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AM2017 logo as doc banner
When our graphic designer, Kristin, first released the branding for the Society of Wetland Scientists’ (SWS) 2017 Annual Meeting, we all knew that the little tree frog that was featured was going to be a star. There had already been extensive discussion among the Society’s board as to the accuracy of the frog, in relation to the meeting’s destination: Puerto Rico. As a group of wetland enthusiasts, it made sense why they were so passionate about the frog’s geographical accuracy. With that conversation alone, it was clear that SWS had already embraced him as the unofficial mascot of the meeting; so, staff thought, “Why not just make it official?” From then on, the tree frog was at the center of all meeting promotions.

We started using the frog as a mascot as a way to promote different aspects of the meeting. At the end of each meeting-specific email, the frog spokesman would include an interesting fact about the meeting’s theme, field trips or hotel and convention spaces.

Humberto meetinginfo
In a similar way, we would use these “Did You Know” facts to promote Puerto Rico as a destination. While the Society of Wetland Scientists is an international association with over 3,000 members, most of membership resides in the continental United States. Therefore, most of our annual meetings do, as well. With that in mind, it was that much more important to support this year’s “destination” location.

Humberto passport
As members became more acquainted with the mascot through email, we determined that it was important to put a name to the face (plus, he was too cute not to name). And with the association already so invested in this little guy’s authenticity, it made sense to put the power in the membership’s hands.

Humberto namethefrog
We polled the membership on Facebook and Twitter, keeping it as simple as possible, by asking them to either comment on the Facebook post or tweet at us with #namethefrog. Admittedly, suggestions were hard to come by at first; however, once prominent members within the Society started submitting suggestions, others soon followed.

By hosting the contest via social media, we knowingly limited the member response. Yet, it was strategically marketed to encourage others to “like” and “follow” our social media pages. Those who had subscribed to our pages were then rewarded by having the privilege to vote for the frog’s name.

Humberto votethefrog

In the end, SWS cared just as much for the authenticity of the frog’s name as they did for his physical form. “Humberto” was chosen specifically for its connection to the Spanish word for wetland: humedal.

Humberto name
We used the momentum from the #namethefrog contest to create Humberto’s own Twitter account. Those facts that we had been including in the meeting emails were then also highlighted as #frogfacts on Twitter. While the account was specifically created to promote the annual meeting, we’ve since used it to cross-promote other SWS event and marketing campaigns. For instance, to celebrate Earth Day, we’re encouraging followers to share and tag us in their Earth Day photos, using #SWSEarthDay. To kick off this initiative, we had Humberto share one of his photos.

Humberto EarthDay
Social media, specifically Twitter, has enabled members to actively engage with Humberto. It has become a main source of meeting information and a direct line to ask meeting-specific questions. Any interaction helps to increase visibility, not only for the meeting, but for the Society, as well.

Humberto cousin
Humberto was originally intended to be an outlet for relaying important meeting information, organically. He has since formed a personal brand that has helped reinforce the overall brand of the 2017 meeting, and to some extent, rebrand the Society of Wetland Scientists, as a whole. SWS will always be a professional society, focused on wetland science, but its membership has shaped the Society into one that appreciates fun, too.

Mascots won’t work for every association, nor will they help for every meeting. In this case, from his inception, SWS was invested in this frog. Members’ dedication to accuracy, paired with their willingness to embrace his mascot status, made this marketing campaign successful.

 

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panic button

If you’re a seasoned association conference planner, you’ve undoubtedly experienced some sort of last-minute disaster at your conference, or shortly before it. If you haven’t, don’t worry; the conference powers-that-be will surely test your sanity at some point. It’s only a matter of time!

Last week, our team of experienced conference planners was faced with possibly the worse situation I’ve heard of in my time in the association industry. There we were, in the middle of a three-day technical seminar and everything was going fantastic. Attendance and participation were on target. The speakers were doing a great job during our general sessions. The food and beverages were delicious. Nothing could stop us at this point, right? Wrong.

The night before the final day of the technical seminar the phones started to ring. It was our speakers, sitting in airports, trying to find a flight to our location because theirs had been cancelled due to inclement weather. Not one, not two, but three of our speakers for the final day had to cancel. Mind you, they were the only three speakers that day. There we were, just about to head to dinner, and now we had try and Houdini our way out of this mess. Somehow, we had to come up with three speakers to fill three to four hours of general sessions the very next morning. Over the next five hours, via countless emails and trips to any available outlet to charge our phones, our able team lined up three new speakers to fill the entire day’s agenda.

Here’s how we pulled it off:

1. Tap into those already onsite
One of the first things we did was reach out to those on the Board of Directors who were attending. We knew that they would have a vast knowledge of anyone onsite who might be able to present. Keep in mind that in nearly every industry, and at nearly every conference or seminar you’re going to have other professionals who have done speaking engagements. Get the word out that you’re looking for speakers to fill a spot and you’ll be amazed at how many people have access to presentations they have already prepared, and are willing to help.

2. Reach out to your local contacts and resources
No matter where you are, more than likely there are professionals from your industry who are based near the event. Reach out to them to see if they or anyone from their organization would be willing to speak. This can be quite fruitful because little to no travel is required. Make sure to let any potential speakers know that you are open-minded to the topic (keeping in mind, of course, your association’s guidelines for speakers).

3. Use available technology
If your speaker isn’t able to make it due to travel glitches, see if he feels comfortable giving the presentation electronically. One of our stranded speakers was able to present remotely using GotoMeeting.com. It actually worked pretty seamlessly. One thing to note if you go this route is to make sure your venue has the technical capabilities to pull it off. We were extremely lucky to have the expertise of onsite A/V professionals. They were able to get things set up about an hour before the presentation was scheduled.

All in all, we were very fortunate things turned out so well. Having an amazing team like we do, who didn’t panic in the face of adversity, was key. We were also lucky enough to have a great Board of Directors willing to help at a moment’s notice. Their experience and their contacts in the industry really opened up the pool of possible replacements. If you plan enough conferences and events, something like this will happen to you. Just remember to keep calm, and plan on.

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badge on demand

As my wonderful colleague Brittany Marsala Olson suggested in her recent blog post [March 23, 2017], once you make the transition to badge-on-demand printing, you’ll never go back. I agree so strongly that I decided to rave about it, too! As excited as I am about how smooth the onsite registration attendee experience was, I am even more excited about how this technology changed staff’s experience as well.

1. No more organizing badges onsite – No more badge organizers, no more alphabetizing, no more pulling VIP badges or badges with open invoices, and no more printing badges onsite for last minute registrations. As you might suspect, this saves you A LOT of time to focus on other things – like stuffing registration bags, organizing your daily signage and making sure your speakers have everything they need.

2. No more fussy reprints – Is an attendee’s name in all caps? Was their name misspelled? Did they lose their badge the night before during your awesome welcome reception? Having on-demand badge printing eliminates the hassle of juggling reprints with limited badge stock on a foreign printer and trying to remember which way to load the tray.

3. No more guessing and counting – This one is my personal favorite. When you move to this registration model, you have access to amazing data collected when your attendees check-in. Instead of an attendee walking up to the registration counter and giving you their name, they are given a personalized QR code and registration ID for check-in. Having that assigned information allows the system to track when they check in. This is powerful information when applied to your whole meeting and it gives you important statistics for planning future meetings. You can track how many of your attendees checked in, how many did not and who those attendees are. You can see what date and time registration check-in was the busiest. You can see how many attendees staff assisted and how many onsite registrations you had per hour - which leads me to my next point…

4. No more paper registration forms – With our badge on demand partner, Expo Logic, the kiosks allow for check-in and badge printing for both pre-registered attendees and onsite registrations. This was a huge improvement from last year where staff processed onsite registrations. While it was amazing to have roughly 100 onsite registrations in 2016, it required the use of paper registration forms just to keep the lines moving and staff spending hours processing those registrations so that we could print their badges and assign their registration IDs. With the new setup, registrants entered their own registration information quickly on the self-registration screens and then our system printed and assigned registration IDs for us in real-time, freeing staff to assist registrants with questions.

5. No more data clean-up for badge printers – Our vendor offers integration with AMS or registration systems, which means that your registration information automatically flows to their system for on-demand badge printing. This eliminates the need to pull a final registration report after online registration closes and spend hours formatting your data before sending the information to a badge printer. It also means that the onsite registration and payment data flows back into your AMS or registration system. We were unable to use their full integration this year, so we still had to dedicate time to data clean-up, (as advised by the data expert at Expo Logic, because in his words “garbage [data] in, garbage [data] out”), but the clean-up took place within our registration system. We understand how powerful the full integration is and are excited to see what next year will bring. Regardless, clean-up was much easier than it had been previously and some of the stress was taken out of the process knowing that reprints would be hassle-free.

The badge-on-demand printing service was convenient, seamless and efficient onsite for both attendees and staff and I whole-heartedly agree with Brittany when she said that it is “AN. ABSOLUTE. MUST.” I am excited to continue using this technology and hopefully implementing it for all of our clients!

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buddy

When you take a new position at a new organization, you’re always filled with mixed emotions. You’re excited for the new opportunities and challenges that await, and, at the same time, maybe just a little unsure of making the change from your previous position. The fear of the unknown has a way of constantly reminding you that you’re only human. Anyone who has ever started a new job can attest to feeling so many mixed emotions that you’re not quite sure of how you truly feel for the first few days.

I was no different when I made the switch earlier this week from a position with Omnipress, a great organization in the association industry, to AMPED Association Management, an emerging leader in the association management industry. I was fortunate to have an existing relationship with many of AMPED’s great staff, but, admittedly, there was still some of that nervousness of making a big career change.

Here I sit at the end of just my second day with the organization, and I couldn’t be happier. How was the team here able to welcome someone so quickly and make him feel at home?

Teamwork: The very first meeting I was a part of here at AMPED was a weekly team meeting of the entire staff. Everyone welcomed me with a big smile and got right to work. We went around the room and shared the three main things that each person was working on. Before the first few people were finished, several others had raised their hands and volunteered to help with their projects. Now remember, these are people who already have full plates, voluntarily offering help to fellow coworkers in order to get the job done correctly and on-time. Incredible!

Pride: One of the greatest things I’ve witnessed is the bottomless pride that everyone takes in their work. In the world of association management companies, it’s all about representing the client associations and making them look good. I quickly noticed the pride that AMPED takes in making this happen. For AMPED, it’s more than “client work.” It’s our work. We don’t represent your association. We are your association.

Good People: This one sounds like something a new employee at any company would say, but there’s a distinct difference when it comes to our staff. Each and every person who works here, full or part-time, is a genuinely good person. They care about each other, their clients and the industry as a whole, and truly want to make everyone around them better. When’s the last time you were able to say every person you work with on a daily basis is truly a good person?

Do you want to know the best part of the good people who work here? They’re all incredibly talented! Each has his or her own area of expertise that contributes to the overall skill-set of the staff. Not any single person is more important -- or treated that way -- than the other. It truly is a team atmosphere of some of the best people you’ll meet.

While these are just a few reasons I feel at home here, they’re also why associations choose to work with AMPED in the first place, and continue to do so year after year. If you or your association has ever considered a partnership with AMPED, I strongly suggest you give our team the chance to make you feel at home, as well. I have no doubt that you’ll quickly see why the AMPED team is different in the most positive way possible.

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 ACTRIMS 197

No matter the size and scope of your meeting, it is crucial attendees have a positive experience from start to finish. Put yourself in your participant’s shoes. Imagine the steps the attendee will take from the moment they arrive at the venue until they check-in at registration to collect their materials. Here are a few pointers to make your meeting’s first impression “wow” your guests!

1. Invite your show decorator to attend your pre-planning meeting. They will be producing and installing your registration area, signage and any custom branding in your meeting space. Having them walk the space with you and develop/visualize the plan together in real time prior to the event. It will streamline all communication going forward and save you both time in the end!

2. Assure your guests that they have arrived in the right place. Have branding that is easily visible as guests enter the venue lobby. This can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Signage may do the trick or consider custom branding in areas like behind the hotel reservation check-in desks or other prominent areas.

3. When considering branding, keep in mind that money is not always the answer. Sure, you could sell every square foot available to a sponsor for their advertising – but hold on to some of that prime visibility to promote your organization and the event you have worked so hard to host. The possibilities are endless: project a gobo of your organization’s logo on the wall, work with your show decorator to produce wall clings showcasing the program, etc.

4. Build upon the space you have and think outside the box. For example, during a recent event our registration area was a circular space. Having standard straight counters would have looked odd in the area so we capitalized on the round shape with a round registration counter. It was a perfect fit and looked like it was made for the space!

5. Counter height registration counters are the best! Having your registration staff sitting at a counter-height stool rather than in a chair puts them at the same level as the attendee standing on the opposite side of the counter. Much more conducive to conversation!

6. Practicality is key – literally! Another pro of having counter-height registration counters is being able to incorporate counter-height storage units that LOCK! We did this recently. Essentially, the registration counters alternated between counters with open bottoms and closed storage units. It was amazing. We could store our registration materials overnight. No having to pack up, bring materials to the staff office, and haul everything out again the next day to setup again.

7. Don’t force it. If what you originally had in mind isn’t fitting with the space, get creative! One of our programs historically incorporated a traditional exhibit hall entrance unit into their design. However, this wasn’t an option in the space during their most recent event due to the numerous doorways and various bump outs along the entrance hallway. We brainstormed with our show decorator, Freeman, and came up with the solution of tower light boxes. Think 3D double-sided vertical banners (but bigger!) that light up. It was eye catching and a great way to display meeting information such as instructions for accessing the conference mobile app.

8. Badge on demand printing. AN. ABSOLUTE. MUST. Trust me, once you do, you will never go back to the old ways of manually printing name badges. We recently partnered with Expo Logic for this service for a client event and the result was even better than we had hoped! Attendees received a final confirmation that included tips and tricks for travel and making the most of their attendance, as well as a custom QR code to print or download to their smart phone. Once they arrived at registration they could go straight to the “pre-registration” counters and scan their QR code to print their badge. No problem if they forgot to bring their QR code! Just enter the last name on the touch screen. That’s it. Just like magic. The badge printed in about three seconds. No lines and it frees up your meetings staff to focus on the event and registrant needs. Win, win! Plus first-time registrants can register onsite and print their badge, too!

9. Layard trees are a must. No more tangled messes. Hang the lanyards neatly on the trees, attendees grab their lanyard after they print their badge at the badge on demand station and that’s that!

10. Is all the registration swag needed? Of course each group is different, but I would encourage you to evaluate if your attendees are really the clientele that will bring the registration bag and all the other gear home with them to actually use it after the meeting. We moved away from all of the giveaways for many of our groups. We had great success when we introduced a notebook that outlined the program, recognized award winners, provided instructions for accessing the meeting wifi, etc. and also featured several notes pages to document all the great takeaways of the meeting education!

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