3 Ways to Inject Micro-influencing Into Your Event

What do you say when potential keynote speakers or exhibitors ask you what kind of media attention they’ll get by participating in your event?

What do you say when potential keynote speakers or exhibitors ask you what kind of media attention they’ll get by participating in your event?

Do you clear your throat and change the subject? Do you chuckle and say something like, “What do you think this is, Comic-Con? CES?”

Both you and they know you don’t have the star power to attract the attention of television and newspaper reporters. There will be no reality TV stars making appearances on your showfloor. Bloggers will not be reporting live from your show.

Or will they?

It’s true that the digital age of marketing has given rise to the celebrity blogger, the Internet phenom who wanders the world breathlessly recording what he or she sees for millions of faithful readers.

But the evolution of social media, in its infinite diversity, has introduced us to the “micro-influencer,” the blogger who has earned the trust of a small but passionate audience, the writer who can draw that audience’s attention to your event, and who would be flattered by an invitation.

Here are the three things a micro-influencer can offer even the smallest event and how they can deliver your event’s message to a farther-flung audience.

Engagement. Studies – and common sense — tell us that as the number of followers a blogger has rises, the likes and comments, the number of people paying close attention to what they’re writing, diminishes. 

But the micro-influencer of a smaller niche audience who is “just like one of us” can make a deeper personal connection and engage in a conversation with his or her followers, not just make readers aware of a brand.

Authenticity. Readers know when a message is insincere and are quick to reject it. The micro-influencer, who is on the ground writing, has that authentic voice. He or she is “just like one of us” and their insights can be trusted.

Affordability. How much would it cost you to get a celebrity or a high-profile speaker that you hope would draw some media attention to your show? And how many free passes to the show could you afford to give micro-influencers in exchange for the number of registrations they could land for you?

Fine, you say, but who and where are these micro-influencers?

Look at your own social media activity. Who’s following you closely and frequently posting insightful comments?

In your own social media messages, use hashtags and keywords related to your industry. If you run a plastics show, for instance, try “#plasticsblogger” or “#plasticsgeek.” See who you hear from.

Roam around Google and look for the niche bloggers who are covering your show’s field of interest and your exhibiting companies.

Finally, there are influence-marketing tools and blogger networks out there. I’ll leave it to you to find the most responsible vendors peddling them.

We know digital tools can enhance events. We also know some of the technology with the greatest “wow” factor is not accessible to the smallest of shows.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way, here and there, to take advantage of the ever-changing digital age.

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

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The Promise of AI to Events: Just Wait

The idea that a robot might take some of those chores off your perennial to-do list is enchanting but, if the experience of other industries that have made substantial investments in AI tell us anything, my caution to you would be, “Not so fast.”

Allow me one final vent on that holiday staple, the year-end list of event trends. And, more specifically, the event technology trends list.

Most of them I looked at over the past month or so had high on the list the topic of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The idea that a robot might take some of those chores off your perennial to-do list is enchanting but, if the experience of other industries that have made substantial investments in AI tell us anything, my caution to you would be, “Not so fast.”

Health care is one industry that is probably as far along as any other in its application of AI to processes. For example, amassing all the data that a large health care organization may have collected on, say, breast cancer, it can take the results of all the tests given to a particular patient and automatically make a recommendation of the best treatment protocol for them.

The secret ingredient, the reason this works, is that they have all that patient data and, after years of trying, have figured out how to analyze and use it.

How much data do you have on your customers and how do you use it now? Enough to be able to guess what’s going to be the pain point you need to ease for them six months from now?

The events industry is getting better, but for many years it has lagged behind other industries in its ability to collect accurate information and analyze it. That has to improve a lot before you start turning your organizations over to robots.

Health care isn’t perfect either. It is as siloed as any of them, with major institutions reluctant to share data with others, for both competitive and patient privacy reasons. Cloud computing has advanced to the point where medical institutions could be sharing data on a significant scale, but the will is not there yet.

Then think about how reluctantly you now give up information – in any form – to those you perceive as competitors.

We all have a long way to go before artificial intelligence can really have a serious impact on the events industry.

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

The Only 2019 Event Trend You Need to Know About

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across the usual end-of-year lists of event trends. Everybody with something to sell has one. I even thought of making one up myself.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across the usual end-of-year lists of event trends. Everybody with something to sell has one. I even thought of making one up myself.

Some lists seem more relevant than others; some more ridiculous than others. But not so ridiculous I can’t indulge myself and offer up what I think will be the one most important event trend of next year: Volatility and anxiety.

In the places where you least expect it, there will be surprises, and even where there isn’t a surprise, there will be the anticipation that one is just around the corner.

If your customers and business associates aren’t telling you they’re anxious about the economy and the business climate in the near future, you’re just not listening to them.

Talk about tariffs, the odd items disappearing from store shelves without explanation, the slowdown in business investment, the increasing mistrust of institutions and the questions about stability at the highest levels of government…it’s got everybody nervous, even if you don’t want to admit it.

And it will affect your business.

Those who can make adjustments are doing so. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “revisions” by Deutsche Messe to CEBIT and by Reed Exhibitions to Agenda Winter Long Beach

Last week, Emerald Expositions announced it was just flat canceling next year’s Interbike International Expo and made no bones about why. Emerald Sport Group’s Executive Vice President Darrell Denny admitted, “The past four years have been difficult for the U.S. bicycle market.”

Add to that anticipated increases in bike-related tariffs, consolidation in the market and overall declines in margins and you’ve got some real anxiety to deal with.

The Q3 CEIR Total Index showed a modest increase of 1 percent and the number of exhibitors grew by a scant one-tenth of 1 percent.

Face it, something’s happening here. Those players with substantial portfolios – the Reeds and Deutsche Messe’s and Emeralds of the world – are buttoning up the hatches for the long haul.

On the supplier side, every well-established independent that can is looking for somebody to acquire it. After 41 years in business, the well-known marketing firm mdg announced it was being bought by Freeman.

How can you deal with volatility and anxiety in the coming year if you don’t have a portfolio big enough you can abandon the weak spots, or a buyer looking to snap you up?

Brace yourself. Anticipate you’re going to have to find enhanced value somewhere to offer your most loyal sponsors. Expect registrations to come in late, so find more reasons you can give attendees to show up. Expect the unexpected.

Identify your core community and figure out how to be more valuable to it than you were this year.

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

One Lesson I Learned at Tradeshow Week

With perfect hindsight about my years as editor in chief of the now-defunct Tradeshow Week, I have one regret: That we focused too much on news concerning the largest shows and the mega industry trends, all but ignoring the smaller work-a-day shows that flourish in the shadow of the International CES’s and the NAB Shows of the world.

With perfect hindsight about my years as editor in chief of the now-defunct Tradeshow Week, I have one regret: That we focused too much on news concerning the largest shows and the mega industry trends, all but ignoring the smaller work-a-day shows that flourish in the shadow of the International CES’s and the NAB Shows of the world.

However – and not that this can make up for my past misdeeds – there was news last week of two major shows that have announced significant changes that could teach organizers of smaller shows something: 

Deutsche Messe is canceling the next edition of CEBIT and Reed Exhibitions will not hold its Agenda Winter Long Beach in January.

Each news item though carries a “but” with it.

Said Jochen Kockler, CEO of Deutsche Messe, “We are currently examining the digital market to determine which remaining CEBIT topics we will develop into new events.”

And a new improved Agenda Winter Long Beach will resurface  as a B2C “festival” that will, according to a press release “merge streetwear, sports, lifestyle and fashion with music, art, food and education.”

Both major show organizers are facing the fact that the marketplace that each event serves has changed.

You have to give Deutsche Messe credit for hanging on with CEBIT for about 15 years after it became clear that, with the demise of COMDEX, there was no longer a need for a horizontal trade show in the IT market.

Ron Walden, vice president of fashion and lifestyles for Reed’s RX Group said, “The business of fashion for our customers has changed dramatically over the past five years. That makes meaningful experiences with consumers more important than ever for our customer brands, both big and small.”

So what is the lesson the small annual state trade association show or the niche event that thinks it has its market covered can take from this?

That you and your show are not the center of your community’s universe. That brands are always finding new ways to connect with their markets and your followers are always discovering new platforms with which to link up with one another.

Make your end-of-the-year musing a time to reexamine the role your event plays in the life of the industry and community it serves. What changes do you need to make to remain the place everybody wants to be?

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

What Could Go Wrong?

These are unusual times, and there may be a moment of reckoning soon when our personal political sentiments will begin to collide with our professional lives.

Many of you will be reading this on Nov. 6 election, a mid-term event unlike any in recent history.

Like most of you, I adroitly attempt to keep my personal political views far away from my professional life. Few of my business associates know where I stand on political issues and I know where few of them stand.

And that is as it should be. One view many of us in the events industry do share, however, is one I have heard echoed many times: “We change lives by the commerce we create.”

Without the opportunity many of you provide to allow people to meet face to face, there would be fewer advances in technology, culture and economics. 

These are unusual times, and there may be a moment of reckoning soon when our personal political sentiments will begin to collide with our professional lives.

Despite the good news we hear about routine gains in the CEIR Index and accounts of record-breaking attendance at shows, despite the increases in gross domestic product and the historically low unemployment rate, there are reasons – even beyond stock market volatility – to suggest the gravy train is about to slow down.

The Federal Reserve is predicting that GDP will slow next year to 2 percent and to 1.8 percent in 2021. Recent corporate quarterly reports indicate business investment is growing at a very modest rate of 0.8 percent. This is even before we get to the anxiety over trade tariffs.

We have seen terrorist attacks and political crises in the past push an anxious economy over the cliff. What makes it different this time is that the work of the event organizer has become so much more complex, with stakeholders demanding much more of us than in the past.

Perhaps now, not later, is the time for you to ask yourself, in a fast-changing environment, what can I do to help the industries and communities I serve? How can I assure that, whatever happens, I am doing my part to change lives by the commerce I create?

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

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Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Customers Closer

What have you done lately to assure that the disruptors sweeping the business world do not force you and your event to take desperate measures to survive?

Three weeks ago, the National Restaurant Assn. announced it was effectively outsourcing management of its iconic National Restaurant Assn. Show

The following day, the Fashion Footwear Assn. of New York (FFANY), organizer of FFANY Market Week, and Informa, with FN Platform, said they would do a better job of coordinating dates for their respective footwear shoes.

Both are assuredly moves made for good reasons…that never would have been necessary if all of us hadn’t discovered digital tools that allow us to order meals to be delivered to us at home and to skip visits to the local shoe store.

A couple of weeks later, Sears, the veritable Amazon of its day, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

What have you done lately to assure that the disruptors sweeping the business world do not force you and your event to take desperate measures to survive?

Perhaps another example from another corner of the business world would be instructive: Two weeks ago, General Electric announced Larry Culp was its new CEO, the first time a person named to that position has not spent his entire career at the 126-year-old company.

Like the restaurant association, the footwear event organizers and Sears, GE has decided to do it another way in hopes that will be what it takes to survive. What they’re doing may offer lessons to event organizers.

Culp comes to GE from a much smaller, albeit highly successful company that indeed does things differently, the Danaher Corp.,  a manufacturing conglomerate with multiple businesses, just not as many as GE

A few days after starting his new job, Culp was on the road, visiting GE business units all over the country. You can be sure he was talking about how to incorporate the Danaher Business System, also known as DBS, into the larger, more rigid GE culture.

Unlike GE, Danaher does not operate as a corporate umbrella but, instead expects each business unit to take responsibility for itself, stay close to its customers, and be held accountable by way of metrics incorporated into DBS that are reviewed quarterly. There is no massive “GE Store” in which business units as different as power, aviation and healthcare share resources, research and technology.

Danaher executives are skeptical that economies of scale in the corporate world are meaningful. They believe the executives closest to their businesses know best how to sell products, cut inventories and improve manufacturing processes to benefit the bottom line.

Culp will be expected to incorporate the same culture at GE. What makes anybody think that will work?

Last year, GE’s revenue grew 0.8 percent; Danaher’s grew 8.6 percent. GE ended 2017 with a $5.8 billion loss in net income; Danaher’s bottom line for the year was $2.49 billion.

If you’d invested $10,000 in GE 20 years ago, you’d now have $8,690. The same amount of money invested at the same time in Danaher would give you $204,213.

What is the lesson an event organizer can take from all this? That bigger is not better, every attendee and every exhibitor matters, that you need to create business processes that make them both happy, constantly reevaluate your own performance, and stay close to your customers.

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.

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Do Tariffs Matter to the Tradeshow Manager?

The political chatter, both in the U.S. and around the world, regarding the demise of a global community and the potential threat of tariff wars can’t be good for the exhibitions business.

That’s what some seem to be saying. An informal survey of senior show organizers during CEIR Predict Sept. 13-14 near Washington, D.C., indicated there are concerns about international attendance at U.S. shows.

Some said attendees had reported delays or even denials when applying for visas to visit the United States.

If that’s the case, it is such a recent phenomenon it has not yet registered. U.S. Travel notes that travel to the United States from other countries is down, but only slightly: 1.8 percent between 2015 and 2017 with a net loss of about 900,000 visits out of a total approaching 77 million.

Nevertheless, the political chatter, both in the U.S. and around the world, regarding the demise of a global community and the potential threat of tariff wars can’t be good for the exhibitions business.

Metaphorically speaking, trade shows are the oil that greases the wheels of international commerce. The United States remains the fountain of innovation for most industries, and if people are not able to visit this country to learn about those innovations, more than just the events industry is in trouble.

Event organizers have experienced such challenges before, dating back to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the SARS scare of a few years later.

It is imperative at moments like these that event organizers tell their stories to the communities they serve. It is imperative they reinforce  to their stakeholders the value of meeting one another face to face.

Certainly, innovations in marketing and disruptive elements challenge the events industry today, but it can’t be replaced…unless we allow it to be.

Why Can’t Event Organizers Be More Like Publishers?

Does it seem to you like every publication you can think of now has its own event that competes with an organizer who once had the only conference in their space?


Does it seem to you like every publication you can think of now has its own event that competes with an organizer who once had the only conference in their space?

From the icons of the mainstream media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to the smallest niche digital trade publication, they seem determined to steal the sponsors away from the nearest association annual tradeshow.

Why would they do that? After all, you’re not getting into their business.

The best answer to that may be, why aren’t you?

Publishers are getting into events because they figured out what you’ve known for a while: That’s where the money is.

Why aren’t association shows doing a better job of competing with sharp-elbowed publishers who are branching out into events? This is not the only arena in which trade associations have been slow to adjust to a disrupted marketplace.

Consumers – who, by the way, are also B-to-B customers and partners – have quickly gotten used to the online marketplace that’s available to them 24/7. They know that there is not only a place that’s always open for them to buy products, it’s also open for them to obtain information all day and night.

I’m certainly not suggesting that event organizers go into the magazine business. (Publishers don’t even want to do that anymore.)

I am suggesting, however, that you think about going into the community-building business, which is exactly the business publishers have been in for a while.

Publishers have done this, first, by providing a news report to their community members. Why can’t you stay in contact with your community on a regular basis as a news source?

They do it by acknowledging the members of its community who do outstanding things. Why can’t you do that? Why do you wait until the annual awards banquet to recognize achievement in the industry you serve? Especially given all the digital tools you now have available to you?

Why can’t you use those same digital tools to become the 24/7 arena where your community members meet?

Why can’t you be more like a publisher?

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How to Personalize Even the Smallest of Events

When HIMSS19 opens in Orlando next February. It will be with a new twist…one that event innovators are constantly telling you to add to your own shows. 

When HIMSS19 opens in Orlando next February. It will be with a new twist…one that event innovators are constantly telling you to add to your own shows. 

The massive event focused on the healthcare information world will have nine distinct communities, each with its own programming, pre-event marketing, networking activities and even exhibit areas.

The initiative speaks to the trend toward personalization, the realization that the one-size-fits-all annual industry convention-slash-tradeshow is quickly losing its relevance. 

Fine, you say. HIMSS is a massive trade association serving a red-hot industry with an annual event that attracts 18,000 attendees with more than 300 various workshops, conference sessions, panels and plenary speakers. Its exhibit hall sprawls out over nearly 600,000 square feet, providing it a budget in the tens of millions of dollars to work with.

How could those of you who manage your own modest niche event and struggle to attract a few hundred attendees at most do anything close to this?

By remembering the keyword here is personalization. By reminding yourself the goal is to make sure every attendee walks away having accomplished the one or two specific goals they came to your event with.

HIMMS’ “communities” are defined roughly by job titles (not exactly a groundbreaking concept): IT executives, security executives, physicians, investors….whatever.

How many ways can you slice and dice the job titles you have in your database? Even if it’s just two or three, that’s a start.

And, when it comes to personalizing your event, you should start small because delivering on the promise you make your first year out is the most important thing you will accomplish.

Once you’ve decided how to segment your potential audience, what are the two or three changes you can successfully make in the first year to focus on them?

Start with segmented pre-event marketing. Maybe add a few pre-conference webinars targeting the different opportunities available at the event for each group.

Think of a small handful of distinct conference tracks, networking events or roundtable discussion opportunities. 

No matter what, remember the whole point is, first, to make it easy for people with similar interests to meet each other and, second, to allow every single attendee to accomplish their own personal goals for the event.

Michael Hart is an event consultant and conference content professional. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com, @michaelgenehart or 323-441-9654.No Fields Found.

A Profile in Courage: Detroit’s Iconic Auto Show

It would have been so easy for the Detroit Auto Dealers Assn. to say of the North American International Auto Show that it owns, “We’re the big dogs here, you meet our terms.” But they didn’t.

It would have been so easy for the Detroit Auto Dealers Assn. to say of the North American International Auto Show that it owns, “We’re the big dogs here, you meet our terms.”

But they didn’t. Instead, last month they announced major changes to what is arguably the best known car show in the world

  • The show will move its dates from late January, when it has been held for decades, to June.
  • It will expand beyond the confines of Cobo Center to a number of venues, both inside and outside, throughout Detroit.
  • The show will now include a number of interactive and immersive activities intended to engage the public, moving away from a traditional show where attendees simply walk around and look at cars.
  • It will reduce costs to exhibitors by eliminating overtime labor charges during a move-in that now stretches from November through January and by simplifying exhibit builds.

Some organizers of the country’s handful of most iconic events occasionally look up and ask themselves, “How could we ever turn this ship around?”

The Detroit Auto Show has done it and there are four important lessons any event organizer – big or small – can learn from their experience.

First, do what the industry you serve wants, not what makes you the most money.

It’s no secret that the auto industry is in transition with consumer demands changing faster than it can keep up with and economic realities bearing down on it: Just days after the announcement of changes to the event, all the Big 3 Detroit carmakers issued statements pointing out their financial forecasts for the year would be worse than previously indicated.

The exhibitors are more than happy to stop spending millions of dollars on ultra-customized booths that they then shoehorn into a relatively small Cobo Center, and only Cobo Center.

Second, the car show acknowledges that the industry’s marketing calendar has changed and nobody waits for the late January event to introduce their newest models. There is nothing sacrosanct about late January in Detroit.

Third, they recognize there have been drastic and swift changes in how companies – all companies – communicate with their consumers and they now need to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Finally, they don’t fall for their own hype. Iconic as it may have been for so many years, the Detroit Auto Show is there to serve the automotive industry, not the other way around.