Tag: media & publishers

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

Top 8 Considerations When Choosing a Payment Gateway for Your Events

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So you’ve taken the decision to charge people attending your events. You need a payment gateway that will allow you to process payments on your event website but aren’t sure where to start. Or perhaps you are hosting an international event and the payment gateway you are currently using doesn’t support the currency of the country many of your delegates are coming from. Or maybe you’re just not happy with your current provider and would like to make a change.

There are many different options for you to choose from when looking at payment gateways. The big names include the likes of Sage Pay, Worldpay, PayPal and Stripe but there are dozens of possibilities out there. So how do you know which is the best fit for your organisation?  Decisions about event payment processing, more often than not, is something that is usually headed up by finance teams.  It is worth noting, however, that there are a number of important factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a payment method around your events. And the role of the event planner is key to ensure these requirements are met.

Have a look below at some of the top things you need to think about when considering event payment processing and gateways:


Untitled design (36)1) Is Your Organisation Already Using a Payment Gateway?

The first thing to do is to find out if your organisation is already using a particular payment gateway for other parts of the business.  You may be required to use the same one as part of your company policy. Payment gateways can take time to set up and will be subject to security checks and audits from your bank. There may also be different levels of bureaucracy and hierarchy regarding approvals within your own organisation.  Going through this timely (often complex) process may not be worthwhile if there is already an existing deal with a gateway that your organisation is happy with.

Payment gateways aren’t the only thing you need to think about. You also have to think about the merchant accounts, which is essentially where your attendee payments go into (different from your regular business accounts). Some payment gateway providers offer just a payment gateway and require you to have your own merchant account. Other payment providers such as PayPal offer a combined payment gateway and merchant account. What you decide on really depends on what kind of existing arrangements your organisation may already have in place.

2) Can The Payment Gateway Be Used with Your Registration System?

The next thing would be to check which payment gateways are supported by your current registration or event management software.  This can significantly narrow down your choices. Choosing one that already integrates with the system makes it a lot more convenient and saves you time – it also means you may not have to spend additional money on development time.  Ask your event tech provider what they recommend – they have a lot of experience in this and can provide good advice on which gateways are better suited for certain types of events.

Like we mentioned above, your organisation may want you to work with a specific gateway solution.  In which case, you will have to work with your event tech provider in building the right type of integration between the two systems in exchange for a fee. Each gateway solution has different versions of the product – with different features and functionalities. Bear in mind that each one of these will have their own type of integration. For example, your organisation may use the ‘Worldpay Corporate’ integration, but your event software may only support ‘Worldpay Business’. Again, this will require additional investment in development time, so make sure you factor all these things in when making a decision.

3) How Do Event Management/Registration Systems Manage Payments?Untitled design (46)

The other thing you need to take into account is how your registration systems takes payments details from your event attendees.  There are two options here.  Does your system support non-hosted payment payment gateways? This is when your attendees are able to enter their card details without leaving your event website. Though it is the smoothest check out experience for your attendees, it is also the least secure. To take payments onsite you typically need an SSL certificate and you will also have to comply with PCI-DSS requirements. It’s worth taking a look at this article that gives good information on PCI-DSS compliance and what it means when dealing with delegate card payments. The fines for non-compliance can be hefty!

The alternative is to use a hosted payment gateway which redirects users to a ‘hosted’ payment page.  Once a payment has been made then your attendee will be returned to your website and the payment will be confirmed. It will likely be the case that your event tech provider may only support these ‘hosted’ payment gateways so that they don’t have to take responsibility for PCI-DSS compliance.

4) How Quickly Do You Need It Up and Running?

Setting up a merchant account and payment gateway can typically take anywhere around 3-4 weeks – although providers like PayPal and Stripe let you sign up without a merchant account so you can get started straight away. On the other hand, set up can also be a long and complex process – particularly if you’re a new or ‘high-risk’ business.  For example, banks can sometimes be reluctant to approve merchant accounts to event organisations because of the ‘interval’ between the time delegates make a payment and the event itself. In which case, you may be requested to provide detailed application forms so that the bank gets a better understanding of your business.  This isn’t a big issue but you need to bear it in mind and find a gateway that can support your specific needs, as well as meet your event deadlines.

Untitled design (7)5) Don’t Forget About Your Cash Flow

Once a delegate payment has been processed, it typically takes a few days for that payment to be settled into your bank account.  However, these payment timings can vary significantly from one provider to another. Gateways that are also merchant accounts generally sit on your money for a lot longer. This can slow down your cash flow and has a real impact on small businesses (think about the payments you need to make to venues, caterers and other suppliers).  Other providers on the other hand can settle your funds as quickly as the next day, while some may also only pay out funds on set days. Ideally, look for a provider that pays out every day.

6) The Kind of Events You Run Will Determine the Fees

The fees you pay for the payment gateway and merchant accounts can include monthly fees, fixed fees per transaction (whatever you are charging attendees for), variable fees based on a percentage of transactions, as well as other fees for things like payments from international cards.  So an organisation running one major international event can have complete different requirements to one that hosts several local events with a greater number of attendees.

Make sure you get a good overview of fees and ask to see a full schedule of charges before committing to one provider. Don’t forget some payment providers (not all) have been known to lock organisations into lengthy contracts – so make sure you understand what you’re signing up for.

Untitled design (13)7) Do You Need to Support Multiple Currencies?

If you are hosting events across different countries and need to take international payments or have a large number of international delegates – you should check whether the payment gateway offers international and multi-currency payments or even an interface with multiple languages. The APAC region, for example, only accepts payments through specific gateways and some global systems like Worldpay aren’t actually accepted all over the world. You should also check whether there are any additional fees for accepting multi-currency payments or payments from other countries and whether you will need to have a merchant account in a specific country.

8) Your Events Can’t Afford Downtime. How Important is Reputation?

The short answer is very.  If you are processing payments from your attendees, you’ll want to work with a provider who has a good reputation in the industry and one that won’t let you down if things go wrong. Some payment gateways have had problems with outages and others have blocked merchants’ money unexpectedly without cause. Look at providers who take PCI-DSS compliance seriously and who provide a good level of support.  Find out how responsive their support service is, where their support team is based and whether or not they work the same hours as you. Do you need to pay extra for this support? Be sure you to do your research thoroughly before signing up with one.  Read reviews and get recommendations from organisations you can trust and use comparison sites which highlight the key features of each gateway.

 

DO YOU NEED A PAYMENT GATEWAY FOR YOUR EVENTS?

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Eventsforce offers quick and easy integrations of its software with a number of major payment gateway providers, including Sage Pay, Worldpay, PayPal and many others.  If you’d like to have a chat about event payment processing, please get in touch here. Alternatively, if you would like to read more about how we integrate with payment gateways, please click here.

 

Click to get in touchSources:

http://blog.socious.com/how-to-choose-the-right-payment-gateway-for-your-organization-and-ensure-secure-transactions

https://gocardless.com/guides/posts/payment-gateways/

7 Easy Ways for Personalising Event Registration

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. 

 

 

 

5 Easy Ways of Securing Your Event Data

Untitled design (17)Data security is increasingly becoming top of mind and making headlines as it continues to impact businesses around the world. Just about every week, there is a fairly major cyber-security event that gets talked about in public – and there are many more that don’t get talked about. It is a major problem for any organisation that has valuable information to protect (which means most companies these days) – especially for those involved in the world of events.

We have talked a lot about the issue in the last couple of months, addressing things like the kind of data security questions you should be asking your event management solution provider and some of the considerations you need to take when dealing with delegate card payments.  Most event planners will also be following their own organisation’s security policies when it comes to storing and sharing event data – from communication procedures to firewalls, encryption and anti-virus software.

However, while IT focuses on outside threats, there is also an element of risk lurking from within.  Over 40% of data loss1 is the direct result of internal threats which come about from staff mishandling data – whether intentional or unintentional. In fact, our event data security study exposed a number of important vulnerability areas – like staff password hygiene, email communications and data storage –  that event planners should be putting greater attention in order to prevent data from getting into the wrong hands.

Have a look at the following best practice guidelines that can greatly improve security around your event and delegate data:

Don’t Put Anything in Email That You Wouldn’t Put on a Postcard

ID-100354956Email communications is one area of vulnerability. Our study found that 65% of respondents emailed their event data (attendance reports, registration lists, invoice reports) to third parties or other departments within their organisation after downloading the information from the event management systems. Another 36% admitted to having emailed their API key – a form of authentication that allows third party systems like event apps to access data saved in your event management systems.

The truth is that it is difficult and cumbersome to encrypt data in emails from end to end – so you should always think about what you are sharing on email.  Check before sending that you have the right recipients and encrypt data within if necessary. If you don’t need to email it, don’t.  For example, when confirming registration details with your delegates, don’t include all their details within the body of the email but instead, include a personalised link that will lead them directly to their registration page on your event website. Equally, never email your event system API key(s) to ANYONE as this could expose your data to anyone who has access to this key.  If you need to share it, do so over the phone.

Be Smart About Your Passwords

Data SecurityMore than 500 million records of login names, passwords and other ID information went astray in the last 12 months, according to a report this week by security firm, Symantec2. It sounds pretty obvious but you would be surprised with the number of people that ignore the importance of passwords. Our survey found that over 80% of event planners don’t change their event management system passwords as often as they should (less than once a year). Another 33% claim to have shared their passwords with other people.  This widely increases the risk of breach and makes it difficult to accurately identify who has access to the system at any given point in time.

Using strong passwords, NOT sharing them and changing them once every three months can greatly improve security around your event data.   The problem is that the human brain can only remember so many passwords, not to mention we’re actually really bad at picking good ones. So, too often we just reuse passwords across multiple sites. This is an issue because so many of us use the same password for our work and personal accounts like Facebook, Google and online banking.  Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Eiffel Tower” could become 1W2CtEt.

Another solution is to use a password manager, a software tool for computers and mobile devices, which will pick random, long passwords for each site you visit, and synchronise them across your many devices. Two popular password managers are 1Password and LastPass.  You can also use a Single Sign-On (SSO) system, which allows you to control access to your event management software using your authentication servers (e.g. Microsoft Active Directory) – so passwords are never submitted to your event system and access can be controlled centrally by your organisation. If someone from your team leaves their job, then their access to all systems can be cut off from one place.

Share Only What is Necessary

The study also revealed that an overwhelming 89% of event planners downloaded the data in their event management systems to external spreadsheets, with a further 81% sharing it with colleagues and other departments by printing or email.  As well as following your organisation’s policies on how to securely share and dispose of data, you can also reduce security risks by integrating your event management system with some of your other back end systems like finance, CRM and marketing.  The integration will allow for automatic updates on both systems whenever you need to make any changes, eliminating the need to download, print or email event data to other departments within your organisation.

For example, integration with your company’s finance system will allow you to automatically update delegate payment details into your finance system and vice versa without the need for printing and emailing reports and manually transferring them from one system to another. Event invoices, credit notes and received payments can be all be generated and sent from either system. This saves time and more importantly, vastly reduces the security risks associated with email communications and having printed documents lying around.

Know Your Personal Vs. ‘Sensitive’ Personal Delegate Data

Our study found that there was some confusion differentiating personal and ‘sensitive’ delegate data.  Personal information can include things like names, addresses and phone numbers.  However, sensitive data is any information relating to the delegate’s racial origin, political opinion, religious beliefs or mental and physical well-being.   The survey found that 40% of event planners didn’t think race and religion was considered as sensitive and only 26% thought dietary requirements (which may indicate religious inclinations) as sensitive.

Why is this important? EU Data Protection regulations require extra security measures when dealing with ‘sensitive’ delegate data – as this information could be used in a discriminatory way and is likely to be of a private nature.  Most registration forms will have a question asking delegates if they have any additional requirements.  This may include things like dietary requirements or the need for wheelchair assistance. Storing this ‘sensitive’ data means you must comply with the Data Protection Act from the moment you obtain the data until the time when the data has been deleted, overwritten or securely destroyed (e.g. shredding, incineration or pulping).

Don’t Forget About ‘Offline’ Security

As a general rule, try not to store any of your event data in any physical form (print or external hard drives, USB drives etc.) as this greatly increases the chance of it getting into the wrong hands.  If you are, invest in secure cabinets, fit locking doors and ensure you have the proper mechanisms in place to dispose of this data if you need to.  At your events, don’t leave your registration lists, laptops and smart phones unattended and ensure that event data on your screens are not visible to unauthorised users.  Be cautious when discussing details over the phone and avoid discussing sensitive information in public areas where you can be overheard.

Click to get in touchLastly, make sure your employees understand how important your event data is and all the measures they can take to protect it. Encourage security awareness among your staff, training them not to leave sensitive material lying around and to operate a clear desk policy – both at the office and at your events.  The ultimate goal is for everyone, at every level, to believe that data security is critical, understand the policies and procedures for achieving a secure environment and ensuring these are followed every day.

Written by Steve Baxter, CTO of Eventsforce

1 Information Week: Insider Threats: 10 Ways to Protect Your Data

2 BBC News: Security snapshot reveals massive personal data loss

 

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

 

Top 8 Security Questions to Ask Your Event Technology Provider

Data Security

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of you have read the scandalous stories we saw in the headlines last year regarding major security breaches at companies like Talk Talk and the Ashley Madison dating site.  Cyber hackers raised their game with millions of people having had their private data stolen and national governments scrambling to combat the growing threat of cyber-attacks. Now imagine your organisation’s systems got hacked and exposed the personal details of the hundreds (or thousands) of delegates attending your events each year.  Doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it?

Events deal with highly sensitive customer information, including names, emails, telephone numbers, employment information, disabilities and other confidential details. The wealth of information we collect from our delegates is a gold mine for hackers.  Safeguarding this data is critical and more and more organisations are starting to see the importance of this issue. Our new data security survey found that 80% of event planners marked data security as a top priority for 2016.  Surprisingly, however, only 40% of them felt they had the adequate security policies in place across their organisations.   In fact, according to MPI members at last month’s MPI European Meetings & Events Conference, event planners were said to be lacking awareness on the topic of cyber security despite the global terrorism threat1.

So how do we address this issue of event technology security?

Most event planners these days deal with some form of event registration technology that helps them manage all their event and delegate data.  The software captures, manages and stores a lot of the sensitive data we mentioned earlier – so it makes sense to start there. Have a look at the data security policies of your event tech provider.  Are you confident they have the right processes in place to safeguard your data? Are they doing everything they can to minimise the risk of breach?

Here are the top 8 data security questions you should be asking your event tech provider today:

How is My Event Data Protected?

Maximum protection of your event data should probably be your event technology provider’s top priority.   You want to ensure that your event data is fully secure and protected by a comprehensive recovery system.  The first step in achieving this is the use of strong industry-standard encryption, like HTTPS and AES, which helps protect your data from prying eyes and can provide you with assurance that it hasn’t been modified in any way. Find out how your data is encrypted both at rest (when stored in servers) and in transit (when accessing data from your event management system over an Internet network). ID-100354956

What Data Security and Safeguarding Policies Do You Have in Place?

Find out where your database is stored, how it is stored and how often they back it up – the more often, the better so that no changes can be lost from your database if restoration is required. In the case of a breach to their own servers, find out what response plans they have in place to protect your data.  Find out what security policies they have in place within their organisation – how do they protect their own data and how do they meet regulatory and legislative requirements?  Who has access to client data, how do they handle authorisation and what happens when someone leaves? How do they share client information (email/phone) and where they do they store this information?

 How Can I Ensure Secure Access to my Event Management System?

All major event management systems manage access via username and password authentication.  However, you can also manage access using an external authentication service, which can restrict access for certain individuals to particular functions (e.g. abstract reviews) or particular events. Find out if your event tech provider can integrate your event management solution with a Single Sign-On (SSO) system. This will allow you to sign in using your company’s existing corporate authentication infrastructure – so passwords are never submitted to your event system and access can be controlled centrally by your organisation. If someone from your team leaves their job, then their access to all systems can be cut off from one place.

SSO improves security by giving you the choice to restrict event websites and registration to internal personnel or selected individuals or groups, effectively making them private. Only people chosen to view the event website or register for the event will be able to do so and invitations cannot be shared – useful if you have an internal awards event going on involving confidential company information.

Where is my Event Data Stored?

As mentioned above, this is something that should be outlined in the security policy of your event technology provider. It is worth noting, however, that if your event management software provider is storing your data in US-based datacentres and you deal with delegates from the EU, then you need to ensure that they comply with the newly announced Privacy Shield agreement. This replaces the old Safe Harbor agreement, which allowed US companies to legally transfer European citizens’ data to America, provided the location it was being sent to had the security and privacy conditions that met EU standards.

Read more: New EU/US Data Sharing Deal: What Event Planners Need to Know

If you are using a web-based system, find out the physical location of their cloud servers and whether or not they adhere to EU Data Protection regulations. Find out who has access to these servers and what kind of security procedures they have in place.

Do You Own My Data?

This is an important question as some event management technology companies have a legal right to use your data for their own marketing purposes, which means it’s highly likely that they store this data somewhere other than your company’s database on their client servers.  This increases the chance of breach so again, you need to find out what data protection policies they have within their own organisation, how they manage access to this data, what do they use it for and how long they keep it.

Are You PCI-DSS Compliant?

Our survey revealed that almost 50% of event planners who took payment from their delegates didn’t know if they were PCI-DSS compliant and a further 73% were unaware of the fines for non-compliance (ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000).  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 (more info here).  One 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. However, make sure you understand from your event tech provider how these payment gateways interface with your event management/registration system. 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. Equally, if your event management system uses its own payment gateway or processes payments on your behalf, make sure that their systems have the correct level of compliance and that they are not permanently storing your delegate payment card data on their servers.

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

What Security Precautions Do I Need to Take?

If your event management system is integrated with other third party systems (CRM, event apps, finance packages), your event management software provider may have issued you with an API key for any integrations.  Often used instead of usernames and passwords, the key allows your event app and other third party applications access to your event data, and vice-versa. Remember that anyone who has access to this key has access to your data – so you need to make sure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.  You can minimise the risk of breach by asking your event tech provider to issue different API keys for different functions – for example, use one key to connect your system to the delegate section of your event app and another to connect it to the exhibitor section of your event app. Also, if you’re integrating with more than one system, ask for separate API keys for each integration (event app, CRM etc).  This way, if one of your API keys gets lost or exposed, you can revoke the key (which disables the integration) and set up a new one.  If you have one API key for all your integrations, then a data breach would lead to far more serious consequences for you and your organisation.

How Long Do You Keep My Data For?

In our survey, 54% of event planners said they use their event management systems as a permanent storage space for all their event data.  If you’re happy with your event tech provider’s data security policies, then keeping your data in the system after your event is complete is a good idea – especially if you don’t have adequate procedures to safeguard this data within your own organisation. Find out how long they keep this data on their servers, whether it is moved to other locations or servers and whether or not they delete it after a defined period of time.

Conclusion

Click to get in touchThere is no such thing as 100% security when it comes to safeguarding your data.  However, following best practices and taking the precautions outlined above can help you understand the risks involved and minimise the chances of a data breach.

To learn more about event technology security and how Eventsforce’s systems keep your data safe, read the related posts below or get in contact.

Written by Steve Baxter, CTO of Eventsforce

1 C&IT: Event Planners Don’t Understand Real Threat of Cyber Hacking