Behind the Scenes of Insperity: Annual Sales Conference 2018 Infographic
Would you like to get more information? Here is what you need to create a successful event: How To Plan and Execute A Successful Sales Meeting.
Behind the Scenes of Insperity: Annual Sales Conference 2018 Infographic
Would you like to get more information? Here is what you need to create a successful event: How To Plan and Execute A Successful Sales Meeting.
Attracting event sponsors is – and will continue to be – a hurdle. Nine out of ten event professionals believe it will be a challenge to secure sponsors for events this year, according to an Eventbrite survey. Nevertheless, there’s no magic bullet for attracting and retaining sponsorship partners. Sponsors are looking to see exactly what every business seeks when measuring the success of marketing efforts: return on investment.
Event owners who can show a good return on sponsor investment will inevitably have an easier time attracting and retaining sponsors than those who can’t. While this might imply that data measurement, as it relates to sponsorship, is the be-all, end-all, event success in the eyes of sponsorship partners isn’t always a numbers game. Event hosts have to actively drive ROI with an effective, integrated content strategy.
Sure, it would be nice to draw a straight line between event sponsorship and an impact on a businesses’ bottom line, but these days it’s not so direct. ROI has many different dimensions and identifying what is most valuable for a potential sponsor is crucial. To do that, event owners need a modern, technology-driven content strategy.
Christopher Powell, chief marketing officer at Commvault, told IDG Communications that organizations – both hosting and sponsoring – can’t expect robust ROI from an event simply because they showed up.
“You need great content for your events,” Powell said. “Is it relevant for that audience? How are you going to engage them with compelling content?”
Sponsors want to spread brand awareness, but they also need to offer value to event attendees to kindle relationships. After all, attendees are consumers, so the event should mirror the buying process. Attendees go to events to talk, learn and network. The event owner’s responsibility, therefore, is to facilitate this conversation. And to do that, owners must integrate sponsors into the event’s content strategy.
What does that integration look like? In most instances, it’s a technology play, including:
Specifically, an effective content strategy should leverage responsive technologies such as AI-augmented playlists showing attendee interests, live streaming and captive-audience marketing techniques. Each solution should seek to create opportunities to engage target personas on a personal level.
Simply throwing money at tech isn’t going to guarantee ROI. Technology is just the foot in the door: It’s a sophisticated, smart content strategy that’ll position sponsors to fully leverage the power of an event – which in turn will help event owners attract and retain sponsors. The goal is to make the sponsor an integral part of the conversation. Opportunities to position the sponsor at an event beyond lanyards and banners include:
The goal is to do more than just put up a sponsor banner and hope attendees form positive associations. Sponsors must have a voice in these sessions and opportunities. Weaving sponsors into the content being presented puts the brand value of a sponsor – in the form of knowledge, authority or as a forum for relevant industry conversation – front and center while limiting the “hard sell.”
The effective employment of content strategy is a universally beneficial affair, making an event that bolsters the bottom line of both sponsors and event hosts. That’s where the tech comes in handy: Technology quantifies opportunity. When event organizers can show robust ROI, they can charge sponsors a premium. Event owners should be able to show that their event represents a highly exclusive marketplace filled with desirable buyers. And nothing is more convincing than hard data. Utilizing data from RFID technology, beacons, event surveys, social media engagements and more demonstrates value in a clear, measurable way.
B2B marketing has changed a lot in just the past five years, and the crucial lessons of the past don’t hold the water they used to. It’s no longer true that you perfect your product or service, hang out your shingle and wait for the market to find you. Today, sponsors need to sell valuable knowledge to develop brand loyalty and perception, which will in turn drive sales of products and services.
Like technology, business models change quickly. Twenty years ago, a company could develop a strategy that would carry it well into the next decade. That just isn’t possible in today’s market. Look at Netflix, for instance: Less than a decade ago, Blockbuster was poised to dominate the direct-to-home video market, but a failure to adapt its business model made it all too easy for Netflix to gobble up Blockbuster’s market share. And Netflix didn’t stop there. It went from a content distribution platform to a business that spends upward of $8 billion a year on developing its own content.
Event owners need to think like Netflix if they want to aid sponsors in accomplishing their goals. Five years ago, a great sponsorship strategy consisted of banners, lanyards and booths – and not much else. That strategy doesn’t cut it anymore. Sponsors need to be integrated into the event’s content strategy so they can educate attendees and foster relationships.
Mona Charif, CMO at DATA Services, speaking with IDG, noted that organizations have to leave old strategies behind in favor of new methods and technologies.
“A couple of decades ago, we would take months to research and build a campaign and then put it in market, at an audience,” Charif said. “Now, what we’re doing is more agile development of our content. It’s not so much a campaign as it is content that is meaningful and useful. We develop it with a persona in mind.”
In other words, event owners and sponsors shouldn’t try to interact with attendees the same way they did five years ago. They can, but someone else is already doing it better. A content strategy that integrates sponsors directly provides multiple opportunities for appealing to attendees – which fosters fruitful, long-lasting partnerships between event owners and sponsors.
We are awash in data – some of it crucial to operational success, some of it simply noise. Virtually every device we pick up and piece of software we use offers insight into our habits, our desires and our patterns. High-growth, cutting-edge companies, like multinational software provider SAP, have long ago learned to channel and leverage this data into actionable insight driving critical business and marketing decisions.
“We have an incredible amount of data that flows through SAP every day,” SAP CMO Alicia Tillman told IDG Communications’ CMO, Josh London. “Not only does data enable us to bring transparency to customers to solve a lot of their everyday challenges, but data also allows us to innovate, to deliver solutions to business to solve their everyday problems.”
Even for companies well aware of the value of data, translating this insight to events and event strategy – in real-time, no less – is a counterintuitive leap. We possess the ability to collect and measure an amazing amount of attendee data with incredible levels of granularity – but is that enough? What are we really learning and what do we do with what we’ve learned?
B2B companies that host their own events need to be able to act on this data in real-time. The cliche of “adapt or die” exists for a reason and a truly responsive, innovative company not only learns lessons from past engagements, but also adapts in the moment.
The challenge is twofold: Event hosts need reliable methods of data collection, and they need inventive ways to analyze and act upon that information in real time.
Collecting useful data from a throng of attendees is certainly a challenge, but emerging technologies are making it easier than ever to glean actionable insights from event crowds. The primary difficulty isn’t the actual capture of data, but determining which types of data are most relevant to your needs.
For instance, if you want to optimize pedestrian traffic between event halls, it probably won’t do you much good to collect heart-rate data from smart watches. Rather, you could create a heatmap of the convention floor either using static floor sensors, wearables, or smart cameras. Then, you’ll need some way to analyze that data so you can make adjustments accordingly.
The method with which you collect attendee data should be specific to your purpose. Another option might be to include an RFID tag on attendee badges or wristbands.
Likewise, event-specific apps can provide another way for attendees to submit data voluntarily through live polls, Q&A interactions or integration with social media apps. Indeed, social media itself can become a powerful channel through which to collect attendee feedback. Hashtags allow event producers to place their fingers on the pulse of the show, gaining valuable insights into what parts of the event are generating the most buzz.
In the near future, exciting new technologies such as facial recognition could make it even easier for event managers to get granular insights into how individual attendees interact with the show. For example, if attendees register with their Facebook accounts, a facial recognition algorithm could identify registered attendees and track their movements across the show floor, allowing for personalized interactions via the event app.
In addition to delayed forms of feedback such as surveys, comment cards and email follow-ups, real-time data gives event managers the ability to boost engagement and satisfaction rates. However, collecting this information isn’t enough. The data has to be actionable.
Having data is great, but as Christopher Powell, CMO of Commvault, points out, getting the most out of face-to-face events requires more than just hoarding data.
“You need a strategy,” Powell told IDG. “It sounds a little bit obvious, but you need to know what you’re going into that event with.”
Powell goes on to state that the goal is create engaging event content that is “relevant for that audience.” Having the ability to utilize that data in real time is critical to any solid event content strategy, allowing B2B companies to interact with attendees on a more personal level, creating a more involved, exciting experience.
Marketing guru Seth Godin explained to BizBash that unique connections are what make events special to attendees. To illustrate this concept when you see a movie, you know that people all around the world are experiencing the exact same film. However, when you see a play, that showing is unique to the audience you are a part of, making the experience unique.
“If you want [the event] to feel special, then the more impromptu Q&A, live elements you can add to a speaking event, the more likely it is the audience will feel they are witnessing something special. All of those things introduce risk for you and all of those things are worth it, because that’s why the audience is there: to feel like they were touched by other people and by the speaker,” Godin said.
An example: Say analytics showed that a particular speaker’s talk was packed with attendees, and then those attendees went on social media to discuss what they heard. This might prompt the event managers to schedule an encore performance later in the day, so more attendees can experience it. The announcement could be delivered via the smartphone app, or by a live content distribution system such as Marquee.
Likewise, this access to real-time feedback can improve the value proposition for event sponsors. By being able to identify less-trafficked areas on the conference floor, and redirect attendees via content distribution systems and digital signage to these areas, host companies can improve experience for sponsors by driving traffic to their exhibitions. Approximately nine out 10 event professionals in the U.S. believe securing event sponsors will be a challenge this year, so improving the value proposition will be even more important. Showing ROI through real-time analytics may provide some peace of mind for event planners and sponsors alike.
Gathering and utilizing real-time data is soon to become a standard for B2B events. Be ahead of the curve by embracing the power of this moment.
Live events are exciting not because they are predictable, but rather because something big could happen at any moment. That’s why conferences are such a powerful tool for companies: There’s something to be said for making your way to a bustling convention center to be part of the action and see it all happen in real time. Whether it’s the announcement of a new product or an amazing innovation, the waiting crowd wants something to talk about.
That said, if we’ve learned anything from the seemingly endless stream of viral bloopers and mishaps, it’s that when you’re “live,” anything can happen. You can build out a contingency for every possible calamity under the sun, but ultimately, it’s not just how you expect the unexpected, it’s how you handle it. If a technical failure should happen, brands can either let the mistake become the story told the next day, or work with agility to control the narrative.
Sometimes, a smooth save is more impressive than flawless execution. This is because it plays with, and often subverts, expectation. People expect an event to go off without a hitch, so when something goes awry, it’s critical moment of shock that makes an impression.
To most businesses, this might sound unsettling, but think of it this way: When attendees are jarred out of complacency, opportunity to harness the moment and create something memorable abounds. A show that goes awry, and then is masterfully righted again – that is something worth talking about.
For example, at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a power outage stole the show away from the event’s 4,000 exhibitors. Yet a few of those companies had the foresight and innovation to steal back more attention than they’d lost.
Car manufacturer Tesla leveraged the blackout with an ad-libed light show highlighting the vehicle’s lighting and audio technology. Elsewhere on the show floor, Energizer acted as if the blackout hadn’t happened, as its battery-powered booth continued to function flawlessly.
These examples show that contingency plans aren’t just methods of circumventing an incident, but rather solutions that can completely turn the situation on its head. Attendees walking the floor during the blackout were sure to note the novel ways these brands were making the most of the situation, building positive associations and creating viral, organic engagement.
Essentially, a brand is a set of expectations. We hold these expectations because they are promises that these companies have made good on again and again. To a crowd of spectators, it doesn’t matter if the plan is executed flawlessly or if it stumbles and finds balance again. If it is entertaining, informative and fun, it will be remembered and talked about.
It’s one thing to (literally) make plans to keep the lights on and make a good showing. But what about event content?
Delivering content at an event can be nerve wracking. After all, a failed microphone or a keynote presentation that has stalled out while loading can effectively silence your brand’s voice in a critical moment. However, strategic planning, technical audits and redundant backups can mitigate most content delivery issues before they get a chance to actually manifest.
Getting to 80 percent stability prior to an event is more or less the entry point: It’s a good place to start, but more can be done. Though no event will ever be 100 percent redundant, the remaining 19.99 percent can be the difference between success and costly failure.
Here are a few best practices to implement to avoid technical issues onsite:
Ultimately, it’s this critical combination of setting up the infrastructure to mitigate the potential for disruption, combined with the brand-focused approach to acting quickly in the event something does happen that will ensure that your next conference is truly unforgettable – regardless of if everything goes exactly as planned.
Almost 9 in 10 event professionals in the US and Canada believe it will be a challenge this year to secure sponsors for their events, according to a survey from Eventbrite. The results show that many challenges are heightened this year, though budget concerns appear to be dropping.
Indeed, more than 9 in 10 said that insufficient budgets were among their biggest challenges in 2017, making budgets their largest difficulty overall. Yet this year fewer event professionals expect budgets to be a problem (73% vs. 91% in 2017), putting budgets near the bottom of the list of concerns.
Instead, more respondents see issues ahead in securing sponsors (89%, up from 83% in 2017) and securing talent and speakers (89%, up from 75%). Marketing and promotion challenges abound, as many also believe it will be challenging this year to reach new (89%) and past (87%) attendees as well as engage in successful branding (80%). Event professionals will be dedicating a large share of their budgets to marketing and promotions in an effort to confront those challenges.
How do you take your current budget and make your corporate events bigger and better, spending smart while hosting an event that will act as that critical nudge to get you to the next level?
For companies recently having raised a significant C or D round of funding, every move they make must be carefully calibrated to help them ascend, fully leverage the resources at their disposal and grow their brand footprint – all while remaining at the peak of their field.
So the question is: How do they take their current budget and spend it smart, while still hosting a corporate event that will act as that critical nudge to get to the next level?
To accomplish this, the “unicorn” companies need to communicate to their customers that they’re an industry leader, using their resources to host bleeding-edge, engaging events that are more than just a lackluster product demo or keynote. They need a sophisticated event partner with an eye for innovation and imagination, yet one adept at also keeping budgets in check.
To truly create a next-level event, consider the following ways to project commercial power and influence:
Part of embracing and fostering growth is being able to showcase growth. One of the most immediate and indisputable ways to convey a company is on the rise is to scale up the physical venue for your event.
This, for most high-growth companies, involves making the move from a hotel to a convention center for your next conference. This transition is a classic and bold signal that a company has “arrived,” and should not go unremarked upon: Okta Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Carlson made note of how “this room is twice the size of any in the past” when he introduced the 2017 Oktane conference keynote in Las Vegas.
The optics of this jump from smaller rooms to the big stage has a distinct “wow” factor for attendees, giving exponential growth a tangible dimension. For Okta, this translated to attendees marveling at the way the company had transformed itself.
“It’s just really energetic and really fascinating to see in just over 4 years how Okta has grown from where it was to where it is now,” said Neeraj Malhotra, IT manager at Broadcom Limited. “I’m going to come back to Oktane, this is my second year and definitely would like to be here next year.”
Similarly, hosting multiple conventions in different locations can leverage growth as well: Marketing platform provider Drift recently expanded its successful Hypergrowth conference, adding a West Coast version of the conference in addition to the traditional Boston event.
However, this jump in venue size isn’t without its challenges: A larger space requires more robust infrastructure, including production elements, physical layout, attendees check-in and security. Furthermore, moving from a hotel to a convention center can create logistical problems related to transportation and accommodations – after all, even if you’ve left the hotel behind, your guests need somewhere to stay while attending the conference. The key is to first determine the why of needing a bigger event, then enlist an agency who can accommodate the challenges and opportunities of scaling up.
Scaling up events isn’t just about bolstering the bottom-line: The broader goal is brand awareness awareness and ubiquity. This means looking beyond just what new products or innovations you showcase, and considering how you use event design to engage with users on a cultural level.
Many companies have already begun to embrace the use of high-tech art and cultural installations at their branded events. The key is to align these cultural features with your brand:
“As a digital brand, we were thinking about how to take a lot of the different topics that we cover, as well as the creative voices we elevate on our platform, in a physical space,” Refinery 29’s co-founder Piera Gelardi told CNN. “We like to have a portion of it feel really playful, because we think that opens people up, and it’s joyful.”
These kinds of cultural activities have a vital secondary function: They help facilitate networking. Users, partnership sponsors and industry leaders can all meet and greet in a less pressurized environment, connecting over the cultural events taking place.
Even without the enormous infrastructure of a corporate giant, businesses on the ascent can selectively employ these kinds of interactive combinations of technology and design at conferences, effectively creating a dynamic, culturally-relevant event that is more than just a product showcase.
Sustainability and global citizenship efforts have become a nearly universal driver of engagement and brand goodwill. Consumers, particularly younger ones, are attuned to corporate marketing efforts that are built on sustainability and giving back: According to Horizon Media’s 2017 Finger on the Pulse study, 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to be “good corporate citizens.”
“Now brands are taking these do-good values and baking into their corporate identities,” Horizon Media’s Kirk Olson, VP of Trend Sights, told Forbes. “It’s important [for companies] to find the connection organically.”
When planning a major conference, take into account the kind of “giving back” programs that organically tie into your mission statement while making the world a better place. This can include:
The goal is to show users that your events are more meaningful than just another product demo or industry showcase, offering a greater perspective and making the world better. This was something that David Cancel, CEO of Drift, spoke about in a recent interview about Hypergrowth 2018. Cancel framed it as a gathering of not just influencers, but people who act as positive example for the entire industry.
“We’re not doing what everyone else does, which is to have the same group of speakers out there that you hear every single conference,” Cancel said. “Our bar for people who come on this show, as well as people who come and speak to you in person at Hypergrowth, is that those are people that we consider personal role models and/or mentors that we look towards, who are helping us grow either virtually or in-person, and share those mentors with the community.”
As you escalate the scale and scope of corporate events, consider the virtual footprint as well as the physical one. While the jump from a hotel to a convention center can expand your guest list by thousands – bringing with it its own challenges – live streaming has the potential to deliver your content and ideas to a global audience.
With Go-Globe reporting that conferences and speakers make up 43 percent of most-watched live content, tied with concerts and festivals, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major company that doesn’t currently utilize live streaming in one form or another. Given the ubiquity of the live streaming platforms, it’s a relatively low-cost way to boost the profile of an event. Yet behind the scenes, there are critical considerations that go into organizing a conference that fully leverages the capabilities of live stream technology:
In this regard, putting together a content strategy that builds off the concept of bringing a local event to a global audience is key to making sure that live streaming isn’t simply an afterthought.
Whether it’s a sustainability initiative, an interactive art installation or live streaming, high-growth companies must scale up events in ways that are more than just big and loud. The goal is to create a truly can’t-miss event that utilizes smart spending and bolsters your valuation, complete with innovative content, design and the widest possible reach – all of which requires an airtight event content strategy and an experienced planning partner that knows how to take things to the next level.
Based on our experience, there are six key steps to creating a successful event content strategy:
While completing all six steps is ideal, do not be deterred if you can only achieve one or two at a time. Each step is meaningful and useful in and of itself for your strategy, so completing one or two is better than completing none at all (read more).
Whether it’s a sales conference, user conference or a one-off event for a major announcement, the keynote address remains a central and often defining element for corporate events. In a bustling event packed with smaller panels and guest speakers, the keynote is meant to be a nexus of cutting-edge ideas and high-profile thinkers that will set the tone for everything to come.
While corporate event keynotes have been a staple of numerous industries for decades, the trends regarding their organization and execution have changed significantly over the years. Setting a prominent industry thought-leader in front of a podium in a packed auditorium may have been standard practice in years past, but media consumption and event attendee habits have all evolved as we enter an information- and content-rich digital culture. Even the most fascinating ideas can be rendered bland and uninspiring if the keynote isn’t tuned in to how audiences prefer to be delivered information.
Even if a certain approach to keynotes has historically been successful, it pays for event organizers to take a fresh and sober look at how they plan, execute and appraise the relative success of their keynote speeches. That in mind, much of the conventional wisdom surrounding putting together a keynote still remains valid. The key is to just ask the following questions that will help you identify what areas to focus on, allowing you to carve out an impressive and memorable keynote.
While speeches from C-suite executives are the heart of user and sales conferences, companies that have reached a comfortable level of success – and have the budget to match – can and should branch out with outside speakers. This decision is tied to the larger concept of a right-sized event. As Entrepreneur contributor Don Mal put it, “Star power is great, of course, but there’s no need to go beyond your means.”
The logic behind this is sound: Companies that haven’t reached household-name status may find that having celebrities or inspirational guests as part of the keynote lineup alongside the CEO and chief marketing officer is distracting, takes up too much of the budget, or doesn’t correctly express the brand image they want to convey. Rather than pouring budget into flashy speakers, consider looking into presenters who represent a unique perspective that will intrigue attendees.
Mal explained that young companies’ user conferences rely on much more than their lineups of speakers to build connections with customers. Interactive sessions and opportunities to converse in more relaxed settings may help prevent the event from feeling like too much of a “commercial” for the company’s services.
Representing a true evolution over the past few years, Inc. columnist David Nihill specified that long keynotes have been replaced by short speeches. Taking less time doesn’t diminish the importance of a speaker, or the value of the insight, but instead represents a way to be better attuned to the attention span of the audience.
This is a new approach inspired by the ubiquitous TED Talk series of educational lectures. Nihill even suggested that when there isn’t a set time limit – as is often the case with keynotes – potential speakers should give themselves a maximum speech length to aim for. Short and impactful keynote speeches, from 20 to 30 minutes long, should also be designed for modern audiences – not just in length, but in stylistic flair. That means bringing visual flash to the presentation and potentially using humor or intentionally provocative ideas.
Regardless of content, opting for short, video-friendly speeches is critical for companies seeking to connect with audiences. Even when there’s a lot of information to be delivered, a speech can and should be broken up by topic into “bite-sized” pieces. Consider that, according to AdAge, it is critical that you hook audiences before the two-minute mark in a video or else risk losing them for the remainder. In our media-saturated culture, shorter, catchier bursts of info – packaged into easily digestible portions – can also be repurposed as evergreen content beyond that initial keynote.
In addition to video streaming, which has become increasingly common in recent years, the next generation of information technology may inspire even greater changes. For instance, Smart Meetings explained that creating the illusion of an in-person keynote via hologram-style telepresence systems is a rising trend.
The use of virtual and augmented reality systems to add new possibilities to keynote speeches is one of the areas organizers can explore more fully in the years ahead. Combined with innovative on-site technology like projection mapping, the often neglected visual aspect of keynotes is getting a much-needed second look. Whether the goal is to bring an executive around the world virtually to address a far-away crowd or to add an interactive element to a speech, event technologies are poised to keep changing the keynote experience.
While events scheduled for 2018 are well into the planning stages, keynotes are often one of the last elements to fully be locked in. That means there’s still time to make changes to the format or content of keynote speeches. Organizers can consider setting lineups of speakers that will appeal to their audiences, break the content of speeches into manageable pieces and add new technology tools that will transform the experience. Carefully paying attention to attendee preferences and interests leading up to the event will help organizers calibrate keynotes to create something arresting, memorable and – most importantly – resonant with audiences.
Picture it: You’re doing your Q4 wrap-up and looking at the year in review, and all the data is saying the same thing – your company is growing. Whether you see this reflected in impressive revenue, a burgeoning customer base or swelling demand for your products and services, the message is clear that the organization is ready to reach the next level.
After a blockbuster year, it’s natural to think big. The tired old cliche “go big, or go home” comes to mind – a vaguely inspirational business aphorism that is likely being tossed around in executive board rooms at this very moment. It’s a cliche for a reason: part of fostering growth and change is being able to convey to consumers, clients and fellow industry insiders that, yes, your company is making big, bold moves.
When it comes to corporate events, “big” often translates literally. Visions of a huge, convention center-based conference may already be appearing in your mind as you read this.
However, before booking a larger hotel ballroom or convention center, it’s time to consider what “going big” really means. The jump from a small- or medium-sized event space to a larger one certainly has its right place and time, but the goal is to more broadly make a splash. Chief Marketing Officers’ mental calculus has changed dramatically over the years when it comes to event planning, and yours should too. Not only may bigger not be better when it comes to events, the very definition of “bigger” is completely relative to the nature of your business.
“The very definition of ‘bigger’ is completely relative to the nature of your business.”
One of the main reasons not to immediately scale up corporate events during growth is the questionable appeal of huge halls and long presentations. Attendees initially wowed by the sheer scale of an enormous venue may soon find the event impersonal and overwhelming. Event Marketer suggests that the TED talk model, designed to encourage snappier and more intimate communications, is having an influence on keynote planning.
Of course, one cornerstone of TED talks is the use of online video content to get ideas to mass audiences. Event organizers who harness the live streaming or on demand model can unlock their own value and not only provide unparalleled flexibility, but also impact how audiences absorb information. No longer are you limited to delivering a message to attendees crammed into an exhibit hall: Your executives could be physically speaking to hundreds of people, with thousands more tuned in on monitors elsewhere around the venue – or around the world.
Finding the right venue and presentation for your company’s remarks could involve staying with the same size venue, or even downsizing. By putting resources towards improving production values and developing an event content distribution strategy, a business can communicate its newly authoritative role in its industry without budgeting for a huge hall rental. Professional-grade tech and visual elements, along with organizational successes such as an ability to keep rigorously on schedule, have the power to impress attendees, even if the venue’s size isn’t an upgrade over past years’ gatherings.
There is another reason to consider many different physical scales and styles for your next corporate event – maybe your brand simply doesn’t do “huge.” If you’ve built a successful business model on the values of intimacy and directness, jumping to a big, impersonal event center can be jarring. A company losing its recognizable identity can be a serious setback, and an oversized conference that allows the brand’s message and voice to be swallowed up in the noise isn’t likely to win people over.
When your business model thrives on one-on-one connections – especially with high-level executives – a larger, broader list of attendees can be counterproductive. Companies may have more success with a smaller, more exclusive conference, potentially using a relatively high attendance fee and selective invitations to ensure that only serious prospects make the trip.
These small gatherings can even reach an audience beyond the walls of the venue, using the streaming-focused model described above. Executives’ short presentations can become valuable on-demand marketing collateral, having already reached a hand-picked audience in person.
When your organization’s branding and business model thrives on a large scale, however, large events remain a viable option. A company hoping to make an impact on a huge group of professionals or debut a new product with wide appeal may thrive among the flash of a big convention center. That said, if your business decides to go big, it mustn’t lose sight of the need for meticulous planning and high production values. Technical or organizational failures will still be felt at a large venue.
When corporate event ideas and input come from within, rather than outside your walls, alignment between brand and gathering can remain strong. Business News Daily underlines the importance of polling internal employees to see what type of experience and information the event should spotlight.
When you speak with representatives who talk to clients every day, you get a clear snapshot of the prospect’s mindset. Combining this with perspectives from marketing, sales and product development can give you a target to aim for. The result of these discussions may point to the advantages of a smaller, more contained event for key customer stakeholders.
Being true to your base also means giving them the insight they crave – even if it means bringing in speakers from outside of your company. These could be key customers or thought leaders in the space. Too often, growing companies lean heavily on their own staff when booking event speakers, turning what could have been an opportunity to showcase broader industry relevance into a glorified sales presentation. Audiences tend to reject this kind of self-reflective talent booking, and it can quickly become self-indulgent.
A good rule of thumb is to think long and hard before allowing any employee beyond your CEO, and possibly CTO or Head of Product Development, to see the main stage. While many companies may feel reflexively uncomfortable ceding some of the spotlight to outside parties, this actually goes a long way towards building authority and trust, as well as diffusing the feeling of being “sold to.” If audiences want the sales pitch, they know where to go. More and more, people attending events want to be entertained and enlightened.
Picking a strategic partner for corporate event tasks from overall strategy to production or content distribution is a pivotal driver of success or failure. Here, too, going with a bigger firm may not mean receiving a better result. Big-box organizations may be low on flexibility or unable to execute a strategy closely attuned to your brand’s sensibilities.
When you run the numbers, your company may be a similar size to others in its space, or expanding at an equal rate. That data alone shouldn’t drive how big or small your event should be, because it doesn’t reflect all your firm’s unique qualities. No two organizations are quite the same, so figuring out what type of corporate gathering suits your objectives, positioning and personality can lead to the ideal fit – big, small or just right.
Are you thinking about your 2018 sales meeting?
Are you feeling a bit behind in planning?
Are you considering just doing the same thing you did last year?
If you answered yes to these questions, it might be time to shake things up.
It’s easier than you think to create a sales meeting that delivers necessary information to your sales team and allows them to enjoy the event at the same time. So how do you do it?
The answer is simple: Plan your sales meeting for your employees the same way you plan an event for your customers.
Your employees are your first customer. They have to believe in your company, your brand, your offering, before anyone else can. Treating them like customers will generate excitement and buzz around your sales meeting. A memorable experience will drive greater retention of information and will keep your sales team looking forward to the annual sales meeting year over year.
To plan a customer-like event for your employees, consider the following:
What are your sales team’s needs and challenges? Identifying these will allow you to maximize the value of your content.
What are your sales team’s expectations and how can you surpass them? Identifying these will allow you to enhance the experiential qualities of your meeting.
Your sales team’s needs and challenges drive the content of your meeting. Consider the following types of content:
You know you have specific points you want to cover at your sales meeting like forecasts for next year, quota information, sales growth information, and more, but have you also asked your salespeople what they want to talk about?
Execute a quick survey in the months before your sales meeting asking your employees what they’d like to discuss. Implore about questions they have, areas of focus, areas to dive deeper, areas of training, and challenges and successes from the past year. Their responses will give you a good overview of where the team collectively stands on various issues within your organization and ensures the content is relevant and valuable for their needs.
Consider providing content tailored to your sales team that provides education and training around relevant topics. If your salespeople cover one specific product or service, keep content tailored to that offering. If salespeople cover multiple or disparate areas, consider organizing your meeting into tracks and creating breakout sessions that allow for meaningful deep dives into specific topics.
Bring in outside speakers to talk about concepts that will work to drive inspiration and excitement within your sales team. Much of your meeting will be focused on topics financial details and goal setting, so provide your sales team with an opportunity to take a step back and think about higher level, more abstract topics like leadership, empowerment, or perseverance from someone outside your organization.
In order to feel excited to move forward into the next year’s sales agenda, your salespeople need to feel valued for all their hard work. Create an awards ceremony that your employees can count on by replicating the same award types every year so your employees know what to expect. This ceremony will also embrace and leverage your sales team’s competitive spirit by showing them who leads the pack and what they should strive to accomplish for the following year. Don’t let this part of your meeting be planned at the last minute. Put real thought into the types of awards you will present, how you will present them, and how you will recognize your individual employees for their successes. Seeing how much effort you put into valuing your employees will allow them to reinvest their effort into your company.
Your sales team’s expectations for the annual sales meeting drives the format of the meeting. Consider the following steps to ensure you meet and exceed their needs.
Keep your meeting face-to-face.
If you’re thinking of cutting cost by making your sales meeting an online event – don’t.
84% of people say they prefer in-person meetings.
85% of those people say in-person meetings build stronger, more meaningful relationships.
77% of those people say they prefer in-person meetings for the ability to read body language and facial expressions.
75% of those people say they prefer in-person meetings because they allow for social interaction and the ability to bond with co-workers and clients.
Keep your salespeople engaged and connected by keeping your meeting face-to-face.
Reconsider your format.
Is your annual sales meeting made up primarily of PowerPoint presentations? Is your C-Suite up on stage, talking to your salespeople about forecasts and goals? Consider this: 91% of people admitted to daydreaming during meetings. Try to find ways to combat this staggering statistic by engaging your salespeople in new ways. Think of different formats to supplement those presentations that engage your employees beyond the typical sales meeting presentations. Consider inspiring keynote-type speakers and roundtable events where employees can connect with one another, panel discussions where they can hear from a breadth of speakers, and training sessions where they can learn about new relevant topics.
Shift your location.
Move your event outside of the traditional hotel ballroom setting, or if you can’t get out of the ballroom, think about getting out of the room for at least part of the meeting. Don’t just keep people sitting in chairs all day. Consider planning moments for networking, team building activities, and other exercises that enable people to connect with each other in new, innovative ways. These types of non-traditional, unique experiences will keep your meeting feeling fresh and lively year over year.
Create an opportunity for deep brand immersion.
Make your company feel like an exclusive community and your sales meeting feel like an exclusive event by allowing your employees to feel proud to be part of your organization. Brand all elements of your sales meeting, from presentations to breakout room spaces and everything in between to generate excitement about all that your company is and all it has to offer.
Even if you do still need to employ the occasional PowerPoint presentation to get your information across, enhance them with dynamic content to keep your employees engaged. Consider creating powerful opening videos, highlight reels, and interactive polls to keep your audience from tuning out and checking out.
If you need support with your 2018 sales meeting strategy or execution, please contact us.
If you’d like to learn more about sales meetings we’ve executed for other clients, please visit our Insperity case study where you’ll hear from our client about how we’ve partnered with them to execute successful sales meetings for the last 6 years.
About OVATION: We create and execute sharable experiences that exceed our clients’ expectations while staying on budget. We pair a robust combination of internal services you might expect from a big box company with the boutique attention and flexibility that you require. Scalability is our specialty. Don’t settle for less… expect more.
Your Events Matter, Make them Memorable.