Author: Claire Lindh

4 Steps to Determine Your Meeting’s Success

success

You’ve put in the time to create a strategic event plan and your event has gone off without a hitch. But how do you determine if your corporate event or meeting is a success?

Before you dive into measuring and analyzing, know that event or meeting success isn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all—in other words, what makes your event or meeting a success might not be the same for another company or industry.

That said, there are some steps you can take—regardless of your meeting or event specifics—to develop some parameters that will help you measure success. Consider the following four steps that start of your to-do list.

 

Identify Milestones

If you work at a company that hosts a recurring meeting or event, this is an ideal opportunity to isolate and identify milestones that can be used to evaluate the event.

“ ‘Everyone agrees there is a path in the development of a meetings and events program, and if we can isolate some milestones along that journey, we can better understand where we are as an organization,’” said Milton Rivera, Vice President, Global Business Development and Strategy, American Express Meetings and Events, in the company’s 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.

One common milestone is your audience. How does your attendance ebb and flow from year-to-year? Most companies would agree that an increase in attendees is a consistent sign of success.

You could also identify other milestones like cost per attendee, attendee engagement, meeting policy adoption and technology use to help further capture data that helps determine your event’s success.

 

Measure

Once you have milestones in place, it’s important to measure against them. Make sure you’re capturing and tracking the information that’s connected to your milestones. And don’t hesitate to measure other data, too.

It’s likely you’ll need a multimedia measurement plan. For example, you’ll want to track activity that’s happening on-site—registrations, presentation or session attendance. And you’ll also want to keep an eye on what’s happening online—social posts, for example, and hashtag use.

And if your event or meeting includes a mobile app, be sure to monitor its usage—or ensure you can access analytics once your event concludes so that you can take a closer look at app usage leading up to and during your event.

Another common way to measure event or meeting activity is with attendee surveys. After all, your attendees can offer valuable, on-the-ground feedback both during and after the event. Not only can this firsthand insight help offer additional data that might be used to measure your milestones; it might also help you identify other ways to determine your event’s success.

 

Benchmark

Once you have a comprehensive meeting measurement plan in place, it might be time for the next phase: benchmarking.

“Yma Sherry, Vice President, North America, American Express Meetings & Events, suggests that for meetings and events, benchmarking is ‘often like comparing apples to oranges because no two events are alike. We need the capacity to break out meeting elements and put them all back together to provide for effective assessment.’”

Benchmarking is, in essence, measuring your corporate event or meeting against events or meetings of other companies within your industry. You can use your milestones as a starting point. The next step is to identify the competitors against which you want to measure. Lastly, you’ll want to acquire data against which you can compare your own company’s event or meeting performance.

Keep in mind, as we mentioned earlier, that what might determine a successful event or meeting for your company might differ for other businesses. That said, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what else is happening in your industry. Then, you’ll have the insight to adjust your approach accordingly.

 

ABR (Always Be Refining)

Have you seen the infamous “ABC (Always Be Closing)” speech in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross? Well, we put our own spin on it: ABR, or Always Be Refining.

Corporate events or meetings, after all, are fluid. Trends ebb and flow, attendee expectations change and other factors evolve. That doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel every year—or multiple times a year, depending on your schedule.

That does, however, mean that you should keep a close eye not only on your event or meeting’s performance, but also what’s happening throughout your industry and also in the corporate meetings and events industry. Not every emerging trend or tactic will be a good fit for your company, but you should also be willing to experiment, test and refine so that you continue to deliver an exemplary experience that’s a resounding success both during the event and long after.

Meeting Close to Home? How to Make Your Event Stand Out

home

It’s tempting to host your annual corporate meeting or conference in a far-away city. But what if budget-related issues prompt you to host closer to home? That’s when it’s time to embrace your city’s local appeal to deliver an unforgettable event.

 

Rising Cost Pressures

Budgets are usually always top-of-mind when planning a corporate meeting or annual event. Yet according to the 2018 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast, meeting planners are under increasing pressure to be even more cost-conscious.

“Meetings professionals suggest that meeting owners are looking more closely than ever at the details of their meeting spend,” according to the report. And “as meeting spend is registering on company radars, so too is the interest in tightening meeting policy and meeting planning processes.”

 

A Possible Cost-Cutting Alternative? More Local Events

It’s not yet clear how this increased focus on budgeting and spending will impact specific meeting planning factors. One likely outcome will be an uptick in meetings and events that are hosted in a company’s home city in an effort to trim travel and other related expenses.

Hosting close to home can add a bit of anxiety to the planning process. Will attendees still have an exceptional experience without the allure of a far-flung destination? Absolutely. It’s all about identifying what makes your city stand out, then incorporating those elements (or people) into your event. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

 

4 Ways to Make Your Local Meeting or Event Stand Out

  1. Tap Into Your City’s Star Power

What—or who—puts your city on the map? Maybe an award-winning chef is bringing national acclaim to the area. Or perhaps a celebrity or public figure is a native of the area. Are there any local venues, brands or products that are attracting a national spotlight?

Brainstorm some possibilities and see how you can incorporate a person, product or location into your meeting or event. If your budget allows, perhaps you could enlist a high-profile speaker with local ties to deliver a keynote address. Or partner with a well-known chef, brewer, coffee roaster or bartender to collaborate on food or a beverage for your attendees. Another idea? Book a well-known local musician to deliver an exclusive performance. Of course, you don’t want to focus your budget on one aspect of your event. But with a little brainstorming and planning, there’s likely some exciting ways that you can leverage your city’s star power to surprise and delight your attendees.

  1. Go Behind the Scenes

Part of delivering a memorable attendee experience includes engaging programming that’s informational and entertaining. As you’re creating your meeting or event agenda, why not include a behind-the-scenes tour of a local landmark, facility or other relevant location?

Let’s use our area as an example. Our headquarters are a short drive from downtown Kansas City, Mo., home to a thriving brewery, distillery and coffee scene. Many of the breweries, roasting plants and production facilities offer tours (some with tastings!) that are a neat way to get a behind-the-scenes look at how various products are made.

Of course, you don’t have to just focus on beverage-related options. What else does your host city offer that could make for a neat behind-the-scenes tour? Museums are a great option. Or, you could create your own tour with a theme that ties into your event. Let’s say your company focuses on innovation and/or technology. You could schedule a tour of some start-up companies and co-working spaces in your area to give attendees a firsthand look at the work that’s happening close to home (not to mention some valuable networking opportunities for all involved).

Another suggestion? Do a little research to find out what’s manufactured in your area. Fun fact: Until earlier this year, Kellogg Company had a facility in nearby Kansas City, Kan., where they made crackers, including Cheez-Its. Are there similar national (or even global) manufacturing connections to your home city? Depending on your industry and the theme of your conference or event, a tour of one of these facilities could give attendees a rare opportunity to see how some of their favorite products are made.

  1. Think Like a Tourist

Staycations continue to be popular alternatives to pricey vacations. Why not embrace the appeal of a staycation as you plan your next meeting or conference?

If your agenda allows time for sightseeing, compile a handy map or flier with some suggestions and highlights. Or, customize a popular local event for your attendees. We did something similar earlier this year for a client’s unconference. The area in which the event was held hosts a monthly gallery crawl, so we worked with the client to schedule a mini gallery crawl complete with several stops, food and entertainment. Then, attendees were given customized maps and encouraged to continue their exploring and networking as schedules allowed.

Another idea is to incorporate a popular landmark or destination into your event agenda, whether with a tour or as a venue. If you have a number of attendees traveling to your home city for the event, they might struggle to find time to experience the city when juggling a busy event agenda. Instead, incorporate opportunities for sightseeing and local exploration into the programming. That way, out-of-town attendees can experience what you love most about your city in a way that makes them more likely to share what’s happening with their own networks. Selfies, anyone?

  1. Give the Gift of Local Swag

Keep the energy of your event going with local swag that attendees can take with them when they go. Again, this is a prime opportunity to tap into some of your city’s makers, whether individuals or brands. Gift them with a customized coffee blend, for example, or another food product that’s intrinsically linked with your city. (For us in Kansas City, it’s always barbecue!) One of our favorite ideas is a “Best of Your City” gift basket in which you include a few small gifts to help attendees remember the sights, sounds and tastes of your city. A couple of things to keep in mind, especially if you opt for edible gifts: do what you can to accommodate a range of dietary requirements, and also consider travel. It may be easier to ship gift baskets to attendees once the event concludes, depending on the size of the group, shipping costs and other pertinent factors.

Dorothy said it best in The Wizard of Oz when she proclaimed, “There’s no place like home.” (We’re a Kansas company—of course you get a Wizard of Oz reference!) The same applies to your locally hosted meeting or event. Once you put a little creative muscle behind the brainstorming, we bet you’ll discover some exciting and intriguing ways to make your local event stand out. If we can help by sharing more on how we’ve helped clients do the same, drop us a note and we’ll schedule a time to talk!

5 Ideas for Unexpected Meeting Venues

venue

Where’s the coolest venue you’ve hosted or attended a meeting? In the past, non-traditional meeting venues were few and far between, while planners instead opted for more common choices like hotel ballrooms and conference rooms or convention centers.

Yet the demand for creative, unexpected meeting venues is on the rise, thanks to a number of factors. Chief among them? Delivering an unforgettable attendee experience.

“Many see the need to match non-traditional meeting spaces with increasing client demand for unique venues as a particularly exciting development moving forward,” according to the 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, produced by American Express. “One [meeting planner] explains, ‘As a meeting planner, it’s exciting—finding creative solutions for clients and keeping on top of the variety of venues. It’s not just hotels that are available anymore. It’s anything you could turn into a space that could house a meeting.”

Depending on your meeting or event specifics, you might very well need to stick with larger spaces like convention halls. Yet if you have some flexibility in your planning, one of the most impactful ways to shake things up is to change your venue. Opting for a non-traditional meeting space doesn’t just make a big impact on attendee experience; it can also help support your company’s branding and messaging in a way that wasn’t previously possible at other venues.

So what exactly do we mean by non-traditional meeting venues? Let’s take a look at five ideas to get your planning started.

Coworking Spaces

Thanks to a steady increase in start-ups and small businesses, coworking spaces continue to be on the rise, too. Small Business Labs expects global coworking spaces to number nearly 15,000 this year, and hit over 26,000 in 2020. And that means it’s increasingly likely you’ll find a coworking space near you, or in your preferred host city.

Why move your meeting or event to a coworking space? Flexibility, for one thing. Many coworking spaces include a combination of open areas and closed conference rooms or offices, so you can easily transition your attendees to different parts of the building depending on the agenda.

Plus, a lot of coworking spaces are, well, pretty swank. They’ve either got that cool industrial vibe going on, or they’re sleek, modern and fully equipped—or even a mix of the two aesthetics. Yet no matter how eye-catching they are, coworking spaces are designed for work, which means your attendees don’t have to sacrifice productivity for selfie-worthy surroundings.

Art Galleries

No matter your industry or event type, it’s likely safe to say that you want your attendees to leave invigorated and inspired. What better way to spark those reactions than by hosting your event in an art gallery?

Just imagine a group of attendees sharing, learning and collaborating amid actual works of art. It’s a pretty incredible mental picture, right? (No pun intended!) Plus, galleries tend to be more open spaces, which means you’ll be more likely to host groups of varying sizes.

Pro tip? As you work with a gallery owner to secure the event space, make sure you’re familiar with any guidelines around photography or general interaction with the art. That way, you can educate your attendees and ensure a memorable (and respectful) experience.

Local Production Facilities—Wineries, Distilleries or Warehouses

Large, open spaces; a minimalist, industrial aesthetic; a way to support a local business or brand with your meeting or event—yep, there are several reasons to consider production facilities like distilleries, wineries or warehouses as a venue.

Coordination is, of course, key. You certainly don’t want attendees wandering around in the midst of a production line, and you want to ensure things like loud noise won’t adversely impact your event. But these production-oriented facilities can offer a refreshing change of pace for your next meeting or event.

For one thing, it won’t be hard to find large, open areas within the space so that your attendees have plenty of room to spread out. And, depending on the type of facility you pick, there might be an opportunity to include a tour, tasting or other behind-the-scenes peek as a coveted value-add to your agenda (social sharing encouraged!)

Rooftops

You know the age-old saying: you can’t control the weather! You may not want to turn your entire meeting or event over to the mercy of Mother Nature, but it’s worth exploring rooftop venues as an enviable, picturesque place to host a meeting, meal or networking happy hour.

After all, meetings and events are always better al fresco! In addition to giving your attendees access to unforgettable views and spaces that might not otherwise be open to the public, you’re also guaranteeing a share-worthy experience that your attendees can’t wait to document on their social media channels. Don’t forget to make sharing easier with widely publicized hashtags, relevant social media handles and other pertinent info!

Museums

Museums offer many of the same benefits as art galleries, yet introduce a wider array of space configurations and scenery. Plus, depending on where you’re hosting your meeting or event, there could be a neat opportunity to enhance your branding with a similarly categorized museum. One example? A technology conference in a science- or industrially themed museum. Or an innovation-centered discussion held in the midst of a contemporary art collection. See where we’re headed with this?

Depending on the museum’s layout, pricing and availability, you may be able to host different parts of your agenda in separate areas of the museum. Some museums, for example, have on-site restaurants that could be a relaxing spot for a post-event dinner or happy hour. Outdoor exhibitions like sculpture gardens provide the perfect spot for a rejuvenating mid-afternoon stroll. And museum auditoriums (or even planetariums) could be the perfect spot for large-group presentations.

We hope the non-traditional meeting venue inspiration is flowing! If we can help you source possible venues or event spaces, drop us a line anytime. And stay tuned to the blog, where we’ll be sharing more insight from the 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast in the coming weeks.

3 Things to Consider Before Building an Event Mobile App

mobile app

As the mobile app market continues to explode, an interesting trend has emerged. Throughout the last several years, games and media companies dominated the app marketplace. Yet as the app economy stays on pace to double to $101 billion by 2020, other industry-specific app categories are growing fast. Couple that finding with increasing attendee demand for annual meeting and corporate events that help them navigate, network and learn, and it’s clear that the time to start thinking about building an event-specific app is now.

The 2017 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast, which includes insight from meeting and event planners and industry stakeholders around the globe, also points to the growing importance of mobile apps not just as an event value-add, but as a critical part of the event experience. Mobile app usage is projected to increase more than 10% in North America throughout 2017, and other global regions are also expected to see increases in app use.

“Mobile apps have emerged as increasingly prevalent and more important than meeting planning technology across regions,” according to the report.

Of course, knowing you need or want to build a mobile app and actually building the app are two different things. The key is to think and plan before you create—just as you’d approach event planning itself. To help spark the discussion and related brainstorming, we’ve put together a list of 3 things to consider before you build a mobile app.

Define Your App’s Strategy

We’ve talked before about the importance of creating an event strategy before you consider any event or meeting details. And that same approach is equally effective when developing an event- or meeting-specific mobile app.

It’s tempting to immediately dive into the bells and whistles of the app itself, but you’ll be so much more successful—and deliver a better user experience—if you take a few steps back and make a plan. Consider the following questions:

  • Why do you need a mobile app?
  • What do you want the app to do?
  • How can a mobile app improve your event experience?
  • How can you use the app to reinforce branding and messaging?
  • Can the app help extend attendee engagement post-event?
  • Are there communication or other event experience gaps that an app can help fill?

Once you answer these strategic questions, you’ll have the foundation on which to then consider things like app features and functionality. And speaking of…

Learn What Your Audience Expects

It’s tempting to want to cram all the features you can into your mobile app, but it’s best to start small, then add as the app evolves. That, by the way, is an important point to keep in mind. An app, like a website, is never truly done; it’s something on which you’ll iterate as you gather feedback and add content.

You want to ensure that your mobile app helps provide a seamless event experience and ties into your strategic event plan. Yet you also want to provide an optimal user experience, and that includes meeting user expectations. According to the American Express report, the most compelling reasons to use mobile apps include improving communications, improving attendee engagement, communicating with attendees regarding changes or emergencies, electronic document delivery and facilitating attendee networking.

Expectations and needs may vary slightly depending on your specific audience, so if you can, take some time to do a bit of discovery, whether by quick electronic survey or an informal focus group or poll. Use that input to guide app functionality. And once the app is live, be sure you’re continually gathering feedback and making improvements to deliver an optimal experience.

Don’t Rush—And Plan a Soft Launch

As you build your app strategy and plan the app development itself, be sure you allow for plenty of time. You’ll likely run across some unexpected challenges or hurdles, and you want to have time to address them. It might be tempting to quickly stand up an app for an event or meeting that’s mere weeks away, but by putting more time and thought into the app, you’ll deliver a better product.

One other important planning note? Don’t launch your app for the first time a few days before your event kicks off! Instead, try to allow for at least a couple of weeks between the two. That way, you can continue testing and look for bugs, thereby minimizing possible problems that could mar initial perceptions of the app.

The two keys to successful mobile app development are strategy and planning—just like you’d approach an event or meeting. And don’t be afraid to think about your own app experience as you brainstorm and ideate. What apps do you love using? Which do you find frustrating?

One last tip: don’t hesitate to bring in a trusted partner to help bring your app to life. Part of our scope as a full-service, strategic event partner includes mobile app development, which ensures that your app is a technologically enhanced extension of your event strategy, messaging and branding. Feel free to reach out to us and explore your options for mobile app development.

Re-Inventing the Wheel

beach dinner combines old with new

When you have a program or incentive that occurs year after year, one of the easiest ways to keep it fresh is to take the group to new and different properties. But what if you have fallen in love with one location in particular, and want to go there each year? Your challenge then becomes balancing the new with the old – all while providing a flawless experience. In our years of planning, we’re no stranger to situations like these. We asked some of our veteran account executives what their top pieces of advice were when you need to teach an old dog new tricks.

Know what to change, and what to keep the same

There’s a reason your group wants to go to the same property year after year – they love the place! It then follows that you shouldn’t work to alter the aspects that they keep coming back for. If your group is in love with the beach dinners and some of the activity options, don’t be afraid to keep those largely the same. But it takes someone who knows the group incredibly well to make those high-level decisions. If it’s not you, make sure you have someone on your team that has done this program before and can determine what to keep the same, and what to change. That high-level, long-term relationship building will be key to the success of the program and will be the reason the attendees want to come back year after year.

Make your activity options flexible

In a traditional incentive trip, attendees are often presented with a selection of private and group activities to participate in throughout the event. When returning to the same property with a largely similar group, consider widening your activity selection as well as making sure attendees know they don’t have to choose anything if they don’t want to – rest and relaxation can be just as fun! Since the group knows the property well, they’ll want the choice between activities they liked last year, new activities, and no activities.

Be inventive and on-trend with gifts

Gifts are one area you shouldn’t keep the same on an incentive event like this. (The one exception would be gifts that are traditionally given each year, like a bottle of high-end spirits or cuff links.) Use your gifts as a showcase for the trendy and unique. Consider high-end tech and home gifts that your attendees can show off after the trip, like Bose speakers or a personal assistant like the Amazon Echo. The gifts can also be a great way to send your attendees home with the hottest styles in shoes, hats and jewelry. Having a custom fitting or custom jewelry bar can enhance this experience.

It can seem like a difficult task to make an event seem new and different while simultaneously keeping it familiar and comfortable, but the key lies in high-level knowledge of your group and a good eye for trends that will add a touch of the exotic to an oft-used locale. The key is to make sure you know why your group wants to go to the same property, and utilize each dinner and activity to give them that same feeling, whether it’s a long-standing tradition or a new addition.