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Event Goals: If You Want Steak Don’t Order Chicken

You get what you ask for.  (Well, at least you typically get what you pay for.)  Sounds simple enough.  There shouldn’t be a lot of room for interpretation there, right?  Wrong.

It’s funny to me how many people tell me that they want “steak” at their event, then go on and order “chicken.”  It’s a strange alignment of goals and objectives with event execution.

Have you ever been to a networking event where there was no actual networking?  Or maybe there were a few minutes set aside for networking during the 2 hour event, but that was it.  What if you are shy and it takes you awhile to warm up?  What if you didn’t read “1,001 Conversation Starters” before the event?  You would probably think the networking (which was supposed to be the whole point of the event) was terrible.

Think about this:  If your event’s top two objectives are 1) Education and 2) Networking, how much time/space and budget are you allocating to achieving these objectives?  If you spend the majority of your resources on paying a speaker to speak and force attendees to sit in chairs rather than interact with each other, what do you think the result is going to be?

Maybe it’s because I’m a huge foodie, but for some reason, most analogies seem to make more sense to me when they are put in terms of ordering at a restaurant.  One of my favorite such analogies comes up quite frequently when discussing the importance of clearly identifying goals and objectives with clients before an event to improve the chances of getting desired results.

The example goes a little something like this:

“If you go to a restaurant and order the chicken, but you really wanted the steak, don’t be upset with the waiter because he brought you…the CHICKEN!”

You got what you asked for, not what you wanted.  This seems obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many times the critical step of identifying event goals and objectives and then matching them up with execution is missed or not handled thoroughly. The result is always unmet expectations, disappointment and confusion when actual attendee behaviors and take-aways don’t match up with goals.

Even though there is an entire menu of options for how to effectively run an event that obtains the desired results, the event planner or ultimate decision maker often makes it impossible to get what they want because they don’t align execution with goals.  It isn’t until the event is over and they are forced to sit down and calculate the ROI or report on the effectiveness of their marketing efforts that they realize:

1)  They got exactly what they asked for, but it wasn’t really what they wanted.

2)   Their metrics for measurement don’t line up with their event objectives and provide little useful data.

3)   They didn’t spend enough time on the planning phase and had to make a last minute decision so they just went with what they always get.  (The same event format – the chicken.)

Nobody likes to feel like they waste their time and money on an event that produces disappointing results.  Here are my 5 Tips for Effectively Setting Event Goals & Objectives that produce real, measurable results:

  1. Know what you want your audience to do.  It is important to understand your audience and ultimately what you want them to do or take away from your event.  What is the behavior change that you are looking for? Know what you are trying to achieve and define it clearly.   This makes it easier for the whole team to focus their efforts accordingly.  If you want attendees to network, don’t keep them confined to chairs sitting on their hands for the majority of the event.
  1. Set SMART objectives.  Make sure your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  Spell it out.   If your goal is to increase your e-mail contact list, make it a more specific goal of increasing subscriptions to your newsletter by X%.
  1. Expect more, get more.  You aren’t doing anyone any favors by setting vague and easily attainable goals.  According to study by Dr. Edwin Locke, “90 percent of the time, specific and challenging (but not too challenging) goals led to higher performance than easy, or “do your best,” goals.”  The study went on to mention that working toward a goal is also a major source of motivation and that “the more difficult and specific a goal is, the harder people work to achieve it.”  If you are consistently satisfied with the same mediocre results and don’t ask for or expect anything more, you will keep getting the same mediocre results.
  1. Know your target audience.  Are you targeting all attendees with a broad branding campaign?  Or are you looking to reach key players within the organizations attending the event?  Each segment of your audience is unique.  Treat them like it and approach them in a way that appeals to their specific wants and needs.
  1. Track and measure.  How do you know if you got what you wanted?  One of the best ways to get feedback on the effectiveness of your event is to ask the right questions.  In the example of the networking event, ask questions like:  “Did you meet anybody new?”  “How are you going to follow up with them?,” in your post event surveys.  Make sure you change your evaluation metrics to measure against your objectives. If your goal is to measure increases in networking connections, don’t ask attendees questions about what they thought of the food!

Ultimately, I just want everyone to be happy with what they ordered.  At IMT we know that sometimes you need an expert to guide you and make recommendations based on their experience.  We have a whole team of digital strategists who are eager help you navigate the world of social media, hybrid events, trade shows and interactive meetings.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you effectively set event goals and objectives.  Don’t settle for chicken if you really want steak!  We’ll help you make sure you communicate your order clearly.

Stars, Champions, Trolls and Your Event Community

Taming Wild ThingsWe know much more about setting up and managing an event community than we did a year ago.

The report “Best Practices in Online Community Management” produced by Pathable reads like a secret decoder ring for first time event community managers.

While the report is loaded with with helpful advice, I thought these four things stood out:

Recruit the Stars

The report recommends that you go find “stars” to come hangout in your community and contribute to it. Just like in night clubs, these stars draw others into the conversations and to the community, etc. The report offers seven different tips for recruiting stars and engaging them.

Find A Champion

This is the internal leader that is committed to make sure that the online community succeeds. Based on my experience in corporate america, the stronger the champion the better the project result.

Control the Trolls

This report offers strategies to contain and mitigate negative actions by troublemakers (trolls or Wild Things) that want to pollute your event’s social network. Think about the tips in this section like “Rodent Killer.”


Most event communities allow attendees to connect their friends/contacts, status updates, etc with other social networks (think Linkedin or Twitter). This allows attendees to leverage their connections and engagement in other places with the event social network.

Bottom Line

If you find a champion that can bring the stars into your online event community and squash the trolls – then you will increase your odds of ending up with a rich thriving event community.

You can download the original report from Pathable directly here: Best Practices in Online Community Management (sorry, you must register with Pathable.)

What other resources would you recommend to first time community managers?

image via: fashionartiste
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How to Make Your Event’s Social Network Easy to Join

For some attendees, the registration process for your event social network is the equivalent of climbing a steep rock face. It appears impossible.

You ask them to go to some website that they have never heard of – register for a username and password, enter some personal information, wait for an email verification, click a link to validate the email address, fill out a profile, upload a picture (after they find a descent one), etc.

For some people this is a hassle that they don’t want. And while YOU argue that the benefits of joining are worth it – they argue that it is too hard, has too many steps and takes too much time.


It doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this hard.

Here are some simple ways for you to make it easy for attendees to join your event social network.

1. Integrate with Your Registration System

By integrating your event social network with your registration system, joining your social network becomes one small step in the process of registering for the event. You catch attendees while they are thinking about the event. Plus, you can automatically load some of the data into their profiles for them.

“We saw our adoption numbers leap when we integrated with the registration systems. Completions of the final registration page, which asks people to join the community, jumped, catching people in the work flow and addressing their needs when they were already thinking about them.” Jordan Schwartz, Pathable

2. Use Facebook Connect or Twitter for Login

All of us have too many login ids and passwords to remember. The one for your event social network is just another problem for your participant.

One thing that you can do is choose an event social networking platform that allows your participants to login with their Facebook, TwitterID or OpenID. This secure login allows people to connect to your event social network without needing to remember another login ID and password.

“We allow login via Facebook, Twitter, and OpenID. That way attendees don’t need to create and remember another password.”Tony Stubblebine, Crowdvine

3. Populate Profile Information From Other Social Sites

The more information that is included in a participant profile, the better it is for networking. However, it can be a nuisance to have to retype all of that information and upload pictures, etc.

You can save your attendees time and energy by allowing them to connect to their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Flickr and blog accounts and automatically populate information into their profile. While you are at it – why not setup your social network to pull profile pictures from one of these sites?

“We actually automatically pull in pictures from LinkedIn, Facebook, & Twitter for you to select and use as your profile picture.”Rob Johnson, Eventvue

4. Automatically Reconnect Friends, Contacts and Peeps

Another nuisance for attendees is going through the participant list to make connections with their existing friends or contacts that are also attending your event.

To save them time, you can setup your event social network to do “third party address import” (there has to be a sexier name than this) and automatically reconnect all of their friends. Essentially it means can attendees find which of their Linked-in, Facebook, MSN, Google and Yahoo contacts are attending this event. Sometimes, the process is simpler than others.

“The user can click one button and pull in their friends from facebook and Twitter who are also attending the event they are attending.  Why rebuild your connections when you can carry them over?”Clinton Bonner, The Social Collective

5. Hook my Flickr up to my Twitter and Facebook it!

Some of your participants are going to have accounts on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, and many, many other social websites. They may want to integrate their social presence from these other sites into your event social network.

To help them, setup your event social network to include their Blog posts, Flickr photos, tweets from twitter, status updates, etc. from these other sites.

Bottom Line

You want your event social network to be a communication hub for your event before and after the event. You want attendees to spend time networking, sharing ideas, connecting with other attendees and discussing hot topics.

The easier it is to join your event social network – the more attendees will do it. So, work with your technology vendor to make your social network as easy as possible to join.

Is it easy to join your event social network? or is it like climbing a mountain?

photo credit: jimbowen0306

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Go Old School – Build Your Event Social Network with Magic Markers

Get_Connected_Wall_01Are you looking for a super-fantastic way to bundle networking and interaction into a single activity?

Then you might like this idea. I found an old school way to build a social network using magic markers – it is called the “Get Connected Wall.”

The “Get Connected Wall” allows your attendees to create a extra-large social network of everyone at the event! It can be done during a cocktail reception – in real time – with magic markers and a super-sized piece of paper.

This awesome idea is the brainchild of Anna Okupinski, Event Manager for Scan Source, Inc. Anna created this idea to give a tech crowd a low-to-no-tech way to network and connect with each other.


How Do You Make Your Own Get Connected Wall?

  1. Go get a ginormous piece of paper and mount it on a large flat wall. Anna recommends checking out for paper. Make sure that you have a few extra people to help and plenty of tape, tacks and other sticky items to mount the paper on the wall.
  2. Then give attendees nametags where they can write their name (and possibly one or two things about themselves) and stick them anywhere on the wall. Anna suggests using “Hello My Name is” stickers to control the size of the name on the wall.
  3. Using magic markers, ask attendees to draw connections between themselves and other attendees that they know. On the connection – they should indicate what they have in common or how they know the person. If they don’t know someone, then they need to go meet them and figure out what they have in common. (Hot Tip: have a few people set-up to kick off the activity by putting their names up on the wall)
  4. Finally – Voila – you have a graph of your entire event. At a glance, attendees can see who else is here, how they could be connected and what they might have in common with the other attendees.


5 Reasons Why I Like The Get Connected Wall

  1. I was captivated by this idea because it was a simple tool to encourage networking and interaction. It creates a lot of value for attendees that are interested in finding like minded people, connecting with old friends, etc.
  2. This solution helps attendees answer three of the five networking questions that I think are important for their networking success: Who else is here? What do I have in common with other participants? and How do I find or connect with them?
  3. Creates a semi-structured networking and interaction activity that can be integrated into a welcome reception or networking cocktail.
  4. The Get Connected Wall – gets people talking and finding out where they have common ground and common interests. If you use this activity at the beginning of your event – you can get everyone connected right away.
  5. Understanding how everyone is connected to each other allows you to introduce people to each other during the event. This creating value for the attendees and makes you look like a star!

Bottom Line

This is a simple idea that is easy to execute, doesn’t cost a fortune and creates value for your attendees. It allows you to do new school things (social networking and interaction) in an old school way (magic markers and big-old-sheets-of-paper).

“Some of the connections end up being silly (both have a tattoo, fan of cheeseburgers, etc.) but no matter what it gets people talking to each other!” – Anna Okupinski

Share this Idea

If you like the “Get Connected Wall” consider using it at your next event, telling your like minded friends about it, sharing it on twitter or leaving a comment on this post. Better yet – send Anna a “Thank you” tweet to @annaoki. Wherever you share this idea – be sure to mention Anna and her awesomeness!

Photo Credits: Aaron Moller (@aaronmoller)

How to Save Attendees from Networking Hell

Imagine this: you walk into a room with 1,000 people but find yourself alone – drowning in a sea of people. Some people you know – but that lady who just walked past – who was she? Could she be a “future” customer? But before you can ask – “poof” she is gone. Unsure of what to do next – you circle the room, get in line for a drink and set your sights on the nearest empty table.

This scenario is common for many first-time, shy and timid attendees. It can be a networking hell.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You, the event organizer, can throw attendees a life preserver and save them. Here are some things that you can do to help.


Understand Attendees Networking Objectives

The post 20 Reasons Delegates Attend Conferences uncovered several “specific” attendee networking objectives. In many cases, I think these objectives are unstated by most people – but they are there. By recognizing these objectives and creating activities to support them – you can help your attendees do a better job of networking.

Here are some examples of different networking objectives:

  • Meet Like Minded People
  • Discuss Topics of Interest
  • Connect with Old Friends
  • Meet New People
  • Discuss Best Practices
  • Find New Business Partners

Notice the verbs – meet, discuss, connect and find.  Are you helping attendees do these things at your events – or is it largely their responsibility?

Five Questions Attendees Need Help Answering

When I worked at Spotme, we helped thousands and thousands of attendees network better than ever before. The secret to this success was in Spotme’s ability to help attendees answer the following questions:

1. Who else is here?

2. What do they look like?

3. What do I have in common with other participants?

4. How do I find or connect with them?

5. How can we stay connected after this event?

Imagine how much easier it would be for you to network at events if you had tools that answered those questions? Imagine how much your attendees would love you if you provided similar tools?

The good news is that there are several ways to do this. You could print a photo guide, provide an electronic delegate list, use an event specific social networking site (like Crowdvine, Pathable, Social Collective, Eventvue or Zerista), create a networking wall, use an onsite mobile networking tool, etc.

Bottom Line

There are several ways that you can help first-time, shy or timid attendees have an awesome networking experience. First – consider their objectives. Second – put together activities that correspond to those objectives. Finally, provide tools that help attendees answer important questions about the others at the event.

You have the ability to throw your attendees a life preserver and save them from networking hell. Will you do it?

photo credit: scoobay