Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Under the R......

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “What is my ROI?”. Event planners most often use it during conversations with sponsors who want to know, if they spend X amount of dollars, what will be their ROI or “Return on Investment”? They want to know what they will get in return for their sponsorship. Everyone has a different expectation of the potential ROI. For some sponsors it is exposure, having their name linked to a great cause/event, and for others it is the opportunity to grow their market: attract more customers, reach further into the marketplace, launch a new product/division. Sponsors are an integral part of any event and it is really important that planners extensively research what they can provide for their sponsors in return for financial or in kind support.

But what about the attendees? Is the same amount of research being done to determine what the attendees want in return for their registration dollars? If it isn’t…..then it should be.

Attendees not only pay a registration fee, they invest in travel costs, hotel accommodations and most importantly, the time commitment. Company management needs to know that money is being spent wisely. Registration is often delayed until organizations can see a complete agenda, which will give them a good idea of the content. A weak agenda normally equals slow registration.

How many of you have gone to an event as an attendee and been disappointed? I have been to events where the registration fee is small and the event was fabulous….exceeding my expectation. I have also been to events where my registration was insanely expensive and I have been sorely disappointed. Where is the balance? What are attendees expecting?

Events have different components that contribute to perceived value. Even weddings and large family parties have a perceived value. How many times have you heard someone say something to the affect of, “We traveled all the way to Saskatoon for that wedding, bought an expensive present and we didn’t even get a decent meal”. Obviously, they did not get the value that they felt was owed them in exchange for the long distance drive and the expensive gift.

More and more organizations are asking the question, “Why should I register for Conference A instead of Conference B? Which conference will provide me the most value for my dollar?”. Attendees are very savvy and will not return to an event where they were disappointed. You only get one chance to make an impact, an impression on them before they decide to forgo your event for another.

How can you ensure that your attendees are receiving value for their financial, emotional and time investment?

Survey your audience. Surveys and polls are a valuable tool in determining what your attendees are looking for. A survey sent out to previous conference attendees can help identify needs and pinpoint gaps in content.

Your survey should be no longer than 10 questions and thoughtfully constructed so that essay type responses are not necessary. Surveys sent via email or posted on your website work the best in this instance. Survey Monkey remains the most popular survey site and the basic (free) plan allows you to collect up to 100 responses per survey.

Use the survey results to help guide you in the planning process. By engaging the potential attendee in advance, you are demonstrating that they are important and that you value their opinion, setting the tone for a great relationship.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoga mats, beeswax candles and patchouli oil.....

 This is the tweet that got me thinking......

Paul Salinger was addressing the delegates of the European Sustainable Events Conference held this past week in Copenhagen.

Paul Salinger is a Vice President of Marketing for Oracle and is a member of the Board of Directors and President-Elect for the global Green Meetings Industry Council. Paul continuously pushes the boundaries of our thought process and I rarely walk away from one of his presentations without thinking a bit differently. 

I did not attend the European Sustainable Events Conference, instead I watched the twitter feed from the comfort of my Northern British Columbia office and I have to say....the above tweet and photo courtesy of Michael Luehrs got me thinking.

I do not know what slide preceded or followed this particular slide and I don't presume to know what Paul spoke about specifically. What I do know, is that the wheels began turning for me and a range of emotions rose to the surface.

When I first began my foray into the world of sustainable events and the challenge of trying to convince stakeholders to make the switch to green events, I tried everything to convince them of its merit. I felt like I needed to dance twice as fast to keep up with my competition.

Going into a pitch meeting situation, I would go in armed with data that I was certain would dazzle them and convince them that my way was a better way. 

"Your attendees will love it"
"The Community will appreciate it"
"Local suppliers will benefit from it"

Let's face it: For some, the idea of "going green" was uncomfortable and foreign. I am certain that some felt that converting to a sustainable model meant:

"We would shiver on yoga mats, in the darkness of a conference room, dimly lit by beeswax candles. Our attendees would be provided half used (but freshly sharpened with the pencil shavings composted) pencils and paper (salvaged from the office recycling bin - one side already had been used). Conference organizers would shuttle attendee's back and forth from their hotels using a Smart Car and during coffee breaks, everyone would go out and plant a tree. Oh.....and the whole venue would smell like pachouli oil".

Never, ever, ever would we dare say that it might cost more. Goodness gracious! That was #7 in the Program! They weren't ready for that yet, we needed to be, "vewy, vewy careful" (insert Elmer Fudd voice here)

Flash forward to today, 2012 and the tweet from Michael Leuhrs that caught my green eye.

"Sustainability creates wealth. Why do green or sustainable meetings have to cost less".

They don't.

And perhaps we need to rethink the premise that "cost" is the most powerful motivator for change because quite simply, it isn't any longer. 

Thank you for reminding us of that.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gone Glamping!

"Gone Glamping"
I need to begin this with a nod to the friend who first mentioned the word “Glamping” to me a couple of months ago. Rick H was following a thread of conversation I was having on facebook, and identified (rightly so) that I didn’t simply enjoy camping, I actually enjoyed something called “glamping”.

Glamping is the combination of the words glamorous and camping = glamping. It is for folks who love to sleep in the great outdoors, but prefer to do so on sheets and inside an RV. It is for folks who embrace the fact that there are plug-ins mounted on said RV, and do not scoff at the option to use a wee bit of power if it is available/necessary.

I know everyone is thinking, “But isn’t she a sustainability freak? Shouldn’t she prefer resting her dreadlocked hair on a bed of branches, and foraging for roots whilst wearing her hand sewn hemp skirt?”

Ummmmm… You don’t have to suffer to be sustainable. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for sustainability either. But…I digress. Let’s get back to why I prefer to “Glamp”.

Let’s go back in time shall we. I am going to begin by blaming my parents…because….well…because I can. When they get a column in the newspaper or a blog, they can blame me for something. Deal?

When I was young, we never went tenting…..ever. We had a very nice camper and after a few years, and as more little girls were added to the family, we upgraded to a beautiful fifth wheel trailer. The only reference to “camping” was the fact that some of us slept in sleeping bags….other than that, it was like home.

Flash forward a few years and I meet my husband. I tried so very hard to be ‘that girl”….the one who slept in a tent and “went” in the bushes, but alas…it was not to be. I simply did not enjoy roughing it, perhaps because I knew that it didn’t really have to be that way.

This gal agrees with me......
So combine my dislike for tenting with being a young family on a strict budget, which didn’t allow for fancy, schmancy things like campers/trailers and the result was a family that rarely went camping.

Which brings me to 2012….the year I discovered glamping. I have discovered a world that I didn’t know existed. A world where you need not suffer with bed head and dirty feet: where a shower is simply a laminated particle-board door away. A world where there are power outlets and pull thru’s and dumping stations.

Yes....we bought a trailer.

This world is magical. It is like a marriage between Martha Stewart and Professor Albus Dumbledore: A world where you can create a culinary delight in a device not much larger than an easy bake oven.

I am in heaven. I am hooked on “glamping” and like I said before, you don’t have to suffer to be sustainable. You can still:

·   Recycle – many campsites have recycling bins, if they do not, bring items to be recycled home with you
·   Conserve water
·   Conserve Power – only use it when necessary or better yet, install a solar panel kit on your RV
·   Waste removal – dispose of waste in marked containers or bring it with you to dispose of properly.
·   Do not pollute – Do not burn plastics or garbage in your fire-pit

My first year glamping has now come to an end and with that, the excuse to drink my morning coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream. I pledge to spend the next 6 months scouring Pinterest for many, many cool glamping ideas and I can’t wait to try them out!

Happy Fall!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Mirror, mirror......

Do any of you post inspirational quotes or thoughtful text passages around your home?

If you know me….even a little, you would you know that I am not a lover of random inspirational quote postings. When I see them on my twitter feed or my facebook timeline, I normally roll my eyes (yes, I do – I am just being honest) and grimace. If I see an inspirational quote combined with a yellow rose of friendship AND a request to pass it along to all of my friends (known as the trifecta of facebook irritation), know this…..I will delete you.

Having said that, I did attend one of those stencil parties a few years ago…the kind where you purchase graphics or pithy sayings that you can then place on your wall or mirrors. I bought three. One said, “Welcome” and I stuck it over my front door, one said “simplify your life” which I placed in my office (you can’t see it right now because my office is so disorganized) and the third said, “Begin each day with a smile”. This I adhered to the top of my mirror in the master bathroom (I say that like I have many, many bathrooms, but I only have two). I am pretty sure that this third one was free – perhaps a gift with purchase because, looking back I cannot see myself buying it. It isn’t me…at all. I remember the first time my husband noticed it on the mirror, he said something to the effect of, “Did you hit your head today?”

That was about four years ago. Four years of constant, daily reminders to “Begin each day with a smile”. Has it made a difference? Has it worked in “harmony with the laws of attraction to balance my chi”? I am certain it has not. You see, at some point during the past four years; at some point between the “did you hit your head today” comment and this very moment, the “s” fell off and that quote has actually read, “Begin each day with a mile”. I never even noticed.

So…..should I read something into this? Considering that I never, ever realized it before this very day and that it might have been like that for years, and years….I am thinking that there is no greater power at work in this situation (Other than, perhaps the power of adhesives). But maybe, just maybe it was the universe playing a silly trick. I did buy a treadmill recently…..

Just to be on the safe side....I am gonna leave it up.