Archive for Program Management & Event Design

4 Steps to Obtaining Work-Life Balance

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Written By Naomi Tucker, CMP, HMCC | Account Director, Global Enterprise Solutions

Obtaining work-life balance is a concept that everyone aspires to. M&IW prides itself on having an expansive virtual culture and supports work-life balance to its fullest. Although the process of obtaining work-life balance can be in one’s grasp, it can be hard to acquire. Industry professionals aspire to excel in their work, and excel at home, and at times, the imbalance creates a frustration in their lives. How do you adjust your expectations and get rid of the frustration of imbalance? Checkout these four steps that I’ve created to help:

Recall
The first step is to recall your current situation. It is always best to take an actual account of your situation and what is providing you with the frustration that you are experiencing. What is preventing you from the balance that you require? Take a written account of everything that you are involved in or have on your plate in both your work and in your personal life.

Re-Evaluate
As you are taking an account of your situation and where you are spending your energy, you must re-evaluate your plate. Ask yourself key questions. Identify why you have this item on your plate and why is it important to you. Asking questions will allow you to be able to quickly identify items that shouldn’t be on your list or items that are preventing you from obtaining balance.

Reset
The next step that should be taken is to reset your expectations. Identify your goals and aspirations in your work and your personal life. Are the items on your plate fitting with what these goals and aspirations? If they aren’t, then unfortunately they would need to be placed to the side until you have time to designate to them. Many people wonder what to do with the items that they have placed to the side. It helps to delegate them, or just simply say no to those items that you are being asked to do. Sometimes taking things off your plate can be tough, but it is a necessary step to obtain balance in your career and life.

Reactivate
After you have done every step; recalling your situation, re-evaluating what’s on your plate, and resetting your expectations, you will need to reactivate your plan. This means putting your written plan to action. Items that you need to put to the side, should have a plan on how you will delegate or move the responsibility of them. Items that you need to say no to, need a plan on how you will say no. Items that you need to take responsibility for, you will need a plan on how you will start to obtain responsibility. The key word is “plan”. Have a plan and make it actionable.

Summary
Making the steps toward balance can at first seem like an overwhelming experience, however it can take so much of the burden off of you when done correctly. As industry professionals, the concept of having it call can be an illusion, but we can create a life for ourselves were we can be content and joyful in the work and life that we do lead with following these simple steps.

For more information, CLICK HERE to review the entire recording of our recent Industry Insights Webinar: Career, Life and Beyond – How Can Planners Have It All?

 

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

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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

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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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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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Beyond Features: A More Comprehensive Look at Mobile Apps

Mobile Apps Events

Written by Tim LaFleur, CMP | Director, Mobile Solutions & Strategy

At M&IW, we are extremely proud of the fact that we have consistently been a top consultant provider when it comes to making the most out of your meeting and event application. When I took on the role of Director of Mobile Solutions & Strategy to lead M&IW’s initiative, I knew we would need to go beyond the basic app features, utilize our comprehensive understanding of event operations, and dive deep into clients specific needs to create a service that has since become best practice in the industry.

Our process is to look beyond the feature and to not take it at face value. We evaluate the various app sections as buckets of functionality independent from their face value functionality (i.e. speakers, schedule, sponsors, etc.). Thinking about a section in terms of the functions that a module holds, opens a world of possibilities to create something special for the client.

The best app consultancy services think in terms of a three-pronged stool and if one of the legs falls short, the stool is bound to be off balance and fall apart. Each leg is represented by an area of competency including utilizing a superior app technology platform where the functionality contained within each module is dynamic; the understanding of events and how various event aspects may depend or seamlessly flow into one another; and a keen awareness of our client’s specific needs and overall event objectives. Being uniquely positioned to understand all three components of the three-pronged stool, allows the users to take full advantage of the application’s platform and intended purpose. Taking time to vet and ask many questions about the platforms will allow for a level understanding similar to that of the technology provider themselves. Combined with a unique perspective on apps and knowledge of how the meetings and events flow, allows for a unique vantage point to craft the apps for a client. In the end, we have not simply filled in the individual features, but a technology solution that solves the mobile needs of a conference has been developed.

To illustrate a best-practice approach consider the following:

Social Features and Social Walls. Consider this feature question, “Does the attendee’s post go to social media with a specific hashtag and then pulled back down by the social wall to display on a screen or does the social wall bring attendees posts over without having to go out into social media?” The first scenario may pose confidentiality and security concerns. Additionally, does the social wall display pictures and text together as it was submitted on the feed or does it separate out various post elements. Based on how these questions are answered determines how the specific feature can be utilized and if the technology is a fit for the specific event.

If we simply check the box stating the app supports social wall and do not ask how, we are short-changing the potential use or functionality. Perhaps an event organizer wanted a social wall, but there were privacy concerns and it was assumed that the posts flowed through social media without understanding the functionality of the feature and because of that basic assumption the feature was not utilized. Where in reality the feature could have been utilized while maintaining privacy if the execution of feature was discovered and right platform selected.

Interactive Floor Plan. If the floor plan features utilize heat mapping or pin dropping to outline the location of a room this leads to other questions that affect the attendee experience with this feature. For example, will heat mapping adequately map a room that is not a standard square or rectangle? If there is a ballroom that is used in the morning for general session, but then breakouts later in the day, how does the heat mapped area handle that layering or is there the need to create multiple maps to illustrate?

When considering a pin system think about the following. An attendee is looking at the maps, can they tell which pin is which and distinguish between ones that are clustered together? This is similar to the pin drop conundrum in a geolocation map section as well as a floor plan section. Does the technology provider have the ability to filter out by type, view in list or search by a particular name? The answers to all the questions, regardless of if it is macro or micro function to the app, affect the way it operates, the attendee experience and the way that we consult with our clients. In short, there is no question too trivial since the answer can have a profound effect on event design and the attendee experience. Knowing the right questions to ask is developed over time and with experience.

Next time you are tasked with implementing a mobile app for your program, consider the following:

  • Does the app provider I am partnering with provide dynamic feature functionality and what elements flow together and interact?
  • Does this technology solve the three main “must haves” identified in this article that drive our event design and attendee experience?
  • Do I feel comfortable with the app, because if not, chances are my attendees won’t either?
  • Do I understand and are we utilizing the features to their full functionality to address our event technology needs or are we simply taking the features at face value?

These four simple questions will open a world of opportunities for better communication efficiency, a more engaged audience, and greater return on your next program.

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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Practice Gratitude at Your Live Events

Thankful_Gratitude_Image

Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications & Creative Services

“Thanksgiving seems like a holiday that is as American as apple pie, or pumpkin pie for that matter. However, there are variants of this day all around the world. Their meanings, dates and customs may have different nuances, but they all revolve around the concept of gratitude,” said Kristy Puchko in her article How Seven Other Nations Celebrate Thanksgiving.

Although most of the U.S. population celebrates an official day of gratitude called Thanksgiving– Native Americans have always had a deep tradition of routinely giving thanks. For those that practice gratitude on a consistent basis, you experience the positive energy it brings into your daily routine. And, if you take it one step further by practicing gratitude with the masses, it can truly be life-changing.

At M&IW, our purpose is to transform organizations through live meetings and events. We believe seamless and engaging experiences capitalize on the need for human connections. We also believe that the energy that is generated when people come together is when the magic happens.

Now, what if we were to take the collective human energy in a live event scenario and turn it into gratitude? Can you imagine the impact it might have at your conference or national sales meeting? As professional event planners, we are well-aware that what keeps individuals coming back to live meetings and events is the experience. And, the experience is more often how the participant feels versus what they think about the event.

CSR programs have done wonders for the experience at events. So, why don’t we bring the concept of practicing gratitude together into an event setting more often? Why not create environments, activities and space for attendees to practice gratitude and make the experience truly unforgettable?

Here are five tips for practicing gratitude at your next event:

1. Gratitude Event Hashtag – Consider a special hashtag that gives participants an avenue to say what they are thankful for during your event and then display the social stream at monitors around the conference. The hashtag can be as simple as the meeting name with “Thankful For” or “Moments of Gratitude” at the end of it. For instance, #Meeting2017ThankfulFor or #Meeting2017MomentsofGratitude.

2. Gratitude Wall – Construct a portable wall in a common space or designate a gratitude wall where attendees are free to write moments of gratitude. Simply title the wall, “Today, I am thankful for…” and watch the wall fill up with moments that will make you laugh, moments that may bring a tear and moments that leaving you feeling full of gratitude.

3. Keynote Speaker on Practicing Gratitude –Hire a speaker that has a story of gratitude and shares strategies to incorporate practicing gratitude into one’s daily habits. These stories are inspirational, motivational and participants use tips to bring these habits into their daily routine.

4. Be Still Space – Consider creating a space where attendees can practice stillness on demand. A quiet area with soft seating. Hang inspirational sayings and thoughts of appreciation to inspire thoughts of gratitude during stillness.

5. Gratitude Signs – Create signage that has moments of gratitude written on them and spread them through the event space. As attendees walk from session to session, they will catch moments to be thankful for which may inspire those same thoughts among the participants.

When the purpose of these environments and activities are promoted appropriately to the participants, the impact on how participants feel about a conference, meeting or event can be enormous. Attendees may not even be able to express the experience in words, but the feeling that they get may be enough to make for an amazing experience. What’s more, it is a well-known fact, when people practice gratitude they are more open to new information and able to retain new concepts easier because their mind and hearts are open.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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