Tag: Awards

4 Ways Technology Can Help You Run Better Awards Events

Technology can be your best friend when it comes to creating and managing successful award programmes.  From launching awards sites and managing submission entries to allocating judges, communicating with stakeholders, managing payments and selecting winners. But having all this information sitting across different systems makes the whole process of managing awards events a lot more challenging.

Whether you’re running employee recognition programmes, peer reviews or award evenings for staff, partners or clients – using a dedicated awards management solution that combines all these different elements together on one centralised, secure platform will give you the insight you need for event success.

Have a look at the many ways awards management systems can help you boost submissions, save time and give you the real-time information you need to make decision on the go:

1. Build Attractive Awards Websites

You can engage with people from the very start and encourage them to submit their award entries with attractive, easy to navigate, information websites that can be customised to match your organisation’s own branding guidelines.  An awards management solution can help you create a unique look for each of your awards websites, branded with your own logos and the same look and feel of your organisation’s corporate website.

Custom templates, Content Management Systems (CMS) and cloning tools can also help you launch awards submission sites in minutes without the need for any html or web design skills.

2. Save Time Managing Award Entries

Having a user-friendly system that allows people to make their submissions online without any fuss is fundamental to the success of your event.  If your submission forms are complex, difficult and time-consuming to complete, then people will just give up and look elsewhere.

A dedicated awards management solution can create a much smoother experience for people when submitting their entries to your awards event.  Mobile-responsive tools will ensure that people can complete forms or make changes to submissions on any device. They can also save their work and submit their entries at a time more convenient to them.

As an event planner, an awards management solution can also bring a host of benefits that will help you save an enormous amount of time around managing the awards submissions process, including:

– Flexibility to set your own awards categories, submission parameters and deadlines

– Customised submission forms, helping you capture information in the format you want

– Integrated payment systems make it easier for you to manage payments people make around award entries – all directly linked to pricing categories, packages and early-bird discounts defined by you.


Are you looking after your attendee data? Learn more about the eight things event planners do that put their organisations at serious risk of breach!  Download your eBOOK now: The Event Planner’s Guide to Data Security in a Post-GDPR World


3. Make It Easy for Your Judges

This is usually the most arduous and time-consuming task when it comes to running awards events.  An awards management solution can help you allocate judges to specific award categories, while making it easier for you to communicate with them through personalised invitations and email alerts.

As with submission entries, a mobile responsive solution will encourage your judges to log-in to a secure online portal that can be accessed from any device at any time.  It can also help your judges do their jobs more efficiently with simple scoring systems and the ability to save their work and complete it later.

4. Make More Informed Decisions

An awards management system can support you with reporting tools that help you track progress on entries by categories, submitters and status. It can also give you insight on judges scores, comments and the whole selection process in real-time.  So at any given point in time, you’ll be able to see how many submissions have been reviewed, which of your judges you need to send reminders to, how close you are to making your final selection process and who to send rejection or nomination emails to.


Eventsforce Awards is a secure web-based solution that simplifies the whole process of managing award events, peer reviews and internal recognition programmes. For more information on how we can help, please get in touch with one of our team members at info@eventsforce.com

 

 

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.

7 Easy Ways for Personalising Event Registration

62% of event planners use crowsourcing tools to decide on things like content, speakers, dining and decor (1)Creating personalised experiences is something that companies tend to do very well in the online world.  Just take a look at companies like Netflix and Amazon, suggesting personalised recommendations based on what they already know about their customers. The likes of Cadburys, Starbucks and Marmite have also been getting in on the act over the last couple of years.  And it’s safe to say that personalisation is now finally making its mark in the events industry. Why?  Because it works.

In the same way marketing targets different messaging for different audiences, event planners can use personalisation to deliver content, offers, event experiences and networking opportunities based on what they already know about their delegates. Sophisticated data capture tools – from event registration systems and RFID to online surveys and event apps – are helping event planners collect and analyse valuable delegate information to create more powerful and targeted events.

This month, a study from Eventsforce found that personalisation was a key priority for 82% of event planners, with 97% believing it would have a positive effect on a delegate’s perception of their brand and event. Despite these claims, however, many felt that the lack of time and resources posed as the biggest barriers with only 27% consistently using it as part of the marketing efforts around their events.

Though it has its challenges and can vary in its effectiveness from one event to another, personalisation doesn’t have to be as complicated as one might think. Most organisations today use some form of automated system to manage registrations around their events and it is good starting point for any kind of personalisation you may want to do around your events.  Why?  Because it acts as the first point of contact for your delegates and lies at the heart of all your communications in the run up to your event.

Have a look below at seven easy ways you can use your registration process to personalise events:

1. Personalised Event Invitation

Untitled design (27)Personalising invitations is simple and effective. By tailoring them as much as possible to the invitee and their specific business sector, you massively increase the chances they will attend. Our study showed that 38% of event planners break down their attendees by type when deciding on marketing activities around their events.  So if you know that your delegate list is made up of corporates and academics, then it makes sense to create two separate versions of the same invitation with each one outlining the sessions that would be of interest to them.  Remember – both audiences have a vested interest in attending your event but they have very different goals and very different ideas on why your event matters to them.

2. Create Different Landing Pages for Your Event Website

Untitled design (33)In the same you can tailor the content of your invitation, you can also tailor your event website for different audiences – our study found that 21% of event planners are already doing this and we expect this trend to grow.  For example, an event site that provides information on peer reviews, abstracts, a list of research fellows and referenced publications may be more interesting for your academics.  Whereas your corporate audience will be much more interested in seeing commercial ideas that the event aims to address, a list of other businesses that are going to attend and who they’re going to meet when they are there.  You may use the page to promote an early bird rate to an academic but may not bother for a commercial audience as academics are more likely to book their places months in advance due to budget allocations at the beginning of the year.

3. Use Unique Registration Paths for Different Attendee Categories

Untitled design (28)Personalise the registration journey by creating different registration paths for each type of attendee.   Some registration systems support this functionality so it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Before starting the registration process, find out the category your attendee falls into – whether that be a delegate, sponsor, exhibitor, speaker and so on. Or you may also choose to categorise by industry – like academics or corporate as mentioned in our earlier example. Each attendee will then be led through a set of registration questions that are specific to their selected category.  For example, exhibitors may get asked about stand sizes, whereas journalists may be asked to upload accreditation documents. Members may be able to select special discount options, whereas a VIP may get asked if they’ll be attending the VIP cocktail party at the end of your event. Having a unique registration path for your VIP guests will ensure their questions aren’t visible to other attendees – and more importantly, it will make your VIP feel that the questions were ‘personalised’ for them throughout the whole registration journey.

4. Find Out What Your Delegates Want

Untitled design (29)Our study found that 62% of event planners are personalising events by using crowdsourcing tools with their attendees to determine things like agendas and session topics (44%), speakers (24%) and dining preferences (18%). Using your registration form to capture your attendees’ views and opinions can be a quick and cost-effective way of personalising their event experience. For example, you can ask your delegates what topics are of particular interest for them at your motor show. Are they interested in the servicing side of the business or electronics?  You can then share this information with your exhibitors and ensure the right kind of discount offer is included in the right delegate pack upon checking-in at the event. This is a lot more personalised than including discount offers from all your exhibitors as you will almost certainly include things that are of no interest to them.

You can also use registration form to ask more ‘personal’ questions like what is their favourite coffee and offering them a personalised free coffee offer as part of their delegate pack.  You could capture information about their hobbies or thoughts and include that on their delegate badges – a great icebreaker when attending networking events.  The more people network, the more business occurs and the more likely they are to come again.

5. Use Delegate Networking Tools

Untitled design (30)Almost 20% of event planners are using delegate networking tools to personalise experiences around their events. By integrating ‘meeting planner’ tools as part of your registration process, delegates will be able to personalise their agendas, see who is attending that may be of interest to them and set up meetings with people they want to meet. These tools are quite good in that they don’t allow delegates to schedule meetings that clash with other meetings or sessions that they’ll be attending at the event.  Or if the system knows if the delegate is leaving a day early, it won’t allow them to accept invitations for meetings on the next date.

6. Personalised Email Communications

Untitled design (31)In the same way you’re able to personalise the invitation, the event website and registration form for different attendee categories, you can also personalise all your email communications in the run up to the event. Let’s look at an example of a delegate who has requested a Kosher or Halal meal at the event.  Typically, this meal is almost never served with the main event buffet so the delegate has to liaise with the catering staff or event planner to locate it on the day.  This isn’t a great experience for your delegate and it is also inefficient as it means the event planners has one more thing to think about at a time when they are very busy.  Instead, send the delegate a personalised registration confirmation email that will include details on where they can pick up their meal on the day of the event.

Again, some registration platforms will support this through an integrated mail merge service, which collates all relevant delegate information in an automatic confirmation email.  And it makes no difference if you have 50 people attending your event or 50,000.  The process is quite simple and takes very little time. It also makes more sense to include this kind of ‘personalised’ information in your delegate emails than details on the weather or the nearest taxi firm (most of this information is instantly available to anyone with a smartphone or an internet connection these days).  Again, remember that you only have a limited time to capture your delegates’ attention – the more information on your confirmation email, the more likely they will jump through some of the more important things like the start time of the session they want to attend.

7. Don’t Forget About Reporting

Untitled design (32)The kind of personalisation you offer delegates will be determined by the kind of data you decide to capture and the reports you produce. The earlier you do this when you’re setting up the registration for your event, the more effective your personalisation efforts will be. Think about it from the start as opposed to when you NEED the data because that will probably be the time you’re at your busiest and data structures are unlikely to change the closer you get to the event.

Think about the reports you want so that you can figure out the right questions you need to put across to your delegates. Think about how you want to slice up the data so that you can get the reports you want and collate the analytics that will allow you to personalise your events.  For example, you may decide to create a report that will collate all the delegates attending a particular session.  Some event planners may share this list with all the other delegates attending that session.  But you can do more. Break it down by company type, interests and goals and share the list with your session speaker.  He or she can then use this information to tweak the content of their presentation or personalise it with content or examples that are more relevant to the audience.

Click to get in touchBreaking down your delegates by type will allow you to create the segregated reports you want.  Knowing that 70% of your delegates are female, love coffee and their primary objective is networking can give you the intelligent data you need to help you personalise their experience. So if you’re hosting an event in London and you know that a large part of your attendees are coming from overseas, you may opt for ‘fish and chips’ as your lunch menu as international delegates prefer local cuisine.  Or if you know that most of your attendees will be leaving early on the last day of your event, it may be a better option for you to offer them a packed lunch that day instead of a buffet and ask them in advance about their sandwich preferences.

If you require a registration process that can personalise your attendees’ event experience, speak to our experienced team today.

 Written by Paul Harris, Eventsforce. 

 

 

 

Why Hiring Students for Your Events is a Good Idea

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Many of you have probably read how the role of an event coordinator has been ranked as the fifth most stressful job of 2016.  In fact, the only jobs ranked more stressful were enlisted military personnel, firefighters, airline pilots and police officers. Whether or not you agree with these findings, there is no doubt that working in events is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  It takes determination and experience (as do most jobs) and a good mix of communication, creative and time management skills to be successful.  Many in the industry believe that these skills can’t be taught.  That we don’t need academic degrees in event management.  That experience is what matters most.  But not anymore.

Perceptions around whether or not we need qualifications in the industry are changing. In January this year, the UK government recognised the importance of the events sector by forming the country’s first Event Industry Board.  Meanwhile, the president of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) has called for new standards regarding the certification of event professionals.  There is also a growing trend in big corporate institutions investing heavily in executive certificate programmes and post graduate event management courses for their events staff to keep them updated on the latest processes and methodologies of this fast-paced industry.

Whichever way you look at it, a qualification in event management is a lot more relevant today than it was five years ago. Modern universities like Coventry University are offering courses that combine academia with experience, helping create a new generation of event professionals that already have proven skills in project management – from briefing and planning to on-site management and post event evaluation.  They have worked on real projects with real clients and are certified in the latest event management software. Even before they graduate, these students are able to provide important support on many aspects of an organisation’s event. So why not work with them?

What Can the Event Management Student Do for My Organisation?

Untitled design (12)Students today are very willing to take on any opportunity that can provide them with experience in the industry.  Meet and greet is probably the best place to invest in students – especially for those organisations who can’t afford specialist agencies. Many of our students man events like the Liberal Democrats party conference, where they are in charge of meet and greet, registration and other client-facing activities.

Placement schemes are another option. These can last up to a year and provide a cost effective way of hiring someone to do a specific job.  Our students do placements, and volunteering opportunities with organisations like the British Council. By working as part of their events and logistics teams for the ‘Going Global’ conferences, students have been able to work in places such as Dubai, Miami, London and Cape Town in 2016. The work they do includes building event websites, managing registrations, meet and greet, coordinating conference sessions, as well as running live reports and providing post event analysis. The feedback we get from these organisations is always positive and many decide to hire the students on a permanent basis once they graduate.

You can also look at internships.  These are usually unpaid positions that focus on short-term projects that can range anywhere from 4-12 weeks.  This can be a good opportunity to get someone to do important tasks that you may not have the resources for, such as conducting research on your competitive landscape, evaluating your social media performance or doing some post-event analysis. A lot of our graduate students choose to focus their dissertations on evolving areas in the industry such as wearable technologies and cashless events – organisations could suggest topics and work alongside these students for their own research and marketing purposes.

Where Do I Find Students That Add Value to My Events?

If you decide that working with an event management student makes sense for your events, the next step is to figure out where to find suitable candidates. There are a number of universities and other higher education institutions that offer comprehensive courses in event management, but the ones that stand out have some of the following attributes:

Industry-Driven Modules – Event management is still a very young, dynamic and fast changing industry.  Look at institutions that regularly consult with industry experts in creating their modules. Find out how often they expose their students to the industry through lectures given by event professionals, field trips to industry events, course works involving real events and projects, as well as opportunities for practical work experience. Find out what proportion of students are in full-time work six months after graduation – as this gives a good indication of the institution’s reputation and academic standard.

Staff with Industry Expertise – A combined staff of academic lecturers and industry experts (event professionals across corporate, PCOs, associations and government) provides students with a good balance of theory and practical insights.

Industry Partnerships – Find institutions that have dedicated employment and placement schemes with reputable companies. At Coventry University, students have done placement schemes with British Council, Schroders, Bank Sadler and BP and many have travelled to international destinations like Dubai, Cape Town, Berlin and the US for practical hands on experience.  Read through the testimonials of these organisations and find out what they say about the students and their abilities.

Technology Focus: Technology is such an important aspect of events now that any knowledge on the subject can add real value to what a student can offer to your event. Second year students at Coventry University, for example, need to pass the Eventsforce certification programme, which teaches them how to use the event management software to build event websites and registration forms, build agendas, manage sessions, link sites to social media and pull different types of reports.

 How Do I Choose the Right Student?

Once you have made a selection of the universities you would like to approach, the next step would be to select your candidates.  You can start by meeting students at university career days or take one step further and conduct an assessment centre – this is when a group of students are given a task and they are rated on how they react, who takes the lead, how interactive they are, as well as their overall performance on achieving the set objectives.  You can also get the university to make you a shortlist of their top students.

Once you have your shortlist, then you can assess your candidates on the following attributes:

  • Presentation and content of CV
  • Proven event experience (local or international)
  • Likeability, communication and networking skills
  • Knowledge of event technology
  • Social media presence (views/opinions)
  • Blogs (many students blog about their work experiences)
  • Research skills (eg. social media or industry analysis)
  • Industry recognition (eg. MyEvent.Vision award or the Vanessa Cotton scholarship)

Click to get in touchGood luck!

Ian Webster is senior lecturer and creator of the Event Management Honors Degree at Coventry University, which was recently ranked as UK’s number one university to offer a degree in event management (Guardian 2016 Subject League Tables). 

If you would like to get in touch, please email him at: bsx941@coventry.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Why Your Events Could Benefit from Multilingual Websites

Choosing which event to attend is no longer restricted by borders and time zones, as delegates are increasingly happy to travel further afield for the right event. They are spurred not only by the abundance of cheap flights and budget accommodation, but by a real desire to learn about the latest innovations, best practice guidelines and the opportunity to network and share ideas with colleagues and peers from across the world.

But are we doing enough to reach delegates beyond our country’s borders?  A study by the European Commission in 2011 revealed that 90% of Internet users in the EU, said that when given a choice of languages, they always visited a website in their own language. A similar survey by the Common Sense Advisory in the US also found that 72% of consumers were more likely to buy a product or service online if the information provided was in their native language1. With this in mind and the fact that most people now research for events online, doesn’t it make sense for your events to have multilingual websites?

Why Multilingual Websites Can Boost Your Events

Untitled design (13)Multilingual sites today present one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing your events, attracting new delegates, building relationships with them and giving your organisation an international outlook:

  • Shows You Care – It doesn’t take much effort to create a multilingual website (more below) but that extra effort shows your delegates that you care about them and are considerate of their needs, which makes them more likely to book onto your event. We all know that personalisation is important to our delegates and what could be more personal than talking to them in their own language?
  • Builds Trust with Your Delegates – Trust is an important part of doing business. Trust in an event and the event organiser is even more important if a delegate is travelling from abroad. Communicating with these delegates in their native language helps them feel secure, understand what they are buying and who they are buying from.
  • Helps You Stay Ahead of Your Competitors – Make no mistake, your event has competition. Whether it’s from other events, alternative ways of spending budgets or time constraints, your delegate needs to make difficult choices. If they only go to a few events a year, you need to make yours stand out. Offering a multilingual website will give your event a competitive edge by demonstrating to delegates that your organization thinks, works and deals internationally.
  • Improves Search Engines Optimisation – Search engines lead people to your site. While it’s tempting to view Google as the only search engine that matters, in reality this isn’t the case as in many countries, such as France, Japan and China, Google is not the default search engine. Baidu is popular in China, Acara in Japan and Voila in France. Such search engines are a key to tapping those markets unless they have access to a particular language though your multilingual event website, then your event will not be found. In addition, search engines like Google are developing the capacity to run searches in foreign languages.  Having your website available in those languages helps to ensure it will be picked up in searches.

But the Internet is in English

If you assume your delegates speak your language well enough to skip the translation step, you’re wrong. Today only 35% of the Internet’s content is in English, and this number continues to diminish. Russian, Spanish and Portuguese, for example, are continuing to trend upward with no sign of slowing down.  If you are targeting delegates who speak these languages, it is worth considering translating your content to better reach and connect with them. And while other languages like German, French and Japanese are trending down, they still represent such a large portion of the online community that it is worth thinking through your targeting approach to those markets as well1.

It’s a Lot Simpler Than You Think

Having the ability to communicate to a whole new international audience in their own language will undoubtedly bring results not only in a financial sense but also in terms of marketing and creating awareness of your event. And luckily, creating these multilingual event websites isn’t a complicated process if you consider the following basic requirements:

Make Sure Your Event Technology Supports It – Most event management or registration software these days offer a multilingual module, which allows important pages on your event website including those for registration and agendas to be displayed in several popular world languages of your choice.  By providing tools that allow you to automatically translate things like website headings, button texts, warning messages and email communication, the software helps you copy templates from one language to another in no time. Organisations like the British Council do this with their in-country events and the system has proved to be very successful.

Make Sure You Have the Necessary Staff Resources – If it’s a simple event website with a registration form that collects basic delegate information (name, country and contact details), then having staff that can speak the language isn’t entirely necessary as you can manage most of it through an online translation service like Google Translate. In most cases, however, you will need to have someone on your team who has a working knowledge of the language to oversee all translation requirements and more importantly, manage all delegate communication – from sending registration confirmation emails, making changes to agendas and managing requests.

Click to get in touchIf you don’t have the staff resources, then there are other affordable options.  You can hire a freelance translator through services like Upwork and Fiverr, that offer hundreds of talented and reliable people to work with. Alternatively, you can also use an online translation service like Unbabel, that combines artificial intelligence with crowdsourced human translation to deliver fast and high quality services to companies who want to reach international markets.

Written by Lynda Browne, Client Loyalty Manager, Eventsforce

1 Unbabel: Top Languages of the Internet, Today and Tomorrow

 

Delegate Card Payments & Security Compliance: Questions Answered

PCI COmplianceEnter registration details, make your payment and click submit.  It’s the kind of information most event websites ask for. But when your delegate makes a payment, how do we make sure their card details are kept safe? If your organisation is involved in storing, processing or transmitting any delegate cardholder data – manually or electronically – you need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  And that means meeting tough standards that maximise your delegate’s payment card security – or face the prospect of fines.

Unfortunately, many organisations don’t bother thinking about PCI compliance until they are due to be audited, which at best, leaves them playing catch-up or at worst, means they fail because they haven’t met the requirements. A recent report by Verizon – which assessed more than 5,000 organisations across 30 countries – found that nearly 80% of all businesses failed their interim PCI compliance assessment. More importantly, lack of compliance was linked to data breaches: Of all the data breaches studied, not a single company was found to be fully PCI DSS-compliant at the time of breach. The study also found 69% of all consumers were less inclined to do business with a breached organisation1. So the stakes of non-compliance are pretty high.

Last month, Eventsforce conducted its own survey with senior event planners in the UK and the US to assess their understanding of delegate payments and PCI-DSS requirements. The results were quite surprising.  Nearly half of those surveyed didn’t know if they were PCI DSS compliant, with 84% not being able to identify compliance requirements and a further 73% unaware of the fines for non-compliance.

So what exactly is PCI-DSS and what do event planners need to know about it? Below are six of the most common questions we come across when discussing issues around delegate payments and data security.

What is PCI-DSS compliance?

If your events are set up to accept payments from delegates via credit or debit cards, then your organisation is obligated to achieving and maintaining compliance with the PCI Data Security Standard.  PCI DSS is an information security standard for any organisation handling credit card transactions from the major card schemes, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB.  The standard was created to increase controls around cardholder data to reduce credit card fraud. It has three basic components which include analysing IT systems for vulnerabilities; patching weaknesses and deleting unnecessarily stored data; and submitting compliance records to banks and card companies (a detailed description of all 12 requirements can be found here).

In the case of events, compliance would mean ensuring that no delegate payment card data is stored unless it is necessary to meet the needs of your event or business. This applies to all types of transactions – electronic (card payments through event website) or manual (card payments over the phone or on-site). If it is absolutely necessary for you to store this information, then you need to know what you can and can’t do. Sensitive data from the magnetic strip or chip, for example, may never be stored but other information such as card numbers (PAN), expiration dates, service codes or cardholder names may be stored if the correct encryption procedures have taken place to ensure data safety (more on this further down).

Isn’t This the Responsibility for My IT/Legal/Finance Department?

 Setting policies and procedures around compliance usually is the responsibility of these departments but adherence to these policies is a shared responsibility across any department dealing with delegate card payments – including the events team. In the case of any fraudulent activity involving the payment card of one of your delegates, a bank can easily trace it back to a PCI-related breach to your organisation and hold you responsible. There are considerable fines associated with non-compliance following a data compromise; these can range from ten to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many non-compliant organisations have stopped trading because the fines could not be accommodated.

Do I Have to be PCI-DSS Compliant?

PCI-DSS compliance does not just apply to the storage of payment card data but also to the handling of data while it is processed or transmitted over networks or phone lines. While not storing credit card data does eliminate some compliance requirements, the majority of the controls dictated by the DSS remain in effect.

ID-100354956One way of simplifying compliance is to outsource the process to one of the many PCI-DSS-certified payment gateways that meet the required standards, such as Stripe, PayPal, Sage Pay and Worldpay, among others. This makes it possible for delegates to interact with the gateway software directly so that card information never hits your own servers. However, make sure you understand how these payment gateways interface with your event management/registration systems. If your event website integrates with these gateways via an API, then you are still liable for PCI compliance since your servers capture and transmit the credit/debit card data first.

Read more: Top 5 Things to Think About When Dealing with APIs

Do I Still Need to Consider it if my Payment Gateway is Compliant?

Yes, if you take delegate/attendee payments offline or over the phone. In our event data security survey, 49% of event planners said they take credit/debit card details from their attendees over the phone. This doesn’t help with PCI compliance unless the information is directly entered into the payment gateway system. Even then, are the card details written down somewhere first?  If so, do you dispose of the paper?  How is the paper disposed and when?  Do you email these details to anyone? These are all very important questions you and everyone else on your team need to be very aware of at all times. So make sure you have the correct policies in place and that your staff are trained to follow all necessary procedures that ensure compliance.

What if I do Need to Store Card Details for Some of my Events?

Our survey found that 11% of event planners ask their attendees to fill in card details within registration forms as a form of deposit on possible extras like transport, hotel rooms, dinners, and so on. Some payment gateways like Stripe have a good way of managing this without making your organisation subject to PCI-DSS regulations.  At a minimum, PCI DSS requires card numbers (PAN) to be unreadable anywhere they are stored (the first six and last four digits are the maximum number of digits that may be displayed).  However, as a general rule, it is not advisable to use registration forms to capture credit card details as it does increase the risk of breach.

What Are the Main Data Security Guidelines for PCI-DSS Compliance?

If you do have a legitimate business reason to store your delegate’s payment card data, it is important to understand what data elements PCI-DSS allows them to store and what measures they must take to protect that data. Below are some basic do’s and don’ts for data storage security:

Data Do’s:

  • DO understand where delegate card data flows for the entire payment transaction process – from initial registration until the completion of the event.
  • DO verify that your payment applications (including third-party applications like PayPal) are PCI-DSS compliant. Have clear access and password protection policies and remember, it is your responsibility that compliance is not just met but continuously maintained. Security exploits are non-stop and get stronger every day, which is why compliance efforts should be a continuous process.
  • DO retain cardholder data only if authorised and ensure it is protected
  • DO use strong cryptography to render unreadable cardholder data that you store, and use other security technologies to minimise the risk of exploits of criminals

Data Don’ts

  • DO NOT store cardholder data unless it’s absolutely necessary – delete all data as soon as you know that you no longer need it. Never print or email this information.
  • DO NOT store the 3-digit card validation code on the back of the payment card on paper or any digital format.
  • DO NOT store any payment card data in unprotected devices such as PCs, laptops or smart phones
  • DO NOT permit any unauthorised people to access stored cardholder data

Summary

Understanding and implementing all the requirements of PCI-DSS can seem daunting, especially for those without security or large IT departments.  However, PCI DSS mostly calls for good, basic security.  Even if you don’t have to be PCI-DSS compliant, the best practices we mentioned above are steps that any organisation running events would want to take anyway to protect sensitive delegate data.

Click to get in touch

For further advice and guidance on event card payment security, please contact our friendly team on 0207 785 6997 or fill in our enquiry form here.

1 80 Percent of Businesses Fail Interim PCI Compliance Assessment

60-Seconds with Allianz Insurance

Charley Jennings (Allianz Insurance)Charley Jennings is the corporate events officer at Allianz Insurance.  Based in their London offices, she works with a team of six people who are in charge of organizing a variety of events from large conferences, dinners, awards, ceremonies and team building days which can gather anywhere between 10 to 600 people at a time.

EventTech Talk had a quick chat with her to find out a little about her venues and restaurants and her biggest event nightmare.

How long have you been working in events?

Around three years in total.  I started at Allianz as a placement student, returned to university to finish my degree and applied for a job when I finished.

Where is your favourite venue for events?

The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard in London is great for meetings and One Great George Street in Westminster for awards ceremonies.

What is your favourite restaurant?

The Hutong Chinese restaurant at The Shard and SUSHISAMBA for Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian sushi.

What would you say is your biggest challenge when planning an event?

Time – there doesn’t seem to be enough of it in the day!

What has been your biggest event nightmare? 

We held a large awards ceremony last year and there was a political protest outside the venue the night before the event. We had no idea what time the protest would finish, and if we were going to be allowed near the venue.  After a very long day, we managed to get everything ready and get to the venue before it started!

Mobile app you couldn’t live or work without?

WhatsApp Messenger.

New technology you’re looking forward to using one day?

Click to get in touchTo be able to use holograms at our conferences would be very exciting.

What has been the best piece of professional advice someone’s given you?

There is no such thing as being too organised!

Lastly, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To be able to freeze time!