5 Ways an Event Organizer Can Skip the Next Delta Computer Meltdown

DeltaThe only good news following the Delta Airlines debacle that led to 650 flight cancellations was that it happened on a Monday – when tens of thousands of travelers were on their way to events, not on their way home from events.

(Because many event organizers still use the old-school post-event e-mail surveys to evaluate how they did, the trip home can have as much to do with what the attendee thought of his or her event experience as anything that happened during the two or three days they were onsite.)

In the entire scope of things, those 650 cancelled flights represent only 10 percent of Delta’s flights that day. However, on an average day, Delta figures into 3,600 social conversations on Twitter. By noon on Monday, the number was closer to 43,000 – and my guess is few of them were complimentary.

How many of the passengers on those 650 flights made a last-minute decision at the airport to cancel their plans to attend the event they were headed for and went back home instead? How many of those getting and receiving the 43,000 tweets about Delta on Monday morning let that figure into the decision they would make this week about whether to attend an event later this year?

Often the process by which a potential event attendee converts to a registered attendee is quite fragile and depends on circumstances beyond your control. A sick child, a suddenly scheduled appointment with a new client, the social media horror story about cancelled Delta flights.

What can you, the organizer, do to get people to your event in this era when anybody can safely wait until the last minute to make a decision about their attendance – and then still change their mind?

  1. Make your event content vital to the attendee.
  2. Communicate the urgency of being there to obtain that content and meet the people the attendee needs to meet.
  3. Build a community that transcends the event, but means so much to its members that they can’t wait to get there to see each other.
  4. Make the event so important to your community’s constituents that being there is worth the trouble it may take to get there.
  5. Repeat.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the event industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.

What Events Can Learn from Procter & Gamble’s Marketing Reboot

P&GDefying the conventional wisdom that slicing and dicing your audience is the best form of marketing, Procter & Gamble earlier this month decided to eliminate much of its microtargeting strategies on Facebook and other social media channels.

P&G spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other company in the world – $7.2 billion this year – but, as we see, it doesn’t spend it foolishly.

Here’s the lesson for the rest of us, and one that Warwick Davies suggested in a blog post just yesterday titled “Who Is Going to Take Your Business Away?”: Your customers are people, not personas.

I know event-focused blogs these days are full of advice about speaking of your show or conference in terms of its persona, which is fine. But your customers aren’t personas; they’re real-life people.

P&G found that targeting pet owners and large families with ads for air freshener left sales stagnant at best, but when they expanded their universe to anybody over the age of 18, sales rose. In other words, it wasn’t a particular type of consumer that was interested, it was a wide range of human beings who did or did not have their own reasons for freshening up the air in their houses.

Warwick, in his blog, has a three-point plan for transforming events to reflect today’s new realities. His final point is that organizers need to “build an affinity for people, rather than just targeting personas or groups of people or things.”

He confesses, as well, that it will be hard to do, especially for event organizers who are preternaturally disposed to controlling every part of the event process. But, Warwick concludes – and I agree – if we don’t do it, somebody else will.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhrt3@gmail.com.

Is Your Tradeshow Too Big?

Maybe.ConExpo

Does size matter in the events industry? Is it really important to have more square feet of exhibit space or more attendees than any other tradeshow in your industry sector?

Probably not.

In a recent article for the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers, Senior Vice President for Exhibitions & Events Megan Tanel told her exhibitors, “The value of a trade show is not how big your space is or how tall your structure might be. It’s not in how many signs you buy through sponsorships or how many staff you bring all in the same logo’d shirt. It’s about what your plan is for introducing yourself to prospective new customers, how you’re continuing your relationship with your existing customers, and when you will continue to utilize the show brand.”

This is the same Megan Tanel who runs, among others, CONEXPO-CON/AGG and ICUEE, two of the largest tradeshows the industry has.

The question of whether size matters has bugged me ever since I first became editor-in-chief of Tradeshow Week more than 15 years ago and was suddenly responsible for the TSW 200 and the TSW Fastest 50, lists of shows that measured success by the number of square feet and registered attendees they had.

The question bugs me even more now since the events industry has changed so drastically. Those metrics, still in favor by many, were significant in an age when the value of a product was directly proportional to its size. Trade shows were where people went to sell big things – machines, equipment, giant servers, furniture, etc. – and the more space you took up, the better you were.

Things of value today…not so big. In fact, there are products of great value that have almost no physical presence at all! At best, those trying to pitch them can use their tradeshow booth to demonstrate something that nobody can see or hold in their hands.

Those old metrics also stem from a time when the tradeshow floor was – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the best place for buyers and sellers to connect.

That is no longer the case either. People with stories to tell and products to sell have many, many ways to communicate with potential audiences. The event is just one of many marketing channels available to them.

Stop me one more time if you’ve heard this one too: The opportunities for engagement and community are what makes an event valuable today, not the size of its exhibit hall or the number of people in those tired aisles.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.

Visit Indy CEO to Indianapolis: It’s a Small World After All

You know the events industry has started to turn a corner when the CEO of a major convention bureau says he doesn’t want a convention center expansion.

GenCon imageEarlier this week, Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops told the Indianapolis Business Journal the Indiana Convention Center did not need an expansion anywhere close to the one in 2011 that cost $275 million.

As it is, Hoops told the newspaper, “The south end of the convention center can be difficult to sell separately.”

His remarks were apparently inspired by suggestions at Indianapolis City Hall and in the local media that an expansion was necessary to keep Gen Con – a gaming event that drew 60,000 people to town earlier this month – coming back.

Comments left on the online version of the Indianapolis Business Journal article included nuggets like “Visit Indy needs a new CEO” and “He is completely out of touch,” proving only that old habits die hard.

This follows by less than a month the suggestion by Comic-Con International Board President John Rogers that San Diego likewise stop worrying about a convention center expansion: Comic-Con doesn’t need the extra space anyway.

Comic-Con and Gen Con fans, along with attendees at every other kind of event, no longer are satisfied with being herded like sheep into cavernous exhibit halls and ballrooms where they need a giant video screen to get a decent look at the keynote speaker.

This is the era of personalization in the events industry, in which less is indeed more. Some event organizers are starting to get it, as apparently is at least one convention bureau CEO: Leonard Hoops of Visit Indy.

Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at michaelhart@michaelgenehart.com.