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How to Give Your Next Meeting a “Dinner Party” Feel
hosting-dinner-party-tips
Dec 28, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

dinner partyMost of us have been to and hosted dinner parties over the years. However, the best ones are when everyone goes home happy. The atmosphere was great, the food superb and everyone genuinely had a fantastic time. 

Wouldn't it be great if our attendees buzzed about an association meeting, corporate event or training session in the same way? Why can't we make our professional meetings fun and interesting? With a little time, creativity and money it can happen!  

Below are 5 ways you can give your next meeting a dinner party feel.  

Dinner Party Tip #1: Decorate the Venue with Lighting. 

Especially during this time of year, holiday lighting abounds. The different types, sizes and colors are always fun to see as you go into neighborhoods and attend holiday parties. Light equipment rentals are available in all sort of sizes and each type of lighting serves a purpose. But most of all, lighting sets the mood for the event and immediately says to the attendee that you cared enough to spend a few extra dollars and dedicate the time to make your space very special. 

Dinner Party Tip #2: Put Together a Great Playlist. 

Music is essential to a good dinner party especially when you only have a few guests on hand. But now you can tailor music to meet the needs of your guests by creating a playlist of artists they will enjoy listening to. So how about asking your attendees what genre or artists they like? Put together that playlist on an iPad or iPod, hook it to a quality sound system and voila — you have set in motion another way your guests know you care. 

Dinner Party Tip #3: Make Everyone Feel Welcome. 

When you host a dinner party, you usually greet your guests with enthusiasm and a handshake or hug. You make them feel welcome into your home and help them get acquainted with other guests. You offer them a drink and steer them toward the appetizers. 

When is the last time you made each and every attendee feel welcomed at your meeting? 

Dinner Party Tip #4: Have Personalized Assigned Seating.

This may not be practical for very large event, but it can be a real ice breaker for small to medium-sized meetings. The comedian Joan Rivers does the following: she puts one fact about the person to the left and and the person on the right. This is meant to be a real conversation starter. 

Marlo Thomas, puts personalized gifts at everyone's seat that act as place cards. A mug, clock or baseball cap with their name on it is placed in front of the plate and not only will they know where to sit but they will have a personal reminder of the evening every time they use the item. 

Dinner Party Tip #5: Presentation of the Food is Key. 

Choosing the right food and presenting it on the plate is all about color and choice. Having the right combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates — with a variety of colors — will make the plate look vibrant and the meal more appealing. 

Do you have the chef prepare food for your approval that he/she will be making for your attendees? What about the way they present it? Insist on creative presentation options and if possible, stick with seasonal food choices that are locally grown. 

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment supplier, can help make your next meeting have the feel of a dinner party through their sound and light rental options and much, much more! Contact them today to learn more about their outstanding offerings! 

4 Surefire Ways to Hold Stress Free Meetings and Events
roi
Dec 26, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

stress free zone

Okay, maybe I am stretching the truth a bit. There is no way to have a completely stress-free event and most of the time, a little stress is a good thing. However, since the job of Event Planner is considered one of the most stressful jobs you can have, I thought it might be a good thing to try and identify some of the ways you can create a calmer environment as you move into the new year. 

Here are 4 tips that help me keep my work and personal life in balance and I hope they can help you. 

Tip #1: Be Honest and Realistic with All Your Stakeholders. 

The first thing any meeting planner needs to do is find out when the client wants to hold the meeting and their budget range for the whole event. If they want to hold a national sales meeting and are only giving you 90 days to pull it off, you need to either convince them you need more time or walk away from the business. In addition, if they are not willing to allocate the proper amount of dollars for meeting space, renting audio visual equipment, and a marketing campaign, the event will come off as half-baked. 

After all, you are the expert. Be confident in your assessment and be willing to walk away from the business if it will affect your personal reputation. 

Tip #2: Make Certain Your Time is Valued and Compensated. 

It doesn't matter if you are a corporate, association or independent planner — the old saying "time is money" is very true. Often times when I am planning an event, 5 or 10 additional items need to be executed that neither the client or I anticipated. However, if I complete those things, I need to be compensated for them. Put a true value on your hourly rate and go back to the powers to be and say the following: 

"I will be happy to complete the additional tasks. However, I will need to increase my fee by $____. Is that alright with you or would you prefer to…(have someone else do the work, skip these steps, etc.). 

OR: 

"I will be happy to complete the following tasks. However, it will take me ____ hours to complete which will push the timeline for (another meeting, project, or day-to-day stuff) out further. Is that alright with you?"

Tip #3: Don't Blur Boundaries. 

As much as event planners would like to, we cannot plan and execute events by ourselves. We need to count on several partners to pull them off including: hotel and conference services staff, event audio visual rental companies, the client, sponsors, and exhibitors. The beginning of the planning cycle is a great time to be clear about the responsibilities and expectations of each partner. Trust that they will carry out their respective responsibilities and don't try to tell them how to run their business. 

Tip #4: Keep Everything in Perspective. 

Even if you think everything is going wrong, just remember it probably isn't as bad as you think it is.

I was knocked into reality this week when I was talking to a colleague about one of the meetings I was planning and how I was having a difficult time with the client because attendee numbers were not what they expected. I asked my friend how she was doing — when she burst into tears and told me she had lost her job the day before. In a flash, all of my problems seemed insignificant in comparison to what she was going through.  

It is important to remember that it is just a meeting or event and yes, you will do your best to make it work. But executing a little patience, sensitivity and trust with all your partners will help build long term relationships with them.

AV Event Solutions is your one-stop partner for all your audio visual needs in the State of California! 

13 Steps to Holding a Fantastic Customer Appreciation Event
Dec 21, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

December is a month full of personal and professional obligations.

Personally, there are parties, shopping and gift giving to do. Children have time off from school and because it gets dark so much earlier, many times going home after work to wrap presents and send out holiday messages is very appealing.

Professionally, this is the time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and plan for what your organization wants to do in 2013. Often times this requires meetings and planning sessions. A holiday employee party may be in the mix as well.

But somewhere in all of this, you need to take time to appreciate your clients. And even though the trend in past years has been to plan a major event in December — because of the reasons listed above — you will be best served if you plan a fun and exciting outing for your clients in January or February.

Here are some specific steps to take when holding a Customer Appreciation event:

BETWEEN NOW AND DECEMBER 31

  1. Determine which customers you are going to invite to your event. What is the threshold for an invitation? A certain dollar amount spent with you or everyone who did any business with your company in 2012?
  2. Based on the invitation list, determine whether you are going to hold the event at your office or at an offsite venue such as a hotel, restaurant, or bar. If it is off site, secure the space immediately.
  3. Will the event be a luncheon, dinner, or reception?
  4. Are you going to make this a product launching event by giving clients a “sneak peek” into your plans for 2013? Or will it be a recap of 2012? It is probably best to do a little of both but remember, this is an appreciation event and the primary focus should be on the client.
  5. Line up all your partners: venue, caterer, event audio visual rental company and promotion firm.
  6. Send a digital invitation and give your clients at least 30 days notice. So if you send out the invitation on December 30, the soonest you would hold the event would be January 30. Make certain there is a RSVP email or telephone number on the invitation.
  7. Mail out handwritten, personal thank-you notes to all the clients you are inviting to your event.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE EVENT

  1. Personally call all individuals on your list who have not responded. Thank them for their business and ask them if they will make it to the event.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT

  1. Place another call to the customers who have not responded.
  2. Assemble your goody bags to give to clients upon their departure from the event.

THE DAY OF THE EVENT

  1. Arrive early and work with the venue, caterer and AV company to make certain everything is in place and tested including the presentation services audio visual equipment and the sound and lighting rental systems. Check the room temperature and seating arrangements.
  2. Make certain the C-Level Executives are on hand to “meet and greet” customers as they walk into the facility and personally thank them for their business.
  3. At the end of the event as customers depart, hand them their goody bag.

AV Event Solutions wishes to thank everyone who made them successful in 2012 and they look forward to working with all their existing clients and meeting new customers in 2013!

Proprietary Event? The New Trend in Events.
Proprietary_Trade_shows
Dec 19, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

proprietary

What is a proprietary event? Very simply it has only one focus — your brand, company or association. It is all about your messaging with no distractions from one-off sponsors, exhibitors or other brand managers in the organization. It is about YOUR message — all the time. And as we go into 2013, event meeting services organizations will see more and more of this type of event. 

In fact, according to Sparks, a global event marketing agency, proprietary events are expected to double in 2013. Below are the 5 benefits of this type of event and why is they are happening.  

CONTROL

This event allows you to be in the driver's seat. You select the speakers, sponsors and exhibitors you want at your meeting.  

"You have full control over the experience your audience receives — everything from the event environment to the way content is delivered," said Lucy Bassert, Vice President Strategic Accounts at Sparks Exhibits and Environments. 

BUSINESS DRIVEN

Proprietary events are awareness and sales driven. The goal is to get as many customers and prospects in one room — F2F as well as virtually — and sell them on the content of the event. Whether it is a product launching event and you want "x" number of the new product sold or increasing sales with existing products and services, the idea is to get the attendees excited about and positioned to buy whatever is presented.

Live streaming and recording the event has two major benefits: 1) You can address a virtual audience you may never have been able to reach before and 2) The presentations can be available for attendees to watch at a later date for clarification of content. 

DEEP DIVE CONTENT

At SAP's SAPPHIRE NOW conference, they set up their speakers in meeting rooms and had them repeat their content over and over again during the 3-day event. In addition, they had each speaker in a discussion area so attendees could ask questions. This allowed attendees to come back and revisit content they may have missed from the previous day or ask questions that may not have come to them the day before. 

During the discussion time, speakers worked off an outline but went in the direction of attendee questions thus allowing for free flowing interaction. 

DEMONSTRATIONS ABOUND

By controlling the exhibitor floor, you will probably end up with fewer exhibitors but will be left with the ones that tie directly into your business. You can make it a requirement that they demonstrate their offerings in detail to the attendees. Demonstrations can occur through video if your exhibitors rent iPads or through simulation software. 

TECHNOLOGY TOOLS ARE EVERYWHERE

The right interactive technology tool rentals can enhance the attendee experience. Here are some ways technology can be used effectively at a proprietary event: 

  • Digital signage can be displayed via video wall rental units or computer kiosks. This allows you to display in a real-time fashion any room, time and speaker changes. You can also live stream one of the speakers onto the wall and/or post the Twitter feed. 
     
  • Immersive projection is a way to create a 3D environment from projectors and light equipment rentals. It can allow you to create a street, vehicle or building all with the use of 3D projectors and lighting. 
     
  • Implementing touch technology will enhance your message. Touch panel kiosks, iPads and interactive tables help enforce your brand and message with the attendee. 

AV Event Solutions is your corporate audio visual partner ready to help with your proprietary event. Check out their express quote page to get your technology rental process started! 

Can Technology Really Help You Build Better, Deeper Relationships with Your Attendees?
img-am-attendance
Dec 17, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

technologyAn event services company's dream is to hold a great event where everyone is extremely happy with the outcome. The attendees all rave about the event, the speakers can easily engage with their audience, the exhibitors are getting valuable leads and the sponsors are seeing real value in the dollars they spent. 

A recent newsletter by etouches, an event software company, stated that technology on many fronts can assist event planners with this process. Many of us think of technology as a cold, hard piece of equipment that is a necessary evil in our lives. But what if you started to think about technology as the way to tailor and enhance everyone's experience at your next event? Can technology really do this? Yes it can — on so many fronts.

This blog will explore and position the highlights from the etouches piece, as well as, ways AV Event Solutions can assist you in technology options. 

PRE-EVENT

According to etouches, the pre-event activation starts from the very first time a potential attendee encounters your brand. So from an event awareness prospective you need to do the following: 

  • Make certain your organization's social profiles are complete and updated on a regular basis. Have your event or organizational logo prominently displayed on each channel. Consistency is the key to getting your attendees to feel comfortable with your company and event. 
     
  • Build your online community. 

    • Have every staff member, volunteer, sponsor and exhibitor ask their Facebook friends to like your fan page.
    • Follow your attendees on Twitter and ask them to follow you back. 
    • Connect with all your event shareholders on LinkedIn. 
    • Ask engaging questions and post relevant information about your event on all the social channels regularly — at least 2-3 times per week.  
  • Post an attendee listing complete with social channels.  Encourage attendees to interact with each other, make appointments and/or set up meetings. 
     
  • Let attendees create their own personalized real-time agenda. 

AT THE EVENT

  • Rather than having attendees stand in long registration lines, have them go to a computer kiosk, scan the barcode from their registration confirmation and print their badge. 
     
  • If you rent iPads, all your conference materials can preloaded onto the tablet complete with the attendee's agenda, social backchannels, tailored meeting apps, reminders, and survey information. Encourage attendees to post regularly on their social channels. 
     
  • Video Wall rental units can display multiple things that are going on in the meeting or be a viewing site for one large image. Attendees can view live streaming or prerecorded videos of speakers, learn more about the event sponsors, see real-time changes to the meeting schedule, and/or look at the Twitter feed from the event. Often times, this video is a gathering point for attendees before or after the meeting or during breaks. 
     
  • RFID chips embedded in the badges can help event organizers track all the movements of the attendees and allow them to tailor the event more specifically to them in the future. 

POST-EVENT

Based on the data you collected at the event and by reviewing online and website analytics, you should be able to start very tailored communication with your stakeholders. Keeping that communication line open all year long is the key to building better relationships, according to etouches. 

AV Event Solutions has a slew of interactive technology tool rentals available to help you build those long-term relationships with meeting  attendees. Check out their express quote page to get started on your journey! 

5 Successful Measures of a Great Conference Experience
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Dec 14, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

conference

Last May, Rutgers University hosted "The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference" which was produced by Tony Doody, Director of Programs and Leadership at the university. According to attendees and sponsors, it was a wonderful event because it had great content, the production was fantastic and the venue was perfect. 

So what made this event so special? What can other planners learn from Tony? Here is a summary of what speaker Mike Brown, a blogger for Brainzooming, believes other event planners can learn from this conference. 

  1. Research conferences outside of your industry. 

    Tony and his team wanted to build a buzz-worthy conference and looked at many meetings outside of the educational sector for inspiration. They chose a variety of speakers that addressed non-educational issues but the message was still valuable to this niche. 

    They also looked at how the event was produced (sound and lighting rentals, presentation services audio visual equipment, seating arrangements, etc.) in order to spark creativity and bring something new to the conference. 
     

  2. Short and sweet is the key. 

    Big Ideas mirrored much of what TED talks are about — 20 minute presentations with no podium. This allowed them to host more presentations, add variety to the line up and kept the speakers laser focused on their topic. 
     

  3. Create an enticing website. 

    They used images and language that created a buzz-worthy site complete with a listing of conference speakers, attendees and registration information.  
     

  4. The physical setting is very important. 

    Big Ideas used more of a "living room" type of setting where the seats were placed on risers so the audience and the speaker were on the same level, which automatically increased engagement with attendees. They also used pipe and drape to shorten the room and give it a cozy, closed-in feeling. 

    Using as many of the 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) in your meeting can help elevate the attendee experience. Light equipment rentals can help create the mood for the meeting. Making certain that everyone can see and hear each other, as well as, the speaker is also important. Touch-based technology such as iPads or computer kiosks can also enhance the experience. And don't forget about food. Good food can both smell and taste terrific. 
     

  5. Drive an emotional connection. 

    Rather than trying to make the conference stogie and boring, Tony and his team wanted heartfelt emotional responses to the presentations. By keeping the presentations brief, allowing for a variety of speakers and utilizing an interview-style when it made sense, the attendees became emotionally connected to the subject matter, 
     

AV Event Solutions wants to help you make your next meeting buzz worthy! Give them a call at 888-249-4903 to learn more about their innovative offerings! 

Meeting Planner’s Basic Guide to Wi-Fi and Bandwidth Terminology
Bandwidth
Dec 12, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

bandwidthEveryone has heard the terms Wi-Fi, bandwidth, Internet browsing and video streaming. And you know these capabilities are important to the attendee, speaker and exhibitor. The problem is the process to deliver these offerings is complex and the terminology is well…technical. However, understanding the basic premise and terms of Wi-Fi and bandwidth will go a long way to determining your meeting needs as you look toward 2013 and beyond. 

This blog will define the terms Wi-Fi, Bandwidth and Mb/s, and why they are important when estimating your data load on the network.  

What is Wi-Fi? 

Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network that allows any electronic device to exchange data wirelessly over a computer network such as a high-speed Internet connection. A device that uses Wi-Fi in a meeting is a laptop, tablet, smartphone or computer kiosk connected to the network via an access point. 

What is Bandwidth? 

Bandwidth is the maximum data transfer rate for the Wi-Fi network. Think of it like a pipe — if it is narrow and you are trying to transport a high volume of data such as video, the pipe is going to backup (buffer) or explode (go down). However, if you have a large pipe, many packets of data can go through it with multiple users and the transmission of data is much faster. 

Bandwidth can be shared or dedicated.

Shared is exactly that, it is what the hotel or conference center has set aside for use by any guest or meeting attendee. Shared bandwidth is not very secure and is not in control of the event meeting services company with regards to its use. 

Dedicated bandwidth, which can be provided to you when you rent Wi-Fi network array, is guaranteed for your use only and is recommended when you have a large meeting and/or when information shared at the meeting is sensitive or confidential. 

What is Mb/s? 

This is an acronym that stands for Megabits per second. It breaks down this way:

Mega = Millions
Bit = Smallest Unit of Data

For example, if your Wi-Fi network can transfer 100 Mb/s, that means it can transfer 100,000,000 pieces of data per second over your bandwidth. 

It is important to know and verify what speed you should expect. Although this is more of an art than a science, a good conference equipment rental company should be able to give you an estimate based on the number, type(s) and uses of the computing equipment. 

APEX has a Bandwidth Estimator which can be a start for the amount of Mb/s you will need for your event. But remember this is only an estimation and you will need to work with a qualified provider to be assured of the right configuration.  

WiFi Evaluation Recap – 

When evaluating Wi-Fi use with attendees, you need to determine: 

  • How much bandwidth they will use for your meeting
  • What they will use to access it (smartphones, iPads, tablets and/or laptops) and 
  • What level of service is acceptable to them

When evaluating a venue's Wi-Fi system, you need to ask:

  • How much bandwidth is available for your event?
  • How is it managed (shared versus dedicated)?
  • Who manages it?
  • What is the age of the system?

Is your head still spinning from all this terminology? If so, contact AV Event Solutions! They offer Wi-Fi network arrays and the technical expertise to walk you through the best solution for your meeting. Give them a call today and check out their Wi-Fi tips on Facebook

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