Keeping Your Events Running On Time

When I was in college, my BCM director was very sensitive to time.  If the event was scheduled to start at 6 and end at 7, it did just that.  He felt, and rightfully so, that students attending were taking time out of their busy schedules to be at BCM events, and, therefore, we needed to honor their time by being on time.

The same can be said for your event.  Whether it’s for professionals or writers, you owe it to them to keep your event running on time.

How do you keep your event running on time?  Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Countdown clock.  This is the old stand by.  It starts when a speaker, presenter or worship leader steps on stage and counts down their remaining time.  This clock can be positioned in the back of the room or in the front.  Whatever works best for your events needs.  I’ve seen a prominent pastor use a countdown clock!  And it was very effective for his service and needs.
  2. Stage manager.  Have a designated person who is in charge of the stage.  This person tells the speaker when to come out, and they tell the speaker how much time they have left.  This person is in charge of all things on the stage, including any necessary setup and teardown for other parts of the program.
  3. Producer.  A variation on the stage manager is to have a producer sitting on the front row who communicates with the stage on how much time they have left via cue cards.  This can be especially useful if you’re coordinating a simulcast on the Internet or T.V.

A lot of running long can be on a speaker, but don’t forget worship leaders or other people apart of the program.  We Christians sometimes don’t want to “quench the spirit.”  But if you’ve promised your attendees something, I think you have to keep that promise.

3 Things I Learned While Buying A Car For Your Next Event

My mom recently purchased a car.  Being the great son that I am, I went with her to purchase and negotiate the final sales price.  I have to say overall it was a fun experience that taught me a lot for the next time I purchase myself a car.

I learned three things in particular that I will for sure remember.

  1. Research.  I made a big mistake going in, and that was not to have researched the invoice price of the car.  Thankfully, with modern technology, I was able to search for that while sitting at the desk.  Once I knew that number, I used that as our base price to negotiate.  Had I been better prepared going in, I might have been able to get the price of the car down even lower.
  2. Know your budget.  Mom knew how much she wanted to spend for the car, so it was important for us to keep that number in mind.  We had the typical car salesman experience where he asked what she wanted for payments, wrote it down and made her sign.  But that wasn’t what we were going for.  We were looking for the lowest price that would fit in her budget.
  3. Be willing to walk out.  This is the toughest point.  We all fall in love with that something we want, and this car was no exception.  I loved it.  She loved it.  I think we both would have been disappointed to have to walk out, but if the dealership wasn’t willing to meet our price in our budget, we were leaving.  Matter of fact at one point, I had to tell the salesman that we were ready to leave.

I tell you this little story because I believe all of these points work for planning your event.  You have to do your research on all the various supplies you need.  Maybe you want X, but Y will work just as fine.

Even more important you have to keep your budget in mind when doing your research.  The last thing you want is to fall in love with something and learn you can’t afford it.  And lastly if it’s just not working out, be ready to hit the exits.

Negotiating can be fun.  Matter of fact, this was the most fun I’ve had in buying a car.  Knowing these now, I’ll be much better prepared for the future.

Digital Content For Your Event Attendees

When I attend events, I always have my iPad with me to take notes in Evernote, or another note taking app.  It always seem like I miss one important note or two.  Handouts are nice, but in this digital world, I don’t want to leave with paper.  I get stuck wondering where I’m going to store or file the paper.  For the tech savvy in the world, their are easy alternatives that can help deliver this content digitally.

  1. Put notes in Dropbox.  Sharing from Dropbox is very easy, even if you don’t have a Dropbox account.  Send attendees a link to a presentation that is stored in Dropbox for them to download.
  2.  Put presentation slides online.  Some speakers might not want to allow attendees to download their content.  Posting slides to a slide sharing website like SlideShare.net would be a great way for attendees to gain access to what they’ve seen at the event.  Sites like this are great ways for speakers to build their platform.
  3.  Send notes via email.  I attended a conference, and the presenter send his notes to us via email.  This is not only a great way to do that, but to also collect email addresses to market to.  These people have given you permission to talk to them.
  4.  Include in event app.  We’ve talked before about how your event needs an app.  Including these notes from various presenters is a great idea.  (Mini sidebar here: if you’re event includes sermons, the YouVersion Bible App allows you to upload notes directly to the app.  These notes can be found in the live tab of the app.  This is a fantastic way for attendees to follow along, add their own notes and email to themselves.)

Have you used any methods to deliver content digitally?  What has worked for your attendees?

Using Volunteers And Interns At Your Event

As you get closer to your event’s date, stress for your whole team goes up. Lots of last minute tasks get put on your to-do list. What’s a great way to help get you and your team’s last minute tasks completed? Add volunteers and/or interns to help.

Let’s start with volunteers.

Volunteers can be a great way to utilize free help.  How do you find these people?  Put out a call on your event’s website, through social media or at your event for help.  Fans will typically be willing to step up and help wherever and however needed.

How do you pay these people?  Most will be happy to work for free, but one way you could pay them is with free swag.  A t-shirt, hat or free piece of product can go a long way.  If you really wanted to go out, you could offer free or half off admittance to your event.

Volunteers can have a wide age range.

Now let’s take a look at interns.  Interns are another great way to utilize free help.  This group is probably working towards college credit, and is in that age range.  View this group as your Timothy’s.  They probably want to be like you when they “grow up.”  The interns that I’ve worked with I’ve always tried to include in every day-to-day meeting and have made them be a part of the company.

The great thing about interns is they’re not looking for pay because the college credit is enough.  But again treat them right, give them some swag and make them apart of your event.

One thing to remember: our goal here is to help alleviate stress.  As you add volunteers and interns, you’ll want to look for self-starters that can dive in and take the bull by the horns.

Have you used volunteers or interns for your event?  How have they helped with your last minute tasks?

Instagram Changes For Your Events

Recently, Instagram changed the way their app works and started allowing 15 second video uploads.  To me, this became a game changer, and it also adds a new component to event social strategies.

First, how does this become a game changer?  Easy.  Vine (which we’ve talked about before) was attempting to become a place for posting short, 6 second video updates.  Since Vine was owned by Twitter, the app was finding a home on many a smartphone.  I believe Instagram, by adding the video feature, will now squash Vine.  I’ll even be so bold as to tell you to get out your smartphone and delete Vine.  I know I haven’t opened Vine sent this update to Instagram.

This is great news for your events because it’s now one less social media app you have to work.  Hopefully you’ve added Instagram to your social media toolkit.  Now you can start uploading videos along with photos.  Instagram has a force like Facebook behind the app, and with that comes a much wider reach, and Instagram can also tie into your events Facebook page.

What is a good Instagram strategy?  I would encourage you to push photos of your event to your Instagram feed, but now incorporate video testimonials from attendees and short videos from your event speakers.

One note to remember: as of right now you can’t pull in video from your camera roll.  Video has to be recorded within the app.  I think this stinks and would love to see a change to that soon.

Are you using Instagram for your events?  Will this change encourage you to start incorporating it more in your Social Media Strategy?

Event Interactions, Part 2

In a previous post, we looked at how your brand and event interacts with your attendees. I recounted a story a friend of mine shared of a famous actress telling my friend that she always has to be one. I also shared with you two interactions with brands I’ve had.

Today I wanted to discuss what little things you can do to convey that same excitement with your event (and by extension your brand) that your attendees expect.  Here are a few ideas from an attendee on how to make interaction better at your events:

  1. Greeters. Do you have greeters for your event in the parking lot? If an event is at a new location, station people outside to direct attendees to the appropriate location to sign in or register. Even if it’s not, a friendly face can go a long way.
  2. Stand Up. Attendees walk in to registration desk and are greeted by people sitting down. Ask these people to stand up. There are times when they can sit down and rest, but for the most part interaction with people standing up is more exciting than someone sitting down.
  3. Directions. Attendees always need directions somewhere, and the last thing we want is make a right and you’ll find it. Make sure all of team members are prepared to answer those questions, and if they can’t answer them, they can get attendees to the right place. Pre-printed instructions to restaurants or places of interest would be a great idea here.
  4. Identical shirts. In my previous post, I talked about how much I enjoyed going into the Apple Store. You can easily identify their employees by the blue shirts they wear. Find a similar situation that works for you so the event team can be easily identified.

Have you found something that works for your event that has set it apart from other events?

Brand Interaction, Part 1

A friend of mine was telling me a story recently of riding on a plane with a famous actress that he went to elementary school with. He was flying home from work and happened to sit next to her. He noticed the flight attendant coming down the aisle, and when she got to the actress, the flight attendant’s attitude completely changed. The flight attendant was more excited because it was the actress than a regular passenger. For the rest of the flight, the flight attendant treated the actress differently than any of the other passengers.

My friend decided to ask the actress about this, and she replied it’s the toughest part of being an actress and public figure. People expect the actress to react with the same excitement and enthusiasm they have of meeting the actress.

The same can be said for your event and by extension, your brand. People expect you to be as excited about your event as they are.

Let me give you another example. I love to go to the Apple Store if for nothing more than to just hang out in the store. There is something about the people working in there that sucks me in every time. They have an enthusiasm about their product, about their brand and about their service. They want to share that enthusiasm with you so much that it becomes contagious.

One last real world example from me: I went to IKEA recently, and in fairness, I’ve only interacted with their brand a couple of times. My daughter saw something she wanted, and I asked a sales associate were the item was located. Her reply was, “somewhere over there.” I wondered in that area for a little while only to discover it was on the opposite side of where the sales associate pointed.

Moral of these stories is when you or anyone from your team interacts with your event attendees, make sure they have as much excitement about your event as the attendee.

In part two we’ll look at ways your event can achieve the same level of excitement as your attendees.

Adding A Content Marketing/Social Media Specialist To Your Event

Chances are you have several different people on your team, but I bet there’s one position that you don’t have. In this day and age, I consider this position to be vitally important to the success of any event, and that is the position of Content Marketing/Social Media Specialist.

A Content Marketing/Social Media Specialist is a needed position because this role can help you push content to your events various Social Media platforms.  These platforms are essentially free marketing for your event.

Let’s outline the responsibilities of this position within your organization:

  • Responsible for posting to Twitter, Facebook Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and other Social Media platforms.
  • Responsible for writing and posting three blogs a weekly to event blog.
  • Responsible for using analytics to gauge interaction with blog and social media platform.
  • Responsible for coordinating social media marketing campaign with input from Event Planner and Marketing Manager.
  • Responsible for connecting and engaging with followers on various Social Media platforms.

These are just a few of the areas a great Content Marketing/Social Media Specialist can help you with, and I’m sure you can add to this list very easily.

In this current environment, this position might be a luxury. There are some creative ways you could add this to your team.

  1. Outsource.  There are many people who do this type of work who would be willing to come on-board for a short period of time to help you handle these responsibilities.  These people can be paid hourly or via retainer.
  2. Intern. Interns are free work. and they do leave you at a certain point. Many colleges have added a Social Media degree. College students do have new and fresh ideas. Worth getting them involved for sure.
  3. Volunteers. There is a chance you could find a volunteer who would be willing to help in exchange for free admittance into your event or some other swag. One way to find them is to mention it at your event or on your Social Media platforms.
  4. Internally. This one might be tricky. Could these responsibilities be divided amongst your current team? What is that one more thing they could take on concerning social media?

In what other ways could a Content Marketing/Social Media Specialist help your team?

WIFI At Events

True confession time again: I’m a WIFI snob. When I show up at an event, hotel, church or business, I immediately look to see if they have WIFI. In this modern day and age, having WIFI is a must in my book, and I love that retail outlets have started offering this service in their stores. Target and JC Penny are two stores that have recently made it available.

WIFI at your event is a must! I would consider WIFI number one on my list of event must have’s.

There is a small chance the event location doesn’t have WIFI available. If that’s the case, work with the location on supplying that. You might have to bring in WIFI on your own.

Speed is a big concern as well. Most people have VERY slow internet connections at their homes, and then there are the few of us that have REALLY fast connections.  Look to find a moderate speed with 5 – 10 Megabytes Per Second download speed.  As I write this, I’m sitting in Panera, and their internet download is almost 30 MBPS!  That’s crazy fast and even surprised me!

The number of people who can access an internet connection can be limited as well. Work to make sure all the systems in place will accommodate the load your attendees are going to put on the system. Let’s say your having 100 attendees at your event. Well plan on all of those 100 people having smartphones that can and will access the WIFI, and that number doesn’t include your team members and other devices the attendees bring with them.

WIFI isn’t just for people to surf the net. It’s also so people will have access to email and, more importantly, social media networks. WIFI is also available so people can use various note taking apps like Evernote.

Working With An A/V Company

Every event has some sort of audio and visual (A/V) needs. Picking the right one can make or break your event.

Choosing the right one for your event can be a process. How do you do that?

  • Step one: Find a company that is close by your event. Working with one a few hundred miles could be your only option, but if it’s your primary, you will have transportation costs on top of standard rental fees.
  • Step two: Once you’ve found a company you’re ready to work with, ask for references. The last thing you want is for them to show up having over promised and under delivered. If they don’t have any references, they’re not a very reputable company. I would move on to another company.
  • Step three: Communicate ALL your needs up front. By this point, you have all the riders in front of you from bands and speakers. Hand those over to the A/V company as they’ll be able to interpret all the technical jargon for you. Don’t forget your needs for breakout sessions. And never assume the A/V company will have something on their truck.  They’re not mind readers. At this point in your communications, give the A/V company the events schedule. This will help them plan necessary equipment and technicians being in the right place at the right time.
    One other minor thought about communicating: if your event has a dress code and you would like the techs looking a certain way, be sure to mention that early on. Since these techs have to crawl and climb to setup lights and speakers, they may be dressed in shorts. That may or may not work for your closing banquet, for example.
  • Step four: Be ready to pay A/V company when they get on site. This varies from company to company, so be sure to have this coordinated early on.

A reputable company will know what they need to do to make sure your event comes off successfully. Trust them.

How do you work with your A/V company? Any hidden secrets you’ve discovered?