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Event Mangers' Opportunity to Create Valuable Event Networking
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Event Mangers' Opportunity to Create Valuable Event Networking


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  • 1. Event Managers’ Opportunities forCreating Valuable Event Networking Margaret Core walks you through the event organizer’s impor- tant leadership role in hosting networking, driving connections and creating show floor traffic drivers. Are exhibitors getting value? Are attendees getting value? Are people and exhibitors engaged?Bottom line, it’s our responsibility to create the event environment in advance and on-site for valuable audience connections and networking.Our customers - attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers - all have the expectationthat the event will be efficient in delivering audience connections.Where do we start? What is the right mix of events and services to allow the connec-tions and networking? How do we invest in the right technology? Where does the dataflow from? We all have scratched our heads over these questions.These days, it’s confusing on how to plan an effective set of connection tools for attend-ees. There are a wide variety of ever-changing technology options. Use this article tohelp identify your priorities and match them against your options.In the next few pages, I will cover the Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? ofcreating valuable event networking. -1-
  • 2. In the grey boxes, I walk you through the BIO In- ternational Convention examples and decisions we made in offering our 2011 myBIO personal planner tools via the Zerista event platform.Step 1: Who?Decide who needs to connect with each other. What are the buying processes of your industry?Who will benefit from connections? Consider the marketplace buying patterns. List the variousconnection pairings, such as: • Exhibitors & Attendees • Attendees & Attendees • Speakers & Attendees • Media & Companies • Public Officials & Companies …and more!As you make your list, consider further defining the different attendee types such as students,companies, universities, media, financiers, etc. BIO International Convention For the event that I currently work on, the BIO International Convention, life science products usually move along in the production process by engaging multiple partners. The parties involve partnering on innovations, financing, manufacturing options, licensing assets and more. The audiences for this exploration of partnering includes small biotechs, large phar- ma, academics, research institutions, service providers and more. We host a variety of con- nection points, some requiring more of a time and resource investment than others. -2-
  • 3. For our highest level of investment in prequalified meetings, we host the BIO Business Forum,powered by the BIO One-on-One™ system. The BIO Business Forum provides a private set-ting with the BIO Exhibition and hosts more than 22,000 30-minute meetings over the four daysof our event. For companies participating in the BIO Exhibition that want to increase boothtraffic and qualified leads, they can utilize the One-on-One system for appointments to occur intheir booths.Gaining access to the BIO Business Forum requires our highest level of registration and aninvestment to create a partnering profile. For the attendee who needs to make connectionsbut does not necessarily want to make the full time investment of the BIO Business Forum, weoffer the myBIO personal event planner tool. myBIO is a set of search and personal planningtools that prompt individuals to make an event plan marking the sessions, exhibitors, speakers(and more) that they plan to connect with during their visit. We find that 50% of our attendeescreate some level of plans and that the international attendees make the most use of the per-sonal planning tools.So for the BIO International Convention, we offer two very different approaches to planning andconnecting. In addition to the private meetings, the BIO Business Forum has a cocktail recep-tion at the end of one day. The BIO Exhibition has a 1.5 hour time period where exhibitors hostreceptions, and we also have a variety of special events including a few blocks of time with noeducation programming in order for attendees to focus on the BIO Exhibition. -3-
  • 4. Step 2: What? Making Use of Audience Assets What sessions are relevant to me? What exhibitors do I need to see? Who should I meet?In your planning process, I suggest that you start listing the assets that each of your attendeetypes brings to the event and how they can interact with other groups. Assets are needs suchas specific purchasing requirements, knowledge to share, training and certifications. What arethe pressing business needs of each group? What content elements can they share with oth-ers? How best can you make use of their time at your event to deliver the most impact? Forexample, if your audience is professional meeting planners, they most likely need to find eventvenues and they can share RFPs. Can they share the RFP in advance so the event ven-ues could respond in person? What sort of venue search tool can you offer to make the bestmatch?Examples of audience assets and what they could share: Attendees—organization of the products and services they Attendee are seeking to purchase Exhibit Booth Personnel—service, product details and specifications, how-to information Speakers—knowledge, instructions, benchmarking, how-to information Exhibitor Public Officials—regulatory insights, government funding, process, issues Delegations Organizers—country opportunities, profiles, economic development Who are my qualified prospects? How can I engage them before, during and after the event? -4-
  • 5. Examples of services you can offer to provide connections and exchanges for your audiences: • virtual literature collection and distribution • press release distribution • appointment requests • following exhibitors • messaging • session check-ins • affiliated event list (party listings) • commenting • white papers and other documents on company listings • import/export match making • RFP response system • country profiles BIO International Convention At our event, one out of three attendees come from out- side the United States. Therefore, we see the need for countries to share their life science infrastructure such as university research areas, business climate such as regulation, tax incentives and manufacturing infrastruc- ture. To allow companies to search and connect, we cre- ated a myBIO Company Network which combines and consolidates the exhibitor list, the companies active in the BIO Business Forum, our sponsor list and speakers. The myBIO Company list is a much stronger presenta- tion of the company involvement at BIO than if we pres- ent the lists separately. The prospective attendee can see the show floor activity and the company’s involve- ment in other elements of our event in one place. For us, the combination of lists allows various groups to view how companies are participating in our event. In the past, because some companies were only in the BIO Business Forum, they were hidden until a person registered and logged into the partnering system. Now, when prospective attendees search, they’ll find a more comprehensive company involvement. -5-
  • 6. Company Personnel ListAnother suggestion is to consider consolidating or changing the “lists” you present.New Ways of Organizing Event “Lists”Old NewExhibitor List Company Participation List Speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, activeSponsor List companies list all in one placeProgram Listings Comprehensive Schedule of Events—searchable! -6-
  • 7. Step 3: When? and Where?When and where to capture personal data in order to create profiles for connections and net-working are critical decisions. I have a number of “lessons learned” and this is an area in whichI believe registration companies and tool technologies providers could create better options forclients.The fact is that as humans on this earth, we are not interested in maintaining multiple profileson the Internet. I personally have invested in my LinkedIn profile and have no interest in creat-ing other profiles for events I attend. Therefore, event organizers need to make use of import-ing profiles and photos from Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media sites. For demographicinformation used in creating profiles, consider importing the information from the registrationprocess or the data you have on file in your association database. BIO International Convention For our 2011 myBIO system, we transmitted basic attendee data and demographic informa- tion from our registration partner, CompuSystems to the Zerista platform. We also transmit- ted individual information from our a2z, Inc. speaker database. The attendee myBIO profiles were created instantly and hosted “tags” that could be searched and sorted. For example: Links and data tags from info in registration record For our educational program display, the default was the chronological display and then there were different subsets that a user could select, such as breakout sessions, recep- tions, keynotes, booth giveaways and more. -7-
  • 8. Step 4: Identify Where Your Data Sources Are Stored.When my good friend and co-worker (at three different employers!) was planning the transi-tion from a Consumer Electronics Show type-set exhibitor directory to an exhibitor self-entrydatabase way back in the 1900s, I can remember being overwhelmed by the changes we werediscussing. As she ran her hands over the type-set pages, she said, “It’s just data!” Years anddozen of technology projects later, I agree.Make a list of where you currently store your various data—exhibitor information, speaker in-formation, sponsor lists, etc., and think how you could display the data in a comprehensive andlogical manner for the attendee. With today’s technology leaning toward Open Systems Devel-opment and API exchanges, your options are great. BIO International Convention For our 2011 event, we changed processes entirely to create our myBIO personal event planner and best position connections for our audiences. To do so, we exported our exhibi- tor information from Map Your Show, our speakers from the a2z module, BIO Business Forum participants and sponsors from TMA Resources’ Personify and attendee data from CompuSystems (CSI). Yes, four sources displayed in one system! From the display of the four data sources, an attendee could see and connect with the at- tendee list, companies involved in BIO with their personnel list organized, companies and their speakers, sponsors and their personnel list and more. Searchable tags to find like companies -8-
  • 9. Other Related Topics in Creating Valuable Event Networking.Social Media Influences.Because of the huge adoption rates of Face-book, LinkedIn and other social media tools,event managers have an advantage whenintroducing community and online connec-tions and networking to both prospectiveand registered attendees. I believe the bestevent social media approach is a blendedapproach between your community servicesand the consumer social media tools. Yourevent community has the opportunity toblend in with the already existing tools in use.The question for the event manager is reallythen how best to complement and efficientlyengage the attendees. Is there synergy withyour event and a group on LinkedIn? If so,create or connect with a group and use thegroup to drive your event website traffic. BIO International Convention The Zerista platform we used allowed us to blend our community and personal event plan- ning tools with existing social media tools such as Twitter. Any mention of #BIO2011 also appeared as a live feed to the myBIO page and also to the attendee’s profile. -9-
  • 10. Buzz of BIO engagement campaign created by r2integrated to generate videosubmissions of small company presentations. - 10 -
  • 11. On-site Social Notebook for attendees’ notes and quick tips on social engagements, includ-ing networking and connections such as myBIO, Foursquare, Scvngr, LinkedIn, Facebook,Twitter and more!Branding the Services.When we introduced the set of myBIO attendee tools, we made a specific effort to differentiatethe personal event planning tools from our set of company tools for BIO Business Forum par-ticipation. We tapped our marketing agency, Fixation Marketing, to help us position and brandthe event elements. Fixation was also instrumental in helping us create myBIO branding andhave the tools be a natural extension of our event branding. See the logo connections here. - 11 -
  • 12. Selling Sponsorships, Advertising and Leads from the Services.As with many transactional services, there is certainly an opportunity to monetize your servic-es and to cover costs. For the last four years, BIO has sold banner ads, keywords, highlightedand enhanced listings, lead packages, maps, kiosks, email checking stations, mobile spon-sorship and more. The exhibitors and sponsors appreciate and benefit from the branding.Digital MarketingWhen planning and building the set of event networking tools, it’s important to have a digitalstrategy that drives awareness, traffic and engagement to the networking. At BIO, we adaptedour digital outreach so that searches on the attendee list and program were highlighted inorder to create a personal event for attendees. We also encouraged them to plan before theyarrived at BIO. Our digital marketing firm, r2integrated, was a good strategic partner in cre-ating engagement activities such as The Buzz of BIO and email broadcast designs with amyBIO focus.Easy Connections—Meetups and More.I suggest that when thinking about how you can make con-nections, be observant at work, in your personal life andonline. Look for trends in user-based content and applica-tions. For example, when I was at the movies one day, Isaw a Meetup group gathering in the theater foyer to watcha movie together. I also saw a Meetup at a dog park. Thisled me to research Meetups and create an account for BIO.We now have a Meetup groups and a full schedule of freeMeetups offering connections to niche groups at our event.The Meetups are for graduate students, women in biotech,CFOs and more. In Boston, where we had our 2007 eventand will again in 2012, we have a 700-person Boston Bio-tech Meetup group that meets monthly. This is an exampleof using a free tool to let networking grow organically!Some other free connection online tools are: Foursquare,LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and other location-based apps - 12 -
  • 13. The Importance of MobileIt goes without saying that the prevalence of smartphones globally has had an impact onevents. You can ask for center performance tests for the free wifi system. You certainly havea variety of choices with mobile platforms. The thing to keep in mind is that attendees doexpect to have content accessible and formatted for their mobile devices.About BIO   BIO  2011     All  Customers     Total  Visits    106,514       Visits/User     7.06      BIO chose Zerista as a technology partner Total  Page  Views      1,108,876      for their personal event planning tool fortheir 2011 event after BDMetrics retired theirpersonal event planner platform. BIO was Pages/Visit    11.0     10.77    searching for a tool that would display speak- Average  er, program, attendee and exhibitor data so Time/Session     22  min  26  sec     21  min  52  sec    that attendees could make a robust event       %  Page  Views  May     9%      plan prior to leaving for their BIO trip. One %  Page  Views  June     74%      out of every three BIO attendees comes fromoutside the United States. Organizing meet-ings and target companies is important to the %  Page  Views  July     17%        international audience. Because biotechnol-ogy innovations rely heavily on partnershipsand collaborations, the important features forthe BIO community are the ability to search,sort and map out the companies in the BIOExhibition which hosts 1,800 companies, 60state and country pavilions and is the size ofmore than four American football fields. - 13 -
  • 14. 12 Lessons Learned in Launching Networking and Connection Services 1 Attendees are humans first before they are your attendees. There are basic needs and the sweet spot right now for event organizers is the growing need and expec- tation for Connection. See Michelle Bruno’s Hierarchy of At- tendee Needs on her wonderful blog full of spot on event ideas. http://forkintheroad- 2 Brand your service. Create an easy graph- ic to quickly show the value of your con- nection tools. 3 Allow prospective attendees to use your system so you can convert them to regis- tered attendees. 4 Mobile is important—iPads, smartphones, native applications. 5 Create a data flowchart early in your planning process to quickly bring staff and vendor partners into your connection vision. 6 Use other attendees to recruit new attendees. Provide incentives. 7 In year #1, keep the system simple. Measure and learn from adoption rates and user stats. Add on other services in year #2 and #3. 8 Create the connection opportunity and let the community grow organically. 9 Think through the brand real estate that you can sell to advertisers, sponsors and exhibitors.10 Be conservative on where you require logins. Users will bolt if they don’t know their login or if they don’t see the value of creating an account.11 Monitor your user reports and look for trends. Understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how the best practices apply to your connection tools. For example, if you iframe your data, you will most likely lose SEO value. - 14 -
  • 15. 11 Monitor your user reports and look for trends. Understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how the best practices apply to your connection tools. For example, if you iframe your data, you will most likely lose SEO value. 12 If you are integrating and flowing data from different systems, find an external resource who can create detailed data field mapping. (Joe on our team saved the day many times with his mapping data!) Bonus tip! Invest in a good working relationship with your external partners!About Margaret CoreMargaret Core has 25 years’ experience working with associationsthat host trade shows and events, including the Optical Society ofAmerica, Consumer Electronics Association and LeadingAge (formerlythe American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging). Cur-rently, Margaret is Managing Director of Sales and Marketing, Conven-tions and Conferences for the Biotechnology Industry Organization(BIO). The BIO International Convention ( isan event that has been honored by Tradeshow Week as one of the 50Fastest Growing Tradeshows and most recently, by the TSNN EventExcellence Awards program (T-awards) as the 2011 Best Marketingand Social Media campaign.Margaret considers herself a lifelong learner and enjoys embracing new marketing toolsand approaches. Her projects have incorporated social media tools that deliver increasedconnections, value and planning aids to attendees and exhibitors. Margaret blogs onevent marketing at She resides in Arlington,Virginia, with her husband and two sons, and is an active member of her community.Margaret met her husband, Lyndell, on in 1996 and recognized the valuableconnection implications to events early on!Feel free to contact Margaret at - 15 -
  • 16. Zerista is an award winning maker of the event industry’s only Event Intelligence Platform. Zeristaunifies attendee, exhibitor, venue, schedule and social event into one platform that amplifies, person-alizes and provides analytics for all stakeholders at events of all sizes. Zerista’s comprehensive andfeature rich platform makes it easy for attendees to experience important events via web & mobiledevices. Zerista empowers attendees to meet the right people, see the right sessions and talk to theright exhibitors.Zerista provides the most effective exhibitor marketing suite available and connects exhibitors with themost qualified attendee prospects not just during the event but before the event even starts and afterit is over. Event organizers fall in love with Zerista’s Event Control Center where attendee, exhibitor,speaker, sponsor, agenda, session, local and venue maps can all be managed.Zerista can be contacted at or 720-230-6801 - 16 -