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!

img_1777

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?

Does it Matter who Owns Your Tech?

Mergers. Acquisitions. Fewer Companies… Is it good for the industry?

There have been a few good articles written in response to the sale of Cvent. It’s hard to say whether a potential merger of Cvent and Lanyon represents a slow death for innovation in event technology. For the past 5-10 years, event registration systems have been driving innovation since they are the base platform that almost every event needs. There are thousands of companies in the event technology market – large and small – who strive to serve a need and make a profit doing it.

However, the method registration companies have been using is to buy up smaller companies who are trying to disrupt the market or provide a solution to a problem planners have. Michelle Bruno authored a great piece suggesting the “everything-under-one-roof scenario” is neither realistic, nor necessary. We tend to think some of these transactions have been beneficial in getting planners access to better functionality in a market where event technology companies have not been open to integration. Planners just want the solutions and they don’t really care who is providing them. Under One RoofShould they care?

There is Some Pain & Confusion
The
DoubleDutch post on the same topic asks if customers will suffer if more providers merge. We think planners are already being forced to deal with vendors who don’t understand the industry. EventCollab will also admit to some bias here, because we were created by event producers. Many of our clients and friends who are planners lament that event technology companies are difficult to work with because they don’t truly understand the planning process. From the initial prospecting phone call, where, if you are nice enough to explain how your attendees interact with your organization, through to the disappointments of deliverables not being met because the vendor didn’t have the appropriate resources allotted to your event, it is a painful process.

Most of the innovation in our industry has been directed towards the attendee experience, and a client-first approach is always a good idea. These all-in-one registration platforms have been incorrectly labeled as event management systems or event planning software. You could call them attendee management systems and we certainly acknowledge there are many parts of the event integrated into these large systems. However, the small segment of the market where companies like EventCollab lives strives to help you manage your event by improving systems for collaborating and communicating with your team and vendors.

Project Management
We may find a greater need for planner-driven project management tools as you seek ways to work more efficiently with your event technology vendors. Instead of working within your registration company’s basecamp or asana account, make it contractual that the vendor will work inside your event project management system. If you use EventCollab, you’ll have unlimited users and circles to make sure they only see what you want them to!

Do planners have too much on their plates to be concerned with mergers and acquisitions in our industry? Do you feel stuck with what the marketplace offers or are you happy with the choices you have?

 

Putting Your Customers’ Problems on Display

When we’re marketing at our events, are we only thinking about what we need or want as an organization, or are the participants included in the equation?

It’s about you.
The whole point of event marketing is to get your brand, your products, and services in front of your customers. Naturally, we like to cover our convention centers with signs, banners, slides, and clings with our company name, product names, business unit names – we want that name and brand recognition because that’s the whole point!

But should it be?
In walks your attendee experience manager to remind you about the philosophy of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). She has a fresh idea. Use messaging that aligns with your attendees’ goals and objectives for the event instead of yours. They’ll be drawn to an area to speak with your staff or sales people if their thought process goes something like this: “Data security! That is one of the main issues I have at work. I should talk to the folks in that booth.” Of course, your products and services should be showcased there as the solution to their problem, but lead with the problem first so they make the connection faster. Their motivation to talk to you about data security is greater than their motivation to talk to you about the product you’re trying to sell them.confattengage

Bonus points if you can group your attendees’ goals or problems into a limited number of categories (say, four), and weave that messaging throughout the event. General session content, tracks of breakout content, trade show or internal exhibit area layout, and connecting attendees to each other can all be tied back to a few general themes that revolve around their needs – not what you’re trying to sell them.

Might not be an easy road…
Will this be a tough sell to your sales, marketing, and branding groups? Maybe. Again, their focus is often to make sure that the brand assets get sprayed on everything that will stand still. The message, phrases, and words you decide to connect to attendee pain points will be created in collaboration with these folks, so it’s a conversation to start early in your planning process. Be careful that the words don’t end up being too vague because you are trying to come up with something that sounds cool. Very often, your customers’ problems are not sexy, and you don’t want to lose sight of the goal of the direct connection.

Giving credit where credit is due: a client told us about this concept after attending a CEMA study tour of HPE Discover in London in December, 2015. Maybe you’ve seen corporate user conferences or association annual conferences make this transition. We’d love to hear your success stories or pitfalls during the process.

Challenges for Associations

We all have easy jobs right now with a low-volume of email, and super easy collaboration, right? Whether you’re working for an association or not, you’ll likely recognize some of these challenges!

Association meeting planners may face many of the same challenges as your peers in other industries. Maybe small associations are more similar to small corporations than they are to large associations. We’ve noticed that many of our small- to medium-sized association clients share the same challenges when it comes to collaboration and project management.

Meetings and Email
Most are using a combination of meetings and email for communication – “we feel like we spend all day in meetings and on email and don’t get anything else done!” Can you say “reply all”? A lot of the work we do as meeting and event planners is very detailed work that requires attention and often hours of focus on one task. A huge challenge for association planners may be the stress of getting it all done in a manner that is inherently inefficient (which causes us extra stress because we love efficiency!)

Internal Collaboration
Associations use software for attendee/member-facing processes like registration or community management. Many are assoc_challengesmanaging projects and events via spreadsheets or databases, “Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets if we’re really progressive!” The time saved simply by using collaborative documents where multiple people can comment or make changes without having a meeting or sending emails is a huge advance in our line of work. We prioritize the user experience for our attendees / members because they are generating revenue. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to find financial gains by “splurging” on project management software for staff as well.

External Collaboration
We all leverage external partners like agencies, contractors, and consultants to help us execute any number of tasks involved with our meetings and events. And, we’ve all worked with good partners and bad. One of our biggest challenges is making our partners part of the team, while keeping the appropriate amount of proprietary information private… without sacrificing critical info. It is critical to our bottom-line to leverage external partners, but working with them as if they are part of our team can be a huge challenge.

Software Roll-out
A few associations are starting to look at project management software but navigating the process is a challenge! Does it make more sense to implement a program that is organization wide vs. team based? Should the process happen organically as staff start to use one system or another? Some of our clients have seen issues with adoption when it isn’t determined to be an organizational priority. Who gets to be in charge of how the platform is setup? Is the annual conference the main generator of revenue? If so, should the entire system be setup to support the meeting or event? Should support teams like marketing or IT set the parameters?

Ideally, your project management software will help you communicate and collaborate more efficiently. We hope that you’ll be able to incorporate external partners and internal support teams in a way that works for everyone! Of course, we hope that you’ll find that EventCollab is the tool that helps you overcome all of these challenges.

Streamline your Event Planning Workflow

It takes a village and a ton of tools to plan events!

What are the elements that go into pulling off a successful event? When does the planning start — at the time you decide to hold the event? When you begin to schedule and budget? Picking locations, tools, and vendors are all elements that must be done in advance of much of the process. Hopefully you have a specific workflow you carry out to be sure everything gets planned and executed (it’s in a 20-tab spreadsheet, right?!). This is especially important when you or your organization are managing several events per year.

Use Tools to Help
Of course, we think you should use an event project management (EPM) tool! We’ve put together a workflow that highlights the main pieces of the planning, and how using an EPM tool can facilitate being more organized and efficient.

We’ve blogged about concentrating on the attendee experience… The process here assumes you’ve already worked out the budgeting, and what the best attendee experience will be.

workflow_chart

Track Deliverables
This is a tool to help track deliverables. The EPM tool suggestions in the last column of the workflow are especially handy when all your team members don’t work in the same office (or for the same company). Of course, it also gives you one central spot for your vendors to upload documents, and make decisions related to the event. The bottom row gives indicators for the different elements of the tool that will streamline your event planning.

We developed EventCollab to ease your pain! Truly. We were in your shoes, and we developed this to help all of us. It’s a solution to reduce thetyporama (2) amount of email you’re sending and receiving (which will cut down on lost files, and decisions). It’s a central place where you can manage all deliverables. Gracefully store and manage all of your event documents, all the while working efficiently with all team members and vendors by using ToDos, and having discussions inside the events.

Ditch the Binders
Using an event project management tool is also going to eliminate your big, bulky binders! For real. It’s time to let the paper go. You can access EventCollab from a tablet or laptop (even your phone if you need to!), providing all schedules, timelines, and room diagrams, right at your fingertips.

Is your event planning/production workflow a clear path or a long and windy road? Having a production workflow in place can help you be more efficient… and using a cloud-based tool will also boost your collaboration with all stakeholders involved in executing your awesome events.

If you’d like a brief overview of how easy it is to use, check out this 90-second video. The EventCollab YouTube channel also has videos explaining each element of the program. We aren’t the only EPM tool out there, but our customers love using EventCollab to manage their event planning!