Meeting and Event Planning

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.

Together Again: What Re-Opening Live Events Could Look Like

Together Again Expo in Orlando

Last week we did something we haven’t done since February—we attended an in-person convention. It felt wonderful and a bit odd. In the five months since Covid-19 forced the cancelation of live events around the world, we’ve grown used to experiencing them virtually. But screen fatigue has shown us that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, and we’ve eagerly awaited the time when we could all be together again.

It just so happens that Together Again is the name of last week’s expo, organized by a group of intrepid industry pros who wanted to explore and showcase how live events can safely re-open. More than 1000 people gathered at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for a day of sessions and exhibits showcasing everything from state-of-the-art disinfecting to design for social distancing. Masks were mandatory. So were temperature checks. We found it hopeful and enlightening.

Why did we attend? Because, frankly, live events are an essential part of our livelihoods and those of others who provide services, goods and talent tied to tourism and conventions. An estimated 6.7 million jobs have been lost in the events industry this year.

But live events also are important to our clients. While everyone has made the “pivot” to digital (Another 3000 people participated in Together Again Expo’s live stream), we are hearing anecdotally and seeing in real time how virtual events can’t replicate the live experience. In a State of the Industry panel, Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, said in all of the consumer sentiment surveys she’s seeing, brands are reporting that they’ve lost leads and sales opportunities, as well as the ability to build awareness and relationships that they were accustomed to at live events.

Time and again during last week’s expo, participants asked the question: Is it too soon? Covid cases are still climbing, so should anyone be gathering for something as big as a convention?

As one panelist put it so eloquently, we are industry leaders, and leaders take risks. Someone has to go first.

Because live events won’t come back all at once, but they will come back. Some parts of the world are already seeing a return. And fighting Covid-19 is a marathon, which means the way we operate will be different for quite a while. We all need to be prepared to usher in the “new normal,” because while we want to get back to gathering and making money, the safety of attendees, exhibitors and staff is the most important consideration of all.

Over and over, this is the message we heard last week: We can do it if we work together.

Our team learned a lot at the Together Again Expo, and it gave us a lot of hope. In the next few days, we’ll be sharing more details and thoughts on safely reopening live events. We also welcome your questions and ideas. If you’d like to chat about how you can safely get together again, then contact us.

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.

What Does It Take to Be an Event Planner? See if You’ve Got the Right Stuff

By Eckhard Pecher (Arcimboldo) (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsPlanning an event is a little like participating in a decathlon. That’s what we’ve been thinking as we’ve watched the 2012 Olympians compete for gold.

Event planning and production might not require the physical prowess of an athlete who competes in 10 different track and field events. But if you think about the sheer variety of skills required to go from hurdles to pole vaulting to throwing the javelin, plus seven other activities in the space of just two days, then you get a taste of what an event planner needs to create winning work.

Think you’ve got right combination of depth, breadth and stamina? If your job requires you to plan events, here are some qualities you must possess.

Boundless Creativity – It all starts with a great concept, which means translating your clients’ objectives into something fresh, exciting and memorable. Be curious, be open-minded, and actively expose yourself to new people, places and ideas. Let yourself be inspired by everything from art and pop culture to nature and technology.

Mad Juggling Skills – Events bring together a huge variety of disciplines, from logistics and catering to entertainment and digital marketing. Keeping it all straight, meeting deadlines, and crossing the finish line having successfully realized your clients’ vision requires real talent.

Maniacal Attention to Detail – The tiniest oversight can mean the difference between award-worthy and a ho-hum. In some cases it can spell disaster. Even the most detail-oriented planner should have strategies for ensuring that nothing gets overlooked.

A Cool Head – If the Olympics demonstrate anything, it’s the importance of grace under pressure. Very few events are free of glitches and gremlins. But while anything can go wrong behind the scenes, your clients and their guests should experience nothing but friendly, flawless service. A great event planner can work cordially with many different people, all of whom are under their own sets of pressures. Strong, steady leadership will help everybody keep calm and carry on no matter what challenges arise.

The Ability to Tap Dance – If and when something does go awry, you need plan-B waiting on the sidelines, ready to step in.  And if plan-B backfires? Then you’ve got to be able to improvise. This is where that boundless creativity comes in handy. So does having good connections with vendors and colleagues who can help you out in a pinch. Remember: your clients don’t care how strenuous and stressful the job is; they just want an outstanding finish.

Passion and Integrity –  Let your clients see how much you love what you do. Engage them in the process and help them feel confident that you really are on their team. Be transparent and honest. Deal fairly not just with those you work for but with those who work for you. When an event comes to a successful conclusion, you want everyone to feel as though they share in the glory of a job well done.

Want to see some of MPG’s event work? Check out the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival and Cincinnati’s Tech Olympics Expo.