5 Topics Event Strategists Need to Have on Their Radar

Earlier this year, I participated in two events at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders conference in Las Vegas. The organization asked me to create a workshop on its “7 Change Actions” learning experience and to moderate the sessions that took place on the 7 Change Actions Stage. To do this, I first had to learn this innovative framework.

Developed by PCMA, the 7 Change Actions is a seven-module learning experience, designed to help event leaders navigate the challenging times we are living in. The course is comprised of amazing content that helps you think differently and/or use frameworks to help redesign your event or business.

For my workshop, I did a deep dive into three of the Change Actions — and what a learning experience it was! I also moderated five sessions on the stage, getting the opportunity to participate in thought-provoking conversations on topics that impact how all business-event strategists operate today.

These are the five topics that resonated with me the most during my experience at the event.

1. Collaboration

One of the 7 Change Actions I covered in my workshop was collaboration. I love and have studied this topic for years, so it was fun to bring some of my insights into the workshops.

As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So, as part of looking to change business models, event strategies, etc., we need to first look at collaboration in new ways to help us get there. To start, we must determine how to fix the issues that inhibit collaboration and innovation. These issues include:

  • Functional goals superseding shared outcomes from the collaboration project
  • Unclear decision-making processes
  • Lack of effective rhythm for communicating, collaborating, and learning
  • Lack of understanding concerning the function of other team members

There are several ways to fix these, but let’s focus on the difference between coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. Coordination involves looking at the structure and architecture; alignment of activities and information; and mechanics of the project, team, and meetings. Cooperation, on the other hand, focuses on creating a collaborative environment, aligning goals and human behavior, and creating motivation. And, finally, collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. Both elements of coordination and cooperation need to be considered to ensure the collaboration can be successful.

2. Measurement

On the 7 Change Actions Stage, Nicole Moreo, EVP, head of U.S. Analytics at Ketchum, presented “The Return on Events: Measuring and Reporting Your Value.” Measurement is about counting or documenting the results of a campaign, but the real magic happens by producing knowledge and insights that support real-time optimizations, future strategy, and creative executions. Don’t fall for vanity metrics such as the number of butts in seats. You need to ask why you are tracking something in the first place — what is your “so what?” Start with the end in mind. What or who are you trying to influence? That is when you get into asking the right questions that can help you drive your event or business.

As Moreo says, “As problem-solvers, we are very eager to give the business/our boss/the client the right key we believe will fix their issue and cause the change they want to see. Every key in our toolbox is useless if we don’t find which lock we need to put it in first — the one that is ultimately responsible for changing the situation [or] behavior.”

As you know, there is an infinite number of things you can measure. The following framework from Ketchum is a great example of how you should think about what you should measure and why.


KPI Framework/Measurement Plan developed by Ketchum

Moreo, who is on the board of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), said during her presentation that AMEC has free resources that provide additional frameworks to help you decide how you can and should be measuring your events. Check it out and see if you can use any of these tools to look like a rockstar!


Framework developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

3. Focus on Storytelling

The second session I moderated on the stage, “Making More with Less: Content Hacks to Drive Engagement and ROI,” was led by Bob Hitchcock, senior director of content marketing at LegalZoom. First and foremost, Hitchcock is a storyteller, and he stressed that storytelling is really all about creating emotion. (He worked for Disney for 11 years in PR and content marketing, after all, so he knows what he is talking about.)

During the session, he told a story about how to make meaningful content using video. LegalZoom wanted to showcase how easy it is to start a business with the service, and they wanted to launch a video in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Once they found a successful entrepreneur from the Latino community, Hitchcock went to work. This example showed how easy it was to create content that costs nothing, other than time to create some questions and to film and edit (using free software) the video. Think about how you can easily create something that can evoke emotion without having a hefty expense hitting your P&L!

4. Skillsets and Ingenious Thinking

This session titled “Build the Event Team of the Future by Unlocking Cross-Functional Collaboration” was pretty fun and featured an engaging panel with Michael Guillory and Nicole O’Leary from The Expo Group and Jay Weintraub of Connectiv. In addition to the power of collaboration, they focused on the skillsets of the team and ingenious thinking:

  • Skillsets: Project management, along with strategy and execution skills, will be in high demand. Hiring managers should look for talent who can work in the gray area (which we have been living in for the past two years) and are intuitive and diverse. Ask yourself: Are we hiring using those criteria, or are we just filling in the gaps left by the pandemic? Determine what your future looks like and hire for that need.
  • Ingenious thinking: Look for exponential versus incremental changes and growth. Lean into your partners. Use the “kill or keep” exercise to clean your slate of events. Determine what your clients/attendees need now and only keep those who meet the new need.

Part of the ingenious thinking discussion was discipline and focus. In my personal experience, if you have more than three to five KPIs or headline metrics, you have too many. Take the time to figure out what you are really trying to accomplish and focus only on those things. There are only so many resources to go around, so make sure they are focused on the right things.

Lastly, Weintraub said that one of the things that have made him successful in starting, building, and selling events was “making everyone feel special” on his team. How cool is that? Is that a core value or mandate in your organization?

5. Delivering Value

One of the other 7 Change Actions I went over during my workshop was value delivery and creation. PCMA worked with Mark Payne of Fahrenheit 212 to help determine how to deliver value to your customers while serving the needs of the business (aka generating revenue).

As event leaders, we are good at brainstorming ideas on all the things we could do to make things more fun or engaging or easy, or…you get my point. What is generally missing is, how do you tie those new, innovative ideas into revenue-generating opportunities? The following framework is a good start. It looks at the needs of the consumer (or event attendee, exhibitor, etc.) and the needs of the business (or association/organization).


Make sure you are looking at both sides of this two-sided solution. You can check out this YouTube video to see some frameworks Payne created that you could use to help solve this problem.

The world is very different from what it was two years ago, and we need to look at new ways to learn about, and serve, our audiences or customers. The 7 Change Actions framework was built specifically for event professionals but can also apply to most business problems. It is a great resource if you want a methodology that can help you and your team think differently. But don’t forget to coordinate and cooperate before you collaborate and do your best to make people feel special!

By: Heidi (Voorhees) Haneberg, CAE, is the senior vice president of strategic projects at MCI USA.

How to Brand Your Event Through Personalization

When we think about an event, we think of the product itself — the final destination after many months, sometimes years, of planning and preparation. We think about the education, the exhibits, and the networking with fellow attendees, but that is only half of it. As event producers, we must think about all these things, while also focusing on the who and the how. Who are the event attendees and how do we promote all the aspects of our show to connect with that audience?

 

Defining the audience is key in creating a brand personality for your event, and it’s the first step in the process. Let’s picture an event as a gathering place where you want to position your show as a trusted industry expert pertaining to a specific community, and even an extension of it. Once you have your industry, focus the microscope a little closer to establish key demographic details. What is the average age range of your audience? How do they communicate with each other, with casual language or formal? Where, digitally, do they gather? If your audience is comprised of Gen Z young adults, you may want to brush up on your internet humor and TikTok skills. If you’re trying to draw a more experienced generation of academics or professionals, LinkedIn might be your focus. Once you’ve established where your audience can be found and the way they connect and communicate with each other, translate that into your brand’s unique voice.

 

Creating Your Event’s Brand Voice

It’s time to stop thinking about your event or service as inanimate and start thinking about it as a persona — a character who would be a part of your desired community. Your character may have a sense of humor in their writing if your audience does, or they may be technical and informative in their language. Perhaps it’s somewhere in between. Your brand’s voice is this character and should be incorporated into every written aspect of your event’s brand across website, social media, graphics and ads, and even onsite signage. Personality and branding are everything for today’s consumers and will help create a vivid image and understanding of what your event is and who it’s for.

 

Visualizing Your Event’s Brand

Once you’ve established your audience and your voice, what does that look like? These aspects should affect all other details of the brand, from your name to your colors to the imagery used. Is your voice light and fun? Then the name of your event should be short, snappy, trendy and, perhaps, leave a little to the imagination to be mysterious but also desirable.

 

For example, if your persona is catering to, say, Gen Z-ers, those audiences tend to be more drawn to clever and creative branding than to the details. Draw them in first with a clever name and captivating imagery, then hit them with specifics. An example of this would be MCI Strategic Events, Meetings & Incentives’ (SEM&I) Investment and Management Partnership event Lift & Co. The name is short, trendy, and offers an enticing air of mystery. When catering to a more professional-oriented, experienced audience, you may want to start with the specifics. That trait should be reflected in your name as something longer yet to the point and informative. An example of this would be MCI SEM&I’s Strategic Event Management client OCEANS Conference & Exposition. The name reflects exactly what it is but also changes year after year to reflect additional details: OCEANS 2022 Hampton Roads.

 

To select your brand’s color palette, you will need to research your industry and competitors. Certain colors are reflective of various industries on an allegorical and symbolic level, often associated with moods and elements of technology and nature. To better understand this, research color symbolism to select the best colors to represent the emotions and story you want your brand to convey. Brainstorm how you can use these colors and their connotations to your advantage and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

 

When getting started selecting a brand palette, create a mood board of visuals that are reflective of your company persona and industry. Choose stock photos that convey the emotions you want your audience to connect to. Then take this mood board image and upload it to Adobe Color Wheel under the Extract Theme tab. This tool will take your photo collage and pick out coordinating colors from it, offering you sample brand palettes. This is an excellent way to form ideas of what you want your color palette to look like based on the mood and visual story you wish to convey.

 

No matter your industry or audience, you’ll always want to see how you can be timelier and more relevant than your competitors. In terms of colors and visuals, you should always be aware of what is on-trend. If your audience is not aware of branding trends, then you can almost guarantee your competitors might not find trendiness to be a priority, but it will certainly set you apart and could even help draw additional audiences outside your longstanding demographic.

 

Current trends we are seeing with branding across all products and services are:

  • Simplistic designs that evoke elegance and ease.
  • Nostalgic designs are reminiscent of brand trends from decades past, which older audiences love to relive and younger audiences desire to make their own.
  • Humanization. This ties into voice but is relevant across all aspects of branding. Audiences crave a strong personality. Recent trends include the use of humor and memes, but it is important to be aware of how your audience reacts to and understands the current internet culture. For some demographics, a little personalization and unique character are all you need.
  • Video has become a key component to many brands and their digital presence, significantly more than still photos. Video is more personal and inviting.
  • Storytelling. Show the entire story of your event, visually and written.
  • Social responsibility. In this day and age, it is imperative that individuals and brands are aware of important social issues. Audiences today want to see that we are mindful of the current climate of the world and are respectful and accommodating of it.

 

Brand personality is key and a significant means of better connecting to your audience and drawing them in, inspiring brand loyalty and a community centered around your event. As event marketers, we want to show our attendees that we understand them and that we are one of them. Connect to your audience as a peer, and you will gain their trust while also positioning yourself as an industry leader in your field and a highly valued event in the desired community. Show your difference and the humanization behind the message, and the tickets will sell.

 

Written By:

Juliana Pearce is a marketing specialist in MCI USA’s Strategic Events, Meetings & Incentives business unit. She has been with MCI for three years and continues to develop marketing materials, campaigns, and creative content for both SEM&I event clients and MCI. She is based out of the Dallas office. In her free time, she loves to explore creative writing, photography, travel, and cooking.

5 Ways to Increase Event Attendance

Sell, sell, sell — that’s all we think about when wanting to increase event presence as much as possible. Not only is it a top goal, but it also creates a lot of pressure and can be a huge stressor for most event companies and marketers.

Let’s relieve some of that stress with these five tips on how you can increase event attendance right away.

1. Leverage your email list.

Email marketing is critical when promoting an upcoming event. Let’s start with personal invites. This is a great way to increase awareness, while also providing a human-centric touch. People want personalization in their emails; they want to feel special and to be seen as individuals. Personal invites also stand out in someone’s inbox as highly relevant, as they are tailored specifically to them. Use this tactic with your email list and encourage your sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, etc., to do the same.

Share your event in creative ways such as in a newsletter or through a video invite. Video can facilitate a more personal connection than written content and can be an emotional driver that helps increase sales and generate long-term customers.

Also, drive your content through list segmentation, which allows you to get granular with your content and the audience you are speaking to. Audience segmenting is a key driver for personalization as well. By dividing your audience into segments and tailoring your message to each one, you have a better chance of connecting with each customer, hitting them with information that’s specific to them.

2. Use ad retargeting and geofencing.

Retargeting can be used to reengage (or “retarget”) people who came to your website to buy a ticket or register for your event, but they never completed the transaction. This technique displays relevant ads to past website visitors while they’re browsing other sites online. Your ad should encourage them to revisit your site and finish their purchase. Don’t be afraid to generate a sense of urgency in your creative and messaging.

Geofencing is another great way to market your event to a particular group or audience around a specific targeted area. Geofencing allows you to set virtual boundaries around a geographic area. When someone enters that area, their mobile device sets off an action, such as a push notification, etc.

You can use geofencing in a few ways, but for building attendance, target competitor events. You can do this through the location, date, and time of the competitor’s event and then creating a value proposition to entice the person to click the ad.

3. Offer discounts.

Discounts are a great way to reward people for registering for an event. A small discount strategy can incentivize ticket purchases and drive sales. So, whether it’s early-bird rates, discount codes, or referral codes, you want to get inventive when applying discounts.

Discounts can be essential in developing your marketing strategy; however, if you don’t use discounts correctly, you risk losing your brand’s value.

Pros for Using Discounts Cons for Using Discounts
Drives more sales volume

Brings in new customers

Builds relationships with loyal patrons

Creates buyer urgency

Helps people choose your event over competitors’

Can decrease profit margins

Can lower perceived worth of event

Showcasing to people who only value discounts

Shifts focus from event value to price

Competitive price war

Before you decide on a discount strategy, make sure you set your goals. Your objectives will define the type of discount you can offer. There are many ways to use discounts, and to avoid any uncertainty, map out a transparent approach. Having these options outlined gives you flexibility when it comes to ticketing, which will make it easier to sell at all stages of event promotion.

4. Develop lookalike audiences.

You have people who previously purchased tickets to your event, and now you want to find more just like them. A great way to do this is by creating lookalike audiences through mail lists and social channels.

A lookalike audience lets your ads reach new people who may be interested in your event because of their similarities to your current customers. Most social channels have the technology you need to find lookalike audiences.

5. Gather and analyze digital analytics from your event to learn from activity.

The more you know about how visitors found you, the more educated you are in making decisions to advocate in the right places online. Without this knowledge, you won’t know the potential problems your event’s online presence is facing or be able to make any important changes.

Web analytics is defined as “the measurement and analysis of data to inform an understanding of user behavior across web pages.” Analytics data shows whether your marketing is working and areas where you can improve. This type of insight can benefit your events.

Here are six ways to get started measuring digital analytics:

  • Choose an analytics platform that works for you and your current software. Google Analytics is a good and free place to start.
  • Set up tracking by placing pixels and integrating API on all pages of your website.
  • Create segments of your overall audience by collecting data from your pixels. As previously mentioned, segmenting your audience is a huge marketing benefit.
  • Track your progress. This is established by your analytics tool once it is configured and set up.
  • Report and analyze the data being provided by the analytics tool and grow your event.
  • Define and measure your goals by different variables.

Attendance marketing can be difficult; however, by implementing these five tips into your everyday marketing strategy, you are sure to be off to a great start. Remember, having a plan is key, and creating opportunities for personalization is a must.

Looking to grow your events audience? Contact us so we can help you grow! [fusion_button link=”https://mcievents.com/contact/” title=”” target=”_self” link_attributes=”” alignment_medium=”” alignment_small=”” alignment=”” modal=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” sticky_display=”normal,sticky” class=”” id=”” color=”default” button_gradient_top_color=”” hue=”” saturation=”” lightness=”” alpha=”” button_gradient_bottom_color=”” button_gradient_top_color_hover=”” button_gradient_bottom_color_hover=”” gradient_start_position=”” gradient_end_position=”” gradient_type=”” radial_direction=”” linear_angle=”180″ accent_color=”” accent_hover_color=”” type=”” bevel_color=”” bevel_color_hover=”” border_top=”” border_right=”” border_bottom=”” border_left=”” border_radius_top_left=”” border_radius_top_right=”” border_radius_bottom_right=”” border_radius_bottom_left=”” border_color=”” border_hover_color=”” size=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” fusion_font_family_button_font=”” fusion_font_variant_button_font=”” font_size=”” line_height=”” letter_spacing=”” text_transform=”” stretch=”default” margin_top=”” margin_right=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” icon=”” icon_position=”left” icon_divider=”no” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]Learn More[/fusion_button]

Jenn Karsner, senior marketing manager, Strategic Events, Meetings, and Incentives, comes to MCI USA with an entrepreneurial mindset that was sharpened by owning her own business. This spirit is coupled with the event experience she gained from more than 10 years of running and managing events and marketing. Jenn loves to travel and spend time with her son.

How the pandemic has changed corporate meetings

Part of delivering the right solutions for our clients is curating expertise across a variety of professions, functions, and specialties. MCI USA took the same approach with a panel discussion we recently hosted to discuss “How the Pandemic Has Changed the Corporate Meetings Landscape.”

Moderated by Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, vice president of corporate meetings and events for MCI USA, the panel featured expert speakers from across hospitality and events: Meghan Braswell, national account sales manager for MUY; Jason Cohen, director of global accounts for Accor; Hans Kung, manager of pharma for MCI Canada; and Jason Miller, managing partner of Tallen Technology Rentals.

The wide-ranging conversation — the latest in MCI USA’s ongoing series of programs addressing how COVID is continuing to alter live meetings and events — covered everything from increasingly stringent health and safety protocols, digital and virtual options, and broader planning windows, to limits on international attendees, serving as a trusted resource for clients, and being forced to adapt, improvise, and innovate.

The entire session is worth a watch, but here are four key takeaways for meeting and event professionals working with third parties:

  1. Be upfront:“Let us know what your expectations are,” Braswell said, “so we can let you know if we’re a good fit and help you come up with a solution.”
  2. Be patient:“ You’re not going to get an answer within 24 hours sometimes, and it’s not because people are ignoring you,it’s because we have one salesperson now where we used to have four,” Kung said. “It’s really trying to promote an understanding between all of us that we just want our clients to be able to meet in person again, and we need to work together to make that possible.”

3.Be flexible:“ Especially for 2022 and even 2023, there’s been so much shift in programs that availability in key markets or key hotels or for very large groups is going to be tough, ”Cohen said. “High seasons in most places are already full, so having that flexibility and explaining to your internal stakeholders that we can’t just work with one set of dates.”

  1. Be adaptive:“We’ve found multiple different ways to have events, and it’s really important that we continue to do that,” Miller said. “The clients we have that are doing that—that are finding ways to meet, regardlessif it’s live, hybrid, or virtual — are the ones that are accelerating through this.”