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The exhibit program of AMPED's partner client, CSIA (Control System Integrators Association), has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, nearly doubling the number of exhibitors since 2009. How, you might ask? Well, much of this success can be attributed to staff’s commitment to building relationships with new exhibitors and sponsors while continuously strengthening long-standing connections. Sure there are plenty of articles out there with tips for evaluating exhibition effectiveness, but the fact is that a strong meetings team is engaged with attendees and therefore is naturally in tune with how the participant experience is shaping up onsite. Listen to your exhibitors and, when considering a change, get their buy-in first. We did just that with CSIA’s exhibit program earlier this year.

Year-after-year, CSIA’s conference attendees say that the number one benefit of attending the annual meeting is networking among business leaders from all aspects of the industry. Well, if networking is one of the prime reasons to attend, shouldn’t the exhibit program reflect that, too? Anyone who has ever been on the exhibitor side understands how easy it is to become distracted by the entire process of setting up and dismantling your booth — making sure that all your shipments have arrived, tracking down someone to help you find any missing packages, unpacking, setting up, etc. Before your know it, it’s time to take everything down! The window for networking is closed all too quickly. That’s exactly why, this year, we proposed a kiosk-based exhibit model and it was a HUGE hit!

We pitched the idea to the volunteers of the partner committee who represent the exhibitor demographic at the annual conference. As soon as they heard the benefits, they were all in! We told exhibitors to keep it simple: bring your business cards, laptop or tablet for “virtual demos” and marketing collateral/giveaways if desired. Everything else would be there waiting for each exhibitor when they arrived, including a personalized prefabricated kiosk with custom graphics. Say goodbye to shipping costs, too! Leave the bulky demo equipment and booth displays at home. No need for the hard sales pitches either – just focus on making connections in a casual happy-hour type of atmosphere. Of course not every exhibitor was initially jazzed about this change; however, you know you've made a wise decision when even those who were skeptical compliment you on your brilliance during the show!

Moral of the story: be engaged, know your audience and get their buy-in. It’s a win-win for everyone in the end.

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But behind-the-scenes roles are equally important to pulling off a great event!

Wicked at the Omaha Orpheum theater

I was in Drama Club in school and one thing I remember our advisor telling us over and over is that every role is important. Whether on stage or behind the scenes, everyone has a part to play to create a successful production. Over the course of my career I have helped manage numerous client meetings and conferences. It is exciting and challenging work and an aspect of association management that I truly enjoy. There have also been many times when I have not been directly involved in the planning or on-site management of an event. Instead, I’ve found myself in more of a “behind the scenes” role back at the office. No matter what, I always want to be as helpful as possible so even if I am not directly involved in planning or traveling to the conference, I have found ways to contribute and help make an event great.

Stay informed: An upcoming client event usually means an increase in inquiries from potential attendees. Knowing as much as possible about the event is important in order to effectively and efficiently answer questions. In particular, make sure you are familiar with aspects of the event that are most likely to generate inquiries. Examples include registration policies, schedule highlights and sponsorship and exhibit opportunities. If there is an event website make sure it is bookmarked on your browser for easy access and that you are familiar with the information and where it is posted. If you are going to be processing registrations over the phone, familiarize yourself with the process and be aware of different registration options, fees and deadlines.

Offer assistance: Leading up to a conference there are numerous tasks to be accomplished, and the simple act of offering assistance or support can be incredibly helpful. Maybe you can help print name badges or pack up supplies. Even running out to grab lunch or a cup of coffee for a stressed colleague might make their day a little easier. During the event, make it a priority to stay in contact with colleagues who are on-site in case something comes up. Also, remember that the time immediately following a conference can be hectic, too. Catching up after having been away and dealing with the event wrap-up is a lot of work. If you have the time and opportunity to assist with post-meeting tasks such as unpacking or organizing and archiving conference files, definitely do so.

Take notes: Throughout the meeting planning and management process you may find yourself making mental notes about things that have worked exceptionally well or things that could be improved next time. Perhaps it’s a suggestion or comment you heard from multiple callers. It might be your own observation while navigating the website or processing registrations. Write these down! If you do end up with a list, make it a point to share it with your colleagues after the event is over. This is a useful exercise for everyone on the team and your notes may provide valuable insight when planning the next event.

Conference planning and management is a group effort and the advice my drama coach gave me definitely applies - every role is important. Whether on site or “behind the scenes” at the office, the ultimate goal is a successful event and everyone’s contribution matters!

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As an association management company, successful outcomes for our client meetings and conferences are often the result of partnerships forged across many industries. One such partnership that our organization places high value on is that with local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) in destinations that are being considered or have been selected to host our client events.

There are a plethora of resources available to planners in support of the skills necessary to execute a successful meeting, but few of them combine destination knowledge, local expertise and connections to leverage in-market relationships. CVBs offer a wealth of resources and are the experts of their destinations, making a planner’s job more efficient.

“I not only use the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”  — President Woodrow Wilson

A CVB’s role is to promote the long-term development and marketing of a destination, focusing on convention sales, tourism marketing and services to meeting planners and leisure travelers. They work with groups of all sizes and are a go-to resource for helping to connect with the right venues and businesses for successful events. In the initial phase of planning, they can also advise their customers about potential conflicts related to other events, major construction projects in the city and traveling into the destination. Especially helpful for long-term planning, CVB’s have a great understanding of which development projects are in the pipeline that could be an asset to an event.

AMPED recently engaged Destination DC, the local CVB in Washington DC to assist in the planning process for one of our client’s large citywide conferences taking place in 2020. This event will draw 12,000 attendees worldwide and use over 6,000 rooms on peak night — quite a large undertaking, even for our experienced planning staff! Meeting in our nation’s capital has multiple unique attributes no other city can offer. Here are a few valuable way in which we partnered with the CVB to assist us in the initial planning process:

Request for proposal distribution
Instead of doing research ourselves in an unfamiliar city, we sent our RFP to the CVB and asked them to distribute it to all hotels that would be willing to host the event based on specifications like location to convention center, meeting space requirements, hotel room accommodations and guest room rates. Their sales team understood the value of this meeting to the city and served as our advocate to the hotel community. They prepared a detailed RFP which generated over 30 responses from hotels interested in working with us.

Site inspections
After committing to hold the meeting in DC, we were ready to conduct a site visit to become familiar with the destination, visit potential hotels and meet with vendors. The CVB saved hours of planning by coordinating our itinerary for four days, including transportation to and from the airport, meeting with convention center staff, touring 15 hotels and off-site venues, showcasing area restaurants and arranging a city tour to see the highlights. Additionally, CVB staff arranged for multiple vendor interviews to assist us in our decision to find and work with the best suited partners based on our service requirements. In the end, the CVB staff provided us with undivided attention for our trip and arranged this visit with our priorities and needs at the forefront.

There are many other valuable ways to use the consultative services of the CVB to help succeed in other aspects of planning. They include services such as:

• Marketing of the conference
• Supply of promotional materials such as their visitors guides
• Printing and mailing services
• Sponsorship assistance
• Discount coupon programming
• Attendance-building
• Social responsibility
• Customized attendee website
• Housing and conference registration
• On-site staffing
• Access to image galleries

In summary, a good CVB is a true partner, an extension of our staff, and can become a great resource about a destination. CVBs want events to be successful in their city and engaging them as a strategic partner from the beginning helps puts us on a great path to success.

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Spring is full of travel for several members of the AMPED team. With client meetings across the country and site visits to future locations, our bags are packed frequently, and we’ve gathered some great travel tips along the way.

At our last client meeting, I received important advice for staff working onsite at a meeting: Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty and use the restroom before you have to go. It is easy to feel run down when you are constantly on the go but keeping this mind can help you stay energized and prepared for a long day.

And when it comes to packing, remember a few of these hacks:

  • To maximize space in your luggage, roll your clothes instead of folding them.
  • When packing clothes that wrinkle easily, lay the clothing flat inside a dry-cleaning bag, and then fold as normal. The plastic will prevent creases from setting in.
  • Pack a dryer sheet to help keep your clothes smelling fresh.
  • Space is premium in your suitcase so fill your shoes with socks or other small items.
  • Keep the dirty soles of your shoes away from your clothes by sticking them inside a shower cap.
  • Attach a binder clip over the blades of your razor to keep them protected.
  • Keep smaller jewelry in a pill container to keep them from moving around and organized.
  • Keep all your gadget cables in a sunglass case to keep them neat and tidy or use the case for necklaces and bracelets.
  • Pack a reusable, compact tote bag or plastic bag to stuff your dirty clothes into and keep away from clean clothes.

Other travel tips for your flight and hotel:

  • Leaving your car at the airport? Take a photo of your car’s location to help you find it when you return.
  • Pack an empty bottle and fill it up with water once you’re through security. It’s important to drink plenty of water before and during your flight.
  • Pack earplugs for your flight and hotel in case your neighbors are noisy.
  • To help stay germ-free, use disinfectant wipes to clean the airplane tray table, seat belt buckles and overhead air vents at your seat.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean your hotel room- especially spots like the remote control, alarm clock, sink and toilet. Or, for those of us who are extreme (like me), wrap the remote control in the ice bucket liner.
  • Pack a flashlight and check your hotel bed for bedbugs.
  • Bring flip flops or slippers to avoid picking up dirt on your feet from your hotel room floor.

With a little bit of planning, you can take the stress out of traveling and be prepared to enjoy your next trip. For even more packing hacks, check out this article and read Brittany’s blog post form last summer for healthy travel tips.

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We’re celebrating a job very well done. Several members of the AMPED team just returned from a hugely successful, first-ever stand-alone meeting for our client partner, ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis). To illustrate just how successful this three-day scientific event was, the original attendance forecast was 435. You can imagine the challenges and excitement that ensued when the numbers peaked at 629!

Yes, there was much applause and commendation when the meeting closed. But AMPED’s job isn’t done when the registrants go home. There are boxes to unpack, evaluations to review, sponsors to follow up with, and sites to visit for future meetings.

Watch what's next for the ACTRIMS meetings and support team:

  meeting video image"Our work here is done." NOT!

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