Live Polling Your Audience

I recently read an article by Dan Schwabel entitled “How Millennials See Meetings Differently.” In this article, he highlights ways to better engage this generation (born between 1980 and 2000) in meetings. Schwabel says, “While older
professionals seek the traditional meeting
model, millennials are looking
for something more interactive. Instead of a speaker giving a
presentation for an hour, they
would rather have the majority
of that hour be Q&A. This is a
generation that wants to be heard
and have conversations instead
of listening to a presentation
straight through.”

Schwabel suggests incorporating live polling as a way to actively engage this younger generation. He says, “73% of millennials are interested in being part of live polls during event sessions. They are eager to have their votes count and to be part of presentations in any way they can, even though they are merely a participant.”

So, what is live polling, and how does it work?

A poll is a question or prompt you want your audience to interact with. Live polling means it is done in real-time. Though different companies have different methods for presenting the data collected, most of them allow voting and responses through Twitter, text and/or a website with login information specific to your event. Thus, it is important for your event location to have free Wi-Fi available (another expectation Schwabel shares of the millennial generation).

According to SMS Poll, a web-based polling company, there are very specific benefits to live polling:

  • Find out what your audience is thinking at any moment in time.
  • Grab your audience’s attention by starting your presentation with a thought-provoking question.
  • Actively involve your audience in the presentation – keep them engaged and interested in what you have to say.
  • Increase audience participation through anonymous responses.
  • Allow the crowd to provide instant presenter feedback.
  • Wow your audience with animated charts that update in real-time.

With most web-based polling companies, there are different pricing structures based on number of questions asked, number of participants and how the results are processed. By researching various companies, you can choose the polling program best suited for your event. Here are a few you could start with: SMS Poll, Poll Everywhere, Audience Opinion and AnswerQwik.

Have You Heard of BidPal?

We’re always looking for ways to help improve and streamline your event planning, organization and execution. If you’ve got a charitable fundraiser coming up, you should know about BidPal.

Bidpal is an electronic system that replaces the paper tally sheets that usually accompany a silent auction of multiple items at a charity fundraiser. You know, the ones that sit in front of items, or photos and descriptions of items around a large room, where you walk around and pencil in your name and bid?

BidPal uses handheld devices that look like a smart phone, which guests receive on arrival. They are pre-loaded with photos and descriptions, but guests can still walk around and see the items for bidding in person. There are simple buttons for guests to push to bid on an item, plus other features like the ability to receive bid alerts, and watch favorite items.

If you decide to use the BidPal system ( the company will assign you an event consultant that will help prepare for the big event. They will also conduct a survey of your event site, and provide someone to set up a wireless network, monitor the equipment/information during the event, train your volunteers, and generally manage the BidPal system for you.

BidPal claims that when their system is used, organizations see an average of three times more bids per item. And that means more profit at the end of the evening.

This sounds like a user friendly tech tool that could end up being quite profitable. I would love to hear from anyone in our audience who has used BidPal and what their experience was like. What other technology tools make fundraising easier and more profitable for your clients?

App Highlight: Crowd Compass

CrowdCompass is an app that came to our attention a few weeks ago and we thought we’d show you some of its features. We’re not getting paid to talk about this app, we’re passing along a possible resource, hoping to make your next event better. So, here we go . . .

CrowdCompass is an event app tailored specifically for individual events. Your attendees will enjoy:

  • Interactive Maps: showing them exactly where they are, what is around them and how to get there.
  • Push Notifications: if a breakout session is moved at the last minute- you can let everyone know, right in their event app.
  • Individualized Schedules: Schedules set during registration show up with all the details on a user’s schedule within the app. Reminders can also show up to help an attendee keep appointments and remember things they don’t want to miss.
  • LinkedIn Integration: CrowdCompass uses your attendees LinkedIn profiles to fill out their photo and other profile information within the app. Now they don’t need to re-enter all of that in again!
  • Share Photos and Text To Event Feed: Users can post picture, comments, and questions on the event feed within the app.
  • Sponsor Showcase: Logos of your sponsors can be a part of the app. More exposure for them!
  • Metric City: 30 plus metrics allow you to see what your users are interested in and give you lots of information to help you improve the event in session, and in the future.

This seems like a great tool to use for larger, more complicated events. And with the interactive map feature, it would be a wonderful help to attendees if your event is scattered over a large area, or different parts of a city. Have you used an event app that was worth the time and investment? Please let us know!

Free Webcast Training Opportunities

M&C Meetings and Conventions is putting on two webcasts in the next two months that I thought I’d pass along to you. I love webcasts, because I can tune in to great training without the time or expense of travel.

June 18 Wednesday 2 pm ET
Risk Management Basics for Meeting Professionals
“You might not have the budget or resources to establish a high-level risk management program. However, all meeting professionals should put these essential measures in place to protect their organizations and attendees.”
CMP Credit: C Risk Management 1 hour
Moderator: Loren G. Edelstein, Editor in Chief, M&C
Speaker: Bruce McIndoe, CEO, iJet International

July 17, Thursday, 2 pm ET
How To Succeed at Strategic Meetings Management
“A strategic meetings management program is a big undertaking; in fact more SMMP efforts fail than succeed. We talk to experts about what approaches have worked best for them, and what they’re doing to build on their successes.”
CMP Credit: Strategic Planning, 1 hour.
Moderator: Michael J. Shapiro, M&C Senior Editor

You can also watch previous webcasts on topics ranging from avoiding contract disputes to creative menu planning on a budget.  Enjoy these helpful and convenient training opportunities. Do you know of any free webcasts coming up for event professionals? Leave the details in the comments section.

How To Create a Dynamite Resource List for Your Next Event

Events are about connections, with people, and with information resources. When I finish a conference or event, I sometimes get frustrated with my pile of business cards, and tiny scraps of paper with scribbled names of books and websites. One step towards a more organized pool of resources is a list compiled by YOU the event organizer.

Let’s talk content and format.

To get great content, reach out to your organizing and presenting teams. Ask them about resources that they think would be particularly valuable to your guests.  Books, audio files, You Tube videos, journals, websites, magazines, bloggers, podcasts; the world is their oyster. Also ask them what main problem each resource solves.

Tip: To freshen things up, why not organize a list by felt need? Maybe you could use questions, or statements. For example:

At a writers conference you might use headings like:

  • Do I need an agent?
  • I have a completed manuscript, now what do I do?
  • What should I include on my website?

Under these questions you could put several resources suggested by your teams. If you’re really awesome, include an icon next to each one that shows what type of resource it is, like an ear for an audio file.

Make your content available in pdf format and available online for download. You could also print out copies, as some people prefer hardcopies to jot notes and file for later. This wonderful list of resources could be given to attendees after they arrive, or even made available to them after they register. If you take the time to create something like this, talk it up! Let the marketing department know about the little gem that you have created, it’s very possible they could use it in lead gathering and event promotion.

Do you create a resource list for your guests? How do you distribute it?

Struggling to Manage Your Event Guest List and Check In?

Your guest list has just been modified and you are rushing to print the updated copy for all of your check-in staff manning the doors. You’re handing out the new list, and scanning the crowd for the VIP’s you need to greet personally.  Sound familiar? If so, there’s a new app available that might be just what you are looking for- Zkipster, billed as a “Guest List App for Event Planners”.

Zkipster is cloud based, which means all of the information is stored on a big server somewhere that you access via the app you download to your iPad or tablet. Yes, it works on ios or Win 8.  You can use multiple iPads or tablets and all see people checking in in real-time with instant updating. That means if I check in Mr. John Doe, then the other three people with iPads will also see his name as checked in. Sweet!

Last minute add ons or subtractions are no big deal, and you can set it up to notify you when certain people check in, like VIP’s or volunteers. Security is tight on this service, so you don’t have to worry about the names on your guest list getting out. They offer SSL encryption “up to Swiss banking standards.”

Cost. It’s $75 per event if you want to pay as you go, $165 per month for an annual plan, or $185 per month for a seasonal plan with billing every four months. On each of these you can have multiple lists per event, so if you have a pre-session that only 50 people are signed up for, you can keep that list separate from the main session list.

A few add ons are available for an extra fee, one I particularly like is the ability to add a photo to each guest. If you’d like to try this out, just create an account at and then download the app from the app store. I hope I get a chance to try this out in the near future, it sounds great, and I’d love to give my printer a rest!

How do you handle your guest list?

Event Planning Publications

I love print publications, turning the pages, hearing from different authors, tagging articles for reference with sticky notes, and sometimes tearing out photos to add to my idea folders.

If you’re looking for a print publication to help inspire and guide you, you might want to subscribe to one of these event-focused magazines.  Here’s a quick run down of what they offer and how often they are published. All of the magazines listed here are free to receive!

  1. This magazine is geared towards those marketing an event- online, in person, and through print advertising. It is published bimonthly. You can also sign up for a biweekly electronic newsletter.
  2. “Event planning news, ideas and resources.” Published quarterly. If you are a visual person you’ll enjoy the array of beautiful photos on the website and in the magazine.
  3. Inspiration and ideas for faith-based planners. Published bimonthly. Their website site also offers regional guides for different spots in the US for event planners.
  4. From event furniture trends to new airline policies this magazine looks at large and small issues effecting event planners and their many responsibilities. Published monthly.

Where do you need fresh inspiration? Do you need to research new technology, communication or management strategy? Think about your particular needs and how one or more of these publications might serve you. Where do you find most of your inspiration? Please share in the comments section so that others can benefit!

Productivity Tips for Christian Event Planners

Here are a few tips I’ve found help me focus and accomplish more in the time I have each day.

Fill up early.  I can jump out of bed late, skip breakfast and hit the ground running, but that sets me up for early burn out.  To run the “marathon” of each day I need time alone with my Heavenly Father in the study of Scripture and fellowship of prayer. I also need breakfast.  These two things necessitate me getting up earlier.  If you’re a night owl, perhaps your “filling-up” time with God could happen just before you go to bed.

Touch it, place it. Are you constantly shuffling piles of paper, files, or items that need to be delivered?  “If you pick it up, don’t put it down until it’s in its place” is a rule that has helped me greatly.  It may take a little longer to get that item where it goes- but you’ll be picking it up and dealing with it once instead of two, three, or four times.

Five minutes or less? When a new task comes across my desk I used to add it to my long list of items to deal with later.  I wanted to stay focused on what I was doing and not be interrupted.  I’ve found my mental and physical “list” stays much cleaner if I ask “Will this take five minutes or less?” when a new task hits. If yes- I go ahead and knock it out.  If no, I’ll add it to my list.  It’s amazing how much this has helped!

Block the web surfing, email checking.  I set hours that I’m not going to check my email, or open my web browser.  This keeps me on-task and helps me avoid the distraction of my email ping and Facebook’s constant updates. If you need a program to make you stay out try Freedom, you tell it how long to disable your internet access.

These are a few habits of life that have increased my ability to focus and produce better results during a normal work day.  Hopefully, they assist you too!

Understanding Buyer Personas To Reach Attendees Online

David Meerman Scott has published a revised and updated forth edition of his bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.  If you are at all involved in these areas, this book is worth a read.  My blog post today is based on his teaching on buyer persona’s, and using them to reach your target audience directly.

We’ve talked multiple times about the importance of identifying your audience and their interests and needs.  As you build your event website consider this quote by Mr. Scott:

“ . . . website content too often simply describes what an organization or product does from an egotistical perspective. While information about your organization and products is certainly valuable on the inner pages of your site, what visitors really want is content that first describes the issues and problems they face and then provides details on how to solve those problems.” (The New Rules of Marketing & PR 2013)

How would your event website look different if you applied the principles outlined in this quote? Perhaps the opening page would say something like:

“Do you struggle to spend time in prayer? Join us for practical, Biblical based teaching that will change your prayer life.”

instead of,

“Come to the 2014 Prayer Teaching Event. Register by April 1 for the early bird discount.”

The first example considers the problems and needs of the event attendee/buyer, the second is more focused on the organization’s information and needs.

You should also realize that you may have multiple buyer persona’s using your site.  What if your Homeschool Event is attended by first year homeschool parents, veteran homeschool moms and women that participate in homeschool co-ops? These potential attendees are all interested in homeschooling, but with specific areas of interest.  Your event site could have prominent buttons for each of these groups–convincing them that the event will have value and content for their particular set of needs and challenges.

You need to not only know the different groups of people you are reaching out to, but also construct an online experience in a way that connects, interests and engages them.

This perspective should challenge and direct you in a way that will better represent your next event to those you are targeting.



8 Resolutions for A Christian Event Planner

1.    I will prayerfully invite God into my planning process.
2.    I will pray for those attending my event.
3.    I will care for myself physically, getting 7-8 hours of sleep, exercising, and eating healthy food regularly.
4.    I will soak my mind in God’s Word daily.
5.    I will “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to my clients, more committed to truth than pleasing others.
6.    I will not overcommit myself or those that work for me.
7.    I will find peers that can encourage and support me.
8.    I will use electronic tools (smart phone,laptop) but will limit their use to an effective, not obsessive amount of time.

What struck you as you read these eight resolutions? Was there an area that particularly appealed to or challenged you? This list isn’t meant to make you feel pressured or guilty, but to inspire you to invite our living God into your daily rhythms of life.

One prayer that I pray often is: “Holy God, as I begin this day I put it into your Hands.  Guide me to see with Your eyes, speak with Your love, and move toward those in need. I have an idea of what I need to accomplish today, but in Your infinite knowledge and wisdom guide my actions. Help me prioritize my time and give me peace with what goes undone. To You be the glory. Amen.”

Another reads:

“This is what we are about: we plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” (Emphasis added. Common Prayer Pocket Edition, 2012)

Are you resolving anything this year that will affect your event planning? Is there a prayer that you pray often or daily that helps you focus on God in the midst of your everyday?