Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer's Here! (Now what?....)

We are moving into a traditionally slow period in the Events industry – the 3rd quarter summer months. With a flurry of events to wrap up the first half of the year, June rolls into July and August, and a verifiable no-fly-zone for events is upon us. The 'best practice' is to not to run events over these two months due largely to the plethora of business professionals on vacation. Which leads to a calendar jam-packed with events to drive 3rd quarter numbers.

Although I don’t have a hard set of number to substantiate this, I’ve long thought the industry is doing itself an injustice by at least not testing the running of events over these two months. To keep with the summer metaphor, it’s a huge pool (of time) nobody is dipping their toe in.

My thinking goes along three lines:

The vacation argument is legitimate. To a point. In reality, however, the entire world does not go on vacation for two months. Employees coordinate schedules, get coverage, and work gets done. In sort, there is a sustainable universe of executives within your marketing universe that are not going to be out of the office the particular week you plan an event in July and August.

Secondly – June and September are, of course, huge months for holding events – primarily due to the dead zone of summer. Which means competition is fierce for attendees and sponsors post-Labor Day. For argument’s sake, say you increase your marketable universe by 15% by holding an event in September vs. July/August. By waiting until September and gaining those additional prospects, you are competing against a slew of other events companies for share of wallet/time.

For example (and this is admittedly over-simplifying the situation) assume you have 100 executives who are planning to attend an event this year. Removing all other variables, taking the above 15% figure, you have an opportunity to attract 85 of them to your event if held in July/August. If the event is held in September, chances are good there are at least two other events with similar topic/functionality being held that same week. So while you have an unbeatable product, these 100 executives will decide between three options – and if all things are equal your chances of attracting them is 33.34%. Again, there are other variables involved, but in a pure numbers sense odds are as good if not better of attracting audience in the summer months.

Finally an intuitive question: if summer is a bad time to hold an event, what makes it a wonderful time to market these events? This is, however, what happens in a typical event promotional cycle. Outbound communications, prospect planning for 2nd half calendars, etc., happen over these months for many September and October events. For example, pending your promotional cycle, if you launch a communication channel 12 weeks before an event, that would mean launching in mid-July for a mid-October event. So, I'd have to argue, if summer is a bad time for an event, it’s also a bad time to market an event.

This is not to advocate going gung-ho into summer months, just that it is worth exploring the possibility. Obviously a ton of variables come into play – sponsor sensitivities, hotel and logistical questions. This is just to argue that it’s certainly time to test or explore expanding the schedule.

As always, let us know what you think.

Good luck!


Friday, May 8, 2009

For All the Peeps: EventPeeps.com

While the intent of this blog is not to sell or push products by any stretch of the imagination, I've recently signed up and posted my profile on EventPeeps.com, a Red7 Media property. [In the interest of transparency, yes, a couple of former colleagues work for Red7 and no, this post is not connected to those relationships in any way...]. Having spent some time on the site, I would recommend taking the time to create a membership and participate in their online community.

I don't recommend this site as a specific resource for the Event Marketing professional - as its not. The one thing that surprises me slightly is the bredth of the membership on EventPeeps, given the marketing bent of some of the Red7 content, including The Event Marketing Institute and Event Marketer magazine. Instead, I would recommend the site as a strong cross-functional (and cross-organizational) community-based portal; I've cited the need for this type of collaboration in the industry. This site is a good source for this functionality specifically.

The setup is very similar to other social media networks - specifically a mix of LinkedIn and Facebook: a mix of contacts, groups, discussions, and profiles. The beauty of it, of course, is that it is targeted to the Events industry; with 6000+ members you don't need to sift through the enormity of a LinkedIn; EventPeeps groups are also much more targeted than those you find on LinkedIn, both in content and in membership. (EventPeeps also has a dediacated LinkedIn Group which, ironically enough, with over 8000 members is larger than the actual EventPeeps.com membership.) The site also offers discussion forums, blogs, apps, pictures, videos and a job board (which links to eventcareers.com.) In short, EventPeeps offers an array of features well worth participating in.

The one element lacking - at this point - is a robust membership base. Doing a quick search, I only found a half dozen people "peeps" from my last two jobs currently registered as members, and have found many more Events professionals from these companies on LinkedIn. This of course is not a reflection of EventPeeps itself; rather it indicates a need for the community to grow ... which it should over time.

A positive, again, is the bredth of the membership - from marketing agencies to internal events teams to AV companies, EventPeeps.com includes a great potential of people to learn from and share with.

So again I'd encourage all to explore and - if it fits your needs - join the EventPeeps.com community - not to replace LinkedIn, but to augement your network exposure and provide you a targeted community of peers.

Good luck!


Friday, May 1, 2009

To Key Or Not to Key

A friend recently asked my take on some Keynotes for an event she was researching. After batting around names for a couple of minutes, she asked: “Do you think Keynotes are a draw for an Event?”

An interesting … and continuing … question. My take is that Keynotes unquestionably add value to an event. What I can’t get my head around is what … and how … to measure the ROI of a Keynote. The math argues against it being by attendance/attendee revenue.

The Investment is certainly known – and can be substantial (although it is, of course, negotiable). What falls into a grey area is the Return.

Say, for example, a speaker costs $30,000 all in. If your average attendee ticket price is $1,500, I’d be hard pressed to say there are any events I’ve worked on which surveys have had 2attendees respond “I attended XYZ Conference to hear John Doe’s presentation.” People simply do not carve 3 days out of their lives to hear a one-hour presentation.

What they are

The reality is that a Keynote is part of the event value proposition – the presentation gets an audience excited to be in a hotel/convention hall away from family (and work) for 3-4 days, and creates a platform from which to drive networking, discussions, etc. The value of the Keynotes, in short, is the onsite experience – and this is what savvy Marketers should work to leverage.

  • Book signings are great vehicles. If the Keynote is recently published, negotiate with the publisher, acquire a bunch of books (at discount), and ask the Keynote for a half-hour post-presentation to, meet, greet and sign. [NOTE: I’ve seen arrangements whereby the Keynote spoke for free provided a certain volume of books were purchased – again, it’s all in the negotiation.] Do NOT sell books onsite – it comes off poorly to attendees.
  • Alumni/VIP Breakfast: Pending the Keynote’s schedule, arrange a special invitation breakfast for Alumni, or as an “Early Bird” incentive, etc.
  • Walk the Show floor: Again pending scheduling, ask the Keynote to do a quick round on the exhibit floor – great for attendee face-to-face and sponsor satisfaction.

What they are not

Keynote speakers are not stand-alone marketable commodities. I’ve seen situations in which part of the marketing touch strategy included specific messaging around Keynote Speaker A, B, and C. Again, I’ve seen nothing to indicate an attendee was driven to invest 3+ days time to hear one or two hour-long sessions. Attendees are savvy enough to know that, in most cases, Keynote speakers are there paid commodities, not as any sort of endorsement of your event/brand. Don’t insult their intelligence by framing it otherwise.

On a closing note, read this good – dated, but still germane – article debating the issue in Corporate EVENT magazine. (I especially liked the idea of testing noted in the article – a bit of an investment, but I think the results would be telling).

In sum – think strategically on how to use Keynote speakers – and BE ENGAGED in the selection process. Keynotes are part of the onsite experience – again, something marketers should be influencing on a regular basis.

Good luck!