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5 actionable tips to bring back attendees to your event next year

May 11th, 2017 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

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These days, most of us don’t shop at a favorite store or grab a cup of coffee without a personal loyalty program card (or phone app) in hand. We have become a society of perk-loving, discount-expecting, points-accumulating consumers. These programs are called loyalty programs because companies believe that they bring customers back to purchase again and again. With competition at an all-time high, loyalty programs are often the most effective marketing programs for customer-driven industries.

While there are few formal loyalty programs in the conference planning industry right now, a smart event planning professional understands that building loyalty is critical to the success of a conference year over year. If you are strategizing about how to increase repeat event registrations, many of the principles of building loyalty by offering incentives are absolutely suitable. Here are five actionable ideas to get you started during your conference planning process and beyond.

  • DISCOUNTS: The most basic of perks can also be the most effective. Offer returning guests an event registration discount or a discount on a special social event. Work with partners to offer discounts on hotel rooms, car rentals or other services. For most consumers, saving money is always the best incentive.
  • SPECIAL VIP ACCESS: Invite returnees to a special event with the keynote speaker or a highly regarded industry professional. Offer returning guests VIP seating at your larger events or backstage passes at social events.
  • CONFERENCE SWAG AND SERVICES: There is always a lot of takeaways at conferences. Most of it is not what you’d consider memorable. Ask your best sponsors or exhibitors to offer a limited number of premium items for returning guests. Make sure that the item is something useful and branded to keep your conference top of mind after it is over. Offer free premium services for loyal attendees such as free WiFi, bag check, or breakfast.
  • ONGOING COMMUNICATION: Make a commitment to communicate with loyal conference attendees in between events. Don’t let them forget about the impactful time they had at your conference. Build a relationship with them. Start the conversation with an email or letter thanking them for attending your conference and asking for their feedback. After that, offer previews for upcoming events and other incentives to stay engaged. Use your CRM system to track demographic information and interests so that you can personalize your communications.
  • EXCLUSIVE CONTENT: Offer unique and valuable content to your loyal guests. At the event, provide access to free digital or printed content from keynote speakers and sponsors. After the event, keep in touch by offering white papers, survey content, industry video talks and other useful information.

There are a multitude of conferences available for your potential attendees to choose from. To be competitive, your conference planning must include strategies to build a loyal customer base.  Don’t just focus on the conference you are planning today. Focus on the conferences you will plan for the next 5-7 years.

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Do’s and don’ts for managing the abstract review process

May 6th, 2017 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

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With all of the details, you have to address when planning a conference, reviewing abstracts for potential presentations and panel discussions is probably not at the top of your priority list. We believe that a fabulous abstract can lead to an impactful presentation which will result in highly satisfied attendees. It’s worth the time to review and compare each abstract carefully through a detailed review process. You’re looking for those diamonds in the rough that will net more conference registrations and sales. Here are some do and don’t event planning tips to consider as you manage your review process.

Do

  • Set a firm deadline for submission and plan for at least one month for review.
  • Compile a list of potential abstract topics or issues that would engage attendees and provide direction for submissions.
  • Be proactive in finding potential abstracts by attending other industry or business events and networking with thought leaders.
  • Build a diverse panel of reviewers including industry or business leaders, analysts, educators, and journalists, as well as your event planning committee.
  • Screen for potential conflicts of interest before assigning abstracts to reviewers.
  • Draft a scoring guide for each reviewer to use as they review abstracts. By using the same metrics, you will be able to quickly reveal favorite submissions and outliers.
  • Choose abstracts that solve a common problem or address a pain point for attendees.

Don’t

  • Forget to add the submission timeline to your strategic marketing plan. You will need to promote this need just like you promote your conference registrations.
  • Choose an abstract based just on content. Make sure the author is a good public speaker and can demonstrate industry or related business experience as well.
  • Forget to check references and citations for accuracy.
  • Ignore bad grammar, misspellings or industry lingo used incorrectly.
  • Select abstract topics that are too similar to each other. Strive for diversity in your programming.
  • Draw the review process out more than thirty days. Time is ticking!

With these event planning tips, you may actually find the abstract review process to be insightful and illuminating. Think of it as a treasure hunt. You could find the next big disruptive idea. Now that would be successful conference!

Do’s and don’ts for planning a successful conference panel discussion

April 26th, 2017 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

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A good panel discussion is one of the best ways to satisfy those conference guests who are hoping to learn something new or to engage with thought leaders in their chosen industry.  But any seasoned event planner knows that impactful panel discussions are difficult to pull off, mainly because of all of the variables involved. We’re here to help. Let’s break it down into a handy list of do’s and don’ts event planning tips.

Do’s

  • Limit the number of panelists to less than 5, including the moderator.
  • Keep the length of the event to 45 minutes, including Q&A time.
  • Think creatively about the stage set-up. Choose a comfortable living room set-up or tall stools to make the panel seem approachable and feel at ease.
  • Identify a skilled moderator who can guide the conversation but not dominate it.
  • Communicate all event details including audience demographics and your expectations for each panelist and the moderator via email or phone at least twice before the conference.
  • Arrange a meet-and-greet with panelists and the moderator the day before or day of your conference to make each person comfortable.
  • Ensure the moderator is prepared with pertinent discussion questions before conference day.
  • Have the moderator encourage audience participation throughout the panel discussion, not just at Q&A time.
  • Ask for feedback from all panelists and the moderator at the end of the event.
  • Share any feedback you receive from the audience with panelists and the moderator.

Don’ts

  • Use the typical stage podium and a draped table set-up. It’s not very interactive or comfortable for either the panel or the crowd.
  • Use just one microphone for the panel. Passing the microphone back and forth among panelists is time-consuming and awkward.
  • Tap just industry executives as potential moderators. You could also consider journalists, consultants, thought leaders and analysts.
  • Prepare the panelists too much before the event. You want the discussion to be spontaneous and organic. Just make certain the moderator is prepared (see above Do’s)
  • Give each panelist time to introduce themselves. They will inevitably go over their allotted time and slow the conversation down. Have the moderator introduce each panelist instead.
  • Include PowerPoint slides in a panel discussion. It steers attention away from the conversation.
  • Don’t skimp on Q&A time. Allocate at least 15 minutes at the end of the panel discussion.

Great panel discussions are lively, informative and even fun. With these event planning tips, you’re well on your way to legendary status as a panel event planner. Good luck!

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How to Measure the ROI for Your Next Event

April 11th, 2017 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

Events should be enjoyable. If they are not, you’re doing them wrong. While not every conference or meeting could be characterized as fun, they should be informative and worth your guests’ time. It’s our job as event planners to make it so. That being said, events need to be successful. Measuring a return on investment has always been a sticky question for the event planning industry. How do you measure a good time?

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Go back to the whys

The answer is based on your goals. Why are you planning this event? Start your event planning with a clear set of goals. These goals will lead you to your metrics. Here are some possibilities:

  • Increase awareness
  • Increase conference registrations or ticket sales
  • Educate clients
  • Generate leads
  • Garner media coverage
  • Increase digital engagement

You may have one or more goals. The takeaway here is that with concise event goals, you are able to deliberately gather the data you need to calculate an event ROI.

Where’s the data?

The next question to ask is “How would I know if I’ve met my goal(s)?” By asking this question, you are essentially identifying your ROI equation. The most traditional ROI equation is

Sales – Expenses = Revenue

If that’s your goal, you’re good. If you have others, think about the data you would need to make a similar calculation. Also, think about how you will know if your calculations are successful. You’ll need a data point for comparison.  Once you know what you need, we’ll make a plan to gather it.

Here’s a sampling of the data you might need:

  • Total attendees or conference registrations
  • Total qualified leads collected
  • Total product sales at the event
  • Total expenses are broken down by segments
  • Attendee, sponsor and speaker survey responses
  • Social media reach, likes and engagement
  • Media impressions and reach
  • Event website traffic and conversions
  • Advertising reach, impressions, and interactions

This list is not exhaustive by any means. Again, the data you need will be very specific to your particular event goals.

Collect the bits

Now make a collection plan. Do not wait until the event is over to do this. Collect the data as you plan your event.

First, collect your benchmarks. If you are going to compare your event goals to a previous event or a competitor’s event, find that data. If you are going to set goals based on industry statistics, look them up. Take these data points and set up a comparison sheet.

Now, decide how you will track your new data.  Do you need a data spreadsheet for key points? If you are tracking traditional event ROI, the budget worksheets at the Eventzilla Resource Center will help you record all revenue and expenses. Once your event is over, you can do a complete Profit and Loss statement as well as an ROI.

Create a similar worksheet for other metrics, including event marketing. For example, to calculate traditional advertising ROI you should track reach minus expenses. If you are tracking digital advertising ROI, collect not only reach metrics but also engagement metrics like click-through rates.  Set up a spreadsheet to store the data as each ad is deployed.

Some event ROI measurements may be “squishier”, meaning it’s less of a calculation and more of an observation. These event ROI measures are still important.  Use a tracking mechanism to store survey responses and search for common themes. Qualitative data is essential.

When the event is over, compile your data sheets into a final analysis sheet. Do your calculations and make your comparisons to benchmarks. You now have all the information you need to know if your event planning was a success. If only event cleanup was this easy.

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5 Ways to Promote your Event Online

August 1st, 2016 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

An event without attendees is hardly an event at all. You go to a lot of trouble preparing for and setting up your event, it’s important to remember that promotion is part of the game as well. Promoting your event online can be extremely effective and, what’s best, it doesn’t have to cost a lot either. Consider these options.

Utilize social media

This is when social media can be most beneficial to you. While you can run ads at a cost, utilizing your existing followers and friend might be enough. Post well-written and informative content that demonstrates the value your event will bring and encourage your fan-base to share and inform. You can also send invitations via Facebook or other platforms.

Email marketing

Email marketing still ranks extremely high in terms of conversion rates and at this point you should already have an e-mail list to work off of. Send an email blast between 4-6 weeks before your event (more if extensive travel planning is required), and another one closer to the day of the event. Your existing customers and clients will always be a source of repeat business so don’t neglect them.

Utilize your sponsors and speakers

If your event is sponsored by or partnered with another organization, or if you’re featuring guest speakers and promoters, make sure to get them involved as well. By cross promoting with other individuals or organizations via email and social media you will effectively inform and entice multiple fan bases and increase your likelihood of conversion.

Create Effective Copy

Whether it’s a social media post or an email subject line, utilize effective copy to drive open rates and engagement. Create a sense of urgency with phrases such as “time is running out!” or “Don’t miss out on this!” It may sound simple but these phrases do show an increase in conversion rates.

Utilize Retargeting

Have you ever looked at a product website when shopping? Let’s say you were looking to buy a new mattress for example. Did you ever notice that a few hours later when you were surfing a completely different website you’ll start seeing ads for mattresses? It may be creepy, but that’s retargeting at work. Retargeting, as the name suggests, targets individuals who have already visited your websites or event page.

This is not the cheapest example and it will cost a little more than other options but it is also extremely effective as it specifically targets people who have already looked at your event.

Promoting your event online is a vital part of effective event management. While there are other ways to promote events, online is definitely an area you do not want to neglect.

5 Things Event Planners Hate to Hear

July 29th, 2016 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

Your event is important to you and you want it to go off without a hitch. The problem is that “things happen” and you need to be prepared for what to do just in case the unexpected occurs.

Event planners far and wide, from amateurs to professionals, hate it when an event doesn’t go on as planned. The truly prepared ones, however, are ready for when it does. Here are 5 things that event planners hate to hear (and how to deal with them).

The speaker hasn’t shown up yet

One of the worst things that can happen is to have a guest speaker or VIP running late or even worse, not show up at all. Hopefully this is a rare occurrence, but if it happens, panic sets in.

What should you do?

It’s always best to have a backup plan in mind in the event a guest speaker cannot attend. Have someone from your business prepare a short presentation to be used in case of an emergency. If you have other speakers lined up to talk, let each one go over their allotted time by a few minutes to extend the event and make up for the lost speaker.

Something is not working (computer, audio/video equipment, etc)

There’s nothing worse than having your high profile speaker show up with their presentation all good to go, only to find out it isn’t compatible with the equipment you have available.

What should you do?

Whenever possible, find out in advance if your speakers will need audio/visual equipment and what their specific needs are. Will they bring their own laptop computer? Do they need a projection system? Do they have an audio recording they want played? What about the lighting requirements? As much information as possible as you can gather in advance can go a long way towards heading off potential technology problems in the future. Whenever possible, always do a quick test to make sure everything is working before the event starts

The attendees are running late

Without your attendees, your event or conference is essentially nothing. If bad weather or god forbid a traffic incident should delay everyone, it can start the event off on the wrong path before it’s even begun.

What should you do?

If your event is reliant on the weather (such as an outdoor event), have a backup date in mind and booked if you need to reschedule. If thunderstorms roll in, there’s really nothing you can do to change that so make every effort to contact your attendance list and let them know that the rain date is going into effect.

If the event it still going to go on as planned but attendees are trickling in, it’s perfectly reasonable to delay the start by a small margin of time, however if you wait too long you risk angering your guest speakers and other attendees. Anything more than a half hour delay is starting to get unreasonable.

If you are serving food in advance of your event, offer the guests in attendance an extra round of coffee and dessert service and make sure some food is held back and available for the late comers. Consider offering those who were on time a discounted rate on a future event as well to thank them for their patience and understanding.

We’ve run out of take-home gifts!

You never want to run out of anything but of everything on this list, this is the most likely to happen. Whether it’s food, pamphlets, or merchandise it can be implausible to have “too much” of everything and still stay within your event’s budget.

What should you do?

When budgeting for your event, prioritize your needs and plan accordingly. If your event is being billed as a dinner event, then you need to make sure you have dinner for everyone. If you are promising everyone a take-home gift, you need to make that a priority as well.

Have a plan in place for what to do if you should run out of a certain item. In many cases, guests will be understanding to a point. If the item is something you can get to them at a later time such as a t-shirt or pamphlet, offer to mail it to them. Whenever possible, try to get firm numbers the day of the event and plan accordingly.

We didn’t plan for this!

Nobody likes a curveball being thrown their way but it happens from time to time.

What should you do?

It’s hard to plan for every eventuality but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Look at your event from top to bottom, double-check your budget, confirm your venue, speakers, and caterers. Send a reminder email to your attendees the week of the event, check the weather, etc.

And when you’ve done all of that… do it again. Events are living, breathing creatures and no two are exactly alike. Do your best to have everything planned and you’ll minimize the chances of a wrench being thrown into the works.

Above all else, maintain your composure and take charge if something goes wrong. Sometimes your best customers are made not from when everything goes well, but from how adversity is met and handled.

How to Plan a Corporate Event?

July 24th, 2016 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

Whether it’s a training seminar on a new piece of software, or a thank-you event for your investors, corporate events are an important part of your business. This is a time for team-building, networking, or training to help the company move forward.

Planning a corporate event is no easy task and often some things can be overlooked in the process. Here’s a short list of 5 things to keep in mind when planning your next corporate event or outing.

  1. Decide on an appropriate venue. When the conference room won’t cut it you need to think elsewhere. Local hotels or convention centers are well equipped to handle groups of all sizes so think ahead on what your specific needs are based on the theme of the event and the number of attendees
  2. Book Early! Larger venues will have a longer waiting list so book early or risk losing your dates. Booking the event should be one of the first things you do since without a day and time set in stone you’ll be unable to make additional plans.
  3. Clearly Define the Purpose. What specifically are you hoping to accomplish at your event? Are we training new or existing staff? Networking with outside vendors? Clearly define the mission statement of the event before making other plans around it.
  4. Put someone in charge. Find someone within the organization to take the lead and make the arrangements. If you’re hiring an outside planner, designate an in-house representative to coordinate with them. This will help keep everyone on the same page and help track accountability.
  5. Make sure you have signed contracts in hand. When coordinating with a location or outside vendors (such as catering or entertainment) make certain you have signed contracts in hand and confirm everything close to the event date. The last thing you want is to have a group of investors show up for a presentation on your new product line only to find out no one rented the convention hall.

Corporate events are great ways to unveil new ideas, train employees, or network within your industry. They also present your employees with a way to get to know one another and for investors to see not only what, but who, they are investing in. Properly executed, a great corporate event can do wonders for your business. Good luck!

Choosing the best speaker for your conference

July 20th, 2016 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

In order for you conference or convention to go off without a hitch you need the right people. Choosing the right speakers can make or break your event so learn to choose wisely.

Many things go into the planning and execution of your event but it’s important to remember that the speakers are what your attendees are there to see/hear. Here are 5 tips on choosing the right speakers to make your conference or convention a hit:

Make Smart Choices

it may sound simple but the best thing you can do is choose the “right” speakers. This means that once you’ve established the point of your conference, i.e. “Investing in Chicago Real Estate,” your goal should be to find the best-suited candidate to speak on the subject, regardless of their star power.

Furthermore, you should focus on finding the best candidate on the subject who’s also most suited towards speaking to your target attendees.

Try Before You Buy

The list of things you’re willing to buy sight unseen is pretty small. Don’t make your speaker one of them! In order to make sure this individual is the right fit for your event, make plans to attend one of their speaking engagements and see for yourself.

Scouting out and listening to your prospective speaker is the best way to gain firsthand knowledge of their style and substance. And you might learn something too!

Make sure they stick around

In order to make sure you provide the best bang for your attendee’s buck, you want to make sure you provide them with a friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable speaker.

Many “professional speakers” show up to events, do their 40-minute spiel, and then beat a hasty retreat. If you’re dealing with a “star” you might have to deal with a certain amount of this. Otherwise, make sure you discuss your expectations with your speaker/their management prior to the event.

Some of the best speakers want to engage with your attendees. They’ll make themselves available before their talk or stay later to answer questions, run follow-up sessions, etc. This can add a great deal of value to your event, but don’t assume this is part of the deal unless it is discussed ahead of time.

What’s their agenda?

Your speaker would not agree to speak at your event unless it provided some type of value to them. The same way you wouldn’t be hosting it without a reason, your speaker is motivated by something as well and odds are it isn’t 100% “because they want to help educate people.”

Will they want to sell their own services or products? Showcase their upcoming business? Sell their book?

Any, or all, of these may be 100% fine with you as the event organizer however you’ll want to know what their plans are ahead of time. This is especially true if you have multiple speakers who may not like the idea of setting up a table or booth to sell their book after the event right next to their competition who is doing the same.

Be way or speakers who want to sell their wares

If you’re working on a budget, you may be tempted to book a speaker who’s willing to take a pay cut in exchange for selling their products before or after the event. This is a tricky area so tread lightly.

Best case scenario your speaker has some star power and is willing to do you a solid by speaking at your event so long as he can sell a few copies of his book before and after his talk. Worst case scenario: All your speaker cares about is selling their wares and will make their entire talk a lead-in to asking your attendees to buy.

This can be especially troublesome if the point of your event was to help raise your own business’ profile or further your own cause. It can also present problems if the subject matter or nature of their products doesn’t mesh incredibly well with the tone or point of your event.

In any case, if your speaker pulls a “hard sell” to your captive audience of attendees they may resent it and be less likely to attend your next event.

There are all types of events and all types of speakers. Picking the right one for your event can make or break the day so choose wisely and enjoy!

Hosting your first conference

July 11th, 2016 by Eventzilla Team No comments »

Whether you’re already a leader in your industry or you aspire to be just that, hosting a business conference can be a great boon to your credibility as well as your networking.

You can invite industry leaders, movers, and shakers to your event and use the occasion to showcase your own products and services, discuss best practices in the industry, and more.

Here are a few tips to help you when planning and hosting your first conference

  1. Select an appropriate location – Depending on the size of the event you may find that a boardroom in a local hotel is sufficient. Other events may require a convention center capable of hosting 100’s of people. Decide how large of an event you’re planning on holding and plan accordingly.
  2. Establish precisely the focus of the event – Interested parties want to know exactly what they’re attending, why they’re attending it, and what the value is for them. Steer clear of vague descriptions of events: .i.e. “Learn how to save your business money.” Instead, provide a more targeted focus, i.e “learn how to save money through streamlined accounting processes.” Not only does this make the purpose of the event clearer, you’ve also just told the target company who they should send to attend and theoretically you wanted to talk to the head accountant or CFO in the first place.
  3. Keep expectations realistic – As your first event, your attendance might be minimal. Not only should you prepare for this to be a possibility, prepare for this as though it were on purpose. Of course you want to gather 100 high quality industry professionals, however your first time you may be looking at closer to 10. Keep it small and manageable and you can grow for your next event.
  4. Have a registration process – If you invite 20 people, you want to know that 20 people are going to show up. Having a registration process, even if it’s a free event, can help establish a head count which can impact how big of a space you need or how much food you order, etc. Having a registration process is also useful for our last tip.
  5. Follow Up – Devise a way to follow-up with your attendees. Collect their email addresses at registration and follow-up a week later. This is a great way to re-establish contact with your attendees, especially if your intention was to sell them on a product or service.

Use this as an opportunity to thank them for their attendance, re-iterate your product, and inform them of future events as well. Remember, the whole point of your event is to establish contact, not lose touch.

As an added bonus, smaller events are less expensive to host and easier to plan as well as adapt on the fly should an unexpected issue arise. They also allow for more one on one interaction and personal attention.

Hosting a business conference or seminar can be a great help to getting your name out there and interacting with the quality professionals you want to interact with. Properly done, it’s the type of focused network marketing that can make a difference down the line.