Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Collaborative Blog Post: Part Two — Event Pro’s What’s Priority Focus in 2010?

Yesterday I published Part One of a series of posts generated by an experimental use of Google Wave.  For the details of the overall project please click here to read the article. To recap, I developed five “hot topic” business questions and invited several colleagues to respond to them in a Google Wave I created.

Many thanks to the following event professionals participating in Part Two:

  • Jessica Levin, President & Chief Connector, Seven Degrees Communications
  • Midori Connolly, CEO and Chief AVGirl at Pulse Staging and Events
  • Michelle Bruno, President, Bruno Group Signature Events
  • Jeff Hurt, Director of Education & Events, National Association of Dental Plans
  • Ian McGonnigal, Executive Director, Strategy – George P. Johnson
  • Mike McAllen, Co-Founder, Grass Shack Events & Media
  • Samuel J. Smith, Experienced B2B Marketing and Sales Professional

Question  — What business issue do Event Professionals need to most focus on in 2010 and why?

Jeff HurtJeff:  Identifying value of the hybrid meeting and when it’s most appropriate to use the hybrid meeting.   If the goal of an event is to reach as many people as possible with a message, or help move a professional industry forward, then event professionals may want to consider how to reach both the face-to-face and virtual attendees.

Attendees will also be using more discretion when choosing which meetings they attend and where they place their registration dollars.  Attendees will look for ways to customize their experience, choose virtual or face-to-face, and have options with registration fees.  These are just a few reasons why event professionals should consider hybrid meetings in the future.

Ian McGonnigalIan:  Event professionals need to better understand the role of social media. Its not about Facebook, Twittter, MySpace or Linkedin. The tools don’t matter. Its about audience engagement before, during and after an event. In fact, its about using events as a point of accentuation in the greater conversation to drive long term relationships with your audiences.

Jessica LevinJessica: I agree with Jeff. The hybrid meeting will be critical. We will need to find a way to explain the value to attendees and help them understand which format (live or distance) is best for them. Pricing structures will need to be established so that the cost is spread appropriately between live and remote attendees.  In addition, pre and post event interaction is going to continue to grow as a result of the availability of new media channels.

Mike McAllenMike: Making sure the content is valuable, the networking valuable and leaving the attendees wanting more. All the wonderful tools like this one (google wave) are great but making sure the fundamental elements of a great meeting are met, is imperative to justify attending any meeting or conference. Work as hard on planning the contents emotional, and motivational ideas to keep folks engaged.

Samuel J. SmithSamuel: I am with Mike on this one.   When I think about what we can do to engage attendees I don’t think that we have even scratched the surface. There are millions and millions of events taking place around the world. Most of them still use the same – Speaker Talks. Attendee Listens. Attendee Goes Home Smart model.

This is really a pity.   The world population has never been more educated than today. The access to information at our fingertips has never been better than today. At the same time, the gap between the “so-called” experts on the stage and the experts in the audience has never been smaller. This gap will continue to shrink.

We need to take a hard look at how we are using the collective wisdom of the talented individuals sitting in the audience to generate new ideas, share best practices and collaborate on projects.   By starting here – we will drive new event formats, new technology tools, etc.

Michelle BrunoMichelle: I think that social media adoption will be critical because of the relative cost savings and the way that it addresses the changing mood in customer behavior.  For example, every time I have attended a session on social media at an industry event, it gets hijacked by people wanting to know how to use Twitter. We all are essentially teaching ourselves and each other.

Where are the day long “how-to” sessions on how to use social media specifically for our industry? If we truly believe in the social media message and potential we need to lead the effort to educate everyone that wants to be educated on a larger scale. If you know something, share it, right?

Midori ConnollyMidori: From a supplier side, one of the greatest issues will be profitability. In the last year, I’ve seen suppliers make foolish decisions to keep a positive short-term cash flow. However, the margins they’ve accepted have pushed price expectations into a dangerous realm for the longevity of many of these businesses.

It will be interesting to see who survives and how they do it!  This could also impact the planner side – as suppliers can no longer survive with weakened margins and raise their prices to realistic levels, will this impact budgets?

Michael McCurryMcCurry: Its clear from this discussion that our interviewees believe Hybrid Meetings and social media are “top of mind” to most folks when developing their strategies for 2010.  More importantly the focus is on understanding customers needs and tailoring event designs to deliver outstanding customized event experiences to them.  Business people have a hunger to connect at a higher level with their colleagues, customers and suppliers and the businesses focused on building community through the use of the tools available to them will thrive.

On the financial side Midori Connolly and Jessica Levin believe organizations must return to a more realistic pricing model in order to survive.  I tend to agree with them, however the real question is whether the economy has improved enough to sustain this approach.

Thanks very much to my partners in this collaboration and we certainly would like to receive your feedback on this issue!  What do you expect for 2010 to be your primary focus and why?  Stay tuned for Part Three later this week as we continue this discussion.

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Lutz November 28, 2009 at 7:51 am

Mike, this google wave series rocks! It’s really neat to read a blog post that already has high quality comments built in.

For larger shows and association annual meetings, I think Mike and Sam are going down the right track. Most shows that rely on considerable sponsorship and exhibit revenue are pulling out all the stops to first deliver high quality buyers/influencers and secondarily to drive new unknown prospects. We’re seeing quite a few organizers adopt Hosted Buyer models to deliver high quality buyers and increase the potential of exhibitors being able to measure a positive return. Organizers are also exploring co-location and partnerships with other shows to improve aisle density and protect exhibit revenue.

I’m also seeing more big shows reaching out to their exhibitors more and more to help with audience acquisition. While a social media strategy can help with this, you need an army of loyal followers, exhibitors, staff & speakers to make a significant impact.

On Hybrid meetings, I think it makes a ton of sense to capture the live meeting experience and share it for those that could not or did not attend. To Mike’s point about “leaving the attendees wanting more” – Amen! The best meetings are where attendees are torn on which breakout to attend…you want to be in 2 or 3 places at once. Meetings that accomplish this, get more attendees from each organization the following year.

Looking forward to the balance of this series!

Dave Lutz – @velchain


Michael M McCurry CMP November 28, 2009 at 11:26 am

@Dave Lutz,

Thanks for the great comments and insight, Dave!

All of us that participated in this experiment with Google Wave are convinced that its collaborative nature is going to be one of its greatest features! I love your comments regarding the use of creative sponsorships to drive aisle traffic.

Part Three of this article series will be posted later today… stay tuned!



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