10 Benefits of Group Travel Services vs. Online Provider

Written by Samantha Gehrke | Manager, Group Travel

M&IW was built on the expertise and high-touch service of our group travel management team. In fact, our 3rd generation, family-owned business, started as a travel agency 50 years ago. Travel to and from a meeting or an event is very much part of each attendee’s event experience. Both meeting planners and attendees, alike, can benefit from inclusion of air travel as part of the overall planning process. Best practices and customer feedback have demonstrated that integrating travel planning with meetings management can provide substantial benefits related to experience, cost and duty of care. Here’s our Top 10 List!

Benefits of Group Air Travel Management

Our experienced air specialists provide the highest level of service to our customers each and every day. Interested in learning more about our group air travel management services? Contact us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com or complete our Contact Us form for more information.

Posted in: Company News, Group Air Travel Management

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What You Need to Know About Apple’s App Rule

Apple App Store Container Rule

Written by Tim LaFleur | Director, Event Technology

If you have used a branded mobile app for your event, or are considering one for a future program, you have most likely heard about the new Apple App Store container rule that is shaking up the industry. More and more of our clients are incorporating mobile apps for a richer and more engaging experience for their attendees. So, understandably, they have asked us what this means and what can they expect? The simple answer – it depends. But, let’s break it down.

What does the rule say?
In June, at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, they announced changes to their App Review Guidelines. Of specific interest was Section 4.2.6: “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.”

What does the new policy mean?
There continues to be debate as each app company has their own take based on their reading of the rule and/or subsequent conversations with Apple. On the face, it appears providers will no longer be able to submit “one off” single branded event apps into the App Store. While this rule is broad and far reaching it in part touches all app development companies in some way.

As it pertains to our industry, it is widely believed this was put into place to clean up the App Store from many outdated or orphaned apps in preparation for the launch of their new store and have more control (i.e. not unlike the Play Store “Cover Letter” policy from earlier this year). Conference app companies are responding in a variety of ways based on their understanding of the rule. Most of the thoughts swirling around fall into one of three buckets.

Thought 1:
The most common thinking is that event apps now publicly distributed in the App Store will have to go into a larger container app. And, it would need to be a container app branded by the development company versus the event host. This has led some to proclaim that the death of the white labeled single event app is at hand. Additionally, there are concerns over the loss of event branding and security since all apps are placed in one container. In response conference app companies are working hard to mitigate the security concern with shortcuts directly to your specific app inside the container. However, the loss of event branding remains a very real concern for event marketing professionals.

Thought 2:
Some app companies have interpreted this rule less about whether the app is created by a commercialized template or app generation service, and more about whose Apple License is being used. There is a thought that if the app is being published from the event host’s Apple Developer License it will be allowed as either a multi or single event branded app. Others, while they agree in theory, they do not see it as being as broad as this. They feel there are boundaries to this approach.

• App must be published from company or organization’s developer account
• Needs to be a container app and have at least five (5) events included
• May only have one (1) container per organization
• After a few are published, organization will start seeing rejections from Apple

Thought 3:
And, last thought is “our apps are customized and they all differ.” They believe there is enough customization and uniqueness so their apps to not be affected by this rule. However, I am unsure if this philosophy holds true. As I understand it, there will be three main checks Apple will do make sure an app is not coming from a commercialized template or app generation service.

So, what now?
The deadline for this rule to take effect was initially September 30, 2017. However, Apple extended the deadline to December 24, 2017. This is a very nuanced and evolving situation so I would encourage anyone who already has an agreement with an app company to engage with them regarding their interpretation and how they are handling it. Even if you have already spoken with your app company, you might want to re-engage regarding what might have changed since your first conversation to see what other options exist for distribution such as private distribution versus public distribution. Have a backup plan should they be wrong in their interpretation of the rule.

How we can help…
As a third-party event planning company who specializes in mobile design, we are in a unique position because we work with and have been in conversations with many different app providers. They all believe theirs is the perfect solution. Yet, no two companies have the same interpretation. Ultimately, the goal is to mitigate risk of app rejection by crafting a plan to cover several different scenarios. If you have questions, concerns, comments or just want to know how we believe this rule may affect your event, based on all of the differing philosophies and approaches, contact me directly at tlafleur@meetings-incentives.com.

 

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design

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Negotiated Hotel Group Rates versus Online Deals

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Written by Lisa Palmeri | Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions

It’s the thrill of the chase, and ultimately the deal, that leads one to scour the internet for the best possible price on a hotel room. I admit to thoroughly enjoying this challenge which often leads to prolonged research, not unlike that of a scientist researching a new theory or invention. With a myriad of hotel booking sites from which to capture that holy grail of accomplishments – the cheapest room rate – it’s no wonder group rates are often perceived as overpriced. So why are professionally negotiated rates sometimes higher than a room rate any consumer can readily book online?

It boils down to simple math and sophisticated revenue management. Online pricing applies to limited inventory which fluctuates hour by hour based on the volume of internet booking activity. Hotels offer different prices based on the type of room (single, double, suite), the view (ocean, parking lot), weekday versus weekend, and other factors. Hotel revenue managers are constantly monitoring their daily income and inventory. Revenue management software works behind the scenes looking at past history and predictive behavior to determine how many rooms will be offered at a discount either via the hotel website or online booking channels.

Guestrooms are a perishable commodity so hotels don’t want to miss the opportunity to put “heads in beds.” They want their hotel rooms available for sale in as many online outlets as possible and will offer early-bird online specials. Likewise, as the check-in date draws near and if the hotel has excess inventory, they might offer a deal to stimulate demand. Keep in mind, the most favorable online rates are restrictive; usually non-refundable, need to be purchased immediately and paid in full at the time of purchase.

“While it’s quite easy to find a competitive room rate for one or two rooms, the exercise becomes more difficult when searching for ten or more rooms,” said Denise Farrell, Director, Global Procurement. This is because these group blocks often need meeting space, special amenities, concessions (cost waived items and/or discounts on hotel-provided group services). They also require preferential business and legal terms governing the transaction (company specific hotel addendum) which are especially important for risk mitigation and duty of care. “We had a client incentive program near Naples, Florida the week after Hurricane Irma. The property was not damaged, but the area was severely flooded and their offsite activities impacted. Because of our solid relationship with the hotel and protection clauses in the contract, we were able to reschedule for a later date at no additional cost. Plus, our buyer and program manager, will take care of all the details,” said Denise.

In addition to evaluating the requested dates and space, revenue managers also score the potential group booking based on several factors including, but not limited to:

  • Ratio of guestrooms to meeting space requested – if rooms are few, but space is heavy, room rates may be increased
  • Value of the concessions – every upgrade, waiver and discount has a cost factor
  • Revenue generated by other services – group food and beverage functions, meeting room rental, and spending in other hotel outlets
  • Percentage of the property’s overall inventory that the group booking constitutes
  • Group’s performance history – filling rooms blocked and meeting revenue targets
  • Seasonality and pattern of stay – high demand dates and preferred days of the week
  • Potential to book another, more lucrative group over the same period

Group rates are the result of a rather complex algorithm based on the overall scope and revenue potential of the meeting. It’s a delicate balance. As procurement professionals, we’re also negotiating for favorable terms relating to attrition (reduction of rooms), cancellation policies, payment terms, cut-off dates for rooming list submission, competitors in house, force majeure, mutual indemnification, as well as other business and legal terms.

Professionally sourced group room blocks provide many benefits that a guest may not realize at first glance, thus an explanation of these is recommended when sending out meeting invitations. Common benefits include an upgraded room if the group block was booked in an upgraded category (internet rates are typically offered for standard room types), better amenities (complimentary WiFi, breakfast, parking, late check-out), more flexible payment terms (or billing to a master account if company paid), and heightened duty of care in the event of an emergency, by being associated with a group in which onsite support resources may be available. In the end, the value of professionally procured group room blocks far outweigh the discounted room rate one or two attendees might be able to book online.

It is difficult to make a direct comparison, but important to consider the ease of use, overall value and total cost, not just the room rate. Our award-winning procurement team has unparalleled experience and is results driven. “We maintain a focus on superior site selection/sourcing to secure the optimal venues and best-in-class contract negotiation to ensure your event budget produces the highest value to meet your expectations. We leverage our depth of experience, rigorous processes, superior technology, industry relationships and buying power to contract the best rates and terms for your program and organization,” said Denise. Interested in learning more about how our team can save you both time and money, contact us directly at marketing@meetings-incentives.com.

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Incentive Travel Trends and Journey Mapping

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Written by Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS | Director, Global Incentive Services

As 2017 sales incentive contests head into their final quarter and 2018 award trip planning starts to kick into high gear for a new and exciting season of winner incentive trips, it is a great time to get a sneak peek at M&IW’s leading incentive trends. I had the privilege of presenting on this topic at our recent Client Summit with Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS, Account Lead/Sr. Buyer, Global Incentive Services.

State of the Industry

To help us better understand the trends, let’s take a brief look at the state of the industry. Recent survey data illustrates how organizations have fully realized the role incentives play to engage their sales teams, employees and channel partners and their results in both bottom line and top-line growth. More than 84% of American companies use incentive programs. US firms alone invest more than $90 billion dollars annually in non-cash incentives such as incentive travel, merchandise and gift cards, according to IRF 2107 Trends Study & SITE Index 2017.

Journey Mapping

The stakes are higher and expectations greater. The incentive trip planner isn’t just planning an event, they are designing engaging experiences. And, not cookie-cutter, one size fits all – but rather experiences that match the energy flow of the group and the individual award winners. Personas and journey mapping is a hot new concept with incentive travel design.

The objective is to create a “Journey Map” based on personas as opposed to demographics. Identifying groups of people who share similar attitudes, behaviors and motivations and outline specific elements each day of the program based on the different personas’ appeal. For example, “Fit-to-Travel,” “All Things Social,” “Work B4 Play,” etc. Each persona values different elements so it critical to match the group activities and experiences with their journeys. Applying this principle to the travel incentive program design not only helps improve the attendee experience, but also the company’s bottom line.

An All Encompassing, Immersed Experience

As an industry, we are moving away from just providing “unique and WOW experiences” and moving toward total engagement. With the use of technologies from the mobile app experience to virtual reality, we can engage the qualifier before they even leave their doorstep. Experiential travel is now about fostering emotional attachment to the brand. Next-level experiences tap the true emotional engagement. Capturing the experiences from unique angles, such as drones or Go-Pro devices, provides lasting impressions long after the trip has concluded.

Destination 2018

The strength of the US dollar, has created a resurgence in international destinations. Tenerife/Canary Islands, southern France and less traveled areas of Italy are emerging as an exciting European alternative. Iceland, where the infrastructure is finally starting to catch up, is capturing the imagination of a true Icelandic expedition and discovery. Panama continues to grow in experiences and infrastructure.  Adventure hot spots are trending including Banff/Whistler, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Giving Back is Not Going Away

Seventy percent of programs include a corporate social responsibility component and we expect that number to continue to grow. The industry has seen a definite uptick in the last three years and new types of experiences are popping up as a result. Tying a group activity or corporate team building to foster employee teamwork with the outcome of significantly stimulating income generation for people in a developing country is the top of the list. Attendees not only want to have a great experience themselves, but want to leave a destination knowing they made an impact in the community and world.

Health and Fitness

Health and fitness is becoming an increasing element of every program. Healthy meal options, allowing time for workouts, group activities that focus on wellness events, and gifting experiences that include athletic wearables, sneakers, yoga mats, on-site personalized athletic wear and classes are all the rage.

In summary, incentive travel programs still need to be life-affirming, jaw-dropping and create memories that connect to a bigger purpose. Being memorable and exclusive hasn’t changed. However, what is trending is how the incentive planner’s role involves creating “personalized” journeys that ignites the senses, recognizes stellar achievements, and inspires winners to work even harder to be part of your elite incentive trip year after year!

Want to learn more about journey mapping and the newest incentive industry trends as well as take away some trip ideas to implement into your 2018 program? Join our Global Incentives Services team in November for our Incentive Trends webinar where we will go into greater detail on this topic and much, much more!

 

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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The Art and Science of Data for Meetings Management

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Written by Marie Johnson, CMP | Director of Marketing and Strategy

Data is key to a successful meetings management program. But the larger question is how to make sense of the data and gain insights to drive decisions that can positively impact your organization. This is where the art and science aspect comes into play. Data science is about methods, processes, and systems to extract knowledge from data in various forms. More sophisticated analytical skills also require more sophisticated visual presentation skills. It is important to combine elements of design, such as harmony, rhythm, flow, balance, and focus, together in appropriate proportions to convey the messages in interesting and informative ways that grab and keep the attention of your audience.

In practice, the art of data for meetings management is often a team sport. The creative process includes divergent thinking, which involves the generation of multiple answers to a problem; conceptual blending, in which solutions arise from the intersection of different frames of reference; and, honing, in which an acceptable solution emerges from iterating over many successive unacceptable versions of the solution. The art is the ability to bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, look at things differently, and solve real business challenges.

Then there is this idea of “big data.” But, what exactly is it and how does it relate to meetings management? In 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney came up with the famous three V’s of volume, variety and velocity of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. In 2011, Gartner expanded this to definition of data management. “Big data” is high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.

But it’s not the amount of data that’s most important. It is what organizations do with their data that matters. Business Intelligence (BI) technologies can handle large amounts of structured and sometimes unstructured data to help identify, develop and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities. They also provide a historical, current and predictive view of business operations. Whereas business intelligence comprises the set of strategies, processes, applications and technical architectures used to support the collection, data analysis, presentation and dissemination of business information.

Recently, Lisa Palmeri, Vice President of Global Enterprise Solutions with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide and Linsey Giant, Technical Event Consultant with Anthem, presented on this topic at Cvent Connect 2017. Specifically, they focused on leveraging BI tools with Cvent and shared their knowledge of meeting management applications such as; team management and workload distribution, benchmarking and strategic decision-making. They discussed the business information that can be gained from meeting data and how to apply those insights and make an impact in your organization. They stressed that acting upon the insights is imperative.

So, the question we are often asked by our clients is how to get started, connect data, tell a story and benefit their organization’s meetings management goals. “In response to an ever-increasing need for business insights, BI software has flooded the market. And, with the benefits of BI being numerous and the cost of not having BI growing, it is easy to want to quickly adopt a solution,” said Mona Lebied, Online Marketing with Datapine. But, she also cautions this approach could be disastrous and investing in BI shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Understanding what drives success in your organization is tough stuff, and you should not expect to get it right the first time. It is an iterative process. And, before you get started you need a strategy and roadmap if you are looking to launch and manage your business intelligence. Even the best BI software needs some initial heavy lifting to maximize its potential. It involves stakeholders, sponsors, technology, data cleansing, KPIs, the right tool and/or partner, and a phased approach according to Lebied.

M&IW was on the verge of working with a third party to create a data warehouse. However, what we learned is that the effort is always in construction. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) is a process in data warehousing responsible for pulling data out of the source systems, normalizing the data, cleaning, applying filters, loading it into the data repository for other reporting applications and then pulling data to run queries,” said Lisa.

Duplicating the data in a DW and transporting data from multiple sources to a centralized repository eats up network bandwidth and time and consumes endless CPU cycles in the transformation process. Whereas, in a BI system, you leave the data in the sources where it exists. BI without a DW is a valid approach for some organizations if you trust the raw data in your systems. You are then essentially creating a virtualized data warehouse environment that allows for continuous data loading for dynamic elements that can render real-time dashboards and scorecards. You are not dealing with huge volumes of data. You are extracting only what you need to answer the business question at hand.

There are a lot of BI technologies in the marketplace and this is not an endorsement of any one tool. We determined DOMO to be the best solution based on our needs and requirements. One of the benefits of using DOMO is early “dirty data” detection. We can apply business rules to a meeting request and see if the results don’t look right at the time of extract. This helps to ensure the data is going in correctly.

Columns and rows are great for storing data, but not for telling stories. Whereas the Domo card builder interprets the data and suggests how to visualize it for maximum impact and clarity. Or, a multitude of other options for charts, cards and more are available essentially making complex data sets consumable and meaningful for answering a specific business question. Dynamic cards allow for instant filtering, date range updates and can be readily shared.

By way of example, let’s say we want to answer what was the average hotel rate for programs held in the United States in 2016? We source thousands of hotels representing hundreds of thousand contracted room nights annually. For this exercise, Domo is connected to three data sources, two through Cvent and one flat file in a financial system. Those three data sources are 579 MBs of flow. And, after the output it represents only 21MBs which is much more manageable.

Because it notifies us of missing data points, null values, or invalid data, nothing falls through the cracks. In our example above, the average negotiated domestic rate was showing as $277. But, a quick look at the data revealed that one rate was not divided by the number of individuals so the real average, once the anomaly was fixed, was $198. That is the beauty of having that level of data transparency. There is lots of information we can glean to make decisions. When we look at cost savings, we save the most on sleeping rooms. However, we can dig deeper to see where are the best opportunities for additional savings for our clients.

Another benefit for us as a third-party is scheduling and assigning workload. We can get a view of our team to see when we have multiple resources out and time constraints to work around. This helps us ensure we are responsive to our clients by assigning an individual that has the bandwidth to fully support the request and meet the deadline. Domo also assists us in continuing to provide world class sourcing services and outperform our competition by using it as a performance monitoring tool in looking at the number of projects per buyer, average hours to contract, cost savings achieved, and more to ensure they are exceeding established goals. “Our clients expect us to be as efficient and productive as possible. And, having a BI strategy and software platform helps us drive results based on facts. It is an iterative process. The more you learn, the more application it has and the more opportunities you have to use it,” said Lisa.

Because of interest we received at Cvent Connect regarding this topic, Lisa presented a follow up webinar in June. It was the first of a two-part series and will be available on demand soon. Or, if you are interested in receiving copy of the presentation or connecting with Lisa, email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com. The second webinar will take place in September so stay tuned for more information.

 

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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ROI of Event Sponsorship: Stakeholders vs. Sponsors

Event Sponsor

Written by Jill Pearson | Manager, Digital Marketing and Media

Sponsorship, by definition, is the financial or material support of an event, activity or organization by an unrelated partner. Sponsoring a relevant event is a great way to increase brand awareness and strengthen relationships. This, in turn, helps generate consumer preference and foster brand loyalty. A company can reinforce awareness among its target market by sponsoring an event that attracts a desired target market. A sponsorship can be a meaningful part of a brands success, but also material to an event’s success.

Sponsoring an event is no means an act of charity – they must show some form of positive return on investment (ROI) for both stakeholders and sponsors. With ROI in mind, we would like to explore two separate perspectives in the sponsorship journey: the event stakeholder and the sponsoring organization.

As we near M&IW Campus Week, our annual company event, we reflect on the role of our industry partners. From an event stakeholder viewpoint, sponsors are of the utmost importance as they not only help to generate revenue for the event itself, but also offset costs for items that will enhance the overall attendee experience. For example, because of our platinum sponsors, we are including live meeting analytics from Educational Measures, over-the-top decor and style concepts from Kehoe Designs, professional event production from DMP and collaborative team building sessions from Banding People Together.

While sponsor and exhibitor relationships are key to these types of events, they can also be tricky to manage. To be successful, it is crucial to understand what matters most to the sponsoring organization. Do they prefer promotional opportunities leading up to the event, brand visibility on the registration site, advertising on a mobile app, relationship building with key contacts, ability to present at the event or sit on an industry panel, and of course, being able to connect with attendees post event.

You want to ensure they receive a solid return from their both investment and participation so that they continue to sign on year after year. And, it is also important to make sure that the sponsors and exhibitors selected are a good fit for the audience. Otherwise, the attendees will feel like the event was “sold” without consideration of their interests and time sport-life. Because we provide hotel sourcing and contracting services for our clients, hotels and resorts are a perfect fit. In fact, we have three platinum sponsors in this category: Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Rosewood.

Likewise, sponsoring organizations need to know that the audience is a fit for them. “To be successful, our employees need to be knowledgeable about new products, event-related services, hot destinations and more says Lindsay Perez, Assistant Manager, Program Management for Global Operations. She explains that “event sponsors and exhibitors gain valuable face time with those who have their ‘boots on the ground’ so to speak. They benefit from a rare opportunity to get in front of the individuals that use their services. Or, from a more general standpoint, individuals who may have key input, make recommendations to our clients or are involved in the decision-making process. It’s an overall win for the attendees and the sponsors, alike.”

A lot of organizations, including ours, use a tiered system to help differentiate the level of exposure or marketing that an organization will receive based on their support. This helps the hosting organization to keep the playing field level and manage expectations of the sponsoring and exhibiting companies.

“While it’s beneficial to participate as an exhibitor in the Supplier Showcase to network and make personal introductions, being a sponsor brings this educational value to the next level. It gives the organization an opportunity to be front and center of all M&IW employees and a chance to highlight the value they can offer to us, as a company, and to our clients,” explained Vicki Schmitz, HMCC, Senior Manager of Hotel Procurement. This is especially true for companies that have just started working with M&IW, a sponsorship can help them foster relationships and generate business opportunities faster.

We also have industry partners like Marriott International that have participated for several years. So, we asked Elizabeth Moynihan. CMP, Global Account Executive, her thoughts on the criteria her team uses when deciding to become a sponsor? Elizabeth responded, “Marriott values our long-term global partnership with M&IW. As strategic partners, we understand the importance and mutual benefit of sponsoring Campus Week. We take many components into consideration when determining our level of support. The opportunity for our hotel partners and GSO to engage face-to-face, and further cultivate and strengthen relationships is invaluable. We enjoy participating in Campus Week annually, and appreciate the opportunity to be a platinum sponsor.”

Our M&IW Campus Week taking place August 21-24, 2017 which includes our Client Summit and Supplier Showcase is the one time of year we bring together in one place our talented associates, valued clients, and industry partners. If you are interested in learning more about sponsor opportunities still available, please email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com and we will send you the prospectus.

 

 

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Dissecting Effective Event Design

By Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications and Creative Services

When the novice planner is asked about the purpose of event design the answer is typically to make the room look good and create a pleasant environment. A fine answer, but is that really all there is to effective event design?

“Not at all, event design should be all encompassing and have purpose which is generally to create an environment that conveys the message and the theme of the event while staying true to the program’s overall objectives. Whether the event is a celebration, awards ceremony, meal function, workshop or general session there is always a message that needs to be conveyed. The audience does not solely listen with their ears, but they also ‘listen’ with their sight, their sense of smell, their touch, and sometimes even their sense of taste. Successful event design encompasses all the senses to produce an environment that clearly conveys the message of the program and achieves the goals. It is about engagement not simply making the room look good,” explains Alexander deHilster, Senior Event Designer with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide.

At M&IW, Alexander and his team work collaboratively with our clients and event design partners to do exactly that. In the true collective spirit of M&IW, we asked one of our long-term event design partners to provide some additional insight on effective event design.

Timot McGonagle, Senior Event Designer of Kehoe Designs, reiterated Alexander’s point with the following thoughts and tips:

The Benefits of Effective Event Design:

1. Creates an emotional attachment that produces a more permanent and lasting impression on the guests ultimately creating greater return on experience for the guests.
2. Allows the guest to feel physically part of the event while it is happening evoking the important emotional connection with every event.
3. Increases learning and aids with retention since all the attendees’ senses are engaged they can hold attention longer resulting in increased retention overall.
4. Clearly conveys the message of the event and leaves no room for interpretation.

When asked about how to attack effect event design, Timot gave the following response. “Current trends lean toward an immersive experience. Boundaries between individual event disciplines are very blurry. For instance, we see more and more that audio visual, décor, food & beverage all play a role in event design. A screen is no longer solely used to communicate content, but can be a visual work of art or message board for the program’s objectives. True event design is working in a cohesive manner and blending all facets of the event to reach the objective.”

Alexander and Timot also both agree that it is best to be in close contact with the client to discover goals and request all materials on event from graphic support, theme, messaging, and anything else that can inspire the design. Ultimately the design reflects the nuances of the message.

Do’s and Don’ts from our Senior Event Designers include:

1. Do conduct a site visit before designing. Each project has its own energy as does every space. Immersed in the actual venue helps to bring out the creative vision.
2. Do make every detail count! Find a few details and layer them for a more cohesive event.
3. Do Utilize elements that will play to all the senses.
4. Do hire professionals to get the most value out of your investment.
5. Don’t make event design an afterthought. Bring all the team players together early in the process.
6. Don’t forget to discuss budget up front. There are many ways to approach event design. And, budget often determines the right path to start.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design

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The Benefits of Marketing Videos

Written by Jill Pearson | Manager, Digital Marketing & Media

Video marketing techniques are flooding today’s social media outlets, websites and direct marketing campaigns. Almost any type of business or event would benefit from the production of a short video to introduce their products or services. It is no secret that video content increases conversion rates in sales. In fact, consumers are 64% to 85% more likely to purchase a product or service that has video representation according to a study by web analytics gurus at KissMetrics.

For our customers, video promotions provide a clearer understanding of the benefits of a service or event. We have discovered that when a video is used in our marketing communications, the click-through rate (CTR) is four times greater than all other links embedded in the email. Additionally, videos on social sites are liked and shared ten times more which leads to higher read rates and website traffic.

Because it is an ever-increasing and popular medium, we’ve also found it highly effective to use videos to present a destination, resort or other elements of an incentive promotion to our clients. It allows our clients to immerse themselves in the destination and incentive trip experience. The same is true when announcing the details of a trip to potential winners. It creates excitement and can catapult production to the next level. Another technique is to share a “happy face” video from the previous year showing actual winners and how much fun they had during the trip. It serves as a great reminder for the winners and creates a level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Likewise, it is a great teaser for those trying to earn the upcoming trip for the first time.

An incentive campaign’s success is dependent on our ability to creatively entice participants to engage, perform, and win. Recently, our Creative Services and Digital Marketing team joined forces with an Account Lead within Global Enterprise Solutions to create a video for a sales incentive that we won over an industry competitor. For this company, incentives aren’t a new concept and there are several repeat winners. To combat the perception that this is a “been there, done that” trip, we proposed a unique, new destination trending within the incentive space. Puglia is a region in Italy’s boot that is mostly unexplored by corporate incentives. So, the messaging challenge of the video was to take an unknown destination and create the fascination of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Daniel Filar, Account Lead, reinforces the objective by stating, “the goal was to lure the sales team into the lavish Italian lifestyle found in Puglia – accommodations at a 5-diamond resort, fine-dining experiences, touring historic villages and experiencing unique activities. We decided to produce a customized video to capture the region’s most breath-taking vistas and offerings. Without the supporting imagery to bring the experience to life, we would have fallen short on our ability to tell the story and sell the destination.” The client shared with us that he believed this was going to be one of the best incentive trips yet and early indicators showed his sales team was driving hard toward their targets. To see if you agree, view the video above.

Another way organizations are incorporating video is to announce and promote a corporate social responsibility component that is tied into the incentive trip. “Last spring, one of my clients had a program in Cabo San Lucas. During the planning process, he learned the Light in my Life Orphanage in San Jose Los Cabos was severely damaged by Hurricane Odile in 2014 and saw an opportunity to help. To generate awareness for the CSR activity, a touching video was created and shared with the winners prior to the trip. It turned about to be a wonderful and beneficial experience for all,” said Katie Wiesner, Sr. Program Manager, CIS.

While techniques used for promotions are constantly evolving, consumer behavior still suggests that purchases are made and participation is enhanced when personal connection have been established. Videos bring that association to a consumer mind and allows for greater trust and excitement to the featured topic.

With the enhancement of easy-to-use video production technologies, captivating high resolutions photos, short destination clips and creative scripting – destination videos such as the Puglia one featured are less expensive to create than you might think and an excellent promotional tool for your next event.

 

 

 

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs

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4 Key Trends in Medical Meetings

Medical_Meetings_Cropped_BlogWritten by Naomi Tucker, CMP, HMCC | Senior Strategic Account Manager

Meeting management professionals have a unique role when it comes to the planning and execution of medical meetings. From ensuring the compliance of the healthcare professionals, to reporting and staying on top of trends, there are many complexities. The world of medical meetings can be hard to absorb, especially when the landscape is continually changing. This years’ Pharma Forum brought forth many differing perspectives and highlighted the trends that are occurring within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. Below are a few that I see as particularly important in the world of medical meetings.

Content is King

Yes, content is still king. However, we learned content can get complacent. That is why many pharmaceutical companies have a renewed focus on delivering the right content in the right manner to healthcare professionals. It is also important to note that the way content is being received is changing. Healthcare meetings are now becoming more engaging, encouraging the attendees to be more than spectators at their events. This can be achieved with specific meeting technology that is focused on enhancing attendee participation. For example, Educational Measures and MeetingPlay are both applications that can be used to increase engagement at meetings and make them more lively, inspiring, and interactive. This trend is making the consumption of content more desirable by the attendees through interaction and delivering more value to the organizations.

Is there an App for That?

There is an increase in the usage of mobile applications in medical meetings. No longer are attendees subject to waiting until the day of their event to interact with others attending the meeting. Attendees can have increased interaction with their peers and industry colleagues through mobile applications, and usage is on the rise. Mobile platforms such as Attendify and Crowdcompass help elevate the experience of events. Customized agendas, person-to-person chat forums, speaker bios, and activity pages are all common elements of these apps that are a value add for any medical meeting. If you are a meeting professional that hasn’t used a mobile app, be prepared for this trend coming to your medical meeting soon.

The Expanding World of China

Working on medical meetings in China, in the past, have been few and far between. However, now many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies are expanding within the country of China. This new landscape is creating more opportunities for face-to-face interactions, and in turn, more medical meetings. Not only will the meeting professional have to be well-versed in the compliance restrictions and regulations, they will also have to ensure they are up-to-speed on the cultural phenomena of planning medical meetings in that area of the world, as well.

Mergers and Acquisitions

We are seeing an increase of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for companies within the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry. At times, these changes within the structure of organizations can create a gap in which third-party meeting planning agencies can help fill. There are also complexities in how medical meetings come together within the new organization. It is helpful to know about the intended change whether it be a merger or acquisition to ensure the meeting you are planning is taking in to account all types of attendees and collecting the compliance-related information needed for the event or conference to be successful.

Looking Forward

It is important to have a constant flow of knowledge, education and peer support to help balance unprecedented changes, tackle tough regulations, and stay on top of trends. With the changing landscape in this highly-related niche industry, working with professionals who specialize in the nuances of medical meetings can greatly alleviate challenges in the long run and create successful, engaging and effective outcomes.

Posted in: Company News, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Program Management & Event Design

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Two-in-a-Box Co-CEO Leadership Model

M&IW_TinaJean_NAMID2 3x4Written by Marie Johnson, CMP | Director, Marketing & Strategy

This year marks our golden anniversary. On September 26, 1967, a family dream to build a business within the travel industry became a reality. It started small with the hard work, dedication, integrity, and commitment of the Neider family. Fifty years and three generations later, we have successfully grown, changed, innovated and expanded, but made sure to never lose sight of what’s most important – our people and our customers.

As we position M&IW for the future, we saw an opportunity to better align our chief officer roles. “Sometimes referred to as two-in-the-box, the unusual structure can provide increased scope and broader capacity,” Joseph L. Bower, a management professor at Harvard Business School, told Business Insider. Jean Johnson, CMP, Co-CEO and Chief People Officer, and Tina Madden, CPA, Co-CEO and Chief Customer Officer, are true partners in the operational excellence and strategic vision of M&IW. While most companies adhere to more traditional C-level roles, this structure allows Tina and Jean to better complement each other’s strengths and maintain a balanced line of sight for the organization.

In the past five years, through organic growth our organization doubled the number of employees who joined our M&IW family. In 2013, as part of our global expansion, we opened in the UK and changed our company name to Meetings & Incentives Worldwide. In 2014, we made the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing, privately-held companies in America. However, not everything changed. We have been able to maintain a flatter organizational structure with a 60% virtual workforce model that enables us to be more agile, keep the lines of communication open, and increase collaboration with our employees, customers and suppliers.

Within Jean’s role as Co-CEO and Chief People Officer, she will oversee Global Operations, Talent Engagement and Information Services & Security. Whereas, Tina as Co-CEO and Chief Customer Officer, will be responsible for Sales & Marketing, Global Enterprise Solutions and Finance. Within these departments, we have functional areas or “Circles of Excellence” with individuals grouped by roles and responsibilities, not necessarily titles. We feel it allows for distributed decision making while giving everyone the opportunity to work on what they do best and serve our customers.

Jean and Tina are true leaders! They have been recognized as trailblazers and women pioneers for their contributions to the meetings and events industry. We are very excited for their expanded roles as Co-CEOs and what the future will bring to Meetings & Incentives Worldwide under their direction.

 

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications

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