Posts Tagged ‘event planning’

Hello, CanSPEP!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I’m looking forward to traveling to the beautiful Muskoka region later this week for the annual conference of the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners, where I’ll be producing podcasts as well as leading two breakout sessions (one on blogging, the other on using new media to promote events).

If you’re an event planner, I invite you to subscribe to this blog and to sign up for my free email newsletter

For more info about the conference, please visit the CanSPEP website and blog.

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Events + social media = success

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

There was a time when printed brochures, news releases and ads in trade publications were the main tools we used to promote events. Now, in addition to these traditional media, along with Web sites and email, we can add social media to the marketing mix.

Increasingly, organizations are using blogs, podcasts, Twitter and Facebook to publicize an event, and then keep the conversation going during and afterward. In some cases, organizers succeed at creating a community that thrives long after the conference or trade show is over.

Let’s take a quick look at some of these tools.

Blogs
Think of a blog as a publishing platform. They’re no longer considered “online diaries.” Use your blog to publish content that builds excitement about the event by showcasing some of the key speakers and sponsors. Encourage questions and comments on the blog.

Twitter
As a micro-blogging platform, Twitter can work nicely with your blog, allowing you to publish 140-character bursts of information. Many event organizers create a hashtag in advance, so that everyone on Twitter who is talking about the event uses common terminology. For example, the popular South by Southwest conference is #sxsw.

Podcasts
I’ve worked with many clients who’ve used podcast interviews before and during their conferences, with great results. At Autodesk University, for example, we ran in-depth interviews with organizers, speakers and other experts before the event, to build interest. During the conference, we conducted more interviews and also grabbed quick sound bites with attendees. These were used as part of the marketing campaign to promote the event during the following year.

Video
If your story has a visual element, then use video. Keep them short, though, because editing time will eat up much of your budget otherwise.

Facebook
Have you thought of using a Fan page or Group on Facebook to drum up interest in your event? We’ll be covering these in more detail in future blog posts. There are differences between the two that you need to be aware of.

Ning
One of my clients recently used Ning to set up a community for attendees, so that they could congregate in a private online area before the event, and then keep the relationship going afterward. A group like Ning also provides a safe place for people to try out their social networking skills, rather than out in the wider world.

LinkedIn
Don’t forget about LinkedIn, which you can also use to promote your events. You can also post articles to stimulate discussions.

What are some of your favourite social media tools to promote events?

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WHY should your event be social-media friendly?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

iStock_network-000006889731XSmall copyI recently wrote about HOW to make your meeting or conference social-media friendly. A commenter then asked for more information about WHY you would want to do so.

I have covered the “why” elsewhere in my PodcastYourConference site and in various presentations and Webinars, but here is a quick list of the reasons why you should consider incorporating social media into your event planning.

  • Running an event blog, or blogging about the event on your regular blog, will help to publicize the event among potential registrants.
  • Tweeting about the event can do the same. In fact, Twitter, which encourages re-tweeting, may help your message spread even more quickly than will your blog. Of course your content has to be interesting. You can’t keep rebroadcasting the same “Hey we’re having an event” message.
  • Ditto with building your presence on Facebook or any other venue where your audience gathers online.
  • Pre-event podcast interviews with key speakers offer potential attendees, exhibitors and sponsors a glimpse of what they might be experiencing in your event’s keynote presentation, workshops, breakouts or other sessions. You’d be amazed at how much interest you can generate with a 10-minute audio podcast.
  • Suppose you’re running an annual event, and your members, employees or customers are traveling from all over the world to be there. Do you think this is an opportune time to capture audio and video conversations, presentations, event feedback and so on? In my humble opinion, YES! The cost of recording, editing and publishing this content is likely to pale in comparison to your total event budget. USE this content now and in the future. Repurpose it. Repackage it. Make the most of it!
  • If you take a few minutes to create an event hashtag (such as #iabc09), you make life easier for those who are blogging and tweeting about you. You also simplify your own tracking of the conversations about your event. Do you care what people are saying before, during and after your event? You should. This feedback is real and unvarnished, and can help you to organize even better meetings in the future.

Social media can help you to create buzz, boost registration numbers, foster a sense of community among attendees, entice exhibitors, and create relevant content for your Web site and marketing efforts.

Remember: Conversations about your organization and your event are happening, whether you’re listening to them or not. Be a part of them. Doing nothing is not a viable tactic.

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Is your event social-media friendly?

Friday, October 30th, 2009

business man giving a conferenceOver the course of a typical year, I  attend several conferences, speak at a couple, and participate in others on behalf of clients – producing content, particularly podcasts. Since I’ve been in this arena for a few years, I’ve come to observe organizations that “get it” when it comes to employing social media and new media tools before, during and after an event. This “social-media friendly” list is by no means exhaustive, but it can serve as food for thought when you’re planning your next conference.

  • Is there an event blog and podcast? Have you produced audio and video content before the event, to build excitement? Do these include interviews with key speakers?
  • Are you as the organizer posting updates on Twitter before, during and after the event? Are you encouraging registrants to do so as well?
  • Are you creating audio podcasts and shooting video at your event? This can enhance the experience of those who are at the event, and help you to create marketing materials for next time.
  • Have you considered using a tool like CoverItLive to encourage live blogging?
  • Did you create a unique hashtag so that bloggers and Twitterers can use a uniform tag to refer to your event?
  • Does the venue have strong, freely available wifi?
  • Are there electrical outlets where attendees can recharge their laptops and other devices?

Please contribute your own comments!

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Conference Success Podcast #1

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

conference_successWelcome to the first edition of the Conference Success Podcast, where we bring you tips, tricks and tools to help you organize and run better meetings, conferences and other events. (You can download or play the audio file right here, or subscribe for free through iTunes.)

In this episode you’ll hear a conversation with Ingrid Norrish of Creative Meeting and Marketing Services about the latest trends in event planning, including:

  • greater emphasis on ROI
  • shorter events
  • local events rather than long-distance
  • broader use of social media and e-marketing

Here is a transcript of the Conference Success Podcast:

Donna Papacosta: Conference Success Number 1. Trends in event planning. This is the Conference Success Podcast for October 15, 2009.
Hi, I’m Donna Papacosta at Trafalgar Communications and PodcastYourConference.com. You may be familiar with my Trafcom News Podcast, which is geared toward communicators. But Conference Success is for a special audience: People who want to create conferences, events and meetings that meet their organization’s goal or perhaps their client’s goal in every way.
In this podcast, we talk about trends, tools of the trade and sometimes technology too, including social media.
In this first episode, you’ll meet Ingrid Norrish. Ingrid has a company called Creative Meeting and Marketing Services in Brampton, Ontario near Toronto. She’s been involved in the meeting and event planning industry since 1985. Well, you’ll hear more about Ingrid in a minute.
For now, please relax and listen to Conference Success.
I’m here in Brampton, Ontario with Ingrid Norrish. Ingrid’s meeting and event planning experience spans two and a half decades and includes heading up a conference and seminar services department for a major educational institution which grew to a $2.8-million operation offering about 150 programs a year.
In 1994, Ingrid started her own company, called Creative Meeting and Marketing Services. She offers comprehensive meeting and event planning services, including consulting, to a diverse group of clients in the public, private and association sectors.
She’s a founding member of the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners, which used to be called the Independent Meeting Planners Association of Canada.
She’s involved as an executive board member and was president during the startup of the association. Ingrid continues to be an active member of this association and also has served as an editorial advisory board member of the Meetings and Incentive Travel Magazine and the editorial board of Speaking of Impact, the Voice of Canadian Meetings, which is an industry publication.
Ingrid, what would you say is the greatest trend right now that you’re seeing in working with people who are planning meetings, events and conferences?
Ingrid Norrish: Well, Donna, I would say the biggest trend that I’m seeing and a lot relates to the economy at the moment is that meetings are being measured more on the return-on-investment they provide. And a lot of the things that organizations used to do like fluff or leisure activities, they’re being taken out.
What’s really important to organizations is what are people learning? Are they actually getting something for coming to this training or this meeting or this conference?
And more organizations are seriously looking at the learning objectives they provide and they’re including that as part of their objectives when they market their events. That means that people are shortening programs. People used to have conferences that ran three days, now they are two days or one day. Even when searching for speakers, they’re being much more diligent with that search. I find that because I do have contact with a lot of speakers. They’re now asked to come in for interviews, they’re checking the number of speakers, they want testimonials, they want speakers to come in and customize their program.
You know, there’s the motivational speakers and they have their message. But they want them to come in and find out a bit more about their organization. Because they want to be sure that they are the right match. So all this stuff takes time and it makes it much more difficult.
On the other hand, too, to get participants or conferences, a lot of companies have cut their training budgets. Staff development is being put on hold, which I personally believe is not the right thing to do during this economy. You know, you need to get people keep them up-to-date. There are so many changes and things happening. So that’s one trend that I see.
Donna Papacosta: Well, that’s interesting and I see this in my own clients when they talk about the events that they’re putting on. But it’s interesting. As you were talking, I’m thinking: “Emphasis on ROI, really vetting the speakers, really thinking about the events that you’re doing and making sure that they’re fluff” – I think in the end, we’re going to wind up with better events with all of this. Do you think so?
Ingrid Norrish: Oh, I totally agree. You know, I think in a lot of cases with things like this happening, we’re rethinking how we do things. And you know what? It was getting into a point with a lot of events. It was more fluff than education. You know, I would go to conferences and I felt if I learned one good thing, that would be, you know, worth the investment. However, there are many conferences or events I went to that I thought, “What did I actually get out of that in spending my time?”
So, yeah, I believe it’s very good and I think what the trend is as a meeting planner is that you have to be much more able to understand adult learning, understand learning objectives so it’s not just planning the event and the logistics. It’s the whole aspect of the program development providing that resource to your supplier or client.
Donna Papacosta: Right, so you really need to work with them to truly understand what the goals are that they’re trying to achieve by putting on this event. It’s not just let’s have a nice dinner and some clowns.
Ingrid Norrish: Yeah, I agree with you totally. So really measuring what that is. And actually after the event, which I find a lot of organizations don’t do is going back to measure if they achieved those objectives and how do they measure that.
So when I meet with clients and I even do my proposals, I say, “If this event happens, what would make it the most successful event? What things are you trying to achieve? And let’s come back and measure that and incorporate it into our evaluation as part of this whole process.”
Donna Papacosta: For sure because especially then you look at that when you’re planning your next one and say, “What can we tweak from the previous event and all that.” But, no, that sounds really smart to me to have that ROI. It means something that we probably should be doing all along.
Now, you did allude to cutting costs and sometimes conferences being shorter. Are you seeing any other trends that are reflected as a result of the economy?
Ingrid Norrish: Well, a lot of people actually who are planning to do something this past year, and I found this even speaking with suppliers in hotels and venues, they postpone their meetings. They wanted to sort of wait until let’s say, 2010, 2011. I think it is going to pick up. Like even golf tournaments, I heard really declined this year because people didn’t want to be offering a tournament when they were letting staff go or doing all these sort of fun things when staff are being let go so they’re waiting. Even though they could have possibly afforded it, they were waiting until we sort of ride this all out.
People are holding things more locally. They’re not going out of town as much due to travel expenses; we’re looking at venues in 100-kilometer radius. Working lunches which cost a bit less, shorter receptions even if they have receptions. I mean a lot of big conferences would have themed events and major décor. I even read recently in an industry publication that for a fundraising gala, they used to always have this big dinner. And they changed it to a luncheon instead, which cost a bit less. There wasn’t as much of a requirement with that. And it worked really well and people loved it.
So, as you said, sometimes when we’re forced through these kinds of circumstances in life, or in the working world, we come up with new and creative ideas. That’s what the beauty of it is.
Donna Papacosta: That’s interesting. Now, what about the marketing of these conferences? Are you seeing changes happening there fitting with these other trends?
Ingrid Norrish: Yeah, you know what? The thing with marketing, and I also do marketing consulting as part of my business, it used to be so easy years ago. You know, you put together this conference brochure or seminar brochure and put it in the mail, and people would sign up and they would do it fairly quickly. You know, they wouldn’t wait. And now there’s direct mail, there’s the electronic medium, like so many people now are using that and I don’t dispute it. I think it’s part of the marketing package.
But sometimes that’s all they use and they expect the same results. It doesn’t always work that way.
There’s viral marketing, then people do telemarketing to see that you get, you know, the information – are you planning to sign up. There’s constant reminders being set up to get people to register because people are taking much longer.
I mean there is so much out there that sometimes, you know, from a planning perspective or for my clients, what do you choose? Luckily with electronic marketing, it doesn’t cost much money but it still does take time. And, you know, people now, I find, more and more. There was a client I was working with who is a vice president of an organization – she was getting 400 emails a day. People are now almost getting numb to emails, unless they know who it is sending it. So you’ve got to look at a combination. You just can’t rely on one thing and look at what fits best with your event.
Donna Papacosta: Yeah, that’s true. And I think I’m receiving a lot of emails about industry events that I could be interested in. I still do get the ones in the mail and sometimes, they do get my attention because it’s the postal mail and there’s a nice brochure. I do understand the cost involved in something like that. And then, of course, we have the un-conferences where there’s nothing in print and it’s all online. And often they’re tapping into social media tools. So are you seeing even with conventional conferences more the use of the social media tools to promote them?
Ingrid Norrish: Absolutely. And, you know, I think a lot of people are just jumping onto this; I mean that’s all you hear about now. And, yes, certain clients are very open to that and looking at new ways of attracting people. You know, especially through LinkedIn, which is more perceived as a business online social media tool or through Twitter, whatever the case may be.
And, yeah, I think it’s working. I don’t know if anyone has done a study of how well that has been working. I find that a lot of people are just now getting nervous about it like, you know, as a meeting planner, I better get on this bandwagon because it’s like when websites were years ago I remember that like websites slowly started creeping in and then you kept hearing about and hearing about it. And all of a sudden then you think, “Gosh, I need a website.” So, yeah, definitely I see a real growth in that. Even in a sense working as an independent planner, I see it as a very good way to market yourself and connect with people.
And, yeah, I think it’s great like it’s exciting but I’m concerned about all the time I’m spending on the computer.
Donna Papacosta: I know exactly what you mean and I say the same thing when I talk to clients. I really compare it to when, you know, I guess it was in the mid-90s when people and organizations started to say, “Gee, I think I need a website or at least I need to understand what it’s all about.”
And the same thing with social media. It might not be the solution but you have to know what it is for your clients’ sake and of course, for your own sake as a business person. From you own experience lately, we’re in October 2009, do you think things are sort of reaching a stable point now? Do you see some growth happening for 2010 as some people maybe put off their 2009 meetings until then? Get out your crystal ball and kind of tell us what you see. No pressure.
Ingrid Norrish: Well, you know, just for my own perspective, I see things are picking up. I went to this conference which is sort of like a huge industry conference at the end of August put together by the Meetings and Incentive Travel organization. And they were even saying that they do perceive that it’s going to be picking up and everything like that. And I feel optimistic. I do see a change out there.
But, you know, I think as we were talking about earlier, we’re looking now at ways to be more effective in what we do. And sometimes, these kinds of circumstances bring that out. I was also going to mention with marketing the biggest problem too that I see is, well, it’s a trend I suppose or a challenge, not a problem, is getting people to register – engaging them ahead of time, engaging them after the event, you know, forming discussions. That’s where the services that you provide with podcasting for conferences offering that support. I think people really need to start looking at that. It’s just a different world out there right now.
Donna Papacosta: I know sometimes organizations will decide to do a pre-conference podcast because their competitors are doing it but, you know, you hope they have a better reason than just because Company A is doing it, but they often find it as a way to engage the audience beforehand, giving them a flavor, a taste of what’s going to be happening. “Oh, there’s the keynote speaker. She sounds really interesting. I just heard a three-minute thing with her. Maybe I will sign up for this,” or maybe use it as a way to justify to your manger that you should be going to this conference.
So I hope you’re right that more companies will be using podcasting because I think the ones that I know – once they do, they really get hooked on it and they see the value. And coming back full circle to what you’re saying about the ROI, if you can tie that in, the use of multi-media and social media with your ROI. Then it just becomes a part of your overall effort.
So any closing thoughts that you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
Ingrid Norrish: Well, I guess, overall, now that we’ve been talking about this, you know, I’m really excited again. It’s during these times that we have to be more creative. We may need to look at other options and explore them. And I think that by doing that, we’re going to create a better product and service to our clients. And the suppliers will be offering us more too. And I feel very optimistic about the future at this point. And I’m excited also to be doing much more with the social media tools that are out there.
You know, not that I’m–you know, it’s taking me a little bit of time to get on board. But, you know, now that I am on board and I’m getting more knowledge in that area. It’s very exciting, it’s very exciting and that’s what business is all about, isn’t it?
Donna Papacosta: That’s right and I can see in your face the excitement, the passion when you’re talking about this and I think that probably happens when you’re speaking with your clients, you convey that. And that’s what they want if they’re going to be working with a meeting planner and events specialist to feel that not only do they have the technical knowledge but they’re excited about working on the event, right? I mean that has to come across.
So that’s great. Well, thanks for taking the time today, Ingrid. And we’ll have to revisit this topic in maybe six months and see if there’s something new. No pressure, again.
Ingrid Norrish: I’ll bring my crystal ball then. Thank you very much, Donna, for having me on this. I appreciate it.
Donna Papacosta: Thanks again to Ingrid for outlining these important trends for us. That was great. Before we close out, I’d like to invite you to a free webinar on October 29 at 2 p.m. That’s a web-based seminar at 2 p.m., Eastern Time on October 29th. It’s just 45 minutes and it’s geared toward people who organize conferences, meetings and events. We’ll talk about how to attract more attendees using social networks to build buzz around your event. Maximizing the value of the presentations, speeches and interviews that take place around your event, creating compelling audio and video content and organizing audio and video from the current event so you can market the next one. Really, it’s all about gaining maximum value from your communications dollar for your event.
If you’re interested in this free webinar, please send an email to me. It’s donna@trafcom.com, and I will send you the registration instructions. For more information, you can go to http://PodcastYourConference.com/webinars.
Thanks so much for listening to Conference Success. Please let me know what you think. Did you agree with what Ingrid and I were talking about? Maybe you have a suggestion for a future episode. Or perhaps you’d like to be interviewed. I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at donna@trafcom.com. You can also comment on the show blog at PodcastYourConference.com. Just click on blog. That’s where the show notes are too.
Thanks for listening, until next time. This is Donna Papacosta for PodcastYourConference.com.

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How and why to podcast your conference

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

iStock_mics-presentation-000006111221Small

Over the last four years, I’ve produced conference podcasts for associations and corporations for both internal and external purposes. If you’re curious about whether podcasting your conference can be an effective way to communicate with your audience, please read on for some tips and insights. IN this blog I’ll be covering this topic extensively, but let’s begin with an overview.

What is a podcast anyway?
A podcast is a multimedia file that can be shared with others. A podcast can be audio or video.

How is a podcast different from any old downloadable audio?

The ability to subscribe is what makes a podcast special. After you create your podcast, you can publish it on your blog and/or Web site. You can also make it available on iTunes, YouTube and other locations, and your listeners can subscribe to your podcast for free.

How does a podcast subscription work?
You can subscribe to a podcast in a few different ways:

  • By email, if this is offered by the podcast producer. You simply enter your email address on the page, and the publisher notifies you whenever a new show is available.
  • Via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) using a feed reader such as Bloglines or Google Reader. Every time a new podcast is published, you automatically receive it.
  • Using the iTunes application (which works on Macs and PCs), you automatically receive new shows. You can also synchronize your iPod or other compatible MP3 player to load the new shows.

NOTE: You can certainly produce audio and video content from your conference that is NOT a podcast. As long as you know where you’re going to publish and position this content on your Web site, it doesn’t have to be a podcast.

How will I benefit from podcasting my conference?
Have you ever produced tapes or CDs of your conference proceedings? Do you remember what a headache it was to create and distribute them? With podcasts, you can easily make your content available on the Internet, saving time and money. Beyond saving, you’ll also be creating meaningful information products that can generate buzz before your event and add value afterward. Here are the main benefits of podcasting your conference:

  • By offering audio or video content from your most current conference, you can attract people to your next one.
  • You will educate prospects about your company, your products and your expertise.
  • You can reach a broad audience at a low cost.
  • You can make selected content available to your clients, prospects and employees who are not able to attend your conference but who still want your message.
  • By creating a Web site or blog to accompany your podcasts, you create a presence that is searchable by Google keywords, therefore expanding your reach on the Web.

Examples of conference podcasts
Pre-conference podcasts can increase interest and may stimulate registration numbers. By adding audio or video content to your Web site and linking to it in your emails and other marketing materials, you can entice potential attendees to check out what your conference has to offer. You can also take advantage of the power of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to link to your multimedia content and boost your pre-conference buzz even further.

Podcasts produced during the conference itself can capture some of the sessions and grab opinions from attendees too. You may decide to not offer all of your sessions as podcasts. In this case, you can produce “script and clip” podcasts, where you edit your original files down into bite-sized pieces, and add professional narration to tie it together. Think mini-documentary.

A roving reporter on your conference floor can capture all sorts of valuable multimedia content from speakers and attendees.

Of course all this wonderful content can be used to promote your next conference and to educate your employees who are unable to be at the conference.

Tips for successful conference podcasts

  • Start planning well in advance. You don’t want to rush this.
  • Decide on your goals: increase registration, create a lasting legacy of your event, build multimedia content for your intranet or Internet? Then define success for each goal.
  • Get a team together. Who’s going to conduct the interviews? Record? Edit? Publish?
  • Assemble your gear. At the very least, you’ll need portable digital recorders, microphones and computers loaded with editing software. For video, you’ll add cameras, tripods, lights.
  • Draw up a schedule of who’s doing what, when. Keep track of what’s been accomplished. Revise your schedule as needed.
  • Go with the flow. If the opening night reception is generating lots of cool discussion, try to grab some interviews right then and there, even if it’s not on your schedule.
  • Record as much in advance as possible. Script and record your introductory sections and closing sections in advance to save time.

Is this a do-it-yourself project?
You can certainly create your own podcasts if you have the skill and the equipment. Compare it to desktop publishing: Not everyone with a copy of InDesign can craft a beautiful newsletter. Ditto: Not everyone who owns Adobe Audition or Final Cut Pro can create a nice podcast with solid content.

Will podcasting my conference be expensive?
In a word, no. Add up all the dollars you’ve spent on organizing your event, printing up literature, marketing and advertising, and so on. The cost of podcasting your conference is the equivalent of a small fraction of your overall cost.

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