Association Congress

Monday, 17 October 2011

How to turn your website visitor to an event booker

It’s time for the industry to fight back. If we are seeing a 10%+ drop off in conference attendance and a similar in trade show visits in the UK in the last twelve months, we have to do something about it. We can’t sit back and blame the economic climate. Of course that’s a concern, but not all industries do badly in a downturn; some even do better. So lets’ not just assume that the events world has to one of the sinkers and not the swimmers.
So feeling refreshed with this thought in mind I did a quick call round of some of my past clients and a few others in the industry. I wanted to see what hit rates on their websites had been recently. I asked them one specific question: “Have you seen a 10%+ drop off in page views over the last 12 months?” The answer was a refreshing and dare I say uplifting “No”. They are all still seeing similar hits on their sites. But some, not all, (they of course include a few ex clients who of course have seen their attendance increase!) had seen a lack of people being turned from visitors to bookers.
Content, price, location, perceived value, timing, and the score or more things that help people make up their mind to attend your event will still be a factor in their attending, but could something much more basic be a reason? Could it be that visitors couldn’t actually find the information on the events they were actually after? Or even, they couldn’t actually find the events at all?
If you are seeing a drop off in attendance and you use your website as a way to generate and / or process bookings, I’ve come up with a few things you should check out and consider changing right now! Let’s start the fight back: it starts at home (well as the first point says) or at least the Home Page.  
1.       Your main event page/s have a clear link from your home page                
2.       You segment your events to help people find the type of events they are after (for example conferences / dinners / training)                           
3.       Your event lists are truly searchable (i.e. you don’t need to know the name or the date to find it)                            
4.       You can search your events by price and location                             
5.       You separate your events from other events which you may list on your website                             
6.       You separate events which are run by smaller parts of the organisation e.g. ‘regional’ from your big national events                                
7.       You have microsites (or all the functionality you need on your own website) for your large events                           
8.       Delegates are able to book online                           
9.       Delegates are able to pay online                              
10.   You offer a telephone line for bookings or a number if bookers experience difficulties                  
11.   You update your event pages 3 – 5 (at a minimum) times with new information over the course of an event                      
12.   Your web pages have more detail than your marketing emails                   
13.   You have a ‘tweet this’ and or ‘like this facebook’ links from all your event pages                             
14.   You have a link to your organisation’s Twitter account / facebook page                 
15.   You set up your web pages early and allow bookings as soon as you have some information available, i.e. price, general content and general location, you don’t wait for all the details                  
16.   You ‘cross sell’ your events from pages with relevant articles / sections on your website
17.   Use contextual marketing for your events on your website. See below!
I hope this helps. And if you want more practical tips like this then consider my events marketing training.

Monday, 10 October 2011

You scratch my back and I’ll turn mine

A couple of things have happened to me recently after I’ve spoken for free, and at very short notice at two events, one for Forum Events and one for the ICCA and it made me wonder; do all event organisers take speakers for granted? It kind of felt like it at both events. Being an organiser myself, and guilty of as many crimes against speakers as those two offending organisations, it was clear to me that I had taken speakers for granted in the past. But I don’t think I do now; I try to add value for them at my events. And trying I think is at least a start.
Shouldn’t everyone receive the value from conferences?
I am sure you agree that our meetings have to offer as much value as possible to those who attend, exhibit and sponsor, but shouldn’t it also add value to our speakers too? Aren’t they possibly the most important part? Shouldn’t we be going out of our way to add value to them? What would happen if everyone just stopped speaking at conferences? Oh, the carnage!
Ten things you probably should ask your speakers
1.       What would you like us to do so support your session / how can we ensure you get the most out of speaking for us?
2.       Can we pay you? – As an organiser you pay for food don’t you and the venue, should you expect people to speak for free?
3.       Can we use social media to continue your discussion with delegates after the event?
4.       Can we use social media to start your conversation with delegates before the event? Perhaps through Twitter or a Blog?
5.       Can we send information on your behalf which you think will be of interest to delegates pre / post event?
6.       Can we provide you with some truly useful feedback on your session that helps you improve as a speaker?
7.       Can we offer you a free training course for you to hone your skills?
8.       What’s your address, we’d like to send you a gift to say thanks?
9.       Have we made it clear what are the objectives of the session we would like you to address?
10.   Do you know as much about our audience as you would like?
It makes sense to close the loop. And also, you pay for what you get
I find it bizarre that a speaker would receive glowing feedback, and the organisation wouldn’t even consider paying for the speaker to speak again. I also find it weird that loads of organisations are happy for a speaker to fill a slot for them, stand in front of their audience and give them the floor, but they wouldn’t forward on some information about the topic they covered. Is this really the symbiotic relationship organisers should have with their speakers? If it is, fellow organiser, you might just find the good speakers body swerve your event and speak at the ones who ask at least some of the questions above.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Selling speaking slots should no longer be taboo

I remember a quizzical look from one client when I suggested they offer slots on their programmes to companies that would pay for them. “Never”, they said. Well, I never take “never” as an answer. Later that year we ran two events completely funded by sponsored session. 200 of their members had a great programme driven event that they attended for free. “Never”, actually wasn’t that long.

It is understandable that this is resistance to the idea of selling the family silver to companies ; and we should be slightly skeptical because we’ve all sat through one of those sessions, the one that starts “OK, I’ve just like to tell you about us………”and then 15mins later they move onto some content.

But I would like to encourage conference programmers / producers to consider this as a very viable option for your programme. And you’ll probably be surprised (I have to be honest, I was) to see that I’ve easily come up with 15 good reasons to consider it:

1.       Sometimes the highest rated session can be from a session paid for by a sponsor (I’ve got scores of examples)
2.       If this is what your sponsor wants as part of the package you have to consider it
3.       Ensuring a mix of income is the foundation of a successful events business; never say never
4.       You can exercise more control over this session than other sessions and this allows you to ensure the content is perfect
5.       You  tend to get a very senior / good presenter
6.       Most savvy organisations have realized that the worst way to sell is to stand up and ‘sell’ their wears; they now tend to - or certainly they can be encouraged to - demonstrate their knowledge
7.       It is easier to deal with a proactive speaker than to search for less willing participants
8.       Speaking on the programme allows your sponsor a focus for their conversations between themselves and your delegates; a conversation you should be encouraging
9.       Offering a slot is an excellent ‘up-sale’ on sponsorship packages
10.   You can run entire events funded by sponsored speaking slots and delegates can attend for free
11.   Allowing a sponsor to demonstrate their support to the industry and to inform on the programme offers real value to your sponsor (does placing a logo everywhere really offer the same?)
12.   If they have paid for a slot they are more likely to have spent time putting it together
13.   Their sessions have a clear objective, and as an expert (conference producer / architect) they will be much more willing to listen to your advice
14.   Sometimes people are quite happy to be ‘sold’ too; it’s true. What is a product demonstration if it’s not part of the sales process? You might have much less resistance than you think
15.   Suggest to the sponsor that they conduct some research before the event and then deliver that on the programme, use this opportunity to create something unique for your event and add more value for your sponsor and great content in the programme