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Badges on-demand: A game changer for attendees and staff

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

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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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Marketing automation: Using sequenced emails to onboard new members

hello phone

Welcoming new members into an association is exciting! Their new ideas, enthusiasm and fresh approaches add a lot to the vitality and dynamism of an organization. When it comes to welcoming new members, one of our first priorities as association professionals is to make sure they feel engaged and encouraged to participate in ways that are meaningful to them. To accomplish this, it is important to get to know new members and to take the time to understand their backgrounds, experiences and values and then use that knowledge to help them personalize a membership experience that works for them.

It is also important to develop a new-member onboarding process that is both dynamic and effective. To enhance our already robust new-member onboarding process, I have recently been developing a series of automated emails to send to new members during the first few months of membership. This project is still in the development stage – we have yet to implement the emails. But I wanted to share my approach.

My first step was to evaluate our entire process and how the new email sequence would fit into that process. After all, our new emails are intended to complement and enhance our existing welcome messaging. To evaluate whether the email sequence would accomplish this goal, I asked myself some basic questions: Would adding this component improve the effectiveness of our communications with new members? Would reaching out to new members in this way help them feel involved in the association and welcomed? Do the new communications reinforce our intended messages without being redundant?

Once I had determined that the new email sequence would provide value to our process, I turned my attention to the substance of our messages. When I began composing the emails I decided to work with content we already use in existing new member communication. This serves dual purposes – it saves time by not requiring us to draft messages from scratch and, more importantly, it reinforces the messaging we already have. Since we know the topics highlighted in our existing messages are of interest to new members, the emails provide an opportunity to present the information in a fresh way. We have added a bit of new content and tried to customize some of our messaging to specific membership categories. However, the bulk of our email content mirrors existing messaging. My hope is that by introducing members to certain topics in multiple formats (such as an email and then a mail piece) they’ll be more likely to take notice of and act on the information being shared.

With our messaging in place my current area of focus is implementation. I am very conscious that our members are busy working professionals with their own hectic schedules. Since we are establishing an automated sequence of emails, my primary consideration is setting up the system in a way that avoids potentially inundating members with too much too soon. We want the emails to be spaced so that they capitalize on a new member’s enthusiasm, while allowing them enough time to take in the information being presented. Emails sent too close together might overwhelm the member. However, spacing the emails too far apart runs the risk of the messages getting buried in a busy inbox.

I am thinking very carefully about the best approach to sending these emails. One idea I’ve had is setting up each email in the sequence to be sent based on action taken from the previous email. For example, our first email encourages new members to visit a certain online community and they receive the second email only after they have visited that community. Whatever the implementation approach ends up looking like, I will be paying close attention to member feedback and adjusting as needed over time.

What are your experiences with new member onboarding? Have you worked with automated email sequences or other automation tools? I would certainly welcome your thoughts or advice!

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