Behind the scene_successful_event


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Behind the scene_successful_event

  1. 1. Behind theScene of aSuccessful Eventan eBook by Certain Software
  2. 2. iiBehind the Scene of a Successful EventAn eBook by Certain SoftwareIntroductionmeet ing - An assembly or conference of persons for a specific purposee vent - An occurence, especially one of some importanceA successful event is more than a gathering of people at a specific timeand place; it is an opportunity to introduce new ideas, to learn new skills, tomeet new people and to build life-long relationships. Participants remember asuccessful event because it enriches their lives.Certain Software and our partners help our clients plan and execute the world’sgreatest events. This eBook compiles some of the lessons our expert authorslearned over 100 years of collective experience in the professional meetingplanning industry. Whether it is an executive board meeting, employee train-ing course, incentive travel event, customer conference, association event, orindustry trade show, we hope to help you make your next event a success. Ifwe can be of assistance, please contact us or one of the authors.Peter MiccicheCEOCertain Software©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  3. 3. iiiTable of ContentsPrepare to Plan Your Event 1 The Roles of Event Host and Event Planner 1 Define the Event’s Objectives 1 Determine a Baseline Budget for Your Event 1 Obtain Budgetary Approval and Funding for Your Event 2Site Selection 3 Selecting the Perfect Site for Your Event 3 Site Inspection 4 Strategic Hotel & Contract Negotiations 5Virtual Meetings 11 Telepresence Brings Together Disperse Groups in a Short Time 11 Webinars Deliver Targeted Content to an Interested Audience 12 Virtual Events Precede, Extend, or Replace Face-to-Face Events 13Marketing Your Event 15 The Event Web Site 15 E-mail Marketing and Event Invitations 17 Event Notification Schedule 18 Online Registration 19 Pre-Registration 19 Housing Management 21 Payment Processing 23 Reports, Reports, Reports 24On-Site at Your Event: Registration and Check-in 26 Before You Go 26 On-Site 28 Technology and Check-in 30After You Event Ends 31 Closing Out Your Event 31 Prepare for the Next Event 32 ©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  4. 4. iv BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTStrategic Meetings Management Programs (SMMP) 33 How to Get Started 33 Begin the Standardization Process 34 Organizing Site Selection for SMM Programs 35 Complete SMMP 36 Embed SMMP in the Organization 37Social Networks and Events 38 Viral Marketing - Linkedin, Facebook 38 Twitter 41 Online Communities 42 Pathable 43 Social Networking Tips and Tricks 44Planning a Sustainable Event 45 What is a Carbon Footprint for an Event? 45 Travel Trumps All Others 46 Travel Footprint Reduction 46 Other Ways to Reduce Your Footprint 47 Keeping Perspective, and the Role of Offsets 47 Up and Coming Standards for Event Planners and Managers 48Definitions and Meeting Planner Terminology 49Additional Resources 50 Certain Software 50About the Authors 51 Rick Borry, Certain Software 51 Jeff Rasco and Christina Rasco Adams, Attendee Management Inc. 52 Tim Brown, Meeting Sites Resource 53 Jennifer Brown, Meeting Sites Resource 54 Jordan Schwarz, Pathable 55 Dave Rochlin, ClimatePath 56 ©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  5. 5. 1Prepare to Plan Your EventsPlanning an event is hard work; before starting the process, be sure that you,your organization, and the attendees are ready to commit to a successful event.The Roles of Event Host and Event PlannerThe host is responsible for creating the event’s objectives and strategic vision,and for procuring the funding to cover the event’s expenses. The planner isresponsible for organizing and executing the event in order to achieve the ob-jectives with the highest economic value and lowest risk.Define the Event’s ObjectivesThe host and planner work together to formulate concrete objectives for theevent. “Prepare the national sales team for the May 15 product launch” is anobjective, which can be measured with post-event surveys of participants andpost-product launch sales results. “Bring the national sales team together for 5days in Dallas” is not a strategic objective, although after reviewing the numberof attendees and volume of content to be covered, it may be the best tactic toachieve the desired result.Determine the basic event format and structureThe host and planner must determine the best way to achieve the event’sobjectives. This decision should consider physical constraints, such as 1. Number of participants 2. Geographical distribution of participants 3. External deadlines (e.g., a product launch date) 4. Amount, type, and complexity of content 5. Familiarity of the participants with each other 6. Ballpark budgetary limitsAfter outlining the objectives and constraints of the event, the event structurewill often present itself. In order from least to most expensive and time-consuming, the basic event formats are: • Conference call • Webinar • Virtual event / Telepresence • On-site meeting • Luncheon / Dinner • Off-site single-day meeting • Multi-day meeting©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  6. 6. 2establish a baseline budget for your eventIf the chosen format requires services of an external supplier, then the eventwill need to have a budget to pay for itself. Before spending time creatingan RFP and evaluating responses from several suppliers, we recommend firstestablishing a preliminary estimate based on the type of event, number ofparticipants, services required (hotel rooms, catering, production), travel, andauxiliary expenses. Planners can use software that aggregates their past experi-ences into average unit costs, and then automatically creates a baseline budgetfor financial approval of the event that is about to be planned.Table 1. Sample sliding scale for meeting cancellation feesObtain budgetary approval and funding for your event.If the event host (or manager) cannot obtain funding within the ballpark rangeof the baseline budget, then the planner and host need to work together toreduce the event’s scope and objectives until the budget is within reason, orstop the event planning process altogether. It is better to stop at this pointrather than spending time and resources planning an event that has no chanceof happening.Even if you plan to fund the event via fees per attendee and exhibitors, youstill need to approve a budget to determine the proper fees to break-even, andwhether you have enough money to conduct the event planning process whileyou wait for payments to come in.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  7. 7. 3 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTSite SelectionSelecting the Perfect Site for Your EventJennifer W. Brown, CMP, President, Meeting Sites ResourceResearching and evaluating hotels for a meeting, convention, or incentive takesconsiderable time; however, careful analysis is essential for a productive meeting.Look beyond “dates, rates, and space” in order to achieve meeting goals, objec-tives, and criteria. Here is a 12-step process to assure success:1. Assess needs - What do you want attendees to take away?2. Gather information - Meeting requirements, history, expenses3. Define attendees – demographics, guests, expectations4. Consider additional requirements - Weather (related to time of year), accessibility (by air and ground), special needs (resort, golf)5. Determine the budget – how much can you spend and can you be flexible?6. Design the meeting specification – based on the agenda and data collected7. Create a meeting profile or RFP – for hotels, based on the meeting specification8. Begin site research – use one or more options to find the perfect match: • Site Research company • National and regional hotel sales offices • Convention and visitors bureaus (CVB’s) • Trade publications or Web search9. Narrow your selections – select three or fewer preferred venues10. Collect site proposals – each site should provide • A description of the number and type of accommodations available • Meeting space floor plans with dimensions/capacities • List of technical equipment and support services • Tentative meeting room assignments • Complete description of property’s restaurants, sports facilities, entertainment areas, and shops • Information about insurance, licenses, taxes, beverage control, union contracts, automatic charges, gratuities • Food and beverage menus11. Conduct site inspection – follow the site inspection guidelines in the next section to review your finalists.12. Site inspection alternatives – if the planner cannot personally attend the venue, then ask the hotel for a conference packet, videos, and four refer- ences of organizations with a similar profile that held events there in the last year.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  8. 8. 4SITE INSPECTIONA site inspection is an in-person, on-site review and evaluation of a potentialvenue or location for an event. Before committing and going to contract, visityour top choices and methodically evaluate whether each venue meets yourspecific criteria and will lead to success, or perhaps is a candidate for a futuremeeting or event.Site Inspection ChecklistA detailed site inspection checklist runs several pages. In general, your siteinspection report should document the following:1. First impressions - pay attention to your attendees’ experiences from when they land at the airport to their arrival at the venue2. General appearance - ask for specific dates of recent renovations, and make sure that no construction is planned during your event 3. Front desk – look for the ability to handle crowds, and to speed check-in via self-service kiosks and preferred guest counters 4. Accommodations - quality and size of rooms by type, in addition to the number of rooms5. ADA requirements (Americans with Disabilities Act) – Most venues meet the minimum legal ADA requirements; however, this may not be sufficient for your group 6. Meeting & event space – with your RFP, requirements and floor plans in hand, visit the specific meeting and event rooms for your event; check lighting, ceiling height, room shape and size, and beware of any pillars and other obstructions. Also check access to wireless internet and power, and ask about in-house A/V and technology support.7. Food & beverage – review hotel catering menus and hotel F&B / theme capabilities. Inspect the size and location of restaurants, access to kitchen for meal functions, and additional catering support services. 8. Transportation – distance to airport, convention center, local attractions, transportation options (shuttle, train, taxi, bus, parking)9. Sports & recreational facilities – availability and costs of golf, entertain- ment, dancing, spa, exercise room, tennis, etc.10. Sustainability – venue policies and standards related to sustainability in general and carbon emission reduction, and overall hotel green initiatives11. Neighborhood – pay attention to the facilities near the venue12. Services – in-house or recommended vendors for Destination Manage- ment Company (DMC), decorating, audio/visual, etc.Immediately after your site inspection, write down your overall impressionincluding strengths and weaknesses. Planners often visit multiple venues on asingle trip, and waiting until you return to the office to document an inspectionreport is a good way to confuse properties.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  9. 9. 5 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTSTRATEGIC HOTEL & cONTRACT NEGOTIATIONSTim Brown, CEO, Meeting Sites ResourceChange in economic conditions have a big impact on how meeting plannersplan and execute meetings and how hoteliers sell and provide service. Thisincludes conditions changing from a “buyer’s market” to a “seller’s market” andvice versa. Regardless of shifts in the marketplace, the simple truth is that whenmeeting planners evaluate each meeting, understanding their leverage andflexibility and having a negotiation plan will add value to their meetings’ bottomline and reduce contract risk.The Strategic Request for Proposal (RFP)The Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document that specifies all vendor-suppliedrequirements for a meeting, in sufficient detail so that potential vendors canprovide bids for the proposed event.In addition to the information collected in the pre-planning phase, the RFPrequires the meeting planner to: • Conduct a meeting needs assessment with all internal and external stakeholders in order to understand all meeting goals and objec- tives. • Evaluate the demographics of attendees: who are they, where are they located, age and gender, special interests and needs, and meeting expectations. • Evaluate past meeting history including meeting budgets, meet- ing and event agenda, number of attendees, F&B functions, A/V spending, actual sleeping rooms - picked up versus contracted. • Create a strategic RFP that includes a day-by-day breakdown of all meeting and event activity, including set-up and teardown. List minimum square footage / ceiling heights for all meeting and event space, including breakout rooms • Include all food and beverage functions, number of guests, off-site events, and special needs • Based on a composite from above, determine best cities and type of hotel (resort, downtown / conference center, airport, suburban) that achieve stated goals and criteriaWeb-based software is a valuable tool to help manage the process of creatingan RFP and selecting potential venues to receive it.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  10. 10. 6Assess Your LeverageBy assessing the value of their meetings and understanding how hoteliers man-age for profitability, planners can improve their leverage to achieve meetingquality and bottom line results. All hotels utilize an on-line system to evaluateand “rate your meeting” based on a multitude of qualitative and quantitativefactors. Knowing how (and if) your meeting fits into the hotel is an importantpart of the negotiation process along with your overall meeting revenue mix.Key issues that influence hotel pricing and availability for group businessinclude: • Transient (individual) demand • Other groups in house • Arrival / departure pattern • Season • Rooms to meeting space ratio • Meeting lead time • Group food and beverage • Group history • Potential incremental revenue • Contract componentsAll hotels have different “best answers” for each of these parameters. Forexample, is your peak night pattern (e.g. Monday-Friday or Friday-Sunday)compatible with the hotel’s desired group arrival/departure? Pattern selling isthe cornerstone of hotel revenue management, and every hotel, whether big,small, chain or independent, has desired patterns for all market segments. Flex-ibility to shift your dates/pattern can be the difference in securing a first optionand can drive the rates, too. Analyze your Request for Proposal DetailsBefore you negotiate with the hotel for your meeting, look at your RFP from thehotelier’s perspective and determine where you can be flexible, and where youhave leverage to use. • Meeting and event space - Calculate your total space needs for each meeting and heaviest day usage. What percentage of the hotel’s total space are you requesting? What other groups are con- tracted over your preferred dates? How much set up time did you ask for? Do you need 24-hour hold? Hotels use their space to sell their allotted group rooms and many use the rule of thumb “use 40% of my group room inventory and you get 40% of my meeting space” (always negotiable, of course). • What is your group food and beverage contribution? Ask the hotel what their minimum F & B expectation is and if you are projecting an increased amount, that’s leverage. Ask the hotel if they do off- site catering and if so, capture that revenue, too.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  11. 11. 7 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENT • Calculate your total revenue based on your overall agenda, including sleeping rooms, F&B, AV, golf, spa, etc. • Check your meeting history...what did you contract/actual results. Hoteliers do reciprocate on providing specific group pick-up and revenue data. • What is the specific season for this destination...and is this a short, medium or long-term meeting? If you have multiple date options at a hotel, ask which date gives you the most flexibility with space, rates and concessions. Negotiate a fair contract with the hotelContracts do not have to be complicated, but they are a “must” to protect yourcompany and to make expectations and responsibilities clear. Effective negotia-tions go beyond “dates, rates, and space,” and all hotel contract components,value added concessions, hotel fees and surcharges, and performance clausesmust be part of the negotiation process. Everything, however, is negotiable. Itis important to prioritize and have a specific game plan for each meeting (focuson adding value and reducing risk).Once you complete your hotel proposal and evaluation process, provide thehotel of choice with all your contract requirements and clauses. Ideally, youshould create a custom hotel contract template for initial distribution. Keyhotel contract negotiation strategies include: • Adjustment for published rates - If, at any time after contract sign- ing, the Hotel publishes, issues, or promotes a group room rate (for any peak night during the Meeting Dates) that is less than your group’s contracted rate, Hotel shall adjust the applicable group rate to equal such published rate. o Note: This rate adjustment does not include negotiated wholesale or corporate business travel rates, which are not publicly available. • Base attrition and cancellation damages on lost profit, not lost revenue o “Total Room Profit” = 75% times (Room Rate) o “Total F&B Profit” = 35% times (F&B Guarantee) • Attrition is the difference between the number of rooms you contract with the hotel and those you actually fill o Always include a resell clause so that any resold rooms/ space/services are credited to your meeting o Also, if attendees book rooms around your block (e.g., via travel discount websites), then these rooms are credited to your group©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  12. 12. 8 • Cancellation – damages should be based on a sliding scale, with percentages increasing as dates get closer o The ranges and percentages listed in Table 1 are examples; the contract should specify dates and amounts based on the actual meeting date and total amountTable 1. Sample sliding scale for meeting cancellation fees Date Group Cancels: Cancellation Fee: From signature to 180 days prior to 25% of Total Room Profit arrival 179 days – 90 days prior to arrival 50% of Total Room Profit 89 days – 30 days prior to arrival 75% of Total Room Profit 29 days or less prior to arrival 100% of Total Room Profit + 35% of F&B minimum • Reduce or eliminate hotel fees and surcharges, for example o Resort fee o Early departure fee o Parking o Health Club o Maid / Bellman o F&B surcharges o Telephone / Internet access o Meeting room set-up • Ask for complimentary meeting & event space based on 80% guest room pick-up (no sliding scale fees). No meeting space changes without written approval by group • Concessions - Everything is negotiable, but prioritize what you “must have” or would “like to have” based on the specific needs and value of each meeting • Force Majeure/Termination - Based on circumstances out of the control of either party, identify specific terms and conditions, which allow either party to cancel the meeting without financial responsibilities. (Including anything that makes it impractical, illegal or impossible to perform) • In the event of performance damages, apply a credit for some or all damages to a future meeting • Breach by hotel - specify financial responsibilities if the hotel can- cels the group (other than Force Majeure). Hotel is liable to group for all damages, direct and indirect, including expense to resched- ule, increased room rates and F & B, administration and operation, legal fees, printing/marketing costs©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  13. 13. 9 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENT • Construction and remodeling – allow none over specific meeting dates • In addition to addressing all hotel performance clauses to assure accountability and a clear path to dispute resolution, it is impor- tant to define responsibilities for indemnification (make mutual), arbitration, add insurance and successors and assigns. If you have a legal department or representative, be sure to get their opinion on specific language to incorporate. Hotel Audit ProcessIn the event of attrition or cancellation damages, conduct a room audit andinclude: • Request a hotel sleeping room inventory/occupancy report by night • Verify how many rooms were resold (individual or group), regard- less of the room rate • Verify how many rooms, by night, were out of service due to reno- vation or repair • If attendees make their own hotel reservations (vs. rooms on master), provide the hotel with an electronic registration list so they can cross reference against all in-house guests over the meeting dates • Capture any pre- or post-room nights Contract Tips - Plan and “Think Before You Ink”No meeting planner signs a hotel contract with the expectation that they willpay performance damages, but it is important that planners be prepared in theevent “things change” and that they have a clear path to work with the hotel tomitigate damages and minimize risk. • All hotel contracts are negotiable (plan and prioritize before you negotiate) • A thorough and well designed contract is essential for a successful meeting • Stay away from vague phrases such as “ample”, “reasonable”, “to be assigned”, “appropriate”, etc. • All meeting and event space to be assigned by day (if a hotel will not assign specific space, they are not considered a candidate) • There is no contract until both parties have signed the document©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  14. 14. 10 • Written changes on the contract with date and initials repre- sent a counteroffer • Discuss areas of dispute and counter offers in an open and honest manner • Negotiate an option date to sign and return the contract • Do not rush into signing a contract if you do not understand or agree with its contentMeetings are big investments and when planners carefully evaluate each meet-ing, understand their leverage and flexibility, and have a negotiations plan;clearly they will add more value and ROI to their organization (and greatlyreduce risk).©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  15. 15. 11 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTVirtual MeetingsA successful virtual meeting will save travel time and costs, but still requirescareful planning, production, and execution. In general, a virtual meeting maybe the best value if: • The attendees are geographically dispersed, but know one another well from past experience • The content to deliver is brief and centered on a single topic • Or, the meeting is a short introduction used to determine if further discussions and face-to-face meetings are justifiedTelepresence brings dispersed groups together quicklyModern telepresence meetings offer a hybrid face-to-face and virtual format.Typically, several people gather in one location and connect via high-definitionvideo and voice conference to groups in one or more other locations. Thesehigh quality conference systems are expensive, so most telepresence meetingsare held in offices, hotels, or restaurants that have the technology available.For example, a major pharmaceutical company arranged simultaneous din-ners in restaurants in 50 cities, where physicians attended to hear a world-classscientific seminar delivered via telepresence from the New Jersey headquarters.Figure 2. Teliris VirtuaLive Telepresence System. Image from©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  16. 16. 12Webinars deliver targeted content to an interested audienceWeb-based meetings allow participants to view a shared presentation or desk-top from their Web browser, in conjunction with a voice conference. Short teammeetings among dispersed colleagues can be successful with little forethought;however, you must carefully plan a successful Webinar with professional speak-ers and a diverse audience who is not required to attend.Professional Webinars start at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time, andrequire: • A moderator to manage the meeting, and occasionally serve as another voice to engage the speaker in a conversation • Speakers experienced with the Web-based meeting platform • Participants should be instructed to ask questions via text chat, instead of directly to the speaker • The moderator or an assistant should continually monitor and compile incoming questions, and present them to the speakers for response • Back-up plans for faulty phone lines, Internet connections, computers • A call to action following the meetingFigure 3. Webex meeting room. See Table 2 for a partial list of popular Web-basedmeeting platforms.Table 2. Partial list of popular Web-based meeting platforms Vendor Web Site Adobe Acrobat Connect Cisco Webex Citrix GoToMeeting Microsoft Office Live Meeting FX101729061033.aspx©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  17. 17. 13 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTVirtual Events precede, extend, or replace face-to-face eventsA Virtual Event allows attendees to participate from their personal computerin a theme-based combination of Webinars, voice and text chat, video on-de-mand, and virtual exhibit halls. You should expect a successful Virtual Event tohave similar costs for meeting space (i.e., the Virtual Event software platform),production, and pre-event management when compared to a face-to-faceevent of equivalent size. Virtual events, however, will not have travel, housing,or food & beverage costs; additionally, planners and participants save the traveltime associated with a face-to-face event. Accordingly, most Virtual Eventshave lower registration fees, sponsorships, and exhibition fees than their face-to-face counterparts.A Virtual Event works well in conjunction with a face-to-face event (as an onlineextension of the live event), or in complement with one (e.g., a Spring VirtualEvent can build on the audience from a Fall annual conference). Hewlitt-Pack-ard has used Virtual Events for product marketing kick-offs with their globalreseller network, while College Week Live is a good example of a Virtual Eventdesigned to quickly review multiple options in order to narrow down selectionsfor later in-person meetings.Figure 4. On24 Virtual Event convention lobby. See Table 2 for a partial list of popularVirtual Event platforms.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  18. 18. 14Table 2. Partial list of popular Web-based meeting platforms Vendor Web Site 6Connex Expos2 InfoNeedle InXpo On24 Unisfair VirtualEvents365 ents365.html©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  19. 19. 15 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTMarketing Your EventAll events need to communicate with their desired attendees; however, eventattendance falls into three broad categories: • Mandatory – invitees must attend the event, although they may have a choice of dates and/or locations (employee training) • Sponsored – invitees don’t have to attend, but the experience is highly desirable (incentive travel programs, sponsored buyer shows) • Optional – attendees must choose the event over everything else competing for their time and money (trade shows, conferences)The optimum marketing strategy for your event ranges from informational topromotional, depending on which category fits your intended audience.The Event Web SiteThe Web site is the foundation of most event marketing campaigns. At a mini-mum, the Web site needs to answer these basic questions: • What is the event about? (name, content, and agenda) • When are the dates and times of the event and related meetings? • Where is the event’s location and venue? • Who should attend this event? • How can one attend? (include invitation and fee requirements)The event Web site may be a single page listing the event name, dates, location,audience, and agenda, or it may be a series of Web sites with multiple tabs andhighly interactive content. Be sure that the What/When/Where information isvisible on the top of every page.Figure 5. Sample event Web site with basic information©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  20. 20. 16Design the appropriate “Look & Feel” for your eventAn attractive Web site is part art, and part personal preference. Nevertheless,you can give your attendees a successful experience by following these guide-lines: • Consistent – the colors, graphics, fonts, page header and footer should be consistent across every page of the event Web site, and they should match the Web site of the event’s host organization. Jumping between one “look & feel” for the organization, another for the event, and a third for the registration process will confuse, annoy, or scare some of your audience • Clean – use a single font with a small number of sizes and colors for all pages. Avoid use of moving images, especially on pages that will be viewed often • Concise – if a page has one section, then 100% of the reader’s attention will be focused on that area. Each additional word, form field, section, image, hyperlink, etc. competes for the reader’s focus • Edit, re-edit, then edit again – the Web does not excuse your eighth grade grammar lessons. Review your content multiple times and from the viewpoint of other peopleDecide what content to place onlineIn addition to the basic information, an event Web site should contain the in-formation your audience needs to achieve success before, during, and after theevent. Think about what your audience needs to know, and then provide it. • How do I get to the event? What are the cheapest travel options? • Can I confirm, cancel, or modify my registration and travel? • Who should I meet at the event? • What will I do, and what do I need to wear?As the event gets closer, attendees may ask for things you never consideredduring your planning. When reasonable, put this information in a FrequentlyAsked Questions (FAQs) area so that others may benefit from the knowledge.Some events have multiple audiences, e.g. attendees, exhibitors, and speakers.Consider having separate Web sites or separate areas in the event Web site foreach audience, where you can place content of specific interest to that group.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  21. 21. 17 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTE-mail Marketing and Event InvitationsThe host and planner must draw attention to the event in order to generatethe audience needed for a successful event. Before the event, much of this at-tention will direct attendees to the event Web site; however, in order to have asuccessful Web site the audience needs to be drawn to it.Different events will use a combination of marketing campaigns, includingmailed invitations, advertising (print, radio, TV, and Web), phone campaigns,etc.Who to send invitations and announcements toThe appropriate marketing campaign must consider the nature of the event’saudience: • Repeat attendees – is this an annual or recurring event, and most of the invitees have attended a previous event recently? • Existing organization – will most of the audience belong to an established group, e.g. association, company (employees or customers), community, etc.? • Recruiting focus – is one goal of the event to recruit new individuals to attend and perhaps join the established group?The optimum marketing strategy for your event ranges from informational topromotional, depending on which category fits your intended audience.In all situations, event invitations should have an “Opt-out” option to removethe recipient from your mailing list. Event marketing processes should be ableto track and separate the following groups of recipients: • Opt-out – want to be removed from future mailings • Undeliverable – addresses are invalid (bounce-back) • Views – looked at the message (address is valid, but no response) • Click-throughs – took action from the message to view the Website • Partial registrations – began the registration process but stopped • Registrations – complete registrations who intend to attend the event • Attendee – attended the event (or a previous event)As the event marketing campaign proceeds, each new message should targetonly individuals who remain in the intended group. For example, do not re-send an invitation to registered attendees; this will confuse them and producequestions and more work. An email list “gets old” rapidly, typically 20% or moreeach year. Invest the time to remove opt-outs (this is the law), investigate andupdate undeliverables, and find new prospects to invite.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  22. 22. 18Event Notification ScheduleEvents have widely varying timelines; however, below is a general schedule. Date (Before Notification and Purpose Event) One Year Save-the-Date Send an advance notice to attendees immediately after the previous year’s event, or as soon as you know dates and location of the new event. The event Web site should have at least a placeholder page Six months Event Web Site Open Fill the event’s Web site with appropriate content (speakers, agenda, travel options, etc.) and place it live as soon as possible. Once the Web site is ready, send a notice to previous and required attendees. 3-6 months Event invitation (Registration open) Send a short, targeted message to each group of invitees. Registration should be open before sending the invitation, so that the attendee can respond to the call to action. 1-3 months Alternate invitations For optional attendees, send different messages and offers if the origi- nal invitation did not lead to action. Do not spam or re-send the same message repeatedly. 1 month Registration and Travel Reminder Send short reminders to attendees who haven’t completed their required information. Travel should be booked before room blocks fill or are released and airfare rises (typically 21 days’ prior to travel). 3 weeks Event Reminder Send a “Get Ready” message to attendees with any new updates. 1 week See you at the Event Just before staff departs for the event, send a final message to at- tendees. This serves as a final reminder for the event, and will trigger last-minute questions from attendees while the staff is still in the office and may be able to resolve issues more easily. 0 days Daily event update Each morning during the event, send a newsletter to attendees with an overview of the coming day and highlights from the previous day©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  23. 23. 19 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTOnline RegistrationThe goal of the event Web site and marketing campaigns is to lead inviteesto attend the event. The registration process allows planners to manage theresulting flood of information.Pre-RegistrationA good registration process captures attendee data early and accurately; thisallows planners to forecast budgets and make changes to the event before ma-jor expenses incur. Conversely, late and inaccurate information results in longhours, unhappy attendees, poor attendance, unused food, empty rooms, andwasteful expenses.Design your registration formHyperlinks and tabs allow readers to navigate between multiple areas of theevent Web site and quickly find the information they need. Registration pro-cesses, however, should be linear - attendees need a simple path from start tofinish, or they are likely to become confused, make mistakes, and abandon theregistration. Key design points to consider include: • Minimum instructions – if the form requires paragraphs of expla- nations, it is doomed because people don’t read them. Use tool- tips, hints, and plain-English error messages to guide registrants • Straightforward – once the registration process begins, reduce or eliminate navigation options. The best process is to complete one form, then submit and move on to the next page • Reduce the data collected – only collect the minimum data re- quired for each individual. For example, if your company’s fax ma- chine broke three years ago and wasn’t replaced, then don’t col- lect fax number. If the attendee picks golf over tennis, then collect and require questions about club rentals and tee times, but skip follow-up fields intended for tennis players • Review, Verify, Pay, and Confirm – registration processes may need one page or ten, but they all should end with a review of the data entered, an option to edit that information, a final checkout (and payment, if applicable) page, and a printable and email confirmation Planners sometimes spend days or weeks designing their event Web site andregistration process, but forget that an attendee will consider the effort a wasteif they spend more than five minutes learning about the event and registeringto attend.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  24. 24. 20Create different forms for different purposesSome events are complex. Exhibitors, speakers, staff, sponsors, and variousgroups of attendees may all need to provide vastly different types and amountsof information to the event planner. The result can be a very complex registra-tion process, or it could be a number of fairly simple but specialized processes.It is always better to choose multiple simple registration forms. This will im-prove the front-end experience for both registrant and planner, however, don’tforget that all of the information from multiple registration processes shouldend up in one event database. • Share inventory – if the event has physical limitations, e.g. number of hotel rooms, seats in sessions, or ticketed activities, then this inventory must be shared (in real-time) among all registration pro- cesses. Otherwise the planner must maintain separate inventory for each group, and will likely undersell or oversell some items • Dual-role attendees – a speaker may also be an exhibitor or at- tendee. Make it clear where they should register, keep information for both of their roles, and watch out for duplicate registrations • Guide people – people may not see themselves in the same “clas- sification” that the planner puts them into. Guide them to the correct form with plain-English labels, and provide links or a way to change forms if they selected the wrong process initiallyRegister guests and groups at the same timeIf your event allows attendees to bring guests or groups of attendees, then letthese people register together. There are two ways to handle this: • “Guests” – people who travel with the attendee and may attend parts of the event, but they would not attend the event without the attendee. • “Colleagues” – people (co-workers, employees, etc.) who are full equals as attendees, but prefer to register together for conve- nience or group benefits.In general, the registration and reporting process should track guests as partof the attendee’s registration record, while colleagues each receive a separateregistration record, unique identifier, and confirmation.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  25. 25. 21 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTHousing ManagementHotel rooms are typically two-thirds of the total meeting costs for overnightface-to-face events. For most events, the hotel contract represents both thegreatest risk and best opportunity for cost control.Let the hotel sell their rooms, when appropriateWith small meetings or events where your attendees are paying for theirrooms, the easiest solution may be to use the hotel’s group reservations Website for hotel reservations. In this case, be sure that your event Web site andregistration form are integrated with the hotel reservation form (via hyperlinksand custom messaging), and ask for report-level access to the hotel’s group res-ervation system so that you can keep track of who has made room reservationsand compare that to your attendance list.Manage your hotel block to reduce attritionIf you have signed a contract committing to a large number of rooms, then of-ten the best way to handle the risk of filling those rooms is to manage the roomreservation process yourself. • Make housing reservations part of the event registration process • Offer a registration discount to attendees staying in event hotel • Monitor public rates and re-negotiate your group rates if published rates drop below them (, etc.) • During on-site check-in, ask people if they are staying at a local hotel and, if so, which one. Then compare to your registration list • Ask hotels for their guest list and compare to your attendance list to see which event attendees booked around the block.Figure 5. Sample event Web site with basic information (Passkey)©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  26. 26. 22Match roommates without creating a big messPutting two people in one room can save about half of your event’s housingcosts, which could amount to a 1/3 savings overall for the event, and signifi-cantly reduce your event carbon footprint. This isn’t for everyone, but can be avaluable part of some event experiences: • Under-18 audiences – place 2-4 children per room or 1 adult and two kids • adults – “New hire” orientation events may intentionally Young pair people from different offices and regions in order to encour- age interaction among attendees who might otherwise stay apart • Employee-only events – if the company is paying the bill, then it has more justification to enforce room-sharingWhile sharing rooms can save money, it can create logistic headaches if notmanaged carefully. Some things to watch out for include: • Roommate requests – can people request roommates by name, and what is the policy for the selected person to approve the request Matching criteria – typically gender and smoking preference are • used as matching criteria, but arrival/departure dates and demo- graphic information may also be relevant • Handling exceptions – the roommate policy needs to be flexible, for example, with two married employees or those with special needsWork with your hotel representative to prevent surprisesThe event planner should work with the host and hotel representative in orderto keep everyone informed of pre-registration progress as the event date getscloser. • Deliver reports to the host and hotel on time, as stated in contracts • Encourage early registration (via discounts, reminder emails, con- tests) in order to gauge your room pickup early enough to release rooms without penalty or add them as needed • Compare pre-registration to previous years’ events – if your au- dience is similar, then their registration habits will typically follow patterns that indicate if the event will have more or fewer attend- ees than in the past • Don’t take no for an answer – registration companies must be able to give you lists before the hotels need them, and hotels must be able to give you reports to cross-check for mistakes. Repeated delays and missed deadlines indicate larger problems©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  27. 27. 23 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTPayment ProcessingCollecting fees from attendees or exhibitors can be a good way to cover thecosts of an event; however, payment processing adds another area for theevent planner to manage. The event registration process should offer paymentoptions appropriate to the type of event and expectations of the audience, suchas: • Credit cards • Debit / ACH / e-Checking • Check by mail • Purchase order / invoice • Payment plans • Other methods – Paypal, Bill Me Later, etc.Handle payments securely every timeRegardless of the payment method, financial transactions involve the exchangeof sensitive information between the attendee and event. Planners mustensure that privacy safeguards and data security of the payment process meetlocal laws and regulations. Events are fraud targets, and the loss of credit cardnumbers or other financial information can be embarrassing or disastrous to anevent. Key points to consider include: • Never email credit card or bank information – if a hotel needs credit card guarantees from attendees, have them collect the information in their secure system. Alternately, pass financial in- formation via a hyperlink to a secure, password-protected report- contracts • store credit card numbers – use systems where the credit Don’t card or bank information is only used during the original payment transaction. If data is not stored on your system, it cannot be stolen • Encrypt secure information – when you have to store secure infor- mation, be sure that it is both encrypted and access-controlled • Control access – secure access to data using unique logins, pass- words, and employee background and credit checksPCI - accept credit cards online, without headachesFortunately for event planners, many technology vendors offer registration sys-tems with integrated credit card processing that is compliant with the PaymentCard Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Look for “PCI Level 1 Compli-ance” with your vendor, and periodically review their required annual auditreport to make sure you can rest easy.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  28. 28. 24Reports, Reports, ReportsWhile an event is typically a physical experience, the event planning process iscloser to an assembly line of information. Throughout the weeks leading upto the event, the planner compiles more and more information from the host,suppliers, speakers, hotels, attendees, etc. Before the event can succeed, theplanner must compile this mass of information and distribute it to the peoplewho need it. Thus, prior to the event itself, reports are the main output of theplanning process.Standard reports and custom reportsSeveral organizations have compiled “standard” reports for event planners;for example, see the Accepted Practices Exchange of the Convention IndustryCouncil ( While most events use thesame basic reports, each event typically requires some changes to the format.Although no true standard exists, common reports include: • Attendee List – list of attendees with contact and demographic information, separated by attendee type • Block Pickup – summary of number of rooms reserved for Room each hotel, room types, and nights as a percentage of the contract- ed number of room-nights • Hotel Rooming List – list of attendees staying at each hotel, with arrival, departure, room type, special needs, and other housing data • Arrival & Departure Manifest – list of attendees organized by their arrival (or departure) time at the event location (to allow ground transportation and hotels to avoid bottlenecks with large groups) • Travel Itinerary – detailed list of attendees travel information from their departure point to their destination at the event. Typically used for VIPs and speakers to make sure planners know where key people are when travel delays occur. • Session Attendance – basic list of attendees who have pre-regis- tered for breakout sessions (by topic, time, and room) • Payment Reconciliation – daily summary of payments and refunds by payment method, used to compare totals to bank account statements for financial reconciliation • Budget – detailed summary of event revenue and expenses by category, comparing actual to budgeted numbers • Cost Savings – report outlining cost savings realized during the event planning process, when compared to the original proposal or a baseline average©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  29. 29. 25 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENT“Changes” reports: Communicating with suppliersEvents have multiple suppliers (hotels, ground transportation, tour operators,food service, etc.) who need pre-registration information in order to plan theirservices. A planner typically sends registration data to suppliers weeks tomonths before the event, however, many changes occur after the initial reportas the host or attendees make additions, changes, and cancellations to theoriginal plans. Thus, event planners rely on “Changes” reports to update theirsuppliers with the new information, without having to repeatedly send thecomplete registration data.“Changes reports” have multiple formats, but they should include: • A header with basic event information – most suppliers work on multiple events simultaneously, so be sure the event name, date, location, and contact are prominent in the report • Columns with all relevant information the supplier needs • Sections for Additions (new records), Modifications (changed records), and Cancellations (records removed) • Modifications should highlight the fields that changed using color, font, and text; reports are often copied and faxed thus color and bold can be unreliable indicators of changesChanges reports apply to a range of dates, typically from the date the lastreport was delivered to the current date. Mistakes occur, however, so be surethat you can re-run reports from earlier periods or simply run the originalreport again to reset the changes.Figure 7. Sample “Hotel Changes Report” with Additions, Modifications, and Cancel-©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  30. 30. 26On-Site at Your Event: Registrationand Check-inChristina Rasco Adams and Jeff Rasco, CMP, Attendee Management, Inc.Onsite registration is certainly not rocket science, but it is the first impressionyour attendees have of the actual event. And like the cliché goes, you neverget a second chance to make a first impression. As with the rest of your event,check-in requires planning and attention to detail.Before You GoOnsite registration is highly variable depending on the size and type of eventyou are handling. The key part in planning for check-in procedures is evaluatingthe numbers and needs of your attendees. A few key points to address early inthe planning process to prepare for onsite include: • How many attendees? • What equipment is needed? • What materials will be supplied to attendees upon check-in? • What purpose will your Reg Desk serve?NumbersThe total number of attendees will dictate your equipment and staffing needsfor onsite, so it is important to have a ballpark figure early on to help plan.Smaller events may justneed a couple of drapedtables and chairs, while alarge event may requirea number of registrationstations. Note where theregistration area is andwhether the venue containsa built in registration areafor your use, and if so, whatis included.With so much activity goingon at the event, registration desk staffing is often overlooked. Consider thehours that the desk will be open, and plan for who will man the desk duringthose times. If manpower is an issue when the event team is busy with othertasks, then outsourcing onsite support is a very valuable option.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  31. 31. 27 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTBadgesName badges are not only a way to convey attendees’ names, but they alsoidentify different attendee types and verify that participants are registered.There are a number of techniques for producing name badges. Registrationsoftware often includes a badge printing component that helps layout andgenerate a printer-ready document, or spreadsheets can be merged into a labeldocument. Several vendors specialize in supplying everything you need forbadge printing – perforated cardstock, badge holders, and lanyards. In addition,some companies will handle all your badging needs from designing and printingto stuffing and shipping.Badge reprints are inevitable once onsite, so whatever printing option youchoose, plan to have a quick way to recreate and reprint the badge onsite. Oneof the simplest options is to pre-print badge stock and prepare a black-and-white template for the actual badge information. When a reprint is neededonsite, simply update the contact information in the template.Registration PacketsIn addition to badges, many events give the attendees a registration packet uponcheck in. This packet typically includes the conference agenda and other generalevent information, such as a location map, speaker and session descriptions, anarea for notes, etc. Sponsor information and giveaways are often included in thepacket.EquipmentMany pieces make up the registration area. The checklist below covers some ofthe items needed at nearly every registration desk. • Tables/booths • Chairs • Badges and packets • Extra badge stock for reprints • Computer • Printer • Internet • Location map • Conference agenda • Phone and/or radio for contact with other event staff • Pens and paper • Storage©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  32. 32. 28On-SiteSetting UpThe types of attendees and the total number play an important role in deter-mining how the registration area should be set up. Your goal should always bean efficient check-in process with minimal lines. Staff may include registrars forpre-registered attendee check-in, helpers for on-site registrations, cashiers, VIPcheck-in staff, greeter/information desk, and support for exhibitors and sponsors.At least one senior registration manager should have no direct desk assignment,but be available to troubleshoot and keep the process moving along.Staff numbers depend entirely on the number of attendees and difficulty in theregistration process. Your tradeshow may allow for many onsite registrations,so the ratio of staff to attendees may be 1:50 or lower. If most attendees pre-registered, 1:150 or so could be perfectly adequate. Your event history is the bestguide to providing staff, but if in doubt, don’t skimp on personnel. Possible staffingsources include your meeting management team, administrative assistants, vol-unteers, and the CVB.The physical set-up re-lies on the facility, at-tendee numbers, andoftentimes budget. Asmentioned, you maybe at tables, suppliedregistration booths, ora built-in desk. Basedon your numbers, youmay choose a simpleline or serpentine ap-proach, or it may beadvantageous to splitthe group in alpha-betical segments (A-D, E-H, etc.) to speedthings along. If it helps to keep things organized, work with the facility or yourvendor to supply ropes and stanchions or other methods to keep people movingin the right directions. And don’t forget proper directional signage.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  33. 33. 29 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTPrepping StaffA successful registration process demands making registration desk staff prepa-ration a priority. The prep session should cover: • What each attendee receives upon check in (badge, packet, etc.) • What information to convey to each attendee and attendee type • A basic understanding of the venue and location of meeting rooms • Procedures for handling badge reprints, walk up registrations, and emergency or security situations • How and when to contact other members of the event teamCovering every possible situation or question that the registration staff may en-counter is impossible and not necessary, but providing the team with the toolsto help the attendee is crucial. Handheld radios, cell phones, and text messagingare lifelines for the registration staff.Since the planning team is often working behind the scenes, the registration staffrepresents the entire event team and should understand the weight of this re-sponsibility. The registration area can get stressful at times, and your registrationteam will feel it. Never underestimate the power of a good attitude and a smile.Meet Me at the Reg DeskThe Registration Desk often becomes the information center of the event. It’sone of the first places attendees stop when they arrive, and it can continue to bea place to meet up with other attendees, find out where a meeting room is, andget other general information. Establishing the hours of the registration deskand including them in the conference agenda will help attendees know when thissupport will be available.As the first face of the event, registration is a great place to relay the feeling andtheme. For instance, if going green is an important theme of the conference,make sure that registration reflects this. Take advantage of the area to exhibit theevent or organization branding, promote special conference events, or recognizesponsors.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  34. 34. 30Technology and Check-inWe’ve come a long way since the days of sorting through index card catalogs tofind attendees and welcome them to our events. With powerful automated reg-istration systems in place, most information is a click away, even on site. With a basic Internet connection at the event venue, you can access your com- plete registration database with your on- line system, such as Certain Meetings. You may also opt for a server-based network, if going online is an issue. With onsite reg- istration kiosks, attendees can self-regis- ter directly in the system, pay their fees, and be queued up for their name badge and tickets. Pre-registered attendees can check themselves in by entering their reg- istration code or scanning a bar code. Onsite technology can really work to speed up the check-in process and save moneyon staff, postage and shipping, especially with larger meetings. With the additionof on-demand printers for badges and tickets, advance mailings of those materi-als are unnecessary. Because attendees simply check in at computer kiosks, andhave their badges, tickets, and other credentials automatically printed, there isless need for staff to assist. It also reduces or eliminates the need for pre-event“stuffing parties” and shipping badges to the event venue.Digitized information is also transforming another manual process in registration– the information packet. More and more, printed materials are giving way tohandouts provided in USB flash drives, CD/DVD format, or online. At worst, at-tendees look up the materials they need and print on demand at stations placedconveniently throughout the venue.Registration truly makes the first impression on your attendees, and technologyhas made a lasting impression on the registration and check-in processes.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  35. 35. 31 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTAfter Your Event EndsThe day an event ends successfully, most planners want to either hit the bar ortheir bed. The next day, however, the professional meeting planner knows thatthe end of the last event is only the start of the next event. The planner and hostshould reserve time immediately after the event to review what worked, whatdidn’t work, and where to make improvements.Closing Out Your EventThe first post-event task is to close out the event. This includes: •• Update the registration database with on-site changes, and mark pre- registrants who did not attend as “no-show” •• If the event did not meet its hotel commitment, then compare the hotel guest list to the attendee list to make sure your event gets credit for all attendees •• Compile all event invoices, and remind suppliers of deadlines to submit invoices not yet received •• Review invoices for errors, and submit for payment •• Update the event budget with the actual payment amounts, and calcu- late the variance between actual and budget or expected amounts •• Conduct surveys of key team members (host, speakers, planners, sup- pliers) to evaluate each others’ performance and make suggestions for improvement •• Compile attendee surveys, and distribute results to relevant parties (speakers, suppliers, etc.)What to KeepAt a minimum, the planner should keep track of high-level financial and registra-tion details for three years, in order to use in annual event consolidation reportsand preparations for future events. This includes: •• Basic event details – Name, dates, locations, agenda, number of attendees •• Signed contracts – in case of future audits or dispute •• Actual expenses by major category (Housing, Food & Beverage, Audio/ Visual & Production, Meeting Space, Travel, Registration)©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  36. 36. 32 • Actual registration numbers by attendee type and revenue • Registration and attendance proof for sessions granting Continuing Education Credits (some CE programs require this information to be archived for 7 years minimum) What to throw away Keeping everything from old events is almost as bad as keeping nothing, since important information becomes lost in the flood of the irrelevant and stor- age costs spiral upward. Each planner should determine a data deletion plan based on their organization’s applicable laws and regulations. Periodically (quarterly or annually) set aside time to “clean house” and remove irrelevant paperwork and data. Prepare for the Next Event Repeat events will have new dates, locations, speakers, attendees, and chal- lenges. A professional event planner can improve productivity and chances for success by constantly improving the planning process they follow. • Update the workflow used for the event with new “best practices” and lessons learned • Make a copy of the old event web site and registration form and set it up as a place holder for the next event, with a simple “Get Ready” message with any information known for the next year’s event • Review past supplier performance and consider adding or changing preferred suppliers in order to drive more business to the best ones • Use consolidated event spend information to negotiate discounts and better rates with preferred suppliers©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  37. 37. 33 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTStrategic Meetings ManagementPrograms (SMMP)Large organizations sign hundreds of contracts that together commit huge sumsfor meetings and events, without adequate controls on risk management ormeasuring value obtained for the money. Accordingly, a well-designed StrategicMeetings Management Program (SMMP) should be part of any enterprise traveland expense control system.How to Get StartedSMMP attempts to impose central controls on a geographically disperse andhighly variable behavior – planning meetings and events of different size, com-plexity, and purpose. Some SMMP implementations fail because the problem istoo big to tackle all at once and management patience expires before the pro-gram becomes demonstrably effective. It is critical to establish goals, priorities,milestones, and expectations throughout the SMMP implementation process,which typically requires at least two to three years to establish within a largeenterprise. • How big is the problem? o Establish an area on the company Intranet for meetings, and post a page explaining the initial SMMP goals, new policy re- quirements, and a Meeting Request Form o Require all events over 10 people or $10,000 to be registered and receive a unique Meeting Id o Do not yet implement a formal review/approval process – at this point simply register events (even if they were in the past) and collect basic information • Control your risk immediately o Work with your legal department to create a standard contract template for meetings and post this on your SMMP Intranet o An advanced SMM program has pre-negotiated contracts with major hotel chains and a process specifying required and op- tional clauses for non-standard contract negotiation o If practical, SMMP meeting professionals should review all non-standard event contracts, otherwise at least post an stan- dard contract with explanation of key clauses so that part-time meeting planners know what to watch out for o Store meeting contracts in a central location and associate each contract with its Meeting (by unique Id)©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  38. 38. 34Begin the Standardization ProcessOnce each meeting has a unique Id and all contracts are in a central locationwhere a meeting professional can review their risks, your organization is ready tobegin standardizing meeting management processes. • Centralize payment by Meeting Id o The best way to enforce meeting registration is to implement a policy that event-related expenses are not paid without a Meeting Id – be forgiving at first and allow registration of the meeting even after it is over, while educating the event host for next time o Alternately, you may require event charge codes for every meeting Id o Require employees to use the Meeting Id or Charge Code for event-related expenses, e.g. travel reservations, travel ex- pense reimbursements, meeting expenses, etc. o If practical, consider using a meeting charge card, at least for smaller purchases. Otherwise, track payment by broad cat- egories such as housing, food & beverage, travel, registration, audio/visual production, and meeting space • Standardize client-facing tools o Most employees’ pre-event experience is limited to the event Web site and registration process o If your central Attendee Management tool has major faults, then the ultimate clients (attendees) will lose faith in the value of the entire SMM program o Custom-brand your event web sites, registration forms, and email marketing within your Intranet to make the pre-event experience seamless and fast for attendees • Set up a Request & Approval process o After the event host completes a meeting request, it should route to the appropriate budget manager for approval o Some systems create automated budget estimates for “not- to-exceed” approval limits, while others require at least one response from a qualifying facility (hotel, etc.) before approval©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  39. 39. 35 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTOrganizing site selection for SMM ProgramsOrganizations have different requirements for selecting the event location andfacility. Single-source proposals are appropriate in some cases, such as whenevents occur in the same location year-after-year, one facility is obviously moreconvenient for the majority of attendees, or a repeating event rotates amonga fixed number of properties. In other cases, organizational rules or laws (e.g.,Sarbanes-Oxley) require the meeting planner to consider multiple facilities andobtain at least 3 proposals from qualified vendors. The site selection processwas discussed previously for a single event; additional considerations for a SMMprogram include: • Centralize the site selection and RFP process – use a single system and workflow to create an RFP, select potential vendors to receive the RFP, collect responses from vendors, narrow the options, conduct site in- spections, negotiate with the selected facility, and prepare a contract with appropriate clauses for the event • Customize the site selection process to your organization’s specific needs, and allow further customization for each event’s unique require- ments • Use an extensive supplier database, and load it with your organization’s sales contacts, preferred suppliers, and past events • Track credits from cancelled meetings, volume discounts, promotions, etc. and consider these during the RFP process • Consolidate RFP reporting across all events – show suppliers (by chain, brand, and property) not only how much you spent with them each year, but also how many opportunities (RFPs) you offered them, and how often they bid, declined, or didn’t respond. Include their RFP re- sponse time in comparison to their competitors • Prepare Cost Savings Reports - Most cost savings in the event planning process occur during site selection and contract negotiation. Keep track of those savings by event and in aggregate©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  40. 40. 36Complete SMMPProject management and creation of a detailed Event Specification Guide (ESG)with a detailed budget are the central daily tasks of many meeting professionals.In the context of SMMP, however, we consolidate these processes only after con-trolling meeting registration, contracts, bill payments, attendee management,and site selection. • Project management o Define a “best practice” workflow for each process that you repeat often, with due dates relative to key milestones (e.g. the Event Start Date) and task assignment relative to roles (e.g. host, approver, planner) o Create a Master Schedule by applying the appropriate work- flow to each event, so that tasks and milestones now have spe- cific due dates and assigned persons. Remove tasks that are not applicable to the specific event o A Project Management Dashboard shows managers the prog- ress of all current events and projects, including which tasks are overdue and which are pending in the near term • Event Specification Guide (ESG) – also called “Meeting Resume” o The event specification contains all of the details about an event, for the vendor where the event will be held o It includes “Function Setup Orders” (FSOs), which include details for each meeting space and time slot. FSOs are the meeting planner’s version of hotels’ “Banquet Event Orders” (BEOs) o For example, see the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) standard at ESG contains all information that the planner and event facility share. In ad-dition, the planner should maintain a detailed budget for each event. • Event changes should reflect automatically in the budget details • Combine line item details into major spend categories, such as Housing, Travel, Food & Beverage, Audio/Visual, and Meeting Space • Consolidated budgeting reports should aggregate all expenses by event, spend category, and across multiple events over time©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  41. 41. 37 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTEmbed SMMP in the OrganizationOnly after firmly establishing commitment to SMMP in the travel, procurement,finance, and event management departments should an organization investin systems integration. Such integration, however, is essential to streamliningSMMP and embedding it internally.Integrate internal systemsEvents are not a core profit center for most businesses, so most event manage-ment systems must fill a support role to other primary systems. The key systemsmost SMM programs integrate include: • Travel management – most corporate travel and expense (T&E) systems focus on individual (“transient”) travel, however, event-related (“group”) travel can account for 30% of total expenses and should be managed ac- cordingly • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – for customer-facing events, the CRM application needs to know at least who was invited, who plans to attend, and who has attended past events • Human Resources (HR) – employee-facing events need to pull data from HR for registration and push data related to attendance in required events • Learning Management Systems (LMS) – many LMS applications don’t man- age physical events, however, course content, prerequisites, and Continu- ing Professional Education credits must be transferred between the event management system and LMS • Single Sign-On (SSO) – Single Sign-On allows employees, customers, etc. to sign on to a system (such as an Intranet or customer portal) once, and then have their profile information pass automatically to other systems such as event registration • Procurement – event site selection and contracting must work within the overall organizational procurement process • Accounting – event-related invoices, billing, and payments must comply with the overall organizational accounting systemAutomate information exchangeWhenever practical, automate the exchange of event information (reports,email, status pages) with suppliers and team members. In other cases, provid-ing real-time access (via hyperlinks or system login) will allow parties who needevent-related information to retrieve it when they need it.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  42. 42. 38Social Networks and EventsJordan Schwartz, CEO, PathableSocial networks have caught the imagination of meeting planners worldwide forgood reason: people attend face-to-face events to network; they want to meetpotential customers, vendors, employers, employees, and friends.On-line social networks facilitate that goal by providing a means for attendeesto get to know each other prior to the meeting and to stay in touch afterwards.In addition, social networks can help build attendance at events through viralmarketing.Viral MarketingSocial networks can help get the word out about your event, at no cost beyondyour time invested. Social network marketing has two important advantagesover traditional marketing: • Exponential Effect: Remember that old shampoo commercial, where a woman says she told two friends about Faberge, “and they told two friends, and they told two friends…”? That’s a classic example of the ability of viral marketing to amplify a message • Trusted Source: People are more likely to listen to and trust something they hear from a friend than from a paid advertisement. Viral marketing is “advertising you can’t buy”The accessibility of viral marketing has increased dramatically with the rise ofestablished social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which haveformalized who is a “friend” and made easy the ability to share thoughts - (andlinks) with them.LinkedInLinkedIn ( is considered the most “professional” of the socialnetworks and provides several avenues for building a viral marketing campaign.First, you can create a dedicated page on LinkedIn for your event where attend-ees indicate they are “Attending”, “Interested” or “Not Attending”. If they choose“Attending”, a message will appear in each attendee’s Feed letting their contactsknow. Attendees will also be able to leave messages for one another as “Com-ments” on the page (which will also show up in their Feed).Creating an Event page on LinkedIn is free: simply sign-in with your LinkedIn ac-count, click Events from the left-hand navigation bar under Applications, thenclick the Add an Event tab that will appear at the top of the page.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  43. 43. 39 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENT Figure 8. Sample event page on LinkedIn ( second way to leverage LinkedIn’s viral marketing potential is through LinkedInGroups ( LinkedIn Groups are topic-based sub-communities within the larger LinkedIn community. When people join a LinkedInGroup, they generally consent to receive messages posted to that group as e-mail, so Groups can be an effective way of getting a message out to targeted,relevant people.To get your message out to a LinkedIn Group: • Sign in or create an account if you don’t already have one • Find and join groups relevant to your event by visiting the LinkedIn Groups Directory: Also, view the Groups that people involved in your event belong to. • Click “Start a Discussion” and enter your messageImportant: Many Groups have rules restricting advertising messages, so read anyintroductory messages and learn the etiquette before jumping in.Even Groups that don’t explicitly disallow advertising won’t appreciate “spam”,and you don’t want to alienate potential attendees. Be sure that you only sendyour message to directly relevant Groups and that you phrase your message interms of sharing information, rather than marketing your event.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  44. 44. 40FacebookLike LinkedIn, Facebook ( has “Events” pages that your at-tendees can join. When they do, Facebook adds a message to their News Feedletting all their friends know they are attending, a great viral marketing mecha-nism.While Facebook generally is regarded as more “social” and “personal” to Linke-dIn’s “professional” feel, Facebook has a more active membership and a betterdeveloped News Feed feature, meaning that even for professionally-orientedevents, it can be a more effective way to spread your message. Figure 9. Sample event page on Facebook ( create an event on Facebook: • Sign in or create a Facebook account if you don’t already have one. • Click in the box labeled “What’s on your mind?” • Click the “calendar page” icon showing the 31st: • Enter your event details, then click Share • Click the name of the event, then click Edit Event • Enter any additional event details (notice the options on the left) • Click Invite People to Come to inform everyone in your social network that you’ve created an event page©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.
  45. 45. 41 BEHIND THE SCENE OF A SUCCESSFUL EVENTTwitterTwitter is a fundamentally different type of social network from LinkedIn andFacebook in that there are no “pages”, there is just your feed: a continuous listof the messages that you’ve posted to the service. Anyone who is subscribed toyour feed (i.e., anyone who is “following you”, in Twitter terminology) might seeyour messages (or “tweets”).However, because each person sees a continuously updated list of all the tweetsof everyone they follow, if someone is following many people, they may overlooksome tweets as new tweets replace them in the feed.One common behavior on Twitter is to “retweet” what someone else hasretweeted. This simply means that you repeat their message, preceding it withthe letters “RT” (for retweet) and their Twitter name (e.g., @pathable).You can spread the word about your event on Twitter not only by tweeting ityourself, but by encouraging others to retweet your message (thus spreadingit to all of their followers). Some common methods for encouraging retweetingare: • Ask your followers to retweet your message explicitly (e.g., “Registra- tion open for EventCon 2001: (please RT)” • Include Twitter-only specials or discounts in your messages • Share breaking news or new and interesting developments (e.g., high profile speakers booked) on TwitterHint: Twitter restricts messages to 140 characters. That means that if you wantsomeone to be able to retweet your message, it must be less than 140 characterslong even after they add “RT @your_twitter_name” to the beginning!Twitter Hash TagsOne way to mark tweets as being relevant to a particular topic (e.g., about anevent) is to include what’s called a “hash tag” in the body of the tweet. A hash tagis simply a set of characters preceded by a hash mark, “#”. By including the hashmark, you designate that word as a key word that can be more easily searchedfor, and is distinguished from similar words. For example: • “I use certain software” might mean that the sender uses a particular piece of software. • “I use #Certain software” designates the word “Certain” as a special key- word, and thus more likely to reference the Certain Software service.©2010 Certain Software, Inc. All rights protected and reserved.