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Technology Reigns With Sold Out Conferences – Find Out Why
technology_conferences__ssr
Mar 31, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

technology

Riddle me this: What do 

all have in common? They are extremely popular events and according to Skift, who recently published The Future of Meetings in Hospitality they use new and evolving technology platforms to engage their audience. 

Gone is the lecture style. Gone are classroom and theater seating. 

In are crowdsourced, hybrid events with interactive presentations. 

But what they found that may shock you is, innovative technology solutions often do three things:cut costs, save time and open up attendee dialog with you and other attendees. 

  1. Cutting costs. 

    I think meeting planners automatically assume technology is going to cost them NOT save them money. But let's face it; every time you automate something you save resources – whether it be time or money. 

    For example, when renting Audio Visual equipment, one option is to rent iPads. This will save money on many fronts – no more printing, copying and assembling of large conference binders. No more shipping and drayage costs. And you are being green. Always, calculate your and your staff's time when considering costs. 
     

  2. Improving efficiencies. 

    If you utilize a digital document library, all your documents will be one place on an iPad or laptop rental. Everything can be categorized and indexed. All the attendee needs to do is type in a keyword in the search box and away they go. Any changes to the program can be instantly communicated to the attendee's mobile device and displayed on a video wall

    Because most meeting apps are web-based and accessed on a real-time basis, changes and shifts to the program can happen with that same level of flexibility.  

    In addition, because cloud storage is free or very inexpensive, it makes sense to have attendees access important documents from the cloud versus printing or emailing it to them. 
     

  3. Opening new lines of communications. 

    If you only email and send out direct mail before the event, you are missing a whole section of potential clients. Communication needs to occur across 4-5 generations and everyone is different in how they want to receive and respond to information. Use all methods – email, direct mail, social media, website, phone and texting to get your message across. See where your attendees are and communicate there. 

    If you have a Twitter hashtag for the event, promote it before, during and after the event. 

The one thing you do need to pay attention to is your estimated bandwidth demand if you go from paper to paperless. If you need help in this area, check out the 5-part article I wrote on event and venue Wi-Fi connectivity for SmartSource's sister company, CRE Computer Rentals. There are also some great articles on that page about going paperless and the value of a green meeting. 

Depend on SmartSource Rentals for all of your technology rentals. For more information, contact them at 800-888-8686 or request a quote through their online system. Don't delay, contact them today!  

Why Your Conference Feedback Loop is Broken and What to do About It
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Mar 28, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

feedback

Feedback is meant to help people improve and be successful. Yet, many planners use a mechanism to gather feedback –  through paper, Audience Response System rentals, or mobile device apps – but don't really do anything with the results. 

Feedback is defined in one of two ways: 

  1. Reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task and used as a basis for improvement and/or 
  2. The modification of a process or system by its results or effects

Most organizers focus on the first definition and follow this event planning feedback loop 

Presenter talks > Attendees are polled > Results are gathered > Presenter gets results
> Improvements are made for next year

The problem with this loop is by the time the speaker and the event planner gets the results, the damage is already done. The attendees have already decided your meeting or event is "not worthy" of their time. Your presenter might be the best in the industry, but for whatever reason their story did not resonate with your attendees. 

Wouldn't a better way be to offer this loop:

Presenter and Attendees talk + Attendees are polled throughout the session +
Presenter gets results dynamically and takes a 5-minute break to modify presentation and/or answers questions on the fly > Improvements are made in a real-time fashion 

What are the benefits of this latter feedback loop? 

  • The presenter and attendees are given an opportunity to respond and express their needs and concerns. 
     
  • The presenter turns into an "asker" versus a "teller". 

    Now the session becomes a conversation instead of a monologue. Even in a very large room, attendees can send questions, concerns and challenges to the speaker via iPad or laptop rentals. When even planning, consider having a hashtag to monitor all comments. 

    The speaker has an opportunity to adjust his or her messaging and recover. 
     

  • By asking the following four questions of both the presenter and the attendees, you start to build a loop: 

    Part of this process is to ask the presenter to self-evaluate their own talk. Here are the questions: 
     

    • What did you do well?  (P)
    • What did the speaker do well? (A)
       
    • What would you do differently next time? (P)
    • What would you suggest the speaker do differently next time? (A) 

By implementing a two-way conversational loop, you allow both the presenter and attendees to develop clear, actionable and balanced feedback that will help improve your speaker's message and leave your attendees feeling like they made a difference! 

Contact SmartSource Rentals for your Audience Response System Rental, iPad and laptop rental quote today!

 

Yearly Spend on B2B Trade Shows is close to $70 Billion
ceir
Mar 26, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

ceir

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently released two reports titled Attendee Direct Spend Estimate and Exhibitor Direct Spend Estimate which indicated that the former spends $45 Billion and latter $25 Billion per year at Business-to-Business Trade Shows in the United States.  

The findings were commissioned to PricewaterhouseCoopers who surveyed or interviewed 11,000+ Exhibitors with a minimum exhibit booth space of 3,000 net square feet. 

"These direct spend estimates clearly communicate the power of the business-to-business exhibition industry in making a substantial contribution to the US economy. Direct spending fuels business for exhibition organizers and suppliers, as well as, the travel and tourism industries. All this commerce helps local, regional and US economies, which translates into job retention and creation," said Brian Casey, President & CEO at the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. 

Nancy Drapeau, Research Director at CEIR said, "The two documents offer invaluable data to help cities evaluate and compare the economic impact of exhibitions looking to hold events in their communities. They also offer a useful tool for exhibition organizers aiming to make the case of the economic impact their event offers prospective host cities when striving to book dates for their events.”

For more information about trade show trends and facts, check out these three blog posts: 

7 Solid Trade Show Facts about Exhibitors, Attendees and Venues

3 Things About Trade Shows That Just Aren't True

What is the True Value of Trade Shows and How can Technology Help with This Effort?

When it comes to trade show technology rentals, SmartSource Rentals has the breadth and depth of product and service offerings!  When event planning, give them a call at 800.888.8686 today! 

Survey Says: 7 Key Findings for Association Meeting Planners
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Mar 24, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

survey

In the March 2014 edition of Convene magazine, PCMA released their annual survey on the state of the meeting industry. Although this was a very comprehensive survey comparing trends over multiple years, this blog post is focused on the areas planners spend the bulk of their time on: logistics, revenue, and expense. 

DEMOGRAPHICS

Of the 410 survey participants, 78% were PCMA members and 22% were not. Moreover the planner population was represented in the following area: 

  • 61% were association or non-profit
  • 24% were corporate 
  • 10% were independent 
  • 3% were educational and 
  • 2% were governmental. 

MULTI-DAY CONFERENCES

  • 89% did not reduce the number of days for their multi-day meeting in 2013 and 
  • 90% do not have plans to reduce the number of days this year. 

REVENUE

Event Planners receive their meeting revenue from the following sources: 

  • 53% from Registration Fees
  • 25% from Exhibit Sales
  • 17% from Sponsorships and Grants
  • 3% from Advertising and 
  • 2% Other sources 

EXPENSES

When event planning, the survey participants spent their budget in the following areas: 

  • 31% on Food and Beverage
  • 18% renting Audio Visual equipment
  • 9% on Speakers and Entertainment
  • 7% on Decorations
  • 7% on Registration and Housing
  • 7% on Staff Travel and Accommodations
  • 6% on Meeting Space Rental
  • 6% on Signage and Office Equipment
  • 5% on Marketing
  • 2% on the Destination Management Company
  • 1% on Insurance and
  • 1% on Security. 

With F&B and Audio Visual being 49% of your budget, it is important to look at all of your options – including pursuing local suppliers, obtaining options that are right for your stakeholders and continuing to look at sponsorships and grants to pay for technology options. 

TECHNOLOGY

Respondents continue to seek high-speed wireless access. 

The question is – are you willing to pay for it? Free Wi-Fi has it limitations and often cannot deliver fast and secure Internet connections. A Wi-Fi Network Array can be an affordable option and really boost your bandwidth. 

OUTSOURCING SERVICES 

Survey participants are most likely to outsource the following items: 

When considering outsourcing, many partners will say they can "do it all". For example, convention centers will state they can handle all the supply rentals, including audiovisual. Be aware that you are not contractually obligated to use the in-house supplier and know your rights when it comes to AV. 

2014 MEETING AND CONVENTION BUDGETS

The majority of planners have very large budgets as you will see from the information below: 

  • 27% have a budget of $25+ Million
  • 24% budget is between $1-25 Million
  • 17% stay within the $500,000 to $999,999 range
  • 16% are within the $250,000 to $499,999 range
  • 9% have a budget range of $100,000 to $249,999
  • 5% have a budget less than $50,000 and
  • 2% stay within the $50,000 to $99,999 range

FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS 

  • 14% respondents cancelled one or more meetings last year while
  • Only 4% expect to do the same this year. 

When event planning, look no further than SmartSource Rentals! They offer meeting and trade show technology that will fit your stakeholder's needs! Give them a call at 800.888.8686 to get the process started! 

6 Specific Steps that can Land Your Meeting a 5-Star Rating
5_star_rating
Mar 21, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

Every hotel owner dreams of it; but very few receive it. 

The coveted 5-Star Rating from Forbes Travel Guide or 5-Diamond Rating from AAA. In fact, of the thousands of US hotel properties, only 58 and 101 venues respectively, obtain this rating.  

What makes these properties stand out? 

"From the top down, we all have one vision and that is to offer hospitality at its finest," said Giuseppe Lama, Managing Director of The Resort at Pelican Hill, one of Forbes' 5-Star recipients. 

Here are six (of the many) steps these resorts go through along with my interpretation of how you can use these standards to improve your next meeting or event. 

5-Star Requirement #1: Greet your guests within 60-seconds of them arriving.

Many times attendees need to stand in long lines to register for their hotel room and conference. They don't know anyone and are most likely in a foreign city. How about having volunteers or staff move out into the lines and chat them up? Or use kiosk rentals for attendees to handle their check-in while your staff is available to answer any questions they may have? The key is to smile, greet and make them feel welcome as soon as possible. 

5-Star Requirement #2: No telephone call is left on hold longer than 30 seconds without offering a callback. 

What a refreshing standard! With the automation of registration and many attendee communications handled digitally, there are times when an attendee wants to speak with you. In your event planning budget, make certain you have provisions to have multiple individuals attend to the meeting participant's need. The key is to answer the call quickly, understand the problem and get back to your attendee within a specified period of time with a resolution. 

5-Star Requirement #3: Open 24/7. 

Is this the mentality of your event planning staff? If you run an international conference and/or multi-day event, you and your organization need to be "on" all the time. Now, I am not saying you don't take time to sleep, but I am saying you need to have a plan for monitoring your event's phone calls, emails and social feeds – all the time. We are now in an on demand world, and you need to move accordingly. 

5-Star Requirement #4: Provide exceptional levels of proactive service and customer care. 

Are you treating your attendees, sponsors and exhibitors like guests at a hotel? Do you know what they want and need? One way to be proactive is to set up social channels for your event and respond and monitor them. Another is to utilize Audience Response rentals and constantly monitor attendee responses. Ask a lot of questions and put together the type of sessions and trade shows your stakeholders want. 

5-Star Requirement #5: The customer is treated as an individual. 

When you have thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, you and your staff may treat them as a block. "Those attendees want…or these exhibitors need…" Don't do that! Treat each person with respect. Remember without their funding you wouldn't have a conference or…(gulp) a job! 

5-Star Requirement #6: A 2:1 Ratio of staff members to guests. 

While this may be difficult to accomplish, try and think outside of the box. The best way to do this is to elicit volunteers for your event. You can use the local CVB, local association chapters or even utilize friends and family. 

"Establishments at this level must consistently provide an unparalleled guest environment and experience," shared Michael Petrone, Director of AAA Tourism Department. I couldn't agree more! 

SmartSource Rentals can provide your meeting with 5-Star service. Give them a call today! 

Break Out of Your Breakout Room Routine! Here are 5 Fresh Ideas
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Mar 19, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

planConcurrent sessions or breakouts are where most of the educational content of your conference occur. Ironically, this is where you often "hit or miss" with presenters. Your attendees can walk into one room and be totally wowed, another and be totally disappointed. 

Last year, Tagoras, a marketing research company and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, an association meeting improvement organization, teamed up to capture how to improve educational sessions. They surveyed 175 event organizers and this is what they learned: 

Fresh Idea #1: Revamp your Call For Proposal (CFP) Process. 

Most associations, including PCMA and MPI, use this process for their large conferences. You know when you see it – an email blast sent to thousands of folks in the hopes that you will pass the information along to speakers you know. The speaker fills out the information and hopes they are chosen. Many are – but the problem is they just aren't very good or their message isn't right for the audience. Here's a couple of results to chew on: 

Associations accept 40-59% of all CFP submissions AND  

33% of Associations accept 80% of submissions. 

This is great for speakers but perhaps not-so-great for attendees. Develop presenter standards and don't waiver from them. Better yet, develop your content and then look for your speakers. 

Fresh Idea #2: Trim sessions. 

75% of respondents are planning on reducing the number of sessions WHILE

25% are planning to add more sessions. 

Dave Lutz, Managing Director for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, suggests if you have less than 75 attendees signed up for a session, cut it. However, I will suggest if you build your sessions based on content your attendees want to hear, they will come. Make your sessions count. 

Fresh Idea #3: Hire Facilitators, not Presenters. 

Adults learn through interaction and stories, not a huge departure from the way children learn. Here are some ways to make this happen: 

  • When renting audio visual equipment, take into account technology option such as iPads and Audience Response rentals to keep in touch with your attendees' needs. 
  • Make sure your speakers have interactive presentations that are short, sweet and to-the-point.  
  • Consider peer-to-peer roundtables because attendees crave to learn from each other. 

Fresh Idea #4: Allow for real-time content. 

Event planning no longer needs to be "locked and loaded" at the home office several months before the session. With an all digital approach, program content can be changed by a few strokes of a keyboard and displayed in seconds on a Video Wall or with Digital Signage. 

Allow your conference to breathe and grow onsite. Let a percentage of it – even if it's only 10% – to be unstructured. Attendees will choose the speaker and the format. Give them that power and they will come back.

Fresh Idea #5: TED Talks Work. 

Everyone who knows me, understands my passion for Technology, Design and Entertainment (TED). This yearly sold-out conference is not new, but its format has been catching fire over the last 18 months. Here are three things you need to know that TED does really well: 

  • They vet their speakers through an interview process based on the yearly theme. If their content doesn't match the theme, they are not invited to present. 
  • They work with – and require – a lot of rehearsal of that presentation. They want the speaker to be successful. 
  • The presenter, no matter how famous or obscure, only has 18 minutes to deliver their message. 

Depend on SmartSource Rentals for all of your technology rental needs. For more information, contact them at 800-888-8686. 

7 Super Time Saving Tools to Stay Connected with Your Attendees
time
Mar 17, 2014 by DeDe Mulligan

time

One thing event planners all have in common is a shortage of time and money. While there isn't a whole I can do about the latter, I am happy to report there are digital tools available for promoting your event and staying connected with attendees while they are at your conference that can save you significant blocks of time. 

TWEETDECK

This free tool works with your Twitter account and allows you to schedule tweets well in advance. When promoting your speakers, exhibitors and content for your event, you can go in once and schedule everything. You can also visually see all the activity associated with your Twitter account from one screen. 

The drawback to this tool is you cannot add images to scheduled tweets and you can't bulk schedule tweets. 

HOOTSUITE

This social aggregator works with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ to schedule your postings. It has free and fee features and analytics to determine which postings resonated most with your audience. 

This tool has a lot of power and though it is intuitively easy to navigate, I would recommend you spend some time learning and setting up all the profiles you want to follow and analytics you want to receive. 

BUFFER

Buffer is a social aggregator that works with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. Just like Hootsuite, some of the functionality is free while others are fee. 

This tool is navigationally simple and has some free analytics but most of the rich stuff is fee based. 

SHARE THIS

This tool allows you to share a blog post or web page on multiple social platforms including all of the ones listed above and 60+ more. This is a free service and an easy to add plug-in, however in contrast to Hootsuite and Buffer, you need to share one social channel at a time. 

CVENT

This online paid registration service allows you promote your event on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ for free. You can also post it into LinkedIn groups and invite specific individuals you are connected to on LinkedIn. 

The one thing you need to do is shorten their URLs if you send to social. Hootsuite, Buffer and LinkedIn will automatically shorten them. If you want to use an outside service, go to: Bitly or Google URL Shortener

EVENTBRITE

This free or fee registration service allows you to promote your event on Facebook or Twitter. 

It has some free analytics within the system and can connect to Google Analytics. 

MAILCHIMP

Allows you to import your email contacts and start a campaign for free if you are a small to medium sized organization. However, if you wish to schedule an automated campaign, there is a cost associated with this feature. 

Once you have set up your email campaign, you can send your message to Facebook and Twitter. 

No matter if you use one or all of the apps listed above or somewhere in between, SmartSource Rentals can help you by preloading the apps onto iPad rentals or laptop rentals. They have video walls where social interactions can be displayed for all attendees to see. Check out what they have to offer and engage your attendees! 

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