4 New Ways to Ensure Attendee Happiness

Planning an event or conference is all about you and your company, right? Wrong! Making sure the attendee is happy and satisfied is your main goal, and you need to plan the whole event around that fact. If your guests aren’t enjoying the event, they won’t learn anything, and they surely won’t be loyal to your company. What’s the point of a conference if it doesn’t benefit your guests?

So, how do you plan for the attendee? Think about your favorite parts of past conferences you ran or attended. What made you feel like the planner really put the guests first while planning? Were there moments where you said, “Oh wow this was a great idea!”? Add those into your next event. If you can’t think of any, here are 4 to get you started.

  1. Make sure everyone involved is passionate and knowledgable. When choosing employees and volunteers to help with this conference, there should be a few deciding factors. First, are they truly passionate about the work being done? If not, they might still be great people, but not the right fit for this event. Second, make sure they are knowledgable about the whole event, company, speaker, venue, etc. Having passionate and knowledgable workers will help each attendee feel more welcome and much happier because it will be oh so easy for them, and they’ll respect you as a company knowing you hired qualified people as your staff and volunteers.
  2. Have discounts, a loyalty program, raffles, etc. Who doesn’t love a random gift of discount? Most conferences I’ve been do have some kind of raffle or free giveaway during breaks or at the end of the conference, and it’s just a silly way to get everyone excited! You can also have a loyalty program or discounts for repeat customers/attendees and give them 20% off their ticket, half price for a friend, a special name tag that shows they’re a repeat customer, or even a free meal if they attend. Get creative with how you can give back to your guests and they’ll feel extra appreciated.
  3. Have kids friendly activities. If this is a family conference, you must make sure the children have something to do. Are the speakers kid friendly? If not, hire a few volunteers to plan fun kids activities, or even hire a speaker specifically for the kids. If they are, make sure to hand out crayons and paper to these kids, and tell the parents in advance where to go if their children need a break.
  4. Make sure it’s easy for them. Give them all the information up front. Give them to the point emails about dates, times, and locations, and separate emails with venue amenities, suggested packing ideas, and even their food options. Your attendees will appreciate everything you do for them that seems “out of the way” or “extra.” Don’t email too often or give too much information, because then you’ll seem spammy or downright annoying. Give them as much information as you would want if you were attending as a guest. Remember, put yourself in their shoes, and you will do great!

Do you have any other suggestions for making attendees happy at an event?

Icebreakers Are Just For Kids, Right?

When I think of icebreakers, I think of entertainingly silly games for kids to become instant friends…or at least get to know each other a little bit. But what about adults? Sure, some adults (like me) would be totally content playing child-like games, but they wouldn’t match up with some events and groups of attendees. Here are a 3 non-embarrassing adult activities to use as icebreakers for a larger crowd of about 40 or more attendees.

  1. People bingo. This is a pretty popular icebreaker; I’m almost positive I’ve played this at some point in my life. The idea is for everyone to have a bingo card, and instead of written numbers in the middle of each box like regular bingo, the text would read, “Has three kids,” “Owns a beach house,” or, “Loves country music.” The text should be common enough that it describes a few people in the group, but not common enough that it describes most. Each person has to go around the room and find a person who matches up with the text, then have them initial the square. The catch is that one person can only sign one box, so everyone must talk to a bunch of people! You can even give the winner a small prize at the end, so they’re a little more enticed to really play the game.
  2. “Communality test.” This is another icebreaker that starts in small groups, but this is teeny groups of two. These two people need to find one not-so-obvious common trait. Then, go into groups of four and find a trait all four of them share. Then, eight. Continue that until the entire group has to find something they have in common. Since your group might be too large for that last step, you could go up to 16 or so, then switch up all the groups and start from the beginning. After this icebreaker, everyone will know a bunch of random facts about everyone else.

And here are a couple for a group of less than 40 attendees:

  1. Any “question of the day.” If you have a smaller group, posing a question that could have many possible answers is one way to know people better.  Some example questions are: What would you do with a million dollars? Who is your idol? What is your favorite quote? What is one thing you would you change about the world? If time allows, get a conversation going about some of the answers. Sharing this type of information (and having these discussions) will make it easier to connect during the rest of the event.
  2. Any sport. Depending on the age range (and athletic abilities) of your attendees, there are quite a few sports you could play, that easily make people trust each other and rely on each other. Some include kickball, beach ball, volleyball, and even tug of war. Is tug of war even considered a sport? I think it should be! Having to work together as a team will bring people together pretty quickly.

Have you ever tried these icebreakers, what do you do to help people connect at your events?

5 Ways To Help Your Event Go Viral

Going viral, for those of you who don’t know, means becoming extremely popular on the Internet in a very short amount of time. Usually, this term is used when talking about a cute kitten-related YouTube video, but it is possible to have your event to go viral as well.

Okay, maybe your event won’t get as popular as some of those videos, but there are quite a number of ways to boost the hype about your event. Upping the excitement will not only make your prospects more intrigued, but the number of people who know about your conference could skyrocket.

You can’t think of a reason not to “go viral,” right? So, here are a few tips on how you could try this for yourself.

1. Make sure your event (and speakers) are buzzworthy. Simple concept, right? If you have a well-known speaker for your event, marketing this fact on your blog and social media outlets as well as others pertaining to your speaker will boost up your popularity for sure.

2. Have a “wow” factor; make sure there is something unique about your event. In the marketing world, we call this the USP or Unique Selling Proposition. If you have an original idea for your event, it’s much easier to get a niche crowd excited about it. Use this USP to decide where and how to market your event as well.

3. Have sharable content. Make sure your content is easy to read and understand, and that your website contains pertinent information so it’s simple for attendees to show off to their friends.

4. Get your online community really, really excited. Become your own personal cheerleader…or that guy who gets the crowd dancing at clubs and parties. Don’t get too “in their face,” though, or you’ll scare them away.

5. Keep them guessing…for a little while. Everyone wants what they can’t have. Offer up a few facts at first, then add information right before people become impatient. It will keep people coming back for more.

We want to know, have your events gone viral? How?

5 Things To Keep In Mind When Planning A Personal Retreat

A personal retreat is good for every single person on this entire planet. They will help you get away from your (probably stressful) every day life and give you a chance to relax and remember who you are as a spiritual being.

When going on a personal retreat, it’s important to relax, get away, be alone with God, and let your stress disappear. But, none of this can happen if you plan it “wrong.” There are five quick tips on planning your own weekend getaway.

1. Plan your weekend…at least a little bit. Plan things like when you’re going to leave, where you’re going to go (whether it be a park or a beach or a city or a retreat center or any place that makes you feel less stressed and much calmer), and what you’re going to bring (clothes, personal items, your Bible and other spiritual books or material, snacks, a journal, etc…). Without this teeny bit of planning, your calm feelings may never arrive.

2. Keep your schedule flexible. You might come up with great ideas on the way, and nothing will stress you out more than wishing you had more time to do the things you want because you planned too much already. I know I just told you to plan a little, but keeping most of the day openly planned will leave room for new ideas.

3. Make sure you’re really alone. No computer. No iPads. No cell phones. No meeting up with friends for dinner. This is a time to be truly alone, so take advantage of that. (But, if you have a close family, let them know where you’ll be so they don’t worry!)

4. Pray, pray, pray! Pray wherever you are, no matter what you’re doing. Get close to God during this weekend. Yes, this trip is about being alone, but being alone with God is the real purpose.

5. Engage in physical activity. This can be a walk on the beach, a hike in the woods, a swim or canoe trip, or anything that will let you see God’s beauty while simultaneously giving you some necessary fresh air.

What about you?  When was the last time you got away by yourself?

3 Common Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

I think it’s safe to say social media is now mainstream. I would wager those of you reading this post use it for personal use and, more than likely, have started using it for your ministry or business as well. By utilizing social media, organizations and ministries can talk about anything from daily happenings to innovative ministry ideas; from new products and services to an exciting event you’re throwing.

But, as we’ve seen during this year’s Olympics, you can also do social media wrong. (just ask Hope Solo) There are tons of mistakes you can make while using Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media, that will deter customers and fans so we want to help. In addition to utilizing a heaping dose of common sense, here are 3 big social media mistakes for ministries and organizations to avoid:

  • Not monitoring/responding – Too many times I’ve seen organizations establish a presence on social media and then put it on autopilot. Not good! Someone must be monitoring your accounts and, when someone comments on your brand or messages you, respond. It’s that simple. To do otherwise is the same as ignoring a person standing next to you who’s trying to talk with you. You don’t want your customers and clients, or potential customers and clients, to feel neglected. Customer service is key for any business. Answering a Facebook comment with a unique response will help make the person feel noticed and important to you. This will undoubtedly increase their loyalty to your brand and help you build relationships.
  • Not speaking enough…or speaking too much – Yes, you need to update content on your social networks frequently, otherwise you run the risk of not being noticed. However, there are a few guidelines about posting you need to keep in mind. As a general rule, posts to Twitter should happen about three times more often than Facebook posts. Twitter is real time; no one really goes back in time to read tweets…or at least not as frequently as people do on Facebook. On Facebook you can get away with posting less updates because most users will scroll and/or look at your profile for new information. In either case, you want to make sure your tweets and posts are not so frequent that your followers are tuning you out, or even worse, unfollowing you!
  • Not using each social network independently – Over time we have learned linking Twitter to Facebook, and vice versa, is not the best idea. This is because your “friends/fans” on Facebook are usually different than your “followers” on Twitter. Facebook is for posting pictures, sharing ministry stories and encouragement, updating with “inside” information your customers love to get and anything else that helps your fans connect with you on a more personal level. Twitter is for quick, short updates about your ministry or organization, industry news, links to helpful information, etc. While conversations and personal details are available on Twitter, more people look for that on Facebook.

Bonus content!

Did you know there are certain days and times that you should update Facebook and post to Twitter? Here’s an excellent article explaining the ins and outs of posting on Twitter, with a little information on Facebook as well!

What lessons have you learned when using social media?

 

Marketing Strategies To Consider For Your Upcoming Event

Choosing the correct marketing strategies for your upcoming event is equally as (if not more) important than planning it. This post will help you with how to promote your event to ensure that people get the message and attend.

Social Media – Everyone and their grandma is addicted to Facebook or Twitter these days, so this is obviously one of the quickest ways to connect with people you know really well, or don’t know at all. Writing statuses and updates about your event, with catchy phrases that make people want to learn more, is a simple way to get the word out about your event. Make sure to include the link to your website and/or landing page. Oh, and creating an event hashtag on Twitter will help you monitor the chatter.

Facebook Events – Creating a Facebook Event is another way to share information with potential attendees. Make sure to add pictures, information, and links for the event so people can RSVP, learn specifics, leave comments, and ask questions. This will help the conference have a web presence and is very helpful for potential and confirmed attendees.

Facebook Ads – You know those little “sponsored” ads on the Facebook sidebar that seem to know exactly what your hobbies and interests are? Those, my friend, are Facebook ads. After doing research on your target market, you write up a one line ad, throw in a picture, choose what your target market is (you can choose age range, location, education level, interests, religion, and all that jazz), link it to your landing page, then choose how much money you want to spend and voila, instant Facebook ad and instant marketing. Read this article to learn more about creating a Facebook ad that really works.

Landing page – I’m sure you’ve seen a landing page before. Have you ever clicked on a link that brought you to a bare-looking page, with no upper tool bar, that just had lines and lines of sales content on it? That is the ever-so-important landing page. A landing page is usually linked to from social media or other advertising, and is basically the next step to registering. This is where you entice readers to RSVP to your event by using attractive marketing lingo. At the bottom of the page, (and in the middle too, in some cases,) a call to action button is present. This is a fancy term for a clickable rectangle that says something like, “Register Now!” on it. This is the page that will really convince your readers to sign up.  You can learn more about how to set up a landing page here or here.

Email marketing – You have an email list, right? An email list is one of the most important steps in Internet marketing, because everyone on there chose to receive your emails. Their obvious interest in the topic you teach makes them prime candidates for invitees to your conference. You can send out an email a couple of months before the event, giving some key clues to peak their interest with enticing phrases like, “Click here to learn more about this once in a lifetime opportunity!” (with a link to your landing page, of course.) Closer to the event, you can send out another email stating, “We have a limited amount of tickets, so act now!” A few weeks before the event, mail out reminders to people who haven’t caught on yet. Also, send out specific emails to those who have signed up, to remind them about dates, times, locations, etc. There are so many ways to market through emails, but just remember not to send them too frequently or it might scare away potential customers!

 

Your Event Is Over, Now What?

You just got home from your big event. Chances are you probably need some sleep, but you feel deeply satisfied with your organization’s hard work, hope your attendees had a wonderful time and are trying to remember if you paid that caterer…

Now, you’re coming down from the post-event excitement and wondering what to do next. You have dozens of business cards on your desk. You start to wonder if your guests really did have an awesome time and you start to question if anyone actually learned anything. How do you handle all of this?

Well, we’re here to help! Below are 5 simple steps to help you gain feedback from and communicate with your attendees, coworkers, and other guests after a conference:

  1. Say thank you – First and foremost be sure to thank your staff, volunteers and faculty. This is the most important action you could possibly take. Thanking them will not only let them know how much you care, but also make them feel an important part of the team. You can do this via phone,  email or the more friendly and endearing way of a handwritten note.  When thanking your employees or co-workers, we suggest having a little thank-you lunch or simply go around the office telling them how awesome they are.
  2. Connect with new people – If possible, communicate with everyone new you met. Thank them for attending, but also attempt to kindle a friendship or business relationship. After all, isn’t that why you hung on to those business cards?
  3. Explain event outcomes – Let them know which of your goals were accomplished and which weren’t. If you were trying to raise money, let them know how much you raised. If you had a goal to build community, share stories that reflect how well that happened.
  4. Ask for feedback – You can do this in the form of another email, a quick survey, or even a meeting of your planning team. Ask questions such as, “What was your favorite part of the conference?” and “Would you recommend this event to a friend?” This will help you know what to change and what to keep the same for the future.
  5. Review what others are saying – Check Twitter and Facebook to see if anyone has been talking about your event. If so, what were they saying? I believe people are more likely to share their true thoughts with their friends on social media than they are when you send them a survey.

What do you typically do after returning from one of your events? Care to share?

6 Marketing Tips You Need to Know

There are hundreds of blogs and articles on marketing advice, but this list is a quick reminder of some tips you can use in every aspect of your business. This list caters to marketing and advertising products as well as events, so think of them while you’re promoting absolutely anything!

  1. It’s easier to convince a current customer or repeat buyer to go to your conference than to persuade potential clients to become attendees. So, don’t forget to show some love for your current customer list; they are just as (if not more) important as newcomers!
  2. When using social media, don’t forget to add some quality content. If every post is trying to sell (direct marketing), your clients will get turned off. The “rule” is to write about semi-equal parts of general content about your niche, personal content about your company, and selling/advertising for your product/service/event. This mixture will show that you are credible and not pushy.
  3. Don’t market any ideas that are too far out of your niche. If you are a website design company, it wouldn’t be wise to post a random blog post about pants. Stay in your niche so your customers (and prospects) understand what your company stands for. Really, would you buy pants from a design company?
  4. Know your customers. Learn what they like and dislike. See what marketing strategies work and what don’t. There is always going to be trial and error in marketing and advertising, so pay attention and use what works for which group of clients!
  5. Branding is so extremely important. If you have a logo, a slogan, a spokesperson, or all three, make sure it is, or they are plastered on your marketing campaign so people recognize you quickly and easily.
  6. Customers come first. This one might be common sense, but it’s so important that I need to mention it. Make sure they are happy. If they have a question, answer it. If they have a complaint, try to help them to the best of your ability. If your attendees are content, you will be content.

I’m sure you know other great tips, so share in the comment section below!

 

4 Things You Should Be Doing During Your Event

We have spent a great deal of time on this blog talking about critical tasks such as budgeting, planning and marketing your event. Hopefully you have found those posts to be helpful! But, what do you do during your event?

Chances are you will spend weeks, if not months, planning your event. Once the big day arrives and your event begins, you can kick back and take it easy…right? WRONG! Your job as the event planner is to make sure everything runs smoothly as planned…or as close to the plan as possible. This is easier said than done, but here are 4 things you can do during your event to help make sure this happens:

  • Always carry a copy of the schedule – You and your team put a lot of work into the schedule. What speakers are presenting, what breakouts/activities you’re offering and when, which meals are at what times, etc. Every person at the event should have one of these schedules and, while it may not run exactly on time, it’s your job to ensure the whole show runs smoothly and as close to on time as possible.
  • Always have a backup plan – Everyone assumes that some speakers or activities will run longer than expected, but please don’t forget that some may fall short. I once saw a speaker get off stage with an hour left in his time slot. What did the event planner do? He had an impromptu Q&A panel that went on without a hitch. Having backups is important at events because, no matter how rigorously you plan, thing can still go awry.
  •  Continually and clearly express your main message – What is the main theme or message you want to get across during your meeting? Think about why you’re having the conference and what it is about, and use those clues to write up a statement about your main message. If it’s a simple one like, “I want everyone to learn team building strategies,” that should be easy to convey. But if you have a more specific message, pay attention to ensure that it’s clear and precise, and expressed just enough that it sticks in your attendees’ brains.
  • Constantly evaluate – To determine if your event was a success or not, you must first define what success means to you. It could mean that everyone had fun, everyone learned the main message, or simply that most people showed up and everyone stayed until the end. However, don’t just wait until after the event to evaluate how things went. Try to constantly evaluate during the event (attendees’ body language and actions, as well as talking with guests) to get a great overall view of your project in motion.

As a planner, what are some other things you focus on during your event?

3 Design Tips For The Perfect Meeting Space

When you’re having a meeting or event, it’s important that the set up, atmosphere, and design of the conference room caters to the needs of the attendees. I don’t mean give everyone comfy chairs and pillows, but it’s critical to have a good room flow, and a “vibe” that will spike the attention of the guests. It’s one thing to have interesting and thought-provoking speakers and activities, but it’s also extremely important to have a room in which your attendees can learn and accomplish tasks. Here are three important ideas to think about when creating your conference room!

  1. Color Psychology:  Colors have been thought to have specific affects on our brains and make people react and feel certain ways, according to this article. For example, hints of blue promote productivity, red is inspiring, and yellow is motivating. Add a small burst of color by having colored chair backs, matching notebooks and pens, and interesting (but not too eye-catching) additions. Since color is the first thing people see, add it somewhere you want your guests’ eyes to be drawn to! (Here’s a tip: Having too much color and/or too many different colors might distract your guests, so keep it clean but fun when adding color.)
  2. Seating Arrangement:  The arrangement of tables and chairs is another way to change the vibe of your event, and even change the way people learn. If you’re having a large meeting, you could choose styles ranging from theater style that accommodates the most people, and modified chevron style, which promotes attendee involvement. A smaller meeting can have a typical board meeting or U-shape setup. This is a great website that explains these styles along with other different types of seating plans for conferences or meetings…and even has pictures.
  3. Decor:  Event décor can add some fun and excitement to a room. Adding the right amount of embellishments, like flowers, banners, pictures, Bibles, and even fruit baskets or funny hats will engage your attendees and let them know right off the bat what kind of event you’re having, so certainly have fun with it! When decorating remember the goal of your meeting, you don’t add too many decorations that could distract your guests if your goal is to focus.  Oh, and don’t forget to learn the conference center’s safety rules and regulations before decorating!

Have you tried out any other design tips that worked for you?