super smart, engaging, interested interviewer, and we can’t wait to hear how it turned out… But more importantly, we’re now engaged in what he’s doing. Check out both of these shows, stat!

4. Social Team – The pre-show and on-site work of the IMEX social media team is unlike any other conference. Invested.
Social media is not an after-thought with this show. Not even close. They’ve been honing this approach and team for years, and it shows. The social team, led by Miguel Neves, does a great job of engaging everyone before the show from LinkedIn, to Facebook, to Twitter, and Instagram.

Of course, they do a great job on-site, and this year they added Facebook Live, which added a really cool element to the show, surely giving those folks not there some FOMO. They walked the show with the plan to interview exhibitors and learn what new & innovative products are out there (we were one!), but they also chatted with other folks they happen to run into throughout the floor. This was also well-done because they camera person kept it steady, even while being mobile. Not easy!

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TweetUp Fun ~ EventProfs Rockstars

And now that the show is over, they’re doing a great job of circling back and engaging with any of the posts they might have missed while at the show. All of this helps bring the event full-circle, and continues to keep the show at top-of-mind. Well done.

5. Networking – Both built-in and organic. Priceless.
There’s some baked-in networking that’s part of this show. Site Night, the CIC Awards dinner, and MPI Rendezvous come to mind. They also have education space — quick 20-30-minute snack-size sessions where you learn and network. And hotels, destinations, and groups like MDI (Fresh Dinner!) hold networking parties or dinners intended to bring us all together.

Then there’s organic stuff that happens — we mentioned the Facebook messaging group that developed (for “EventProfs Rockstars”). From that, groups of people got together for dinner or drinks! Each year hordes of #eventtech peeps usually gather together for dinner on Monday night. There’s typically a “TweetUp,” and we opted to sponsor it this year (and last). TweetUps provide us opportunities to meet industry people in person who we normally only see online. And every year I see people make connections they wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Wrap-Up
For real, the bottom line with this show, is that it’s about the people. Of course, we want to build our customer-base, and that commerce is super important! The thing is, if you engage with the community, and make the most of these face-to-face opportunities, the business will come. You have to show up.

Both our awesome #eventprofs community, and this IMEX America show in particular, make it really easy to get brought into the fold. Be sure to mark your calendar for next year — #IMEX17 will be held October 10-12, again at the Sands Expo in Vegas. See you there!

It’s About You, but Not Just About You

There are benefits of Event Project Management you might not have considered. Consider this: using an Event Project Management tool doesn’t benefit just you! Think exhibitors, sponsors, speakers… Here’s an illustration of exactly why and how.

When we plan events a couple of things happen. It’s really exciting to plan the experience for our participants, and to do new and creative things. Hiring our partners and vendors is also a key piece of the puzzle, as we can’t do it alone! Then we roll up our sleeves, and get busy making it happen. Logistics city.

Many times we end up mired in the logistics–inextricably attached to our 20-tab spreadsheets where all tasks are listed, tracked, and checked-off. We might also occasionally lose sight of some of the other “players” who are a big part of making our events a success–our exhibitors, speakers, and sponsors. Without exhibitors and sponsors, a huge chunk of your budget would disappear, right?

Many planners also have contractors or consultants helping plan their events, so it might get confusing who is reaching out to which exhibitor. I understand this from the planner perspective, but I also fully understand it from the other side (exhibitor here!).

Planning is as important as the onsite experience

Why not also make the experience leading up to your event just as good as you want it onsite?

Here’s a an amalgamation of true stories (names have been changed!):

Marketing of event XYZ is underway / exhibitor prospectus distributed / speakers are announced / sponsorship packages published
^
Susie fields exhibitor questions / submissions / this year there’s also an Innovation Pavilion with a turnkey booth setup
^
Mike fields the speaker photo / bio / presentation submissions
^
Bob is the person populating the event Website with all necessary information everyone above is collecting.

Susie needs…
– every exhibitor to fill out their catalog submission by X date (sends email blast) to ensure their information also gets into the printed book.
– all Innovation Pavilion companies are supposed to email her the company logo for their turnkey stands (sends email from her own work email).
– to receive logos via email, and store them somewhere (company network? Dropbox?) for the Website developer (Bob) to retrieve (hopefully she isn’t forwarding every email!).

(Concurrently, Tina the contractor has been asked to help collect items, so she too is emailing the same people.)

Meantime, exhibitor X already submitted their logo, but has been asked for it again by Susie. Exhibitor X forwards the email from two weeks earlier, a little frustrated. Exhibitor X then hears from Tina the contractor in reference to the same thing Susie already re-asked for. Counter-productive.

Mike’s the “owner” of a spreadsheet (that ends up w/more than 22 versions) of the speaker session descriptions, speakers, and locations. It also has a column to indicate whether the person has sent in their photo (what about the bio?).

v11b

Mike…
– sends every speaker an email requesting their photo and bio by X date, so the Website can be populated (by Bob).
– receives email back from every speaker with the information he requested (which, of course, includes some prodding via email reminders!).
– then must put the photo/bio somewhere (Drive? Dropbox?).

Bob is in charge of entering all the data into the Website, so the proper updating of this spreadsheet is important to him… As are all files—photos, bios, etc. being put where they belong.

This now potentially makes Bob’s inbox the receptacle for all of the information, and keeping track of who has submitted what a little more problematic.

Make everyone’s lives easier

We’ve written before about how event project management makes a planner or producer’s life easier. But are you starting to see why it’s not just about who’s in charge? Everything described above takes an inordinate amount of time. Not to mention the fact that we all already receive a ton of email. The logistics of managing exhibitors, speakers, and sponsors doesn’t have to be this hard. On anyone.

circlesblog

What if the process looked more like this?

Susie gets commitments from all Innovation Pavilion exhibitors, and with each one, she adds them into the Innovation Circle inside EventCollab.
^
Susie sends a ToDo to the Innovation Circle for all members to drop their logo inside EventCollab online by X date.
^
Mike adds every speaker into the Speaker Circle inside EventCollab.
^
Mike sends a ToDo to the Speaker circle, requesting they all submit their photos and bios into EventCollab by X date (you can collect their presentations here too!).
^
Bob is a member of every Circle also, so rather than having to receive a million email messages or regularly check Dropbox, he simply opens EventCollab to retrieve everything he needs to do his job.

Big sigh of relief

Doesn’t this sound more manageable? More efficient? Less hair-pulling-out-ish? That’s why we created it! To make all of our jobs more manageable. To make workflow easier… It’s possible for it to be easier for everyone involved. EventCollab has a simple, easy to follow interface, which makes learning it less like work, and more like something that’ll give you a HUGE sigh of relief.

We give demos daily – would you like one? We’d be happy to walk you, your exhibitor manager, sponsor contractor, and your boss through how this program not only benefits your organization, it also benefits every other stakeholder involved in your event… Which ultimately also benefits you, right? The better the experience from start-to-finish, the more likely they are to participate again.

Email us between now and October 14th if you’d like to schedule a demo – support@eventcollab.com. If you’ll be at IMEX America Oct. 18-20, please schedule an appointment with us there—we’d love to show you the magic in booth 160!

Is Your CEO a Good Emcee for Your Event?

Sensitive subject – can you tell the C-Suite folks they might not be the best choice to emcee your event?

We’re tackling a tricky subject today. Many of you may be dealing with a similar matter for your events or your clients’ events. CEOs and other C-level executives are often fairly outgoing folks, and have experience making presentations, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the positions they’re in! Therefore, they may feel they’re the best possible candidate to emcee your event. They may also feel they’re the best person to represent the organization, so who else would be the one to stand on stage?

Spotlight time.

This research paper on CEO personalities (optional reading!) suggests that two self-focused personality traits—core self-evaluations (CSE) and narcissism—provide insights into CEO leadership styles. Let’s hope that your CEO or your client’s CEO is more of a core self-evaluator and less of a narcissist. However, if yours is the latter, you may be running into issues at your events.

There was a great presentation by Mark A. Vickers at MPI’s WEC (optional viewing!). He explains the importance of your emcee telling a story by weaving together everything happening on stage. Are they increasing the ROI by motivating attendees to achieve a particular outcome? You should be taking your attendees on an emotional journey. Does your emcee have the skills to do that?

Advice from a professional
Unfortunately, the hard part is the tough conversation you need to have with your CEO. Depending on what level of narcissist they are, this may be a sacred cow for them. One of our favorite emcees, Glenn Thayer, shares a few ideas for how to bring up the conversation with your CEO. If you get a chance to speak to them about onsite schedules or messaging goals, they may be giving you an “in” to suggest the following things might be in play:

No time to prepare: Most executives have very little time as it is. When they’re on site, they’re in meetings or busy with other aspects of their position. It’s challenging enough for the CEO to carve out enough time to rehearse their remarks during the general session, let alone be able to attend all of the rehearsals.

They steal their own thunder: Many executives get a kick out of being the emcee. However, by being responsible for keeping the program moving, housekeeping, announcements, introductions of special guest speakers, and moderating panel discussions, the message they ultimately intend to give gets watered down.

Facetime doesn’t always win: There are many occasions when an executive wants to break the assumption that they’re “disconnected” and “living in their ivory tower.” This often translates into them wanting more stage time. This is also seen in associations where board members are tasked with doing the job of the emcee so they can be “seen.” If you have a professional emcee or conference moderator interview the executive instead, this makes the executive seem more “human” to the audience.

Bottom-line — the journey matters
Focus. Connect. Lead.If you hire a professional emcee, you’re paying for someone who specializes in presenting that emotional journey. Their sole focus can be learning the story, like learning a script for a performance. Your C-level executives likely have a million other things to be focusing on related to your event. CEOs should be thinking about the personal connections they should be making at the event because that is the beauty of face-to-face events. If they want to get their face in front of lots of people, have them record a video to share on the Web, which you might even be able to show at some point during the event.

A professional emcee will also be extremely knowledgeable about the audio-visual production. If something goes wrong, like a slow tele-prompter, they’ll have the skills to adlib and they should have spent enough quality time with your story that they’ll be able to keep it flowing without the audience knowing there’s a problem. If your CEO is onstage and something goes wrong, their instinct is to want to fix it.

Have you tackled this issue? What has worked for you?