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First Impressions matter: 10 tips to design a killer registration experience

 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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Convo: An app to keep staff connected in and outside the office

convo

We live in an app-dependent world these days. Whether it’s Doodle to help determine a meeting time, Evernote to help us remember what might otherwise be a fleeting thought, or Google Drive to give us instant access to our most important documents, we’re relying on apps more and more these days. On our desktops and mobile devices alike.

Apps help us stay organized, stay on task, and perhaps, most importantly, stay connected. While many social media platforms can provide a great distraction if used during the work day, there are other apps that help keep you connected to those who are most important during the workday…your coworkers! As someone who works remotely part of the time, I rely heavily on Convo to keep me in the loop about what’s happening back in the office while I’m away.

From important office-related news like phones being down for maintenance, to non-work, but equally important news like treats in the break-room, Convo provides a platform for relaying messages that make everyone feel they are in the office (minus the fact that they may be missing out on those treats if they’re working remotely, of course).

With a main page feed, similar to Facebook, Convo posts are public by default and may be seen by the entire staff. You can tag specific people to ensure they don’t miss your post, or make it only visible to specific people if it’s not necessary to include the whole team.

Additionally, you can create private, client-specific groups, adding only select people. The different groups are easily navigable on the Convo interface.

Convo chat allows you to communicate one-on-one with a coworker you might be assisting, or group chat if you need to have a conversation with a smaller team of coworkers.

Convo can be integrated with your company Facebook, Twitter, etc. so that all posts make it to each individual platform in real time.

Accessible on desktop and mobile, Convo doesn’t clutter up your email, keeps you connected, and can facilitate camaraderie, even with remote employees.

What apps is your association or AMC using to keep the whole team connected when, physically, they are not?

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How to grow and retain event sponsors

we love sponsors

If you don’t like “cold-calling,” consider these tactics to help you get sponsorships:

  1. Get the most popular person in your organization to help you solicit sponsors.
  2. Call up last year’s donors.
  3. Post sponsor logos prominently on all correspondence and event materials. This will prompt non-sponsors to think about benefits of exposure.
  4. Announce new sponsors on social media.
  5. Treat every email, phone call and contact as a potential sponsor.

Other things to consider:

Keep the sponsors in mind during the planning phase. When doing your event planning, recognize that corporate sponsorship is a form of brand advertising. The basic intention of sponsorship is to conjure up positive associations between the corporate brand and clients. This is done by naming events or showcasing corporate logos in promotions leading up to and during the event.

Create a sponsorship prospectus. Always be sure to document, in detail, how each sponsor will benefit from their level of commitment.

Write your proposal highlighting the type of people who will be participating in the event, the theme, and the potential sponsorship and marketing opportunities available. The prospectus should be styled to appeal directly to the type of companies who will sponsor.

Connect with sponsors after the event. Send a thank you letter or email, brief them on the activities that their sponsorship funded, or detail how their contributions were used and how you promoted their support at the event.

Post photos of the sponsored events on social media in real time, then, send these photos to the sponsor as a follow-up.

Ask for suggestions on improvement for future events.

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Live chat for associations: How to incorporate it into your member engagement strategy

live chat quote

We all want instant answers when we go online, and our members (prospective and existing) are no different. B2B and B2C companies have long known that quick service enhances the customer experience, leaving a positive overall impression. That’s why live chat has become so popular in online commerce. Live chat may not be new in the for-profit world, but for most resource-strapped, small/medium staff associations and AMCs, it is. 

According to Insite Software, live chat on your website can directly lead to “better member engagement, higher conversion and member satisfaction.”

  1. Live chat increases conversions by 20%. Live chat helps answer customer questions, removes buying objections and results in a more confident consumer.
  2. Customers who chat are three times more likely to buy. Live chat provides a method for more direct and personal interaction with customers, resulting in an increased likelihood that they will make the purchase.
  3. Live chat improves customer satisfaction levels. Chat offers customers a more immediate way to get their questions answered. As a result, customers walk away from the interaction feeling more satisfied and positive about your brand. While percentages may vary by industry, it is clear live chat’s instant gratification increases satisfaction and shortens the sales cycle. Data shows that as many as 59% of people who would have otherwise called, were completely satisfied with their online interaction.

Live chat for associations
For associations, live chat can lighten the load of your call center and administrative staff. Plus, because live chat is mobile friendly, association staff can easily monitor activity and answer questions anytime, anywhere. That doesn’t mean live chat requires 24/7 chained-to-a-desk service. Many companies staff their chat during business hours only and offer the option to leave a message in the off hours. This is totally acceptable. 

An added bonus to being instantly accessible is the ability to see where your web visitors come from (a Google search or referring site) or what organization they are with. It’s gratifying when you recognize returning visitors by name.

Most live chat services are relatively inexpensive, starting $5 or $10 per month. Many have a free trial or “freemium” model. Some even integrate seamlessly with Wordpress, Hubspot, Salesforce, and other online tools you’re already using.

Enhancing member satisfaction
Live chat gives our staff the opportunity to engage with our members in real time. Thanks to a small piece of code that I installed on our association website, I’m alerted instantly when (“Ding!) a member is having login problems that cannot be fixed by the “Forgot Password” button, (“Ding!”) a member has a question about completing his online profile, and (“Ding!”) a prospective member has some questions before submitting an application for membership.

With live chat, I enjoy being able to quickly help our members go about their business with usually little impact on my day. In my experience, most of the interactions involve some online technical issue, finding a resource for a member or nurturing a potential sponsor or member relationship. Like any good customer experience, listening and providing decisive help is key.

If you use live chat, you will notice patterns in the questions you get. They may help identify problems with your website, conference registration site or learning management system. Perhaps a web page is confusing or lacks some information. Share what you learn with your marketing or web person to ensure that information or the customer-flow through your website is optimized.

While some days are busier than others and it appears as though I am falling down a rabbit hole of busy work, I know that, with live chat, I am directly affecting the bottom line of the association by enhancing customer satisfaction — for only a bit of labor and little if any monthly fee.

Source: B2B Marketing, American Marketing Association, Pekala, Nancy

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Checklist for awesome content promotion through social reach

social mediaAs part of my responsibilities with one of our clients, I coordinate a media placement program. The program works to facilitate exposure for both our client association and its members by helping industry publications find member experts to fill specific media needs. Our client enjoys a great relationship with leading industry media groups who love to quote or otherwise feature members as industry experts.

This process of placing members in the media consists of two primary work flows. In our primary method, editors and reporters from industry media titles are looking for insights, quotes or case study information from our members on a given topic. I present the publicity opportunity in our online membership community and anyone interested can participate. Alternatively, association members have ongoing opportunities to write blog posts or recurrent columns on topics of their choosing.

It’s awesome for our members to receive mention in these publications and on the associated websites. It helps them build both name recognition and credibility with their end-user client target base. Helping to facilitate these placements and media relationships is a tremendous benefit of membership in this particular association. In addition, we do request that placements we curate mention our members as such – members of our association, so that we build name recognition and credibility as an association, as well.

This is an impactful, and growing, program. But once the placement is published, the work isn’t done. There are ways to amplify the content’s reach to maximize everyone’s exposure for their effort made.

After a member receives coverage or mention in the press, we announce the placement in our online community for members, and across all of our association social media channels. We also provide the following suggestions for members to make the most of their networks and maximize their exposure:

  • Include the media placement as a news-worthy item in an email or as one item in your regular e-newsletter, distributed to your company’s email list. Include a link to the article!
  • Add the piece, with a link to it, to your company blog or news section of your website. Make sure the content is easy for readers to promote themselves by adding social share buttons to the post.
  • Add the piece, with a link to it, to your company profile in any industry-related online communities or directories.
  • Post a link on your company’s Facebook page. Tag the people and organizations mentioned in the article.
  • Post a link to your company’s Twitter page, including:
    - A mention @reporter or @publication and @association (some will re-tweet). Include a “.” before each @mention so that the tweet will appear to everyone, not just followers.
    - Hashtags #association, #member (if you have one) and #publication.
  • Post a link to your company’s LinkedIn page. Again, tag/mention anyone else referenced in the article.
  • Post a link to these other areas in LinkedIn: company, personal, personal update, appropriate LinkedIn Groups, and LinkedIn Blog. Include a short explanation in each case. Tag/mention people and companies involved. The others you tag might like and share your update!
  • Similarly, post a link to your company’s Instagram, Google+ or any other social media accounts not yet mentioned.
  • Make an impromptu video (just using your phone or tablet will suffice) with the media placement in hand. It’s OK to show off! Show off the print magazine/issue or show the screen with the article on it. Post the video across all the channels mentioned above.
  • Consider pulling snippets (brief quotes or other poignant points and tidbits) out of the placement and pushing them out over a period of time via your social media for ongoing, refreshed promotion of the placement.
  • Encourage employees to share the news of your organization’s media coverage via their personal social media. More and more companies are doing this by establishing an employee advocacy program.

If both the featured member and our association work to promote and drive traffic to the placement on the media outlet’s website, it can help land the piece on that publication’s “Top 5” list, which, you guessed it, drives even more exposure for member and association. It’s a true win (for the member)-win (for the association)-win (for the publication)!

Please comment below: What strategies work well for you in expanding your content promotion and social reach?

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