Tag: associations & non-profit

How Live-Streaming Events Can Help Associations Boost Revenue and Membership Engagement

Without doubt, one of the biggest issues for associations these days is membership recruitment and retention. It doesn’t matter if your association offers personal membership, organisational membership or a mix of the two; all associations face challenges when it comes to membership.

The acceleration of social media and technology over the last few years hasn’t made things easier either. Long gone are the days when associations were the ‘gatekeepers’ to knowledge and expertise as there are now all sorts of ways in which members and non-members can find information and network with one another through forums. But despite the competition, technology is also creating all sorts of new opportunities for associations to increase both revenue and membership engagement through events. In this post we focus on livestreaming.

Read: 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Facebook Live at Events

Top 5 Considerations for Live-Streaming Association Events

Here are five questions for you to consider when it comes to making your decision on whether to use livestreaming technology to help your association. When you answer these questions, you will need to do so against the backdrop of the overall strategy for your association. As with any other kind of tech system you can use around your events, don’t do it if it doesn’t make strategic sense.

Do you want to extend your reach?

Livestreaming (or web-casting) what is going on at your conference to people that cannot be at the physical (conference) location enables you to reach a larger audience. After all, there is only so much capacity that a physical venue can accommodate without running into capacity and Health & Safety issues.

One association has been livestreaming their annual conference for a number of years now. The overall membership they have runs to many thousands of members who are spread throughout the globe. Year on year the number of people who come to the physical event is around 1,000. This association has taken steps to engage their members through making livestreaming an avenue for members to join in. Through tracking their remote delegate statistics they have discovered what type of session works best and what subjects are popular.

Do you worry about charging remote attendance?

Delegates that attend conferences (events) understand that they will need to pay for an admission ticket. After all, there is usually food and beverage available, then you have the networking opportunities and of course speakers need to be paid.

For some reason, many event organisers (associations) struggle with the idea of charging remote delegates to attend. Of course, it could be argued that remote delegates will not be able to enjoy the food and beverage or networking. But, they are still able to access the great content of the various educational or knowledge sessions and that in itself has a value.

People are used to paying for content on line. The days of free are really behind us now.

The only thing you need to do is set a level of pricing that is easy to understand and keeps a difference between those delegates that attend physically and those that participate remotely.  Most registration systems like Eventsforce can help you create personalised registration journeys for different types of attendees (in this case, remote and live audience) – so you can easily decide which registration questions, agendas, sessions, prices and packages are going to appear to which attendee.


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Have you considered using an online host to engage your remote delegates?

A mini book could be written on how to engage remote delegates but for our post we look at the role of an online host to help engage your remote delegates.

Why an online host? Well, because they can provide commentary, updates and reminders for your remote delegates. The host becomes the link or the conduit for your remote delegates. They are the voice of, dedicated to and represent the needs and interests of the remote audience.

They add a dimension that will keep your remote delegates informed and engaged with all that is happening at your event as well as conducting interviews with ‘thought leaders’, speakers or delegates. The host can also be used to introduce pre-recorded video content and to manage dedicated Q&A sessions for the remote delegates.

Why not have sponsors for the livestreamed sessions?

Some associations will decide not to charge remote delegates to attend. Some associations will decide to charge.

But, whatever the charging decision is, there is another opportunity for associations to increase their income. They can do this through sponsorship.

The beauty of sponsoring livestreamed sessions is that after the conference (event) the on-demand recording of the session is still available to be played time and again. This is great news for sponsors as they suddenly have the opportunity of being promoted every time someone plays the session.

Associations could approach existing sponsors and offer them the opportunity of having their brand in front of a remote audience as well. For an extra fee of course.

Associations could approach new sponsors and offer just the ‘livestreaming’ sponsorship option.

Associations could break down all of the livestreamed sessions and target specific sponsors per session.

The opportunities for sponsorship are endless. What will work for an association will depend on what the overall strategic goals and objectives are. Sponsorship of livestreamed session has to align.


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Do you fear technology?

Every time you take a flight on a plane, step aboard a driver-less train or make a bank transfer you are putting yourself in the hands of technology. Some people will do these things without even considering the intricacies of the technology.

Livestreaming an event means that you also need to trust in the technology. Will it go wrong? Well it could. But then so could any technology. It is no different.

Companies specialise in providing livestreaming technology and they remain in business because they are constantly developing improvements to make sure nothing falls over. It is not in their interest for your event to have a problem.

Trust in the technology and the providers of it. They do know what they are doing.

But to give you peace of mind, run through all the questions you have about failures, performance indicators and back up plans. The providers will be happy to answer all your questions.

A final word

To take you back to the very beginning of this post when the issue was raised of the challenges of membership recruitment and engagement; here are five key questions when it comes to membership.

  • How many members do you have?
  • Do you struggle to retain members?
  • What proportion of your members attend your events?
  • Are your member numbers growing or declining?
  • What are the long term aims of your association?

Take time to answer those questions and maybe you will find that using livestreaming could be part of the answer to help you boost revenue and membership engagement at events.


Whether you’re running an annual conference, educational workshops or a scientific forum for your association’s members, Eventsforce can help reduce your workload and deliver event success. Manage abstracts, sessions and registrations all in one place, with automated tools that save time and engage attendees.  For more info, please click here.

 

 

 

 

How to Save Time Creating Agendas for Your Events

One of the most important jobs of an event planner is to identify the reasons why people want to attend an event and build an agenda around these needs.  But creating and managing great event programmes is also one of the most frustrating and time-consuming things an event planner has to do. Speakers change. Topics change. Room capacities no longer meet demand.  And the larger the event, the more complex these issues become.

An industry poll from Eventsforce last month found that an overwhelming 86% of event planners rely on Excel spreadsheets to build and manage agendas around their events.  Which makes sense if your agenda has a simple one-track format.  But what happens when you’re dealing with a multi-track event? What if you have a three-day conference where attendees can pick and choose which sessions they want to attend? What if a last-minute change to your keynote impacts the timings of some of your other sessions?

Excel is a fantastic planning tool for events – but in these situations, it does have its shortcomings. What organisers need instead is an intelligent programme management tool that can help them make changes to agendas quickly and easily, whilst ensuring that the information they’re dealing with (and sharing with attendees) is always kept accurate and up-to-date.

7 Ways Programme Management Tools Can Save Time Planning Events

Have a look at why a good programme management tool can do a better job than Excel when it comes to saving time in creating agendas and sessions around events:

1. Better Data Accuracy – Most programme management tools are integrated with the event’s registration system, which means any changes to the agenda can automatically be updated and published within registration forms, apps and event websites. This not only saves time in transferring data from spreadsheets and other systems, but it also makes sure that the information is accurate and up-to-date.

2. Improved Categorisation – Event planners can assign labels to sessions to identify the topic or stream each one belongs to (ex. presentations that focus on marketing only). This makes it a lot easier to track, manage and make changes to those sessions that belong in a particular category. It also helps personalise the attendee registration experience by making it easier for them to view, search and choose those sessions that are of interest to them.

3. Bulk Management – Instead of individually assigning capacity, rooms or labels to each session, organisers can save time by bulk assigning the same labels and rooms to their selected list. For example: Sessions 2, 3 and 5 can be allocated to conference room B with a click of a button.

4. Flexibility in Publishing Sessions – Event planners can choose which sessions they want to publish on registration forms, websites and apps and which they want to save in draft.  This helps them make better use of time by opening registrations for some sessions, whilst confirming details such as speakers and presentation topics on others.

5. Identifying Room & Time Clashes – Programme management tools can automatically notify organisers of potential conflicts when the same room has been assigned to more than one session at the same time.  Similarly, the system will stop attendees from double-booking, if any of their chosen sessions overlap.  This not only brings a better registration experience, but also reduces the time spent by the events team dealing with scheduling enquiries from attendees.

6. Automatic Scheduling – Intelligent scheduling in a programme management tool can also be particularly useful for events that have a defined set of presentations within an allocated session. The organiser of a multi-stream medical conference, for example, may schedule a number of oral abstract presentations within a one-hour session, but needs to make changes to the timings of some of these presentations or swap some speakers around. He or she can simply drag and drop different presentations into the agenda and the system will automatically recalculate the new start and end times of each one, as well as notify users if the agenda is running overtime.

7. Real-Time Management Insight – Event planners can save time making important decisions around sessions and agendas through the real-time data insight a programme management tool can provide. For example, organisers can get an accurate overview on how each session is doing in terms of registrations and room capacity. If a session proves to be more popular than anticipated, it can prompt the organiser to swap rooms around or assign the session to a larger room.


The Eventsforce programme management tool helps event planners automate the entire process of creating, publishing and managing agendas for single or multi-track events. For more information, click here or call us for a chat on +44 (0) 207 785 6997.

 

Abstract Management: How to Source Great Content for Your Next Conference

Are you looking for great speakers for your annual conference?  Do you want your sessions to have memorable presentations with engaging content?  Of course, you do.  We all do.  Because at the end of the day, we know that great content is what truly matters to attendees.  Walking away from an event knowing that you’ve had a unique opportunity to learn or engage with something new is why people want to attend events in the first place.

If you’re an association or some kind of professional body hosting an annual conference, then you know that what stands at the heart of a great conference programme is your ability to source great speakers who will bring something new and exciting to the event.  And this comes through a well-executed abstract management process.

Abstracts Are Building Blocks of Successful Conference Programmes

To attract the right speakers, conference organisers typically ask members of their community to submit their presentation proposals so as to find the most interesting and relevant content for their event.  Once this call for abstracts (or papers) is sent out, the submissions are then reviewed by a team of reviewers whose aim is to select those presentations that promise to deliver a high-quality programme to attendees..

The abstract process is also important because it offers the opportunity to showcase new research in the event’s relevant field.  You wouldn’t want to attend the same conference each year where the same speakers present the same content.  By sourcing new and diverse research, you’re more likely to attract the right attendees and get them to come again the following year.

But getting the abstract management process isn’t easy.  Imagine asking one of your colleagues to give you feedback on a short document you’ve put together.  Sounds simple enough.  Give them a hundred documents to read and you’ll likely encounter some resistance. Now imagine asking ALL your colleagues to read a hundred documents and give you feedback.  That’s going to take some chasing. And how would you collate all their feedback?  That’s essentially the task the abstracts manager has to undertake.

Last time, we looked at the first stage of the abstract management process and some of the key things conference organisers need to think about when managing abstract submissions around their events – How to Manage Abstract Submissions for Successful Conference Programmes.  This week, we’re focusing on the next stage of the process – which is when the call for abstracts closes, and the process of reviews begins.

5 Ways to Improve Your Abstract Review Process

Once presentation submissions are made, the review process kicks off in order to find the most interesting content to present at the conference.  Yet deciding which abstracts to accept is likely to involve a pool of reviewers, with different experts needed for the various topics on offer. Some may be reviewed randomly and some be allocated to individual reviewers. There may be many rounds and stages of reviews, each with its own criteria and grading requirements. And all of this requires a lot of time and can be incredibly difficult to coordinate.

Have a look below at five simple tips that can help you get the most out of your abstract reviewers:

1. Be Selective with Reviewers – It is an obvious point but an important one, nevertheless. Make sure you assign the right reviewers to the right topics.  If the reviewer has expertise in the area they’re reviewing, then this will already save them an enormous amount of time understanding the content that’s been submitted to them. This also means they’re in a better position to score abstracts critically, which will have a more positive impact on the quality of your conference content. Be open with your selections too – don’t stick to the same reviewers year after year.  New ones can put a fresh perspective on things and bring about exciting new content from new speakers.


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2. Be Clear About Review Criteria– The clearer your instructions to reviewers, the less challenges you’ll have at your end. Clearly define goals, deadlines, expectations and review criteria. Not doing this will result in inconsistency and again, can have a negative impact on your content.  Have clear guidelines on the kind of criteria they need to follow in the abstract evaluation process. So, this can include things like ensuring the abstract provides audiences with new information on a topic, that it addresses important industry or academia issues, that it is appealing to the target audience and that it matches the overall theme of the conference.  Whatever grading system you use, it’s always a good idea to also leave an open text box for reviewers to put their own comments – they may have suggestions which can add real value to the content of your presentations.

3. Be Realistic About Timelines – To get the best out of your abstract reviewers, you need to be considerate about their time. Give them enough time to accept your invitation and plenty of notice if they can’t. Make sure they know what timelines you’re working on – when they need to be available, when reviews need to be completed by, details on print deadlines for abstract journals and posters and so on. If you’ve done similar conferences in the past, then you’ll probably have an idea on numbers when it comes to submissions across different topic areas. Make sure you communicate that information with your reviewers so they have some idea on scale and can plan their time accordingly.

4. Plan for the Unexpected – It’s quite common for abstract submission deadlines to be extended, so be prepared and communicate the possibility of this happening with your reviewers beforehand as this means they’ll have less time to complete their reviews. Equally, you may be in a situation where during your review process, you launch another call for papers on a subject matter that has just become topical (for example: scientific funding in a post-Brexit world). If it’s relevant to your audience, then it’s probably something you don’t want your conference programme to miss out on.  Lining up your reviewers for unexpected changes like this should always be factored into your review management timeline.

5. Monitor Progress– Stay on top of how many abstracts have been reviewed, which are incomplete and which of your reviewers are the most or least active.  This will identify potential problem areas and help you assess the best way of addressing them. For example, if you have a large number of reviewers who start the grading process but don’t finish it, it may indicate a lack of commitment.  So, you may need to get them replaced.  Or perhaps they’ve got too many abstracts to review and you have to reallocate submissions to other reviewers. A good abstract management solution can help you track this kind of data and provide you with the real-time analysis you need for making more informed decisions.

Conclusion

Your abstract reviewers are just as important as your sponsors, exhibitors and all the other partners you deal with around your conference.  Most of them volunteer their time to make your conference better, so it makes sense to make their jobs as easy as possible. Simply the process by giving them clear and defined goals.  Make sure they understand your deadlines, review criteria and expectations.   Offer support and guidance through open communication channels and never forget to thank them as you’re probably going to need their help again next year.  Following these best practice guidelines will put you in a good position in developing successful conference programmes.  It will also help you avoid what may otherwise be a long drawn-out and often frustrating process in managing abstract reviews.

Are there any other tips you’d like to add to this list?  Please let us know as we’re always keen on publishing your views!


The Eventsforce Abstracts solution can simplify the whole process of abstract management – from inviting and reviewing online abstract submissions to building agendas, managing conference invitations, registrations and payments. It also provides powerful tools to monitor, manage and communicate with everyone involved. Click here to learn more.

How to Manage Abstract Submissions for Successful Conference Programmes

As a conference planner, we know how important it is to find great topics and speakers.  It can have a huge impact on registrations and an even bigger impact on how well your event is perceived.  However, managing the abstract submissions and reviews process for your conference is complicated enough when everything goes according to plan – let alone when it’s rushed or hasn’t been carefully thought through.

How Abstract Management Solutions Can Help

Of course, there are many solutions out there like Eventsforce Abstracts, which can simplify the whole process of gathering and managing online abstract submissions, as well as helping reviewers assess these submissions quickly with little hassle. These automated platforms can help conference managers build abstract submission forms, modify submission topics, select expert reviewers to assess the merit of abstracts, as well as invite select people to present their abstracts and papers.  The presentations are allocated to specific sessions and are also automatically updated in the main conference agenda – ensuring conference managers are in full control at every stage, saving them time and supporting them with all the tools they need to manage the evolution of their entire conference programme.

But as much as technology can help – there are many common pitfalls which can create problems for conference managers along the way.  In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the important things organisers need to think about when managing abstract submissions around their events. We’ll be publishing a similar post in the next month that will focus on getting the reviewing and judging process right, which is the last step in securing great speakers and content for your next event.

Quick Tips to Improve the Management of Abstract Submissions

In order for a conference to be successful, it needs to attract the kind of speakers and content that will help facilitate discussions and educate those delegates coming to the event.  Make sure you get the process right with the following best practice tips:

Make Sure You Know What You Want – One of the most frustrating oversights in managing abstracts is kicking off the process, receiving submissions and realizing later on that there is information you need but haven’t asked. You can add missing fields to online forms pretty quickly these days but getting in touch with those who have already completed their submission forms can be a timely and frustrating process. Finalise all the information you need at the planning stage – talk to experienced colleagues and get other stakeholders involved from the very start. Everyone should agree on what you’re trying to achieve and why – this way, you’ll be in a better position to identify gaps and won’t need to make as many last-minute changes to your submission forms.

Don’t Neglect Instructions – You do need to provide a detailed guide for authors so that they can understand the submission process clearly.  Make use of the instructions section of your call for abstracts page to communicate clearly and concisely exactly what information you need from the author or potential speaker so that they know what they are expected to provide. This can cut down on a lot of confusion and wasted time for both submitters and reviewers. You could also publish a timeline that outlines important dates, including the deadline for abstract submissions, when authors need to be available, when submissions will be approved and when places in the conference programme will be confirmed.

Get the Balance Right – It’s important to provide clear guidance on abstract submissions but be careful not to overwhelm people.  We’ve seen some conferences use five pages of highly structured forms giving instructions on how to submit abstracts on one topic!  Will your academic really read through all those pages?  Probably not. The reality is that most academics submit their papers to multiple conferences and they’ll submit the same abstract to each one. So, don’t over-complicate things as you may risk losing potential speakers.  And remember, it may be someone other than the author filling in the submission form and they may not have the technical expertise to edit the text or reformat it in a way that meets the criteria of an overly cumbersome submission process.

Standardise Formatting – Make sure that your submitters have a clear idea on the format you want them to use when filling in particular fields on your form.  Using predefined formats on fields that require numbers, for example, will reduce the probability of error.  It will also make sure that the data is captured in the same way as it is captured in the databases of some of the other systems you use around your conference (registration, CRM, membership and so on). You can also structure the abstract content into different sections (introduction, main content, summary) which can be useful for typesetting.  This way, you’ll save time in exporting that information when creating abstract journals or posters as all your content is structured in one standardised format.

Ask Relevant Questions –  As a general rule, the more clicks it takes to complete a submission form, the more excuse your abstract authors have to walk away and look elsewhere.  Make sure that the information you’re asking for will either help them or help you get the content you need for a successful conference programme.  For example, you may ask if their paper has already been published in an industry journal and if a particular publication keeps coming up, then perhaps that’s somewhere you need to be targeting to get the abstract submissions you’re looking for.

Offer Flexibility – You want to make the process of submitting abstracts as simple as possible. So, it’s a good idea to allow authors and speakers the choice to edit or amend their abstract submissions prior to the deadline date.  Equally, make room in your planning on extending the deadline as most people leave these things to the last minute and it’s an opportunity for you to get more interesting content for your conference programme.

Monitor Progress – Stay on top of how many abstracts are coming in, which submissions are incomplete and what topic/category/stream areas are doing better than others – if you use an abstract management solution, then it will monitor this information for you in real-time. This will identify potential problem areas and help you assess the best way of addressing them. For example, an overwhelming number of submissions in one topic area (over others) may indicate that the topic description is too broad and that it’s not being interpreted by authors and submitters in the correct way.   So, you may decide to sub-categorise and create new sub-topics instead.

Conclusion

A well-thought out process for abstract submissions can have a huge impact on ensuring you deliver a high-quality programme for your conference delegates.  It also opens up the opportunity to showcase new and game-changing research with the wider community.

If managing your call for abstracts is a challenge for your organisation,  Eventsforce offers a comprehensive solution that gives you full control of the entire abstracts management process – from inviting and reviewing abstract submissions to building agendas, managing conference invitations, registrations and payments. It also provides powerful automated tools to monitor, manage and communicate with everyone involved. Click here to learn more.

Are there any other tips you’d like to add to this list?  Please let us know as we’re always keen on publishing your views!


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How Companies Can Save Time and Money Around Their Events

untitled-design-72Technology is always pushing the boundaries on how we plan and run our events. From simple registration systems to sophisticated event management tools. From social media, live polling and event apps to the use of new technologies like GPS fencing and augmented reality.

All these different technologies help us collect and manage valuable data around our events. And we all know how valuable this data can be. The more you make of it and the more you share it across your organisation, the more valuable it will become.

But the value of event data isn’t just limited to what we collect and analyse from all these different systems we use around our events. As event planners, we deal with many other business systems that help us manage information and processes around our events.  It may be the customer data we have in our CRM solutions that helps us personalize attendee experiences. Or it may be the details of all the outstanding payments recorded in our finance system that can help us forecast revenue and cashflow. Or a list of all the transfer and hotel requirements we’ve recorded in our travel and accommodation booking systems.

The event data in these systems is just as important as the data we have in our registration systems or event apps.  Yet all this data has traditionally sat in silos as it has been difficult to share information between them and all the other systems we use around our events. However, recent advancements in communication tools like APIs has made the process of data sharing a whole lot easier. And event planners are starting to see that having an event data ecosystem where all the different systems automatically talk to each other can bring them all sorts of benefits.

What Our Research Found

A recent joint study by Event Industry News and Eventsforce found that 60% of event planners are already integrating their event data with their organisations’ business systems, with CRMs, corporate websites solutions and finance coming up top.

The industry seems to recognize the importance of having an integrated system with 75% of respondents claiming it can have a significant impact on the hours spent doing admin work like data entry, reporting and chasing departments for relevant information. Other highlighted benefits include better data sharing, increased revenue and improved data security.

The study also found that factors such as cost, time and issues in managing multiple IT suppliers were seen as the top barriers to this type of data integration. Yet despite these challenges, only 25% of respondents felt integration was not a priority for them moving forwards.

Key Considerations

So, how do you decide which type of integration is right for your organisation?

The key thing here is that there isn’t one type of integration that’s right for everyone.  Each organisation is different and each system is different.

What you need to ask instead is – what is my business need for integration?  Can it help solve a particular problem around my events?  Do you want to spend less time chasing updates with your finance team? Or do you want to cut out all the work you do copying data from one system to another?  Or maybe you want more synergy between your marketing and event campaigns?

All of these issues (and many more) can be addressed by integrating your event data with some of your organisation’s other business systems.

Have a look below at why companies like Schroders, Haymarket and RSS decided to integrate their event data, how they went about it and the impact it had in the way they manage their events:

schroders1. Schroders: Events and CRM Integration

Schroders is a global asset management company running hundreds of meetings and conferences each year.

The Challenge:

As most of Schroder’s events target their customers and investor contacts around the world, invitation lists were usually compiled by account managers who owned these client relationships. The lists would be put together using the company’s Salesforce CRM solution and would then have to be manually uploaded to the Eventsforce event management system, which would track and manage registrations around each event.

The problem was that as account managers had no access to the data in Eventsforce, the events team would spend a lot of time providing them with regular attendance updates and reports.  All the registration data recorded in Eventsforce needed to be manually uploaded into the CRM system – which was time-consuming, inefficient and prone to error. It also meant that the sales team didn’t have real-time visibility on which of their contacts were attending their events or which events and sessions they had engaged with in the past.

The Solution:

Schroders decided to integrate Eventsforce with the company’s Salesforce CRM system in an effort to improve data sharing between the two departments. The integration allows the events team to automatically pull invitation lists from Salesforce directly into Eventsforce, without the need for manual uploads.  More importantly, any updates around invitations or registrations that are recorded in Eventsforce are instantly updated within the CRM system in real-time.

The integration saves the events team a lot of time transferring data between the two systems, chasing responses and collating reports – helping them focus their efforts on other aspects of the events.

On the other hand, account managers have access to the most up-to-date information on how many of their contacts are attending an upcoming event. It also helps them decide whether or not they need to encourage people to register (instead of the less personal follow-up call from the events team) or if they want to arrange meet ups before or at the event.

“The integration between our event management and CRM systems has helped us see what value our event activities are providing to our organisation.  With better data sharing between the two departments, we have also saved a considerable amount of time collating reports and transferring data between the two systems,” said Viki Stapleton, Events Manager, Schroders.

haymarket-logo2. Haymarket:  Events and Finance Integration

As one of the largest media and publishing companies in the UK, Haymarket has a portfolio 120 events that gather over 20,000 attendees each year – from award ceremonies and gala dinners to conferences and breakfast briefings.

The Challenge:

The company deals with an incredibly high volume of payment transactions around its events – so having the ability to track funds was a top priority for the events team. Yet the system they had in place was inefficient and didn’t give them the financial insight they required.

Each night, a list of payment transactions recorded in the events system would be sent to the company’s accounting system via file transfer. As the data flow only flowed one way between the two systems, the events team didn’t have a real-time view of when the finance department issued invoices and when payments were actually coming in.

As a result, a lot of time was wasted chasing the finance team for the latest updates. The daily file transfer also meant there was always a gap between the time attendees completed their registrations and the time it took the accounts team to issue their invoices.

The Solution:

The events team wanted to take control of the entire invoicing process and decided to address the issue by integrating its events and finance systems together. Now, each time an attendee completes an online registration form or submits an award entry, their financial information is automatically sent to the finance system, however invoices are generated directly through the events system.

This allows the events team to easily chase payments before the start date of each event by pulling up automatic reports on outstanding invoices and contacting attendees through one quick email.  The integration has not only simplified processes but has also meant that most of its events can kick off with very few outstanding payments.


Not sure if data integration is right for you?  Get a FREE copy of the ‘Save Time & Do More with Your Event Data’ eBook – a comprehensive easy-to-read guide from Event Industry News and Eventsforce that gives you everything you need to know about integrating your event data with other business systems (CRM, marketing, finance, membership).


“The integration between the two systems has been critical to our cashflow. It has really given us the visibility we need regarding the financial situation of each event and has also helped us reduce a lot of administrative work around managing attendee payments,” said Carla Jones, head of event operations and client services, Haymarket Events.

 

rss-logo3. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS):  Events and Membership Integration

As one of the leading organisations promoting the importance of data and statistics around the word, RSS has an active events portfolio running around 100 meetings and events for members and non-members each year.

The Challenge:

The organisation has integrated its events and membership systems together so that it can provide automatic membership check as part of its online event registration process. The integration makes sure that RSS event attendees are going through the right registration channels and non-members are not paying discounted member fees.

The Solution:

Each time an attendee selects the ‘member’ box on the registration form, their email address is automatically checked against the RSS membership system. If the membership is valid, attendees can continue with their registrations – otherwise the system will ask them to try again.

Click to get in touchRSS Conferences and Events Manager, Paul Gentry, commented: “Without integration between the two systems, non-members could have registered as members as we wouldn’t have had the time or resources to manually check the status of the hundreds of members that attend our events each year.  But with this system in place, we are confident that the membership status of each attendee is accurate and more importantly, everyone is paying the correct registration fee.”

The integration secures a key revenue stream for RSS and it also saves the events team considerable time chasing payments from those people who may have otherwise registered under the wrong category.

It also helps RSS address queries around memberships a lot more quickly.  So, if a particular membership has lapsed, a notice can show up on the registration form advising users to contact the membership services team.

How Can Associations Do More With Their Event Data?

untitled-design-58Events and conferences have never been as important for associations as they are today. You visit an association’s premises these days and chances are you’ll find yourself in a modern (often trendy) office block with high tech conference suites and meeting spaces.  Their annual conferences are highly complex affairs that attract numerous speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, as well as thousands of attendees at a time.  The events they run are important because they give associations the opportunity to showcase their expertise, while allowing members to network, learn and invest in their Continual Professional Development (CPD). They’re also important because they have such an impact on an association’s bottom line.

The revenue associations raise from these events represents a significant proportion of their annual income (usually more than membership fees).  Aside from ticket sales for conferences and awards dinners, there is also the money that comes in from sponsorship deals, publishing titles and new memberships that are acquired through these activities.  Running financially successful events however is not the only reason these events are so important. Associations today are under increasing pressure to provide members with a greater return on their membership fees.  And one of the most effective ways of doing this is through the delivery of high quality, informative, educational events.

As the significance of events continues to grow for associations, so does the importance of managing the data around these events. The information that an association gets on its attendees is incredibly valuable and the more it makes of that data, the more valuable it becomes. Associations are doing some great things by integrating their event data with payment gateways, badge printing tools and mobile event apps.  But what is really starting to gain ground with a lot of the associations we’re working with these days is the integration of event data with other business systems – from membership and CRM to abstracts and finance solutions.

The Importance of Data Integration for Associations

Untitled design (32)Associations have different databases to capture different types of information around their events– whether it’s membership, events, finance, abstracts and so on.  Pooling this data together to create a data ecosystem where all the different systems are talking to each other is where data integration comes in.

Let’s look at the benefits of doing this for an association. Having the ability to automatically share information between different systems means that you can reduce the endless hours you spend replicating data from one system to another. So it saves time.  It also helps cut down costs and improve your team’s productivity.  More importantly, it helps you make better use of your event data.  Integration between your event management and membership systems, for example, can provide automatic delegate membership checks as part of your event registration process. Integration with your finance system can significantly cut down the time spent chasing attendee payments. While integration with your CRM can help drive attendance and bring on new members to your association.

Let’s have a look at the most common types of integrations for associations and their events today:

1. Membership Integration

It’s fair to say that most associations use some form of membership system which helps them capture and manage all the data around their members. Integration between events and membership means that any changes to records in one system is automatically updated in the other. This means that if a member provides a new contact number in their registration form, that change is automatically recorded in the membership system and vice versa.  It also means associations are able to more easily track which members have attended which event and provide adequate CPD accreditation.

Another functionality of membership integration is the ability to incorporate automatic membership checks as part of the event registration process.  The Liberal Democrats have a good way of doing this for their annual party conferences.  By integrating the Eventsforce event management platform with their membership system, the political party knows that members are going through the right registration channels and non-members are not paying discounted member fees. It has also helped them address queries around memberships a lot more quickly.

untitled-design-30 2. CRM Integration

Many associations are also now using sophisticated CRM solutions to manage the data for both members and non-members.  Integration with a CRM system ensures that all the information you have around the people attending your events is automatically being fed back to the CRM.  This way, your CRM management team can always have a clear view on which of the delegates were non-members, what sessions they attended and any other data captured within your event management system. This valuable information can then be used to drive new memberships or registrations for your next event. Remember, the cost of generating a new lead for a membership organisation is almost always offset by the first conference fee, so it makes sense to keep track of their activities.

An integrated CRM system has other advantages too. In order to provide members with the relevant CPD accreditation and attendance certificates, associations tend to use their event management solutions to store and retrieve information on the attendance history of each member.  However, there are many other sources of acquiring CPD points. As well as attending certain events, members may be required to watch webinar content, sign up to magazine subscriptions, publish papers and so on. By having your CRM integrated within one ecosystem, you can have one place that automatically captures all the information you need for tracking members’ CPD activities.  This not only saves time but gives associations clear insight on the net worth of each member. Imagine opening up your CRM database and seeing the exact number of times a member engaged with the association over the past year – from membership and conference fees, to an annual awards dinner, subscription to the association’s magazine, content contribution for the website and a speaking session on a webinar.   By integrating all your systems together, you will see how your members are worth a lot more than their annual membership fees.

3. Abstract (Call for Papers) Integration

Association conferences deal with a lot more data than standard corporate events – especially those that have to manage abstracts (call for papers) too. As well as keeping on top of attendees, speakers and sponsors, they also need to manage and track data around their submitters, authors, reviewers and presenters. These associations will almost always process their call for papers using a specialised abstract system, which helps them co-ordinate submissions and reviewers, assign topics, create agendas and manage communications.

Some of these systems like Eventsforce Abstracts provide both registration and abstracts management on one platform. However, if you are using two separate systems, it makes sense to have these integrated.   This way, any changes in speakers and sessions within the abstract solution will automatically be reflected in the event website and registration system. The integration will also facilitate checks such as ensuring speakers have registered before submitting an abstract.

4. Finance Integration

pci-complianceHaving the ability to track funds around events is hugely important for an association’s cash flow. Integration between your event management system and finance package will ensure all conference attendee payment details are always automatically up-to-date in both systems. Event invoices, credit notes and received payments can all be quickly generated and sent from either system – don’t forget that the quicker that invoice gets out, the quicker the money will be coming in. It provides the event manager access to important and accurate financial information without having the need to contact the finance team directly.  It can also reduce the time your association spends chasing payments from hours to minutes. By creating a report on your event management system, for example, you can follow up with all your unpaid invoices that are over 30 days through one single email.

5. Event App Integration

Over the last few years, event apps have become prevalent across many association events. Integration between your event planning software and your app provider ensures that when an attendee comes to the conference and logs on to their device, the app already knows who they are. It knows exactly what sessions they will be attending and can help tailor their event experience through personalised content and agendas. What is behind every successful app however is ensuring that the data on the app is always kept up to date and this can only be done through good integration between the two systems.  Most app vendors will tell you they integrate with your core system but it’s the quality of these integrations that is most important.  You want to make sure you work with an app that has an open-architecture and can integrate from the ground up, not one that started as a stand-alone app.

Conclusion

Click to get in touchMany event planners feel that dealing with integration projects may be somewhat technically challenging.   But don’t let that worry you.  As long as you understand the top level concept and what you want to achieve, then your event technology provider(s) should be able to help you with the details. Many event management systems like Eventsforce use simple development tools that make the whole process a lot simpler and a lot cheaper than before. If this is something you’re considering doing in the near future, then have a read through these top considerations when integrating your event data with other business systems.  Following these steps will ensure your integration projects work and more importantly, bring real value to your events.

Written by Paul Harris, Event Technologist & Client Services Manager, Eventsforce

 

Why Events Need a Crisis Communications Plan

Terror attacks are now a constant threat to society and consequently, security has become top of agenda for many businesses – especially for those organisations involved in running events in big city destinations.  Knowing what to do at a time of crisis has never been more relevant.

As an event planner, you may already have your organisation’s own crisis management policy that you and your team have to follow. The hotels and conference facilities you use for your events will also have their own health and safety procedures that need to be adhered to.  What is equally important, however, is a carefully prepared crisis communications plan around your events.  Knowing whom you communicate with in a crisis, as well as how and when you do that communication can mean the difference between failure or success. And this doesn’t just apply to a terrorist incident, but to any crisis situation that has the potential to disrupt an event – from fire outbreaks and flooding to any other kind of emergency evacuation.

Getting crisis communications right is not an easy thing.  There are countless stories of how organisations got it wrong – from the BP oil spill in the US to the United Airlines passenger scandal earlier this year.  The ones that have done it well are usually the ones who were well prepared. So don’t leave it to chance and don’t underestimate the consequences. Think about it now and have it as an integral part of your overall event management strategy.

Have a look at these five fundamental steps for an effective crisis communications plan around your events:

1) Find Out Who Are Your Key Audiences

GlobeThe first step is to think about all the different types of people you deal with at and around each of your events.  In most situations, the stakeholders will include your attendees, on-site suppliers (security personnel, technology, staff, venue, catering), partners such as speakers, sponsors and exhibitors, as well as journalists and colleagues (on ground and off-site).

2) Identify Audience ‘Owners’

Once you have these stakeholder groups listed out, create your internal crisis team by assigning the relationship ‘owners’ for each of your audience groups.  You need to have these dedicated points of contact – you can’t have one person managing everything if you want to be affective with your communications. Each of these relationship owners should create contact lists for their audience groups, which can include mobile numbers, email addresses and social media handles.  Collate these lists from your event management systems and make sure they are regularly updated so that you have the most current information on the day of your event.

3) Identify Your Different Communications Platforms

calcThe next thing is to determine how you will need to communicate with all your stakeholders. Quick, clear and frequent communication will be appreciated at a time of crisis.  It will also protect your organisation’s reputation on how well you manage the safety of your attendees. Social (especially Twitter) are very powerful communication tools, especially given the 24-hour information cycle we currently live in. However, it is important to note that social media does not guarantee mass reach. According to MarketingLand, about 2 percent of your Twitter followers see your Tweets. Similarly, AdWeek has stated that Facebook organic page reach stands at a fairly shocking 2.6%. Having said that, social media is key to providing information and access to media and key influencers who help amplify your message. In fact, journalists are the largest, most active verified user group on Twitter.

Aside from social media, you also have your email databases which can be created using the stakeholders lists you put together. You may have an event app, which is also a great tool to push notifications and update attendees on what they need to do.  You can also put up notices on your event website or screens you may have up around your venue.

4) Find the Best Platform for Each Audience

Notifications via event apps, emails and social media are usually the best option with your attendees. However, not all your stakeholders may be at your event.  Some may be offline and miss the notices you’ve posted online.  So think of other options too like text messages and phone calls. The management team of your organisation, for example, will probably need to be updated by phone.  Communications between your on-site team members may be better through group calls or messaging on mobile apps like WhatsApp or your own company app. Bear in mind that immediately after a major incident like a terrorist attack, mobile networks may be unavailable due to excessive demand. Sit down with your management team and identify the most appropriate crisis communications channels for each of your audience categories and have contingency plans for every situation.

5) Put Together a Communications Plan

Untitled design (32)Once you’ve identified your audiences and have a good idea on how you’ll be reaching out to them, the next step is to put together a communications plan. It’s difficult trying to figure out what you’re going to say if you’re not sure what crisis you’ll be facing. However, the last time you want to worry about on the day is putting some sort of plan together and chasing all the necessary approvals.  Have your crisis communications plan pre-approved and ready to go.  You could have a detailed plan for each type of crisis situation or you could have a more generalised one with clear action points.

Make a list of potential crisis situations – whether that be a terror attack or a power outage – and draft the key messages you want to communicate with each of your stakeholders.  Be personal, transparent and genuine and make public safety your number one priority. Explain what has happened, what actions need to be taken, what information is available and the contact details of each stakeholder ‘owner’.  Include what your organisation’s stance is on the on-going situation, as well as details on when and where they should expect another update. The more information you provide, the less chance of creating an information vacuum, which often causes unnecessary panic and false speculation.

Click to get in touchLastly, train your team members through life-like simulations of all the different crisis scenarios outlined in your plan. Make sure they don’t talk ‘at’ your audiences at a time of crisis without listening and responding to them first as this will undermine their trust in your organisation. Conduct these exercises annually or around each event.

Are there any other steps you’d like to add to the list?  We’d be happy to publish your views!  

Source:
Raconteur: Terrorist attacks are a constant threat for the events sector
Crisis Management Strategist: 3 Steps to Successful Crisis Communications
Meetings PR: Reactive or Proactive? 7 Factors for Effective Communication for International Meetings
Cision: 6 Social Media ‘Musts’ for Crisis Communications