Author: Julie Honn

Improve Your Meetings by Focusing on Quality

quality over quantity

Can you create a distinctive event on a smaller budget?

As the demand for immersive, out-of-the-box experiences continues to influence meetings and corporate events, the opportunities for creativity and innovation are exciting. Yet there’s also an ever-present need to keep an eye on the practical side: namely, the budget. If you find yourself wedged between cost constraints and elaborate event plans, take a deep breath. You’re not alone. And if you focus on quality and strategic impact, you’ll likely find you can host a memorable, engaging event within whatever budget constraints are the current situation.

Findings in the American Express 2017 Global Meetings and Events Forecast show that tighter budgets are, in fact, influencing meeting frequency and size.

“With property and other related meeting costs rising, many organizations appear to be adjusting the number and size of their meetings to stay within their budget constraints,” according to the report. “Holding fewer meetings with more attendees or a more targeted attendee list is one option, as is using multiple local meetings to replace a larger meeting that requires significant travel.”

Part of the general challenge of meeting and corporate event planning isn’t just staying on budget while delivering an optimal experience. It’s also discovering that magical combination of the number of meetings—and the size of those meetings—that delivers the most value to your company.

But as the saying goes, quality matters more than quantity. If you have a limited number of meetings to reach your objectives, and who doesn’t, the focus should be on the quality of the event. Is it interesting and entertaining? Are attendees engaged and informed? Does the content align with company goals, messaging and branding?

If you find yourself struggling with your meeting or event budget, consider these additional tips that can help you prioritize quality in the face of less quantity.

Consider meeting length

This is among the simpler solutions. Can you create shorter, more impactful meeting segments that gain flexibility without losing results? Before you make this sort of decision, review your strategic event plan, which provides the critical framework that not only guides your event, but also ensures it’s connected to (and drives results toward) your company’s business goals. Is there a way you can adjust the content and agenda to allow for a more creative format? With our ever-shortening attention spans purposeful, short content is necessary. This keeps an audience from becoming fatigued or even tuning out. It can also adapt to your budget while also ensuring attendees stay engaged from start to finish.

Review your attendee list

In some ways, corporate meetings and events aren’t much different from weddings: it’s tempting to invite any and everyone. Instead, this is an ideal time to review your attendee list in conjunction with your strategic event plan. Would the messaging and experience resonate more with a targeted audience? Who are the essential people that you most want in attendance? You’ll likely find names on your list that don’t necessarily make sense for a particular meeting or event; better to remove them and look for other, more relevant involvement opportunities. Consider perhaps a separate, more targeted event for that audience as well. Getting more targeted towards a specific audience has many positive results including better natural engagement.

Don’t skimp on creativity

Staying within budget doesn’t mean you need to eliminate fun and creativity from your corporate event or meeting. With quality firmly in mind, creativity is actually more important—you want to ensure attendees are not just informed, but also excited about what’s happening. Try an unexpected venue or evening entertainment, for example. Or look for ways to mix things up in regard to content: an out-of-the-box keynote speaker, or a different way to offer information aside from a standard presentation. You could even take a page out of Google’s book and experiment with the meeting format. They turned their I/O developers conference into a festival-like gathering, which makes for a more entertaining and immersive experience.

Working within a tight budget is a challenge, especially with large-scale corporate meetings and events. Yet it might also be the push you need to closely examine your company’s events and how you can shake things up in a way that benefits all involved. And if you find yourself stuck on how to best move forward, we’re ready to be your sounding board.

Top Trends Spotted at the LA Auto Show

LA auto show 2016

Here at Wellington, we are pleased to be able to call a number of the biggest companies in the automotive industry clients. We have had the privilege of working with several major brands on everything from sales incentives to national preview events, and we have not only attended, but also produced our fair share of vehicle reveals. When we approach a show such as the recent LA Auto Show, we are always doing so in an appreciation of the creative approaches displayed by some of the brands in attendance and with an eye for further innovation. Below are some highlighted lessons and reminders from the 2016 LA Auto Show.

Remember the basics

There are some things that seem common sense when building buzz for a vehicle reveal, but it is surprising how often such details can get overlooked. Covering the vehicle, for example, can create a sense of anticipation and excitement. Even if the product isn’t something for the end consumer, people will still want to stick around to see what’s under the sheet. Similarly, utilizing a dynamic, well spoken, high-energy individual can also serve to increase excitement. If this person also happens to be a global executive, you have the bonus of appealing to brand loyalists. Bottom line: if people are entertained or engaged, they will keep listening. If they aren’t, they’ll move on.

Create eye-catching detail

Anyone can put up a sign. But if your sign contains interactive pieces such as panels that occasionally flip to display a new image, you’re much more likely to attract attention. Another idea is to create a unique walkway that encourages foot traffic to cut through your booth. Such walkways also create opportunity for unique branding experiences (think photo/video tunnel) and marketing giveaways. Alternatively, you can grab the attendee’s ear instead of his eye by playing music to create an informal party atmosphere. This method was used effectively by a number of this year’s participants.

Consider a different perspective

Mitsubishi drew a crowd when they utilized two children for their message. The discussion between the children and the automotive brand revolved around safety and featured scripting with key highlights, sound effects, and a final invitation to visit the booth. Another company incorporated Motor Sports into their presentation, complete with appearances by well-known drivers, which can be a strong attention-getter through celebrity alone.

Make it an experience

Many attendee favorites included booths that had an experiential element to them. One company offered massage chairs and coffee bars while another created buzz with specialty juices, cocktails and snacks. Another created an interactive element with a photo booth. Allowing attendees the opportunity to take a photo and share it on social media is also a great approach and one that extends value into the digital space. One notable company took the photo experience up a notch by offering a video takeaway. With the help of a green screen, attendees could act out an action scene with the vehicle and post the video online. Another used a live DJ to create a high-energy atmosphere, which drew further attention when their new vehicle drove out of the DJ booth.

Amplify the experience with a partnership

Nissan made a big splash at this year’s show by partnering with Star Wars on a limited-edition vehicle. By appealing to such a universal fandom, Nissan was able to create a sense of urgency as fans recognized the vehicle would not be around for long. They further ensured their announcement stood out by integrating graphic simulation into their press announcement. A specialized video made the viewer feel as though he was driving the car and the car was in a Star Wars movie. Pyrotechnics were also incorporated to further elevate the experience. This mix of partnership, digital and real world experience elements created a strong presentation that got a significant amount of attention. While not everyone has the natural tie of a vehicle name that matches the title of a highly anticipated cultural event, the mix of elements is one that can indeed be recreated across brands and products.

No matter the years of experience, or how many vehicle reveals one may have been through, examples like these show that a little creative thought can go a long way towards amplifying the experience and creating excitement about a product. Elements of storytelling and experience creation woven into an event, meeting or incentive can make the difference between ordinary and something that builds excitement and inspires action.

It’s a Seller’s Market – We Can Help

The impact the setting can have on an event is enormous. Every detail – from the hotel brand to the city to the specific day within the specific month – can make a difference in an event’s experience.

As meeting and event professionals, we manically obsess over thoughtfully consider each of these details when considering a location for an event.

The landscape of location selection is changing, though, and it is much harder to secure those perfectly-researched first choices as easily as you once could. Post-recession, there has been very little new hotel room supply, particularly in the four- and five-star categories, while the greatly increased demand for meetings, which began in 2010, has continued to grow over the past 6 years. 70% of the new hotels that are cropping up are limited service properties, and not hotels suitable for meetings. When increased demand meets limited supply, planners find themselves in the midst of a hot seller’s market that shows no signs of changing any time soon. Even projections for 2017 show the average daily rate up 4.3% and occupancy at an all-time high, with a demand growth of 2.1%, which is projected to surpass 1.9% supply growth. Additionally, planners can expect to see less bang for their buck as costs go up and complimentary services go down. Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook Winter 2016 projects price changes over 2016 that outstrip expected cost-of-living increases.

So how can planners combat this seller’s market and score the best deal? We’ve compiled 5 tried-and-true tips to help nail down that first-choice property:

1) Demonstrate the value of the meeting.

It’s not just the client who is interested in how the meeting benefits them. Do your research and be able to demonstrate the value of your meeting using data and historical trends. This will give you wiggle room in the cost negotiations.

2) Leverage flexible date patterns.

Just as with personal travel, there can be an unbelievable price difference between a Monday – Thursday pattern versus a Friday – Monday pattern for group bookings. Even minor shifts in days can result in large savings. Be open to alternatives!

3) Match your rooms to meeting space ratio.

Hotels want to see equal rooms-to-meeting space ratios. If they’re devoting 40% of their sleeping rooms to you, they won’t be thrilled if you only take up 20% of their meeting space. Group food and beverage is an important revenue source for hotels, and they won’t want to miss out on additional options for that income in order to accommodate your sleeping room needs. (Bonus hint: leverage that profit center and offer to increase your F&B in exchange for discounted or waived meeting room rentals.)

4) Get in early. No, really early.

With the economy strengthening and hotel supply remaining stagnant, lead times have increased. A full 45% of hotels said they book more than a year out, while 41% said they book between 7 and 12 months out.

5) Book off-season when possible.

If you hit a property in its off-peak season, you automatically increase your negotiation power. Not only is availability increased, but properties are more eager to fill their space. Win-win!

And don’t forget to bring in reinforcements.

Working with a professional team like Wellington lends significant power to your negotiations with hotels. Not only do we possess years of experience negotiating to decrease costs and increase value, but we also have the added benefit of relationships we’ve established with hotels worldwide over those years. Contact us to learn more about how we can benefit you in your efforts!

LA Auto Show: Driving Innovation

LA Auto Show: Driving Innovation

Wellington recently returned from being on-site at the LA Auto Show at the LA Convention Center.

Crazy Concepts

The Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo is the concept racecar of the future. The driver lays down in the car, face down, and steer the wheels with their arms and legs. Hypothetically, it could reach a top speed of 240 MPH! The car won’ t be put into production – it was designed as both an homage to the Chaparrals of the past and for the PlayStation video game Gran Turismo 6 – but it exists as a model of what Chevrolet could do if practicality wasn’t a factor. This gave us some fantastic ideas – what could a company do if traditional limitations weren’t in place?

Driving Green

The 2016 Toyota Mirai is truly a zero-emission vehicle. This sedan, available in California in 2015, is fueled by hydrogen and can travel up to 300 miles on a full tank. There isn’t any long charging time hooked up to a wall associated with this electric car – it refuels in just five minutes. The Mirai can even act as a power generator for a home in the event of a power outage. We love this low-emission vehicle. We know how important it is to protect and respect our environment, and this car is a reminder that it can happen in any industry.

Ready for the Road

Ushering in a new genre of vehicle, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is considered a “subcompact” SUV. Long popular in Europe, these smaller SUVs are getting bigger in the US. With a better fuel economy than larger cars, CX-3 will also offer a high-tech driving experience powered by Mazda’s “Skyaciv” technology. Something we found really interesting about this vehicle is that it ushers in euro-style vehicles in an American market.