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Meeting Professionals Who are Shaping the Industry
Apr 29, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

With so much change in the meetings industry, you may wonder who is really setting the pace in the marketplace. MPI recently identified "Chief Curators" who are considered thought leaders for the future. Here is a synopsis of what they bring to the table along with my key takeaways about what this all means. 

INFLUENCER #1: Michael McAllen, Meeting and Event Production Warrior

Michael runs Grass Shack Media where he started up a website called AVForPlanners.com to help planners identify their audio visual needs and make better choices. He is also engaged in exploration of apps on mobile technologies — such as Evernote which he states, "It is an event binder in your mobile device."

INFLUENCER #2: Joan Eisenstodt, Hospitality & Meetings Industry Trainer, Facilitator & Consultant

"Joan is a mentor to so many and a real advocate for the industry. She is one of the most recognized and respected people I know, has run and contributed to the most influential email lists in the industry and is a teacher to all," stated Eli Gorin, CMP, CMM, Vice President of Global Client Relations at ABTS Convention Services. 

Joan launched the Meetings Focus Website, a networking site for meeting professionals. "My passion is connecting people through ideas," said Eisenstodt.

INFLUENCER #3: Renee Radabaugh, President and CEO at Paragon Events

"Renee taught me to sit back and look at things from every single perspective when she had to respond to unexpected construction in one hotel and complete quick negotiations with another. She made it a real 'win, win, win' for both of the hotels and our organization," said Sharon Fisher, Owner of IdeaSparker.

Renee works with 16 colleges to attract for-credit internships into her organization. She desires to recruit top talent for the next generation meeting planner.

INFLUENCER #4:  Christina Coster, Founder of EventCamp

Coster launched EventCamp after planning an"unconference" in 2009 where participants drove the event by planning what they wanted to discuss at the meeting. 

INFLUENCER #5: Ruud Janssen, CMM, Online & Offline collaboration specialist at TNOC.ch

Janssen thinks it is essential for meeting organizers to adapt to on-line and off-line events. "What's surprising to me is that a lot of companies are not noticing this change or adapting to it fast enough," Janssen said. 

He co-created a new meeting format called "The Solution Room" where he tested this concept at EMEC where participants drove their own action plans for change. Here is a brief video on this concept: 

 

 

 
INFLUENCERS #6 & #7: Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting & Dave Lutz, Managing Director at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting
 
"Hurt and Lutz are getting us to rethink the way we design meetings and presentations. They have a lot of great ideas about how you can design an effective learning experience for attendees," said Liz King, Event Planner Superhero. 
 
"I really think that meeting professionals need to think of themselves as content curators and strategists," Hurt said. 
 
Lutz stated that meeting planners need to be highly content focused. "Meeting professionals who carefully consider digital participants' experience…will find themselves in demand." 
 
KEY TREND SETTING TAKEAWAYS
  1. Provide planners with websites to make their decision process easier, especially when it comes to renting audio visual equipment
  2. Mobile apps need to be constantly evaluated as to ways to save your attendees money and time. 
  3. Social channels set up for meeting professionals to network is important. 
  4. Continue to attract new talent into the industry through college internships.
  5. Work toward innovative meeting styles such as EventCamp. 
  6. Help individuals drive change through innovative meeting styles. 
  7. Be a curator of information that help attendees learn, network and collaborate. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of SmartSource Rentals, is your total technology trend setting partner! Give them a call today at 888.249.4903 to learn more about their offerings! 

3 Behaviors Barriers that are Keeping Participants from Your Event
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Apr 26, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

barrierHave you ever planned an event where registration just trickles in? Every day you check your reg system — only to find one or two additional attendees. With only six weeks until your event, you start to panic. "What is the hold up? Is it the price? Should I offer an incentive?" you might say to yourself. 

The truth of the matter is, just like any other purchase in life, attendees need to be motivated to make a decision and go to your event. Mariela McIlwraith, President of Meeting Change, recently shared her insights about this topic with MPI one+. Below are three of her key takeaways and my own food for thought. 

Behavior Barrier #1: TOO MANY CHOICES

When you give individuals too many choices, their eyes tend to gloss over and their brain begins to try to process the pros and cons of each choice. What happens is "analysis paralysis" and the participant puts the email or brochure away to look at another day. 

McIlwraith states, "Consider the number of choices you offer as part of your registration process; from the supplier perspective, consider the number of options you offer to your clients." 

Food for Thought: In one of my recent blogs, I wrote about Art Markman's "Role of 3" and that we can only really process and remember 3 things from any experience. This is true whether it be renting audio visual equipment or selecting a conference center for your meeting. Giving attendees, exhibitors or sponsors no more than 3 choices should expedite the process. 

Behavior Barrier #2: THERE IS NO DEFAULT OPTION

Even though individuals want and need change, they do have a bias toward the status quo. There is something comforting in knowing that some things about your meeting or event will remain the same. 

Food for Thought: Keeping some things the same while changing up others is probably the way to go. Perhaps you keep the dates of your conference the same and the registration pricing. Whatever you keep, it is something participants really like about your meeting. An easy and fast way to understand what they like is through polling with Audience Response System rental units

Behavior Barrier #3: POINT OF REFERENCE PRICING

Charging for something that used to be free, such as charging for Wi-Fi access or baggage on your airline trip, leaves a bad taste in your participant's mouth. With regards to Wi-Fi, most attendees see signs for "Free Wi-Fi" almost everywhere they go and do not understand why they need to pay for it at a meeting or event. 

Food for Thought: Even though attendees may expect free Wi-Fi when they come to your meeting, it is more important to them that the Wi-Fi be secure, fast and robust. Perhaps gaining a sponsor or set of sponsors to cover the Wi-Fi network array rental may be the solution but if this is not possible, education about the cost and why it is occurring is very important. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of SmartSource Rentals, is ready to work with you on your next meeting or trade show! Contact them today for creative ways to work interactive technology tool rentals into your next event! 

Technology Investment Questions for the Savvy Meeting Professional
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Apr 24, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

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Technology options are growing at the fastest rate in history and it appears there will not be a slow down anytime soon. While hardware platforms may stabilize — apps, social channels and online communities–  are going to continue to change and evolve. So, how does a meeting planner keep up with all these changes? 

Jackie Mulligan the Director of Enterprise and Principal Lecturer at the International Centre for Research, Reinhold Behringer a Professor of Creative Technology, and Samantha Dixon recently came us with a flow chart about the 7 questions you should ask when exploring technology options. Below is a more in depth review of two of the questions.  

Why Should Your Meeting, Event or Trade Show Invest in Technology? 
 
  • "Wow" Factor. Touch screen technology whether it be wall-mounted or you rent iPads, provides attendees with hi-resolution videos, photos and graphics that can bring your message to life. 
     
  • Efficient and Saves Money. Loading your conference binder onto a tablet will not only be more efficient, but it will save your organization money in the areas of writing, printing, shipping and storing printed material. If last minute changes or typos are found, no problem! They can be changed digitally within minutes. 
     
  • Reduces Carbon Footprint. Technology is becoming more efficient all the time and mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, take a fraction of the energy of a laptop. In addition, the process of loading information onto the cloud reduces the processing of paper, printing and the potential waste into a landfill. 
     
  • Enhances Communication. The ability to livestream speaker video onto the trade show floor via a video wall rental unit and mobile devices allows attendees to feel connected no matter where they are. Attendees can network digitally as well as obtain instantaneous messages about the conference from their mobile devices. 
     
  • Increases Flexibility. Need to move a meeting location, change hours or extend a networking event? No problem with technology! This can be displayed on digital signage or sent via an alert to attendees' smartphones. 
     
  • Meet Attendee Requirements. Most meeting participants are demanding fast and secure Wi-Fi access because they will need to remain connected to the office at times throughout the conference. In addition, they expect the Wi-Fi to be available regardless of application bandwidth demands on the network.  

Should you Rent or Buy Technology? Here are the questions to ascertain: 

  • What is the Total Cost of Ownership? In other words, determine how often throughout the year are you going to use the same technology for your meetings or events. If your meetings are national in nature, you also need to determine the shipping, drayage and maintenance cost of such equipment versus renting what you need when you need it. 
     
  • Will you be able to keep up-to-date? Most organizations need to depreciate their equipment over a 3-5 year time period. Is your organization in a position to buy new technology every 3-5 years or even sooner if your meetings demand it? 
     
  • Does your organization need or want the depreciation and tax benefits? Ownership does lend itself to tax benefits to an organization, however once you set up the depreciation schedule, you need to stay with it. Obviously, with renting you don't need to worry about any of this. 
     
  • Does your organization have a place to secure, maintain and service your equipment? If you purchase the equipment, your organization needs a storage space that can be adequately secured. In addition, you will need someone on staff to maintain your equipment. 

Make your life a whole lot easier by renting audio visual equipment from AV Event Solutions! Check out their express quote page to get the process started! 

Can Your Trade Shows Marketing Strategy be as Easy as 1-2-3?
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Apr 22, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

trade show

Trade shows have been around for years and are intended to showcase and demonstrate each exhibitor's latest products and services. While some trade shows are open to the public, most meeting professionals today plan "closed" shows where a finite number of attendees and members of the press are allowed on the floor. 

In the past, booth sales personnel used to give tchotchkes away in an attempt to lure attendees to their booth. Many would walk off the floor with a couple of bags stuffed with giveaways. But not anymore. Restrictions among the industry, budgetary concerns and attempts to be green are stopping or at least slowing down the purchase of promotional items. 

So, with no tchotchkes and a limited number of people to talk to, how can exhibitors' make the most of their time? The industry evolved to hosted buyer trade shows which are gaining some traction. However, there is a bit of an ethical dilemma because the exhibitor doesn't really know the quality of the lead they are sitting across from, only that they are a potential client that could possibly use their services. In addition, not every trade show can afford to fly-in and "wine and dine" attendees.

So, what is the future of trade shows? And are they eventually going to die off? 

Traci Browne, Author of The Social Trade Show: Leveraging Social Media and Virtual Events to Connect with Your Customers, stated in a recent PCMA Convene article that exhibitors need to find new ways to attract attendees to their booth. 

She states there are three effective ways to bring attendees to you: 

  1. Provide valued expertise.
     
  2. Design a solid digital strategy and then choose your social tools. 
     
  3. Focus on quality over quantity. 


What interactive technology tool rentals can help you with this strategy? Let's take a closer look: 

VALUED EXPERTISE: Make certain you have individuals in your booth that are experts on your products and services or can connect the attendee to the expert back at the home office via an iPad or Touch Screen Display. A recent CEIR article stated that meeting participants would rather speak with your company's researcher than a sales rep. Why? Because they view researchers as experts who can explain what your organization is doing today, as well as, what is planned in the future. 

SOLID DIGITAL STRATEGY: Getting 100 Facebook likes on your Fan page is not a strategy, it is a tactic and a weak one at best. But connecting and conversing with 50 of your "A-lister" prospects via social is a strategy. Blogging about the trade show and posting it on social channels, including the show's hashtag, is another strategy that shows you are an industry thought leader. Whatever digital tools you use, make certain they are getting you closer to closing business with your prospects. 

FOCUS ON QUALITY OVER QUANTITY: One way to get attendees to your booth is to rent a charging station that allows them to take ten minutes and recharge their mobile devices. While they are in your booth, your team has the opportunity to ask engaging, qualifying questions. The truth of the matter is, not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to sell. Gather the leads that are a fit for your product niche and the sales team back home will be energized because they will be working with solid leads. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of SmartSource Rentals, is your Total Technology trade show solution provider that has 21 locations around the United States to serve you!

Want Your Conference Attendees to be Fully Engaged at Your Event? Then Act as if You are Dating Them (Part 2)
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Apr 19, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

dateIn Wednesday's post, we examined how event engagement is like dating and the four tips to try and engage your attendees prior to your meeting or conference. As you may recall, engagement cannot be forced, it has to flow organically and naturally throughout your event. However, it is important at all times to put your "best foot forward".

Here are four tips to help you along the way:

Engagement Tip #1: It All Starts with "Hello" 

Attendees are evaluating and absorbing your event from the time they get on the airplane until the time they land back home. The part of the meeting that is least appealing  to attendees is the registration area for the conference because the lines are usually long and there isn't much for attendees to do other than check messages on their cell phone. But what if you could make it  more interesting by doing one or more of the following:

  • Allow for self-service check-in via computer kiosks where attendees can print their badge, itinerary and be provided with destination information. These kiosks can be available 24 hours a day and you can position one right in the hotel lobby allowing for easy access when your attendees check into the facility. 
     
  • Volunteers can work the line and introduce themselves to attendees and encourage them to call if any questions arise about the conference. 
     
  • It is important that everyone greets each attendee cheerfully and with a smile. 
     
  • Digital Signage and Video Walls can provide a source of knowledge and entertainment about the conference as attendees stand in long lines.

Engagement Tip #2: Make Every Moment Count

Rent iPads and encourage attendees to tweet, blog and post while they are at the conference. Create a Twitter hashtag and ask attendees to post comments or questions about the content, venue and city.  

Encourage them to take photos from their smartphones via Instagram and video from Vine. Post them up on a video wall rental unit and ask attendees to vote on the photo and video clip of the day. Have the live Twitter feed posted on the wall. This presents a visual depiction of your conference and can get attendees talking about it. 

Engagement Tip #3: No Forced Marches

Nothing is more of a nightmare for a shy, introverted attendee than putting them in a public speaking position. Making them say their name and occupation in front of a large group or making them share the findings from the table discussion is not what they want. So, make it easy for them to opt-out by allowing engagement on their terms, not yours. Greg Fuson from Artful Engagement stated the following about interaction, "Don't automatically go to interaction and say 'This is going to happen because we're not going to have speakers who just stand up and lecture at you the whole time.'" Bottom line: Make the interactions easy to opt-in or -out of and make them natural, not forced. 

Engagement Tip #4: Respect the Time Zones

If you publish that a session is 30- or 60-minutes in length, keep to it…but allow for extended interaction with the presenter. It seems in today's world, the shorter presentations are the most effective with 20-minutes being the most preferred. But whatever your format is, start and end the presentation on time and make sure your speakers stick around. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, wants to work with you to make your next meeting or event very exciting and engaging! Call us today at 888.249.4903 to schedule a date! We look forward to talking to you! 

Want Your Conference Attendees to be Fully Engaged at Your Event? Then Act as if You are Dating Them (Part 1)
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Apr 17, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

datingDo you remember what it was like to date someone new? The first date you put on your best clothes, cologne and washed and waxed your car. You looked your best and put your best foot forward. And if you both liked each other, this "courtship" continued to the next date and so on. However, if the feelings were not mutual or if you thought the other person was a phony, the dating ended and you moved on. 

So it is with event engagement. You cannot force an attendee to engage in the content — even if you give them every opportunity to do so. Greg Fuson, Conference Organizer, Content Curator and Writer probably said it best at PCMA's Convening Leaders Conference in January:

"Engagement is a term that is very much in danger of becoming a cliche. It is so overused with the meetings community I think that it's this sort of nice, warm and fuzzy term that we like to use because people want to hear it."

In Part 1 of this blog posting, lets examine what you can do initiate interest before the event (think online dating). In Part 2, which will run Friday, lets focus on the things you can do when your attendees are at the event. 

Engagement Tip #1: Community Counts

Creating an engaging online community where individuals can get to know each other before the conference is where the networking and collaboration begins. There are several free ones available including: a LinkedIn Group, Facebook Fan Page, Google+ Community or Twitter Hashtag. Posting value-driven content and asking questions in these locations should spark conversations and help individuals feel as if they belong to your event. 

Engagement Tip #2: Crowdsource Content

Asking your online community what they want to hear about, who they want to hear it from and giving them the capability to vote on the content and presenters is powerful stuff. But taking it a step further, David Serino, Strategist & Educator at Think Social Media says you need to ask your attendees the following, "What would it take to get people here? How should we develop the conference? What do you think is important?" 

Engagement Tip #3: Surprise Them by Changing Up the Meeting Pattern

Most attendees sign up for a meeting and expect it to be held in a hotel or conference center with the same seating and food that they have experienced hundreds of times. The problem is those meeting platforms are boring and stale. Meet somewhere completely new…such as a national park, college campus or botanical garden. Somewhere that can cue up a completely different responses than a cold and boring conference space. 

However, if you must meet in a traditional setting, take a meal or an afternoon to a unique location. I remember when I was in training at IBM, the trainers hired a bus company and escorted all 35 of us to a local park for a BBQ and fun games — such as three-legged races and pie eating contests. That was the best time of the entire 4-week training period and it occurred over 30 years ago. My point: if the trainers would have told us about it, it would not have been as much fun. But surprising us stayed in our memory! 

Engagement Tip #4: Give Attendees What They Like

Complete attendee evaluations with Audience Response System rentals and invite the top three speakers back the following year. This creates a win-win because it allows presenters to book business 12 months in advance and it allows attendees to see the speakers that they loved the following year. 

Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions can put some creative options together for you to keep your attendees in the ultimate engagement mode! Give them a call at 888-249-4903 to get the ball rolling! 

3 Rules All Meeting Presenters Should Live By
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Apr 15, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

speakerI can't imagine the life of a professional speaker nowadays. They have to compete constantly for the attention of their audience. They have to be a subject-matter expert, entertaining and present their message in short, bite-sized chunks. 

So, given all these demands, what can a presenter do to make certain they are memorable? Art Markman, Founding member at Maximizing Mind, LLC recently wrote a book called "Smart Thinking" where he presented "The Role of 3" —  meaning individuals can only remember three distinct things about any experience.

Here are some of the highlights from the book and three key takeaways of how interactive technology tool rentals can help any meeting planner.

  1. PREPARE

    As a speaker in today's fast-paced world, a presenter need to ask the following questions of their event services organization: 

    How much time do I have? Whatever the length of time, the presenter should prepare to spend two minutes per slide if they are using PowerPoint presentation equipment.  For example, if they are allocated 30 minutes for their talk, they should have no more than 15 slides. 

    What does the audience want to know? Gathering as many facts about your attendees as possible, will help your speakers tailor their presentation to the needs of the attendees.  

    What is the demographic make-up of the attendees? Understanding who the attendees are and how they most effectively learn, can help your presenters shape a talk that will be the most impactful on your audience. 
     

  2. REVIEW

    "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." 

    The first slide and last slide should be the same — highlighting the three key points of the talk. The presentation unfolds a story about those points complete with photos, graphics and videos. Slides that are complicated, wordy or off-base will just confuse and ultimately lose the focus of the audience. Keep the messaging simple and repeatable. 
     

  3. PAY ATTENTION

    Presenters need to look out into their audience and read the facial expressions and body positioning of the group. Are they moving in and listening to the message or are they distracted? It is important to keep the attendees engaged in the message and it is easy to do through interactive technology tool rentals such as wireless Audience Response Systems, mobile device polling or social media conversations. Encourage attendees to interact at the session and make sure your speakers are constantly reading and reacting to their body language. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of SmartSource Rentals, has presentation services audio visual equipment, Audience Response rental units, iPads and much, much more to help your speakers connect with attendees. 

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