The importance of data

470049-listslistvoterphotosxc-1353643038-653-640x480Despite the fact that a significant proportion of event marketing is now conducted via social media and other channels, the majority of the response generally comes from audiences that are already known to us.

Visitors and pre-registered non-attendees are the two most important sectors for any B2B conference, exhibition or meeting. From the moment they registered they were showing a firm commitment to attend, regardless or not of whether they actually made it to the venue.

How these individuals are managed post event can have a crucial effect on the success of a follow-up marketing campaign, whether this is for the next year’s event, a new launch project, an electronic newsletter or any other point of contact.

Here are five steps that every event marketing team should take to ensure that its most important data stays fit for purpose:

  1. Clean the data post event: check that capitalisation is correct, addresses are correctly formatted and in the right fields and that any missing information is researched and added.
  2. Make sure that you have just one version of a company name rather than lots of different abbreviations: this will enable you to create peer-to-peer marketing campaigns, or even spot an opportunity to host a lot of delegates from a single organisation.
  3. Ensure that the data has been deduped: it may look as if someone did not attend after registering, but it might just be that they forgot and did it again onsite.
  4. Make sure your data has been properly coded: if your next marketing campaign is to be personalised, it is imperative that you know what kind of visitor everyone is. Have a hierarchy so that you don’t refer to someone who has given up their time to be one of your speakers as a visitor.
  5. Don’t just leave your data as a dusty spreadsheet, waiting to come out again in a year’s time: every time a customer comes into contact with your organisation you should be building a picture of their activity.

There has been much talk about Big Data and how this can revolutionise customer contact but sophisticated marketing pathways can only be created if the originating data is looked after in the first place.

Is our love affair with technology destroying the visitor experience?

IMG_2921As event organisers, the advent of computer technology has transformed every area of our business.

It’s difficult to explain to anyone with less than ten years’ experience just how laborious the job of registering and managing visitors and delegates used to be. Telephones would ring off the hook as we tried to manage enquiries, bookings, cancellations and name changes.  Registrations came via post and fax and had to be entered into a database if you were lucky (though I do remember some organisations that used to keep carefully typed files) and managed on a day to day basis.  It was unusual if, by the end of your event, you couldn’t name at least 75% of your audience individually.

Websites, automated registration processes, apps, onsite wifi and linked communications make all of these processes obsolete.  And frankly good riddance. (Not least because any spelling mistakes on entry badges are the registrant’s own!) It is so much quicker to find and amend individual records, to send appropriate messaging and to link suppliers to relevant delegates. Exemplary customer service is so much easier when every bit of information is at your fingertips.

Like spectacles for the myopic, technology provides a clear and uninterrupted view.  So now we are on the lookout for other areas to fix. The only problem is that we aren’t researching first if this is what our audiences really want.

Sure, we need to ensure that we give potential visitors, particularly in the B2B exhibition and conference arenas, reasons to attend.  But broad brush, generalised emails and e-newsletters aren’t necessarily the best way to do this. Simply broadcasting constant bland content is unlikely to push visitor numbers up.  Clever use of database information and pre-defined customer journeys will generate far more response. Less is definitely more providing what you are serving is of the highest quality.

At the event itself, there is little point in creating online directories and apps if the visitor cannot find them on your website while standing in the foyer to the exhibit hall.  Or, for that matter, if it requires a registration to the venue wifi or the download of a piece of software incompatible with mobile devices.  By doing this you are already making key information inaccessible  to a proportion of your audience – and that is inexcusable.  Or, you could have the experience I had last week where I couldn’t download the exhibitor list for an event, so I was consulting one of only two you are here boards to try and find the exhibitors I wanted, but I was still thwarted because the stand numbers were printed so small and so high up that I couldn’t actually see them.  This lack of attention to detail is just plain shoddy.

Interruption by technology can be very positive, but why, when we have actually got the visitor in the room do we feel the need to nag them constantly. Some events are worse than going shopping with a toddler.  Every five minutes or less a text or email or notification pops through on a smart phone.  Each one taking the focus away from what you want your delegate to remember from the day. There was a reason why event organisers stopped excessive use of the tannoy system at events… and the same needs to be applied to delegate ‘engagement’ via electronic means… because after a while no one listens any more.

Technology has been revolutionary in event production, management, marketing and operational terms, but that doesn’t mean that it should be used any and everywhere it can be deployed.

 

Digitising the event registration process

World Travel Market 2011. ExCel London.This week the UK event industry will be gathering at the annual Confex exhibition.  Like many other B2B events, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that pre-registration figures are high and that visitor tickets are handled in an efficient and timely manner. Equally, environmental concerns mean that many organisers are looking for ways to reduce the paper usage at their events by removing the need for visitors to bring printed barcodes and badges with them in order to gain entry.

One such organiser is Reed Exhibitions, who tasked Event Advantage Solutions to digitise the entire registration process for the UK’s largest trade exhibition – World Travel Market.

WTM2011_123 smallIn addition to managing volume of exhibitors and visitors, the task was further complicated by the wide range of visitor categories and admission criteria and how best to convert the existing manual system to a digital one.

In order to achieve this Accredit (EAS’s inhouse accreditation solution) was adapted to meet the needs of the various visitor categories attending the show during different periods of build-up, open days and break down.  Press, students, hosted buyers and VIPs to exhibitors, suppliers and contractors were all categorised to enable automated allocation, virtually eliminating any manual processes.

The result was an intelligent registration system which delivered electronic badging for thousands of attendees before, during and after this four day show.  Following the successful migration from manual to digital EAS was retained to manage all WTM data as well as the implementation of registration for the actual event.  EAS were also contracted to handle Reed’s new Arabian Travel Market and World Travel Market Latin America.

While the supplier/organiser relationship is very important, what this case study shows is that visitors are also ready to embrace digital registration, and that in many markets the need for physical tickets and barcodes has all but disappeared.

Women in events

MPI_EMEC_women-20150203110242427Last week, Conference and Incentive Travel magazine published a piece by Jack Carter entitled Women must ‘brag’ more to succeed in events.  This was based on a presentation from the MPI European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC) 2015.

Why are we still having these conversations?  And why, as women do we continue to allow ourselves be manipulated into these silo discussions by statistics created by organisations seeking out headlines?

Jane Baker, vice president of client services at Freeman XP, commenting on the statistic that it generally takes a woman 24 years to become a CEO while it takes a man 15 years seemed to think that women didn’t get to the top because they stayed at the same company slowly climbing the greasy pole.  People who are driven to become CEOs within 15 years generally don’t work their way up, they move position regularly, and it has very little to do with loving a company or enjoying its culture and working environment.

Baker also suggested that big businesses are generally beset by bureaucracy and politics, something that turns women off. Well I know plenty of women who are brilliant at navigating both of these things, slicing through them like a hot knife on butter, and I would also struggle to name more than a handful of events companies with cultures like this.  She states that many women who are successful leaders have stepped away to create their own agencies – isn’t this a symbol that the events industry is very empowering for women rather than the opposite?  Surely success isn’t only measured by your position on the board of a FTSE100 company?

Apparently, according to Karin Krogh, owner of Nyt Potentiale, ‘Men are very good at bragging.  We all have to make sure that we brag as well.  If we do everything right then nobody notices…’  Really? Nobody notices when an event has gone off without a hitch; when the budget is met; when the VIPs write to say thank you; when your audience is giving you five star ratings?  Events are only as good as the personnel who put them together, and if no one notices then you have got nothing to brag about. Just shouting louder only creates a cacophony, not the best environment in which to work.

There are some phenomenally creative, experienced and talented women in the events and meetings industry; many of whom are creating environments which challenge the boardroom status quo, with flat management structures and the opportunities for everyone in the organisation to shine.  This is what we should be celebrating, not trying to emulate the business structures which have been a stricture on not just women’s, but also men who don’t conform to the boardroom norm’s, progress.

Hellen @missioncontrol

What does 2015 have in store for event badging?

RFID badges have been talked about in the B2B events industry for a long time. Now that near-field communication technologies are getting more commonplace, will this technology finally come of age? What investments will venues and organisers have to make to ensure that all of this technology works brilliantly all of the time?

Badge & ScanThere are three acronyms that we just can’t seem to avoid in our events industry at the moment:

– RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

– NFC (Near Field Communication)

– UHF (Ultra High Frequency)

As one of the front-runners in event badging, IDentilam are always looking for the next big thing. It looks like there’s just no escaping from RFID technology when it comes to events badging, as people in the events industry are continuing to look for more convenient technology that will really change the way conferences work. Although IDentilam have been providing RFID solutions for a long time now, the prospects are ever-expanding and it appears to be the hot topic as we move into 2015.

This all makes sense, as there are lots of advantages to using RFID and NFC technologies for events. Not only is it a popular choice because of the quick and effective registration solution…

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