Event Production

Advocating For Our Industry – Bringing Back B2B Events and Jobs

Socially distanced audience at the Together Again Expo

The past five months have been hard on the live events industry. An estimated 6.7 million jobs have vanished as Covid-19 forces the cancellation of conventions and meetings. The economic impact to cities is also grave as hotels, restaurants and other hospitality businesses lose customers.

Our clients are in a less-than-ideal spot, too. We’re seeing and hearing that digital experiences, while a great stopgap, aren’t providing the same connection, awareness and ROI that come with in-person events.

The good news is that safer events are possible and starting to happen around the world, led by innovative professionals dedicated to ensuring the safety of attendees, exhibitors and staff.

Our industry is resilient and innovative. We know the fight against Covid-19 will be a marathon. In order to lead with hope, we’ll need to work together to educate our local, state and national leaders, as well as other decision makers, about the benefits and needs of the live events industry.

B2B Does Not = Mass Gathering

In her Summer 2020 update, Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, says exhibitions in the U.S. are categorized as mass gatherings rather than controlled environments.

As we saw at the Together Again Expo in Orlando, meetings and conventions are nothing like festivals, concerts and other events that are lumped into the “mass gatherings” category. With limited capacity, masks and temperature-check requirements, mandated traffic flows and constant sanitation, they absolutely are controlled environments. This is a message our legislators need to hear loud and clear.

Face-to-Face is Vital to Business Success

Breden also had some enlightening insights during the State of the Industry panel at the Expo. Within the consumer sentiment surveys she’s reviewed is a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”

“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”

Safe Gatherings Are Possible

The Together Again Expo demonstrated how a convention can operate safely. Just prior to that, an estimated 12,000 parents coaches and kids participated in the 2020 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando. Reports are that there were no positive Covid tests after that event.

Many organizations have written guidance on how to safely and effective return to events. And some countries have started exhibiting again.

Raise Your Voice

Whether you’re an event professional or marketing manager, we need to educate legislators and political leaders about the impact of live events and the need to support them through financial stimulus, tax credits and other initiatives that help the business event ecosystem.

Talk to your elected officials. Do your homework on the issues before Congress. Take action!

Here are just a few of the organizations and initiatives that are advocating for our industry.

Exhibitions Mean Business

Go Live Together

Events Industry Council

Lead With Hope

2019 was our industry’s best year ever. With collaboration and creativity, we can return to that kind of success.

According to David Dubois, president of IAEE, China’s event industry is stronger than it was pre-virus. He expects parts of the U.S. to start slowly ramping up in early September followed by parts of Europe.

And Karl Ely, Vice President and Publisher at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, says the digital events so many companies are turning to now come with a “silver lining” in that they’re drawing in people who will be more open to attending live events later.

As companies and attendees grow more comfortable with gathering again, it’s up to us to model what safety and success look like. The precautions and protocols we develop now will only help us be better prepared to face the next crisis, whatever it might be.

To discuss how our MPG team can help you get back to in-person events, contact us.

Innovating for Safety: Returning to Exhibits and Presentations

Stage at the Together Again Expo

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility and innovation. As Covid-19 continues to challenge marketers, we’re talking with our clients about how they can adapt to safely exhibit and sponsor events at meetings and conventions once again.

The reality is that Covid will be with us for some time. And while digital events have been a great pivot for these early months, we’ve heard and experienced a “pent-up demand for a return to live events.”

Those were the words used by Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Event Industry Research, at the Together Again Expo in Orlando as she described the consumer sentiment surveys she’s been reviewing.

“Exhibitors have told us they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, not having the ability to build brand awareness they’re accustomed to at live events, and a difficult time in maintaining and building the types of relationships with current customers and prospects (that they could face-to-face). And of course many companies launch new products into the world at live events.”

Every business is different. Companies must make the call whether to attend and/or exhibit at conventions and meetings. In many cases, those decisions are driven by things like travel restrictions to and from destinations, as well as quarantine requirements upon return home.

But it can be done. And we are excited about the creativity and commitment to safety shown throughout the industry. When it comes to individual exhibits and presentations, the experts on our team are planning to:

Cut Down on Crowds – Reducing capacity within tradeshow booths is vital, and organizations like the Global Biorisk Advisory Council have issued guidelines to help ensure each person can have 6 feet of space around them at all times. At MPG, we’re reviewing current booth layouts and expectations to determine how best to keep visitor count at the “sweet spot” of reaching as many as possible while maintaining social distancing.

Make Traffic One-Way – MPG has always advocated experiences that have a distinct journey, including a well-defined beginning and end guided by friendly ambassadors who keep things flowing smoothly. Traffic control and pulsing is one of our areas of expertise, and we anticipate utilizing it even more in the coming year.

Design for Distancing – Overt and subtle cues help visitors stay in their own zones. Seats in our presentation theaters will be spaced six feet apart. Furniture can be placed strategically to encourage distancing. And touches like drapes, plants and lighting can help create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Go Touchless – At a time when touchscreens, games and other high-touch interactives could help spread disease, live presentations are going to shine. They’re a great way to deliver a complete message and engage your audience safely and succinctly. At the end of the experience, rather than handing out sample bags, consider giving a code visitors can enter digitally to get samples sent to them.

Give Branded Masks and Safety Swag – Our MPG team sees this as an opportunity for our clients to transform their visitors into walking advertisements.

Dividers, Partitions and Shields, Oh My! – In areas where people will be in close contact, we’ll use transparent partitions to provide extra barriers. We also are considering a transparent panel between our presenters and audiences.

Re-imagine Panels and Presentations – Space chairs and podiums six feet apart. Instead of a shared mic, use individual mics or a boom. Participants should wear masks unless they’re speaking. And instead of a large panel, consider pre-recording the conversation on a platform like Zoom, then playing it back live.

Sanitize and Sanitize Again – While each venue should have services and guidelines for disinfecting surfaces and air, plan and stock up for your own cleaning protocols as well. At MPG, we already know we’ll be disinfecting our presentation theaters after every show. It not only reduces germs, it provides an added sense of confidence that we’re taking care of every detail to help keep visitors safe.

For the time being, these are “the new norms of face-to-face engagements.” But with a few modifications, we can still provide a great experience. To discuss how you can create a safer exhibit at your next convention or meeting, contact us.

Make Magic by Expertly Mixing Education and Entertainment at Your Next Event

MPG hired a magician to help entertain dental hygienists at Crest + Oral-B's annual ADHA breakfast

How do you show 700 dental hygienists you appreciate them at 7:30 a.m.? By putting on a great show!

Crest and Oral-B attend the American Dental Hygienists Association’s annual conference to connect with hygienists and showcase all the ways that the brands support their profession. That’s because hygienists are vital to improving oral health, and they are major recommenders of oral care products.

Crest and Oral-B show their love by hosting a breakfast event that has become a “must attend” at the conference. It includes a healthy helping of product information and promotion for the brands’ Hygienist Proud program, but the key to success is an expert mix of education and entertainment. (For highlights, check out our video.)

If you’re hosting a VIP gathering and want to strike the right balance of fun and information, consider these tips:

Craft an Engaging Theme – It grabs peoples’ attention and opens the door for creative approaches to content. Our most recent ADHA breakfast featured a magician, so we created the tagline, “Supporting You and the Magic You Do,” then tied all elements to it.

Hire a Great Act – Taking a break for music, dance, a comedian or other entertainer not only makes the event more enjoyable, it can help with pacing. Have them perform one long set, or several shorter ones as intervals between more serious material.

Get an Experienced Emcee – A professional host can keep things moving, engage the audience, and put everyone from speakers to special guests at ease. Don’t leave this important role to someone on your team, no matter how great they are in front of a crowd. Trust us on this one, you need a pro.

Keep it Crisp – When developing your event script, try to keep the entire production under an hour. Be mindful of how long any single person or group is onstage. You want your audience to leave wanting more, not worrying they’ll be late to their next class or meeting.

Use Great Visuals – Hiring someone to create an event logo, a custom template, and even a few animations will pay off. Strive to keep a good variety of visuals onscreen at all times, from Powerpoint or Keynote slides to IMAG, which can be coordinated with your production company.

Speaking of which, MPG can help you engage, educate and entertain any audience. Contact us to chat about how we can make your next event a “must attend.”

 

Experiential Marketing White Elephants: Turn Challenges Into Gifts With These Tips

Happy holidays from MPG! As the year comes to an end, many of our clients are creating exciting new marketing experiences for 2019. Most projects, however, come with a few white elephants—challenges and line items that no one really enjoys, but everyone has to make the best of.

If that sounds like your next project, check out these tips for transforming some common live marketing white elephants into gifts your audience will love.

Challenge: Old booth or exhibit that generates little traffic

Transformational Tip: Consider adding a live presentation or live demos. Touchscreens and graphics rarely capture or hold attention. But a live person delivering your message creates instant engagement, plus the impression that your space is a “must visit.” Why be static and dull when you can tell a complete story with a personal touch?

Challenge: Highly technical content with lots of jargon

Transformational Tip: Find a theme that allows you to simplify while engaging your audience’s imagination and emotions. If you’re marketing to an audience of subject matter experts, you don’t want to dumb it down. But a layer of storytelling can bring your message to life and make it more memorable.

Challenge: Too much content

Transformational Tip: Spread it out over several mediums. Keeping experiences under five minutes—eight minutes max—keeps people from getting bored. Capture their attention first. Then post content experts nearby, hand out supplemental material, or direct your audience to a website.

Challenge: Too many cooks

Transformational Tip: It’s common to have a lot of stakeholders giving input and approval throughout the creative process. To minimize delays and bottlenecks, create a clear schedule with plenty of time for everyone to weigh in. Then create one point of contact between your internal team and your agencies.

Challenge: Unmotivated team

Transformational Tip: Face-to-face marketing is a specialty. Expecting your sales team to sparkle at a trade show for 8 hours a day may be unrealistic. Professional brand ambassadors, on the other hand, are experts at drawing people in, communicating full messages, and maintaining friendly smiles, even when their feet are killing them.

Do you have a project that could use transforming? Contact us to find out how we can make your message shine.

Facebook Live at Trade Shows: Tips for Exhibitors

fblive_grabFacebook’s new “Live” feature became widely available this spring, allowing users to host their own live broadcasts. For companies exhibiting at tradeshows, it’s worth exploring. You can take advantage of the visuals and activity around your booth to showcase new technologies or give a glimpse of how you’re engaging with other professionals on the road.

As part of our social media campaign for Crest and Oral-B at the American Dental Association annual meeting, MPG incorporated a Facebook Live broadcast that garnered the highest engagement of our social media activities at that event.

Here are some tips you might find helpful if you’re considering Facebook Live at conventions.

Test First – Convention halls vary in the quality of their wifi, and providing your own within your booth can get pricey. To make sure you’ll be able to do a good-quality broadcast from the show floor, conduct a test the day before around the same time and under the same conditions using a personal Facebook account.

Be Prepared – Decide in advance who’ll be featured in your broadcast and what their talking points will be. If you plan to move around, then map out where you’ll travel. This will help with our next tip, which is…

Watch Your Background – There’s an element of danger to going live: you never know what could happen. A wise guy making rude gestures in the background won’t reflect well on your brand. If you’re concerned there’s even a remote chance of that happening, then choose locations with a backdrop or that limit views of the crowd.

Time It Right – Think about what time of day your audience is most likely to be on Facebook and schedule your live broadcast accordingly. Make sure you broadcast for a good length of time—at least 10 minutes—to give people time to discover and tune in. Don’t forget to give periodic reminders who you are and where you’re broadcasting from to bring those new viewers up to speed.

Enjoy the Interaction –  Facebook Live allows you to see comments and questions in real time, so don’t be afraid to engage with them. Try doing a Q&A with the viewers at home, or give a shout-out to specific fans. The live format is supposed to be fresh and spontaneous, so have fun with it — as much as your brand equity will allow.

For more ideas on how to amplify your trade show activities using social media, check out our article on how to execute a fun and successful Facebook video campaign.

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Making Messages Memorable at a Big (And We Mean Big!) Tradeshow

An MPG professional presenter details the benefits of Trimble's Connected Farm software for a packed audience at Farm Progress 2015.

When Trimble Agriculture exhibits at a trade show, it’s big! Big booth. Big audiences. A big variety of solutions to share. And the shows themselves are enormous. Farm Progress, billed as the nation’s largest producer-attended outdoor agriculture event, encompasses more than 2,570,000 square feet with an average attendance of about 160,000.

With so much competition for the attention of farmers and advisors, how does Trimble stand out? With a new live presentation introducing all that Trimble has to offer.

Trimble had already experienced success with MPG brand ambassadors, who welcomed visitors and helped detail Trimble solutions at earlier tradeshows. For Farm Progress 2015, Trimble asked us to create a presentation that would open the booth experience. The goal: let visitors know about the breadth of Trimble’s offerings, focusing on the agriculture management software that brings it all together—Connected Farm.

Trimble is best known as an industry leader in guidance and steering, helping farm equipment operate efficiently and thoroughly in the field. Connected Farm brings the data collected by that equipment into one place, allowing growers and their advisors to make better decisions.

MPG’s theme, “Expect More with Trimble,” allowed us to challenge the audience’s prior knowledge of Trimble, then demonstrate how Connected Farm technology can help them get more out of their investments.

Our professionals gave back-to-back presentations throughout the three-day show. Our brand ambassadors, meanwhile, continued to welcome newcomers, direct traffic, answer questions, and put a friendly face on the Trimble experience.

“The MPG team was a pleasure to work with,” said Trimble Event Coordinator Ashley Limoges. “They pulled our marketing materials into one memorable message. Then, they delivered a great experience at the booth. The professionals presenters set the stage for our representatives to have meaningful conversations with our visitors. And the brand ambassadors made sure everyone felt welcome. As a result, we had increased booth traffic which led to new customers and higher post-show sales. We felt like we were in great hands.”

To see MPG in action at Farm Progress, including selections from our live presentation, check out our video. To learn more about our trade show and corporate event services, visit here.

What We’ve Learned from 10+1 Years of Growth and Success

Unisys

Ten years ago, our presentations often included song and dance numbers, like this one.

November 2013 marks a special milestone for MPG. We’re celebrating 10+1 years of being in business!

“But wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Eleven years isn’t a big anniversary. What happened to celebrating #10?”

The truth is, we were so busy that we let our tenth slip by without fanfare. Now, as we head toward Lucky 11, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how much MPG and the experiential marketing industry have changed.

It’s not the same old song and dance. Years ago, we routinely created flashy numbers and other theatrical tricks to sell everything from fire equipment to home security systems. These days, clients still expect an unforgettable experience to communicate their messages, but substance is every bit as important as style. Today, our presentations are more science-based, often with demos that bring tough concepts to life. We’re ready and able to bring out the singers and dancers, but we’re also equipped to talk hard science with the most discerning audience member.

AAD presentation

These days, our presentations are much more science-based, incorporating a broader spectrum of technology and presentation techniques within lighter, more environmentally friendly properties.

Properties are lighter and more sustainable. Companies want to reduce costs. They also want to be kinder to the environment. So they’re requesting booths made of materials that are easier and less expensive to ship and assemble—properties that can be put to multiple uses, that, if possible, are created from recycled goods, and that require less fuel to move from one place to the other.

Technology has boomed. This is no surprise to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock. The tools at our disposal to wow audiences and help our clients build relationships are simply amazing—and they seem to be evolving by the minute. Through it all, we’ve challenged ourselves and our clients to remember that “whiz bang” for “whiz bang’s” sake isn’t a winning strategy. Technology only makes an impact if it connects and communicates in a meaningful way. And technology is still no substitute for the face-to-face interactions that happen at live events.

Travel is tougher. We definitely are not immune to the challenges posed by fewer flights and higher prices. We’ve gotten very good at teleconferencing and reducing costs in other ways. But when our team needs to get to a show, we have to get creative so that travel costs don’t eat up the budget.

Giveaways are no longer throwaways. Trade show attendees used to be happy with a tee-shirt or a pin. These days they want something they can use, something that helps them connect with a company or brand in a meaningful way. Samples are more sought-after than ever—the bigger the better. Attendees also appreciate clever gifts that help keep our clients top-of-mind.

Timelines are tighter. Yesterday’s deadlines now feel leisurely thanks to technological advances, shrinking budgets, and a culture that demands quick thinking, fast response, and ultra-efficiency. Our clients are under pressure to deliver more, faster, which means we’ve grown accustomed to doing great work in record time.

Despite the challenges of a growing industry, some things remain the same for our team at MPG. We’re just as passionate about our work as we were when we started this company. We still have a great time together. And we’re still 100% committed to bringing our clients creative solutions that make their messages unforgettable while forging lasting connections. We’ve been honored to work with amazing companies and partners. Thank you for helping make the last 10+1 years so great.

Event Scripts: Less is More!

Image courtesy of jomphong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jomphong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can you guess one of our biggest challenges as an experiential marketing firm? Is it budgeting? Logistics? Making sure hundreds of people have a wonderful, memorable time?

You might be surprised that one of our most challenging tasks is editing! As in, making sure scripts for events and experiences are short—but meaty—enough to hold people’s attention and get them excited about our clients’ messages.

Right now we’re crafting scripts for several projects, and with each one we’re reminded how important it is to keep things short and sweet. Optimal running time for main presentations at trade shows is 7-8 minutes. Demos should run no longer than about 5 minutes. For a breakfast event with several speakers and entertainers, we made some tough cuts to bring the time in under 50 minutes.

It’s a real art getting science, claims and product benefits into an experience that’s compelling and compact. We want audiences to walk away wanting more, so they’ll be more likely to engage with our clients face-to-face. That’s where real relationships are built.

And that’s why it’s important to have a skilled writer on your team. Even then, never be satisfied with a first draft. Read scripts aloud, preferably with the talent who’ll be delivering them. Listen for spots where your attention starts to wane. Look for ways to get the same thought across with fewer, snappier words. It’s better to make 2 points memorably than to make 10 and leave the audience numb.

And since this post is about brevity, we’ll cut it off here. Do you have any stories about a particularly challenging event script edit? Tell us about it!

The Care & Feeding of Brand Characters at Conventions

???????????????????????????????The walkaround brand character is a tried and true crowd pleaser. Costume characters are always a hit at theme parks and other events, so why wouldn’t the same be true for conventions?

It is true, as we found with a recent client who asked to feature a couple of brand characters at dental conventions. It was a great way to engage people as they waited in line for our main theater presentation, and it gave our client additional exposure as the characters walked the trade show floor.

Our MPG team wasn’t surprised—we have extensive theme park experience and, thus, a lot of knowledge on the care and feeding of costume characters. If you’re considering using them at your next convention, here are some dos and don’ts.

DO: Invest in Quality Construction – Your character’s costume will take a lot of wear and tear, so make sure it’s well-made and durable. Have extra shoes/”feet” created, since these tend to get scuffed and damaged easily. Never underestimate the stress a costume will go through—you may even want to purchase a couple of back-ups.

DON’T: Leave Your Character Unattended – It’s hard to see in front of you when you’re wearing a character costume, let alone use peripheral vision. A costume character should be escorted at all times, for everyone’s safety. Even if your character isn’t in a full head mask, he or she needs protection from kids and even adults who might think it’s funny to mess with them. The escort can do some gentle scolding while your actor stays in character.

DO: Know the Boundaries – Each convention has its own rules about where your costume character can roam. Find out in advance whether he or she must stay within your booth footprint, and consider purchasing some extra space, separate from the booth, where the brand character can “live.” If your character is allowed in public areas, make sure they’re part of his or her regular route.

DON’T: Kill the Illusion – Working as a costume character is physically demanding, and your actor will need to rest for about 10 minutes every hour, in addition to lunch breaks. Make sure you provide a place where he or she can take off the head and sit that is out of the public eye. Plan for this in your budget, and make sure your actor is never seen in partial costume.

DO: Be Social – Since people are already taking photos of your brand character, let them know how they can tag you on Facebook and other social media.  Your character’s escort can hand out small cards with the information. Likewise, post your own photos of your character interacting with crowds—make the most of it!

New Event? Here’s Your Project Kick-Off Checklist

Must Haves for a Great Project Kick OffA project kick off is always exciting. If it’s a new client, then teams are pumped to meet each other and see where their creative expertise can take them. If it’s with an existing partner, then everybody’s psyched to build on previous successes and take their events to new levels of engagement.

Having just attended a project kick off meeting with one of our favorite clients, we decided to compile a list of items every event kick off should have. When putting together that agenda, here are some musts:

A Good Brief – No-brainer? Maybe, but writing briefs that inspire great events is an art. In general, we look for two sections: one with the nitty gritty on the event (date, location, target audience, objectives, overall messaging, etc.) and one with an overview and communication mandatories for each featured product and service.  Be detailed but concise. Go beyond generic objectives and give your event planner concrete goals.  How will you measure success after the event? What sets your company apart? Many agencies, including ours, will provide tips and even templates to help craft your event brief.

Audience Insight – The cardinal rule in marketing is “Know Your Audience,” so give your agency all you can to help them understand yours as well as you do. What would make your targets’ lives and jobs easier? What are their existing beliefs about your products and services, and what might keep them from engaging with you? How do they speak, and how are they used to being spoken to? If budget allows, let your agency do some interviews to see what insights they can uncover. And of course, provide all branding/equity guidelines upfront.

A Realistic Budget (or Realistic Expectations) – If you envision a Broadway-caliber show, an experience on par with Disney, or a soiree to rival Vanity Fair’s Oscar party, then you’ll need to fund accordingly. If you don’t have that kind of money you can still have a great event, you’ll just have to approach your vision more creatively. A good agency will help you understand what your budget will buy. Be upfront with them: what does the budget cover and what items could be funded from another source? Are the numbers hard and fast, or could an exceptionally exciting idea shake down additional funds?

An Empowered Key Contact – To help ensure an on-time, on-budget delivery, you’ll want to designate a go-to guy or gal for answers to questions and speedy approvals. This person should be empowered to make important decisions. If not, he or she should be able to easily and quickly access all key personnel, then compile their collective feedback.

Production Schedule – We usually come to kick off meetings with a preliminary production schedule which we refine as concepts develop. You can help by letting us know any watch-outs. Legal approvals, team member vacations, holidays, and possible snags in product development or claims can all impact deadlines and budgets. It’s best to plan for these early rather than be surprised later.

Quality Assets – What do you have that we can leverage as we create the experience? Testimonials, video, TV commercials, photography, social media campaigns–make all of it available and we’ll mine it as appropriate. Just make sure everything is approved by your legal team, and that images and footage are high-resolution. That goes for all logos, as well. It may seem obvious, but we encourage clients to make sure , especially if multiple agencies are involved.

Now that we’ve listed what you should bring to a project kick off meeting, let’s talk about what not to bring. It’s simple, really. Leave preconceived ideas about what the experience should be at the door. We want to know your vision, of course, and collaboration is key to success. But a presentation technology that worked for another company might not be the best way to tell your unique story. And your budget, logistics and other details might mean it’s best to go a different direction from the one you’ve been mulling.

If you’ve provided the kickoff basics, then we’ll have what we need to work with you on an effective, engaging and memorable experience that will exceed your initial expectations. Want to know more? Visit us at moeningpresentations.com or give us a call about your next event.

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