Event Staging

Perception vs. Reality

Posted on: November 1st, 2017

Each individual has his or her own perception of reality. The implication is that because each of us perceives the world through our own eyes, reality itself changes from person to person. While it’s true that everyone perceives reality differently, reality could care less about our perceptions.  Reality does not change to adapt to our viewpoints; reality is what it is:

Reality is fact.

Reality is truth.

Reality, however, is not always a known, which is where perception of reality comes in.  While reality is a fixed factor in the equation of life, perception of reality is a variable.

When it comes to your company’s costs, perception is reality. About 72% of people say that the reputation of a company or product can impact their decision to buy or not to buy. Before buying, about 61% of consumers conduct some research online and 43% of those read online reviews and opinions.  4 out 5 consumers will reverse their decision based on reviews they read online.

How clients view you is everything, and consistency is key! Brand management is something you need to take seriously from day one and throughout the life of your event, venue or service.

All initiatives, events and marketing campaigns should align with your overall mission and vision. Everything from your website, to social media, to event setup should reflect what you’re about.

You’ve probably heard it said that a happy customer only influences a handful of others, while an unhappy customer will influence dozens about a negative experience they had with your event, venue or service. One of the best things you can do for brand management is to offer excellent and fast customer service. If a customer has a problem, apologize and fix it as quickly as possible.

When working through an RFP or RFI process, you must provide exactly what the end client is asking for in their RFX.  Any missed or disorganized information will give your potential client (or in some cases, current client) the perception that you are not really interested in their business or that you do not provide the quality product or service they are looking for in a vendor/partner relationship.  It’s ok to provide additional details or options to their request but don’t ever leave the RFX to guess work.

When it comes to pricing think about the automotive industry.  We expect an S Class Mercedes to cost more than a Ford Pinto.  Why, because the perception and reputation of the two different cars is the buyer’s reality. Buyers will announce to the world, easier than ever before through social media, that they are thrilled or disappointed with their purchase regardless of the cost or the product or service.  Now, irrespective of whether you target an audience that historically spends more or less for a particular product or service, you must ensure that your product, services and customer service is top notch based on their expectation. When issues arise, your response must be laser-focused and responsive to confirm with the client that your costs are worth every penny.  If you have the luxury to offer multiple levels of products or services, you most uncover exactly what the client is trying to accomplish and ultimately who their audience will be.  This should confirm that your offerings are accurately matched to their needs.

Despite the big overlap between our perspective client’s perceptions and reality, there is indeed a gap between them.  We just have to look carefully to see it instead of jumping to conclusions based on some (but not all) available evidence.

So, how exactly do you untangle perception from reality?

  1. First, uncover any issues or problems that your client has had and would like to avoid in the future.  Really get to the heart of what’s bothering them and what they would like to shift or change.
  2. Next, consider how they might be perpetuating the problem or issue (i.e. buying habits).  Brainstorm as many of these types of contributing factors as you can, however small or insignificant they might seem.  Pay particular attention to key words or phrases.
  3. When you have exhausted all areas of their past experiences, ask if there are any other stakeholders that may be involved in making a decision and uncover their past issues or problems as well.
  4. Then, evaluate their responses with your team and underline any uncovered issues that appear more than once. 
  5. Find as many ways to support their key needs and avoid past issues and illustrate in a cohesive presentation that the client will understand.
  6. Once you and your team feel like you’ve got it and have the right solutions to perfectly match their needs, present your offerings with supporting testimonials, case studies, and references.

 

Article written by Mark Steinmetz, National Account Manager for IMS Technology Services

7 Ideas to Inspire Wellness at Your Event

Posted on: November 1st, 2017

Wellness of your attendees is always important to focus on when executing an event. It shows the attendee that you care and could make individuals more productive or willing to learn.

The options to incorporate wellness into your event are infinite, but here are just a few ideas.

Get physical – Including an organized workout program before sessions start for the day is always a great idea, but not everyone is a morning person. Perhaps consider lining the perimeter of your general session with workout bikes or incorporate under desk bikes or stability ball chairs in breakout sessions.

Focus on presenceMeditation pods in lounge areas or facing windows can be helpful, and you may consider adding noise cancelling headphones for silence or provide a playlist of calming sounds/songs to choose from. I have even seen corporations engage local wellness partners and, in addition to workout classes, they will offer a guided meditation workshop 30 minutes prior to opening sessions.

Let’s face it … some people just aren’t into meditating … consider making an attendee feel more present by utilizing attendee generated content, accountability check-ins and experiential learning techniques. Contact Julie Renninger for ideas.

Responsible F&B choices are really where attendees will feel the difference. Serve foods that create energy, and not fake energy in the sense of caffeine, sugar and carbs. Consider a fresh juice bar in conjunction with coffee, and offer low calorie, all natural and local products. Here is a list of best diets in 2017 by US World News.

Getting attendees outside can help reduce stress and allow them to decompress. This can be as simple as having a meal outside or a yoga class … FYI, yoga mats can be a great branding opportunity.

Consider offering walking and/or running tours of your destination, or team building activities like AR scavenger hunts.

Consider creative outlets such as adult coloring or Everblock Systems.

Connect people in some way with each other or your content. Make use of BYOD (bring your own device) polling tools and attendee generated content. Create competitions and display results on an interactive social wall. I’d also recommend displaying any social media or other attendee contributions on this wall too. Now-a-days there’s an app for everything, including one for 1-on-1 meeting matchmaking apps. Most people, especially millennials like feeling connected to community – again, engage your local resources and offer a community service project that allows attendees to feel connected to each other and the local community.

Allow for downtime or R&R opportunities. It makes sense to pack as many sessions as possible for those who wish to take advantage of them, but everyone is different and many organizers want to encourage wellness breaks. There was a recent conference that involved a game, and one of the prizes was a 90-minute session with a holistic body healer.

Be well, everyone.

Article written by Julie Renninger, Director of Sales for IMS Technology Services.

Social Media Tips to Make Meetings More Engaging

Posted on: November 1st, 2017

Looking for ideas on how to use social media interaction to increase engagement at meetings and events? Donna Baldino, IMS National Account Manager, asked the experts and here is what they had to say. 

David Adler, CEO and Founder of BizBash Media

Q: Why do you think meetings are on the rise?

A:  Meetings are the new Town Squares of the World where people truly connect.  I learned that the most powerful word in the English language is LET’S . . as in- Let’s go to lunch, Let’s solve a problem –  Let’s change the system – Let’s have a revolution, etc.  The job of a meeting is to facilitate networking and idea flow.  The neuroscience of event staging is more prevalent than ever today. Décor and event staging is necessary to visually stimulate the audience and enable them to see and hear things in a different way to enable communication. Staging is crucial to success of a meeting – proper staging with lights and audio video visual cleanses the brain so you can be open to what is presented. It’s like a palate cleanser or a neutral-flavored food or drink that removes food residue from the tongue allowing one to more accurately assess a new flavor according to Wikipedia. 

The goal of good meeting now is to enable the audience to hear, see, touch, think and feel not to be bored and gloss everything over. 

Q:  How does use of social media affect attendee engagement?

A:  The key to good social media besides all the right tagging, hashtags and technical stuff is to be relevant.

The concept of “the parasocial relationship” is becoming more important than ever in creating intimate connections. The most important new thinking in creating new relationships is what is called the Para-social relationship. These are two-way relationships with a fictional character. This is why YouTube stars have such a following and their followers know them better than their best friends. This why the Kardashians are so popular and why even pop stars like Katy Perry are using the technique of intimacy and vulnerably to promote new albums and tours. She recently allowed her fans to follow her around for 48 hours and even included them in her personal therapy sessions. 

Events are two-way relationships and the best ones, like fan clubs and sports teams create a bond. I have a bond with events like TED – I think I am smarter when I watch or attend. That is the goal of event organizers: to turn their events into relationships that are relevant, are intimate and evoke passion. The DNA of an event is like the personality of a new friend that you want to connect with and is a beneficial relationship because there is something to gain. 

Q:  What is the role of the meeting professional in relation to social media at meetings?

A:  Meeting and event professionals are the most courageous people I know.  Meeting planning and event organizing  is the most under-appreciated skill that businesses have but that is quickly changing through the use of social media. 

A CEO who understands the power of human conversation embraces events as the best way to increase their share prices and value of stock.  Examples of this are the Salesforce DREAMFORCE Conference and the Oracle OPEN WORLD Conference.  

Q:   What is your advice to meeting professionals regarding social media for meetings?

A:   Strive for intimacy; be transparent; make what you say important but not pretentious. Use visuals whenever possible. I even practice what I preach and try to amplify what I hear at meetings by taking notes on Slack so entire company can get relevant information in real time while I am at a meeting they are not attending. 

For more inspiration from BizBash:  BizBash Podcasts

Cassandra Bailey, Owner of Slice Communications

Slice Communications is an integrated communications agency with dedicated public relations and social media teams

Q:   Why do you think meetings are on the rise?

A: Meetings offer a valuable experience to connect with other people and foster learning.  They opendoors to something new and different and that trend will continue.  It is important to offer smaller, more intimate settings within meetings for an even greater exchange of ideas.  Capturing the exchange and sharing knowledge gained is where the return really happens.

Q:  How does use of social media affect attendee engagement?

A: The great thing about social media is that nobody has a one-dimensional experience – it is a multi-dimensional experience.  You always have your phone out and live tweeting, using Facebook or Instagram, etc. which is the same thing that happens at meetings.  Creating a digital experience using a device and in-person experience complement one another now. People can interact with other attendees before, during and after a meeting and can interact with the speakers in a much more personal exchange. The ability to self-identify oneself to an entire group of people is possible with a few key strokes to interact with people who think the same way and have similar perspectives and interests through live tweeting, LinkedIn posts, etc. All of these exchanges make meetings more enjoyable and memorable for all attendees who participate.

Q:  What is the role of the meeting professional in relation to social media at meetings?

A:  Meeting professionals should be focused on how to create the best experience possible for attendees, whether for in-person connections or digital communications.  They need to create a digital infrastructure to promote the meeting even before registration links are published and throughout the time before, during and after the meeting.  They need to make it easy for all attendees to digitally connect and facilitate that exchange thereby combining in-person and digital interactions.

Q:   What is your advice to meeting professionals regarding social media for meetings?

A: It is crucial to have before, during, and after event plans for digital infrastructure and extend the digital connections using all forms of social media. It is also imperative to create fear of missing out on the next conference – known as “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and using all digital interactions to promote the following events.

Marjorie Bicknell, Past President-Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association; Owner of Bicknell Creative and PDMA Lifetime Achievement Recipient

Q:   Why do you think meetings are on the rise?

A:  The economy is better and most businesses are doing better and hiring again.  The recession curtailed meetings and people did not have the money to travel to meetings but that has changed.  Now people are investing time and money to attend meetings for networking, learning and career opportunities. Creative opportunities are much more prevalent as well. Meeting attendance is up and the economy is more stable which gives rise to more meetings. Technology is also very important now to stimulate greater interest for attendees.

Q:  How does use of social media affect attendee engagement?

A:  For the most part people don’t use social media properly, as it is sometimes used as an advertising vehicle instead of true engagement opportunity. People really do not want more advertising through social media so it can be counterproductive. The proper way to use social media is to truly engage the audience by doing two things: 

  1. Make sure that content is similar to friend talking to another friend sharing something interesting that happened. 
  2. During meetings – encourage live Tweets and Facebook posts and display the posts – even doing contests to further encourage live posts is very beneficial. Sharing content is a true way to engage others. Use Hoot Suite to constantly post information before, during and after meetings for increased engagement opportunities.

Q:  What is the role of the meeting professional in relation to social media at meetings?

A:  Their role is to help the marketers to create the best meeting possible.  They should provide all the information they have about the meeting (i.e. new speakers, exciting content, attendee counts, etc.) and drip content one item at a time and very frequently and always attach the link to registration.  Encourage immediate action to register with all important data in the beginning of the post so the prospective attendee does not have to search for cost, location, etc.  You must create excitement in each post.

Q:   What is your advice to meeting professionals regarding social media for meetings?

A:  My advice is to always use social media to promote meetings constantly keeping in mind the audience and the meeting benefit to attendees in every post (i.e. location – Disney World and invite families to join the attendee). Be very specific about benefits of meeting content from a learning perspective.  Post content frequently on various social media outlets as repetition is good. Make it possible to link from a blog to a social media site and to other links (i.e. keynote speaker’s blog) but always ask permission to link to other people’s sites.

Keep messages brief and interesting and use photos, video, etc. to stimulate the audience.  Always remember to keep the audience objective in mind and not your objective.

Bonus Social Media Tip:

Have a contest. Give meeting attendees more of a reason to use the social platform during the meeting by having a contest!  Here are just a few of the ways to adapt the “share to win” strategy:

  • Host a photo scavenger hunt around the venue and award the fastest attendee with a prize.
  • Give an award to the attendee with the most creative meeting photo.
  • Have attendees take photos that include a branded item, a business card or even a sign at different locations around the meeting city. 

 

Article written by Donna Baldino, Global Account Manager at IMS.

 

Event Trends 2017 in September-October 2017 Issue of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine

Posted on: September 14th, 2017

What is Event Trends?

July 26, 2017 – Philadelphia, PA – What an amazing turnout! “We are so thankful that our guests see the value and benefit of attending Event Trends each year,” said Jason Cataldi, VP of Sales and Marketing, IMS Technology Services, Inc. “Our goal each year is to provide attendees with a positive meeting experience where they will walk away with at least two or three new ideas that they can take back to their organizations and immediately put into play.”

This year, gamification was introduced through the meeting app partner SpotMe, as well as beacon tracking and analytics provided by TurnoutNow. Both sessions created a lot of buzz during the Think Tank Talk discussion hosted by Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine. Groups were surprised when they had the opportunity to learn about thematic meetings and decor with Penncora Productions during their Game of Thrones inspired presentation, and about the do’s and don’ts of event marketing presented by OpenSpark. Then there was the latest in social engagement, video mapping, digital meeting signage, special effect lighting, and scenic design presented by IMS Technology Services. The spirit of competition was in full effect during the salsa team building challenge hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles Special Events Department and Aramark.

Guests had the opportunity to experience state-of-the-art lighting and digital signage systems, attendee engagement technology, event analytics technology, the latest in scenic design, wearable beacon technology, and more. Through small group demonstrations, one-on-one conversation, an event Think Tank, and more, attendees gained knowledge and connections needed to take their event experiences to the next level.

Stay tuned for Event Trends 2018!

Read the full article in the current issue of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine.

IMS in September-October 2017 Issue of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine

Posted on: September 13th, 2017

Jason Cataldi, CTS was interviewed for the “Technology Update” article that appears in the September/October 2017 edition of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine.

Jason Cataldi, VP of sales and marketing for IMS Technology Services, Inc., says that technology isn’t the only field that is influenced by rapid development and near continuous transformation. He observes that the meeting and event landscape is ever evolving, adapting, changing in the current business climate as well, and there is an ever increasing need to communicate one’s message clearly in a way that will resonate with an audience.

“The technology we utilize can enhance the message or conversely distract from what was the best of intentions,” cautions Cataldi. “A recent study suggests that only 20 percent of what was learned at a conference is retained. In fact, a person is only actively listening for about 20 minutes of sustained time. If these studies tell us anything, it is that we need to captivate our audience – or as some would say – entertain them.”

“Our goal is the manage the emotions of the event,” he adds. “From the initial concept to measuring ‘calls to action’ post-event, a consistent focus on attendee engagement and creating an immersive experiential environment are our key indicators for determining success.”

Cataldi says that of the technologies IMS’ clients utilize at most of their meetings, many involve social and virtual interaction, gamification, live tracking/real time analytics, and mobile-friendly responsive meeting materials.

“IMS recently hosted Event Trends 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field (in Philadelphia, PA),” Cataldi explains. “Many of the aforementioned technologies and strategies were demonstrated throughout the day. Take, for instance, digital signage. Not so long ago, we would be placing easels throughout the event space in high traffic areas in hopes that our guests would see them. Now, we have the ability to create ‘heads up’ messaging and advertising – real time alerts for flight delays, traffic, weather conditions, enhancement of brand recognition, attracting attention to key sessions with infographics, and, through the use of hashtags, developing a social interaction channel.”

He notes that this specific technology aids the attendee and helps to keep them informed while also driving valuable sponsorship and advertising dollars. “Our clients have recognized that the positive returns are far greater than the initial investment.”

Sometimes the choice of venue can have an impact on the technology options available for producing a meeting or event. Cataldi notes that often overlooked features of a venue like ceiling height, soffits and seating capacity change how technology needs to be set up. For example, whether ground supporting or rigging is needed for audio, video, lighting or scenic decor.

“Our team of production managers and creative design engineers work closely with planners to determine the best room orientation that will support their stakeholders’ message. Having the ability to show a planner 3D and cinema motion renderings from the perspective of the last row, three seats from the aisle as well as from the point-of-view of a presenter really allows our clients to make the best decisions,” he explains.

To design a meeting environment with a “wow factor,” Cataldi suggests that everything from video mapping with custom content messaging, true surround sound, the latest in lighting design, and understanding the challenges of the space all play heavily into what the planner can and cannot do.

“Drafting a visual plan will aid you with the information needed to anticipate venue charges for rigging points, power requirements, and liaison fees,” he adds. Given the importance of the Internet and how much everyone relies on it these days, IMS recommends establishing bandwidth needs along with the associated fee structures in the very early phases of the planning process. For those whose vision includes the use of social media or event apps, this will need to be taken into consideration too, so as to avoid potential connectivity issues among guests during the event. It is important, too, to be observant of the physical space when performing site visits. “Steel and concrete spaces traditionally will impede connectivity and leave you with spotty coverage and responsiveness,” says Cataldi.

When it comes to real time feedback, he advises that clients seek both direct and indirect interaction with attendees. For this reason, planning ahead for professional and social dialogue is really important.

“Instead of a traditional Q&A panel discussion, maybe try a Think Tank-style meeting,” suggest Cataldi. “Ask for questions pre-event, and then seat your audience in pods or small groups while a keynote moderator drives the conversation.”

IMS recently held a Think Tank with over 100 meeting professionals, and Jim Cohn, publisher/editor of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine served as the moderator. “Questions were submitted via our event app and by qualified guests for additional points in our gamification challenge. As each question was presented, the groups dove into open dialogue, shared ideas and experiences and ultimately conveyed their thoughts to the entire room,” explains Cataldi.

Another way to create this type of information sharing is through non-traditional team building. “At Event Trends 2017, the special events department of the Philadelphia Eagles partnered with Aramark to come up with a team building challenge,” he continues. “Groups were asked questions and presented with challenges. With each correct answer or completed task, they earned the ability to win ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind salsa that was prepared by the chef, placed into a competition at the end of the event, and served during the networking hour! This unconventional session provided an opportunity for guests to meet, laugh, and learn from each other while also creating a little healthy competition.”

Read the full article in the current issue of Mid-Atlantic Events Magazine.

4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was a New Event Planner

Posted on: September 13th, 2017

Before working for IMS Technology Services, I was a freelance event planner. I started off planning for friends and family, which led to further connections and snowballed into a side job. It is an accomplishment I am very proud of because I learned from research, networking, hard work, and my own mistakes. It was through my love for the corporate event planning industry and my full-time job in sales that lead me to IMS Technology Services. The experience I have gained working for an audio visual company has given me a new perspective on the way a meeting should be planned. This knowledge would have saved me a lot of trouble during my first few years in events, so I have decided to share my 4 Tips planning your AV.

First, and possibly the most important, bring your AV provider in early!

This can save you a lot of work in advance. When you bring an AV provider in early in the planning process, they can not only help in choosing a venue that is easy to work with, but they can also help with negotiating against fees from the venue. It is so important to start these negotiations before any documents have been signed. This will also give your AV team the capability of drawing a room layout with their equipment in place. An important part of having them involved in the layout drawing is that the room should work with all of the technology and equipment they are planning. It is important there is enough room for all of the equipment, and once you have decided on the seating arrangements, they can include all of this in the drawing for you and the other vendors to use.

Second, know your video connections, microphones, and screens.

These could be considered three separate important tips, but I combine them because they all matter for the same reason; it leads to a smooth and effortless event. I won’t go into too much detail, because there are plenty of articles online about each piece of equipment and what they’re best used for.

Knowing what connections you need is important because your AV team needs to know what kind of adapters to bring and what kind of laptops your presenters can use. A few types of adapters you should familiarize yourself with are HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA. Not having the right connection can lead to a failed presentation.

Not only should you know the different types of microphones, but what each type is best used for in an event. My suggestion would be to know your presenter: do they talk with their hands, do they pace, are they loud speakers? How they present will dictate which microphone is the best option. The type of event can also determine the right style of microphones. If you aren’t sure what the best option is, ask your AV partner what they would recommend. Types of microphones to consider: Handhelds, Wireless, Lav Mics, Podium Mics, and Pyle Pro Mics.

Make sure you know the aspect ratio of your presentation. If you have a widescreen presentation, make sure you have 16 x 9 screens. If you have a standard presentation, you need 4 x 3 screens. Check out the detailed explanation of the important differences in our AV 101: Industry Terms Explained article.

Third, always share your vision with your AV team.

They care about the success of the event as much as you do and they will dedicate everything they have to make that happen. The more information you can give your AV company about your event, the better the outcome. When you spend time discussing what is important to you, your team will be able to proactively work toward that goal.

Last, always make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but often times two quotes can be so different that there is no way to actually compare the two. If you take the time to explain the event thoroughly to each AV provider you are considering, and make sure they are giving you comparable quotes, it gives you a better opportunity to choose the best option for your event. The cheapest option is not always the best option for your event.

Article written by Sarah Jacobs, IMS National Account Manager.

A Marketer’s Perspective on the Event Industry: Your Event Should be an Extension of your Brand

Posted on: September 13th, 2017

I am a big advocate of brand, and brand image. I believe brand and brand image are two of the most important parts of your company – possibly even THE most important. I look at brand and brand image, because, often they point to the same thing – how you are perceived by others. Perception is reality, and a good product (or company of good people) can be defeated by a bad perception of the company. Conversely, a flop of a product can be forgotten if a company has a favorable brand image. Today, brand is often one of the most ignored pieces of marketing. And, as a marketer, and event personnel, our brand is fundamental to our company’s overall success. We need to be conscious of the fact that our brand stands for something. However, in a race to find the newest KPI, ROI, or whatever the metric of the month is to measure our success, we have the tendency to ignore our overall brand.

In today’s digital age, we have actually become complacent by hyper-focusing on segments and minor levers, chasing the shiny new object in the name of metrics, while we ignore the overall health of our brand. Our complacency towards our brand often stems from the ease of appeasement for whatever small segment we are chasing for the sake of being first, or just different. As such, we consistently out think ourselves, and by proxy, we out think our brand. Our brand is the sum of all the parts of our company. So why would we ignore it? Why would we host an event that’s theme may be in direct conflict with an image our brand is trying to promote? Why would we solely hyper-focus on a segment so small it doesn’t adequately lend to the overall success of the brand? Internal growth meetings (something like a planned disruptor meeting to stimulate ideas, changes, etc) aside, any outward facing event we do should (with few exceptions) reflect what our brand image is. If we are known as an innovator, our event needs to be innovative.

Think of any of the big brands with a quality brand image. Apple, Mercedes Benz, Salesforce, Disney come to mind for me. What do they all have in common? Aside from being multi-billion-dollar companies, they consistently put brand and brand image at the forefront of their marketing goals. At each Apple product launch, and any Apple event, you can see the layers of their marketing and event arms. First and foremost, to a general consumer they come off as a product launch and sales kickoff. But when you dig deeper into their events, you see how they always brand Apple first and product second. The events are always themed around Apple and its image. Why? In the end, no matter the short term growth goal, it is the Apple brand that will resonate. Apple knows that even though it may be a sales related event, events are ultimately an extension of their marketing arm. Branding Apple brings their current products to the forefront, builds internal and external excitement, and reinforces the brand as well as the event goal. They increase the value of the individual event by bringing the greater brand to light. We, as event personnel and marketers, can learn a lot from that example alone.

You are probably curious as to why I am bringing my marketing hat out in this article and pushing brand and image so heavily? Not everyone is Apple, has their budgets, and their established brand recognition. Not every organization can afford to have a single pipeline of their business fail without harming the overall brand. There is 100% a method to my madness, and it all comes down to what I said earlier with Apple. It’s value. We all want bigger, better, more impressive. But we also want cost savings, and more for our dollar. What it really comes down to is we want, we need, greater value for our events. We can increase the value of our events to our stakeholders (those who sign the checks) AND to our attendees by ensuring we have a concerted effort on brand and image when planning our events. Sometimes it’s the little details of the event that fit into our greater message, sometimes it’s plastering the brand everywhere so people remember who they are there for, sometimes it’s a subtle subliminal logo drop; your individual event and its immediate goal will dictate how we embed the brand into theming. Often, incorporating your brand, styling the event in your brand’s image, takes very little investment and it builds greater overall value for your company. Your company gets more value out of their event investment – and that keeps the bean counters happy.

We’ve all seen, or been a part of, many types of events. From major concerts, to grand openings, seminars, to company town halls- we’ve witnessed successful and unsuccessful events. One thing we want to always be conscious of is our audience. We want to know to whom we are speaking, and how we can tie brand into the overall event success. We can utilize positive branding- reinforcing positive attributes of our brand at our event. We can co-brand – utilizing another brand to increase our brand. We can rebrand – utilize the event to create a new image for ourselves. These are all great ways to theme our event, include our brand, and increase value for our stakeholders. We definitely don’t want to miss a homerun opportunity to increase our brand value at an event – like the time a cohort told me about an Earth Day event they attended, where trash piled up, and they used eco-unfriendly items that could have easily (and affordably) been replaced by recycled logoed items. A bombed branding opportunity.

There are definite ebbs and flows of an event you need to be cognizant of, and I am not advocating we hijack our events to simply plaster our brand. Rather, I am advocating we look at our event through a marketing lens and find opportunity to increase value by pushing our event’s vision in conjunction with our brand image. I even caution we do not hurt our brand by including it in your events is if there is going to be any negative, or completely disruptive, messaging during your event. We’ve all heard of an event where a company was rolling out what was supposed to be a game-changing product for an industry leading business – after they told their employee base they were facing position cuts and salary slashes, internally deflating the new brand before it could even be launched. We also do not want to go so far as to come off as completely self-serving and cheesy incorporating our brand either.

Ultimately, building greater value for our events will increase return on investment for the company, increase company faith in us, and hopefully allow us greater budget to build even more value for them in the future. We want to execute our events in a way that our company will benefit across a variety of avenues, supporting the overall brand health at our events will ultimately do just that – increase value, and benefit our company.

Article written by James Coughlin, IMS National Account Manager.

5 AV Facts You Need to Know for the CMP Exam

Posted on: September 13th, 2017

I recently received my CMP certification, and one thing I did to prepare was take a prep course offered by MPI PHL. While I was worried about how many gallons of coffee to order for a hypothetical meeting, my fellow course takers were understandably anxious about the subject of “Technical Production” since they didn’t have a background in audio visual. If you’re in the same boat, here’s a refresher on key points to remember about event video/projection.

Keep in mind these are guidelines. There will be specific situations that call for other arrangements, and it makes sense to discuss with an AV partner. That said, as far as the CMP exam is concerned, these are the “correct” answers.

  • The most distant audience seating should be no more than eight times the height of the screen. So for example, if the screen is 9’ tall by 16’ wide, you multiply 9 by 8 to get a distance of 72 feet. If that doesn’t cover all your attendees, sometimes it’s not practical to get a larger screen – perhaps the ceiling is too low or cost is prohibitive. You might consider using delay screens which are placed further back in the audience and showing the same content as the primary screens. (You may also see these referred to as “repeater” or “satellite” screens)
  • The closest audience seating should be no less than two times the height of the screen. In other words, for a 9′ tall x 16′ wide screen, the audience should be at least 18 feet away (2 x 9′ height). This is related to viewer comfort – otherwise attendees may have to crane their necks or pan their head / scan their eyes over a wide area.
  • The bottom of the screen should be at least 5 feet high, measuring from the floor. If the screen is too low, attendees in the closer rows will obstruct the view for those further back.
  • Allow for at least 1.5 times the width of the screen as space between the projector and screen. This is truly a rule of thumb, and a case where it’s helpful to have a trusted AV partner: The “throw distance” actually comes from multiplying the projector lens being used (.8, 1.2, 2) by the screen width. That’s why you’ll see some projectors set up on the opposite side of the room from the screen, or sometimes with an extremely small amount of distance to the screen. But 1.5 times is a good starting point, and better to have too much room than to find out during set up that everything needs to be re-arranged.
  • The projection platform needs to be situated at a 90-degree angle to the screen, and elevated to be at least level with the bottom of the screen. You’ve likely seen a set up where the projected image is uneven and doesn’t use all the available screen space. Having the projector correctly positioned helps. It’s possible to “keystone” an image to correct for an undesirable projector placement, but there’s a limit to how much adjustment is possible. While in many cases it may not be noticed by the audience, keystone adjustment does affect image quality to some degree whenever used.

For more info, see the Events Industry Council (née Convention Industry Council) Manual, 9th Edition. The specific section is Domain G: Meeting or Event Design, Skill 18: Manage Technical Production. Likewise, I and the IMS team are always happy to share our expertise!

Article written by Greg Kamprath, IMS National Account Manager.

8 Cost Savings Ideas for AV

Posted on: September 12th, 2017

“Why is the WiFi so expensive?”

“How is your quote so different from the in-house?”

“How can we work with you if we are contractually obligated to use the hotel AV?”

“What can we do to bring this quote down?”

These are just some of the questions our clients present us with on a daily basis as they run into roadblocks and cost concerns through their planning process. But you don’t have to break the budget to have a great AV experience. By contracting early and working with your AV partner in pre-planning, you may be able to uncover some great cost savings.

Here are a few tips to help find those opportunities:

1. Contract Early!

If you are considering bringing in any 3rd party vendors for AV, party supplies, furniture, technology, etc., make sure that you notify the venue during your RFP process and in advance of negotiations. Many times these items are left out of the negotiation phase and can be costly to you later if not discussed upfront. The reason for this is that the in-house AV provider and hotel both have a monetary incentive to make sure you utilize their services. If you decide closer to your event date to look at 3rd party options, they may separate the internet from their initial AV proposal and raise these costs. The hotel or in-house provider may additionally impose “Liaison” or “Security” fees for using a 3rd party vendor. Be sure to have a 3rd party addendum, or freedom of choice language included in your initial contract to help avoid these fees.

2. Negotiate Internet Early

As mentioned above, be sure to let both the hotel and the in-house AV provider that you may be looking at 3rd party vendors. There should be integrity in pricing for their services, no matter who you choose as an AV partner.

3. Red-line Hotel and AV Liaison Fees, Security Fees

Typically, these items are put into contracts by the hotel or in-house AV provider to ensure that their facilities and equipment are safe and secure from damage / theft. While this is a reasonable request, a standard Certificate of Insurance (COI) provided by your AV partner should cover potential damages. In other cases, the in-house AV provider may require that a “liaison” be present to oversee load in of a 3rd party’s AV equipment if they have installed equipment in the venue. If you will be utilizing any of the installed equipment, this is certainly a reasonable request, otherwise if this equipment is outside of the scope of work your event would require, be sure to have this red-lined in negotiations.

4. Work With Your Contract Negotiation Company, Hotel CSM and AV Account Manager to Best Leverage Your Negotiations

Lean on your resources for assistance with negotiating liaison / security fees, internet, vendors, etc. In most cases, hotels would rather have “heads in beds” and keep your return business than lose you after one event to make a few extra bucks on AV / internet commissions.

5. Who Needs to Travel?

Do you need the entire production team on-site every year, or can you utilize your AV partner’s local resources to supplement your lead team? Or, can you utilize these resources to have an entirely local crew and cut out travel costs? Discuss this with your AV partner to make sure you have the most appropriate and efficient labor plan for the event.

6. Do You Own Any Equipment?

Bring some of your own equipment to reduce rental costs. Some items that may make sense:

  • Small Breakout Projectors
  • Laptops
  • Wireless Mouse
  • Laser Pointers

7. Where is the Equipment Going?

Planning for a storage room during your site selection can save both costs and headaches down the road. The more central of a location this is to your contracted rooms, the better.

8. Did You do an Apples-to-Apples AV Proposal Comparison?

Although you sent out the same RFP to 3 outside AV vendors, as well as the in-house, you received four different proposals with four drastically different price points back. How did this happen?

  • Each AV company has it’s own pricing structure, discount structure and support structure.
  • Some may have included travel, some not
  • Some may have all labor included on the proposal, others only include a “service charge” or percentage that will be applied post event
  • Some may have rack rate pricing per day, others could have multi-day discounts, or discounts for events that run longer than one day
  • Some may include equipment discounts based on percentages of equipment spend, other may have bottom line discounts, volume discounts, multi-event discounts, in-kind items, or a combination of these options

Other considerations to consider as you compare proposals:

  • Have you provided a final agenda to correspond with the equipment needs for each meeting room? Improper timelines can cause labor costs to vary greatly, and your initial proposals to not be accurate.
  • Is union labor included in your proposal (if necessary)?
  • When is setup scheduled for? Day prior, or day of first scheduled events? Are rehearsals scheduled in this time frame (if necessary)?
  • Will you be providing rooms, or is lodging included on the proposal?
  • Are travel costs included?

Taking a close look at all of these variables and how your AV partners have interpreted the provided RFP can help to answer many questions and potentially save your event a great deal of costs.

Article written by Jonathan Little, IMS National Account Manager.

5 Ways to Help Attendees Retain Event Learning – Solutions & Science

Posted on: August 9th, 2017

The learning curve is steep, not only on the way up, but on the back-end as well – learning experts call this “The Forgetting Curve”. As event and learning professionals, it may make you uncomfortable to hear that only 20% of the knowledge presented at events will be retained.

Solution: There are strategies that nearly any organization hosting events can implement immediately and cost-effectively to promote continuous learning. Recommended tools: Any Event App and a content partner.

Ways to avoid this…

1. Priming Exams are tests given to a learner prior to a learning event. This calls the learner to access their subconscious, working or long term memory on a topic. It gets learners examining what they know and don’t know and they increase interest level pre-event. Research shows that a graded exam or giving feedback is no more effective than just asking the learner to take the Priming Exam. These can be pushed via email or through your event app. Maybe even incentivize attendees to take the priming exam by offering a prize. Test throughout your event and use additional continuous learning principles… now you can demonstrate learning and ROI to your attendee.

2. Another study shows that Test Enhanced Learning drastically increases long-term learning when compared to rereading or other studying methods. So this means testing or polling your audience throughout your event will make them retain information. If you don’t have an event app to push these tests to, try an in-event solution like Poll Everywhere.

3. Information overload is a real thing. Think about it … often learners are trained on a topic and then they won’t need to use that learned skill for months after the training. Most organizations know this, but don’t have the resources to provide just-in-time learning on every topic. One solution is Spacing. We recommend introducing a topic at a high level, allow time to pass and then present the same material or elaborate on material over time. We recommend video-reminders in a compressed format small enough to be emailed, pushed to social media, or even push it to your event app. Video, and especially storytelling, are very effective for retention.

4. Gamification of learning at events creates a FUN, competitive and engaging environment. This can be done at your event through in-event app challenges, Augmented Reality or post-event through your event app.

5. Social Learning, Coaching and Mentoring are all great ways to promote continuous learning and can be done very cost effectively or free. Group learners together to promote social learning. Have them participate in certain activities together, compete in event gamification together and recommend they touch base with each other post-event. Alternatively, assign a coach or mentor to all or even just specific target attendees. According to Successful Meetings & MPI, the top two attendance drivers for conferences are education (92%) and networking/social interaction (76%), so attendees want to learn, and do it socially. Now just be the agent to help them make it happen!

If you found this article useful, please also check out PA/DE/NJ Distance Learning Association. This association hosts events in the aforementioned geographic area focused exclusively on the science behind learning and technologies that promote distance learning & collaboration.

To discuss these or other ways to enhance your organization’s education and learning initiatives please contact Julie Renninger.

Article written by Julie Renninger, Director of Sales at IMS.

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