5 More Tips From Event Experts
A couple of weeks ago we gave you 5 tips to make a perfect event.
After considering at the obvious aspects of organising a conference such as location, budget and cake, we asked team to give us advice on the things that do not immediately come to mind in the planning stages of an event along with one or two reasons why Leeds is the perfect place to hold anything from a day meeting to a large residential conference.
So without further ado, here are 5 more steps to event heaven!
5. Get Social
Online social platforms are fundamentally changing the way we work and promote our services to our customers, and in turn how event organisers work and promote their event. Now, we don’t want to teach anybody or their grandmother how to suck eggs; most people are well versed in good form on social platforms, but we are ever generous and willing to share what we have learned so far in our travels on the ever changing digital landscape for those that are new to the scene.
At MEETinLEEDS we are increasingly exploring how social media sites can enable us to communicate our messages to a growing audience. We believe that this kind of interaction can help us to build stronger and more successful relationships with the people who use our facilities. It is also a way for us to take part in larger conversations related to the work we are doing and talk about the things that we care about, like this very blog.
Your social media output should be appropriately honourable to the identity you wish to promote and the image you have worked so hard to create in the mind of your delegates. Sometimes this advice is ignored, and can lead to less than satisfactory results.
Don’t see this as an attempt to put the fear of god in you: contributing to online social discussions is a great opportunity for you to inform delegates and the wider public what you are doing in the build-up, during and after an event.
Most event managers we speak to are familiar with the benefits of using social media and understand how important it is as a tool to promote their conference, but it’s easy to miss a few things that might not seem important.
Here are a few general tips to guide you through the minefield:
Don’t miss out on the conversation: You might not think that people are talking about you on social media. They are! Keep track of the conversation with one simple hashtag and promote it everywhere. Most events end up with at least two or three variations that dilute the conversation and make it harder than it needs to be.
Plan who will manage your social accounts: Marketing teams are great at managing networks before the event but it may be that there are customer-focussed individuals with more time, and expertise in the event, who can take over whilst it’s happening.
Don’t forget that you’re providing a customer service: It’s easy to get carried away promoting your event and pushing sales-led messages but the reality is that a lot of people follow your event account to find out ‘where to register’ or ‘where lunch is’. Treat your accounts as a way of providing another service to your customers and help them out!
4. Brand New
Thinking of your conference as a brand is a helpful way to assess the overall message you want your event to convey, how consistently you are applying this and how appealing it is to potential delegates. After all, the object of any event is to get as many attendees as possible!
A consistent brand identity is extremely important not only for aesthetic value, but how you want the brand to be perceived – how it is actually perceived is the brand image. It is everything to do with the branding of the event: the name, the logo, banners, name badges, place cards, social media accounts, the website… In short; anything visible associated with the event or conference.
All of the above platforms need to convey the same message, but careful consideration must be made about where your delegates will interact with your brand and what it will tell them.
For example, you are running a major event; let us call it the Greek Inspired Traditional Games. It has a history of inclusivity, of pushing the limits of human determination, and the competitors (mostly, you would imagine) will have a balanced diet that is commensurate to their endeavours. Who do you choose as a major sponsor, the brand of which is shown hand in hand around the globe with yours? That’s right; no-need-to-chew-speedy-food.
The disparity between the intended message built into the brand identity (determination, overcoming odds, personal and national achievement, inclusivity, competition) and what is received in the image (obesity, animal cruelty, monopolisation, fetishisation of childhood) is obviously out of kilter.
We can help you to avoid this mistake, as Tasha Rahanu, Event Manager at MEETinLEEDS, explains:
“If you take on the Event Management package, MEETinLEEDS will source quotes and mock ups of what your event merchandise, including bags, programmes, and signage will look like for your event. We work with our friends at the University of Leeds Print & Copy Bureau to provide everything you need for consistent brand identity for your event. We will also place orders and arrange invoices and delivery to make everything as easy as possible for you.
A prime example of this is the International Medieval Congress, an annual event at the University of Leeds which attracts over 2,000 delegates from all over the world. Everything about the event is in keeping with the theme of the conference, from the inclusion of medieval food and drink to the programme and banners – planning the conference as a brand creates a cogent, clear and consistent event.
I always love it when a conference has a strong brand identity, I don’t know if it is because each one is unique, or because it just reminds me of a children’s party, when I used to have ‘My Little Pony’ tablecloths and matching plates!”
3. Be Accommodating
To steal a line from the legendary Marvin Gaye: wherever we lay our hat, that is our home. This being said we expect certain things of our home from home.
First of all, we want to be within walking distance of the actual conference, along with the amenities for our extra-curricular activities, as we are always looking out for the environment and insist on keeping the wear on the soles of our shoes to a minimum.
We want Wi-Fi, we want it free and we want it now. We can’t do without constant access to our social accounts! Where would we get our fix of cute kittens and talking dogs? We also want wired internet, because our laptop looks a bit like this one. Except the crank-up wheel is bigger.
We need a 24 hour reception, not to complain, but just in case we need to chat to someone and Twitter just will not do.
The accommodation also needs to be fully accessible, preferably with a choice of bedroom that is fully accessible and falls within the criteria set by the National Accessible Scheme.
Finally, we want staff that are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.
We know, we do not ask for much. To paraphrase marvelous Marvin again: good accommodation ain’t easy to come by.
At MEETinLEEDS we have a range of accommodation options to cater for all budgets and requirements: from our Oxley Residences, which are perfect for Summer Schools and Sports Training Camps, to Storm Jameson Court, our state-of-the-art on campus residence built in 2010, which is just a few minutes’ walk from Leeds City Centre. We also have accommodation for Residential Events and fully Self-Contained Conferences, and a friendly team who are happy to help you find the perfect venue.
We have year round accommodation available at very competitive prices in Storm Jameson Court; a building that carries the highest possible accreditation under all categories of the National Accessible Scheme (NAS), with 20 fully accessible bedrooms, along with the Gold Award for Sustainable Green Tourism. The stylish bedrooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, data access, room safes, and free internet (Wi-Fi and cabled access). Rooms are arranged to include a lounge and kitchen with every five or six bedrooms, which is equipped with comfortable seating and a plasma screen with IPTV facility.
2. The Leisure Principle
Sport and leisure facilities are more important to delegate experience than ever before, and to paraphrase Spud in his interview in “Trainspotting”: the top sports and fitness facilities take pleasure in other people’s leisure.
It is a simple truth: the best leisure facilities care about their users and have members of staff that take pride in the service they provide. But, having a team of staff that are knowledgeable and motivational is useless if it’s not coupled with state-of-the-art amenities.
If MEETinLEEDS were a conference delegate (which we have been on numerous occasions) we would like to wake up on the morning of the conference, get the juices flowing in the largest fitness suite of any UK university, warm down with a couple of lengths in the swimming pool (we try to adhere to the lanes, but the turbulence caused by our doggy crawl tends to encumber our vision), wind down with a nice relax in the sauna and then finish with a good cappuccino, as long as it is before 10:00am. Then, and only then, are we ready for the day ahead.
A relaxed and invigorated delegate is more likely to engage with the content of the conference and with other attendees, helping to lend a convivial atmosphere to the proceedings. Relaxation also helps to boost your memory, lowers the risk of catching a cold (you don’t want an epidemic to ruin your day!) and helps you make better decisions – Sticky Barbeque Chicken Skewer or Fresh Grilled Salmon Fish Fingers?.
It’s all about making the most of your time at a conference and what better way to spend your ‘down time’ than burning calories and releasing some endorphins? As a conference delegate at the University of Leeds you can visit The Edge, our outstanding campus fitness facility, and access to the following and more: Leeds’ largest indoor sports halls with performance sports floors and lighting; a fantastic 25m 8 lane swimming pool with poolside sauna and steam room; the largest fitness suite of any UK university boasting 250 pieces of state-of-the-art equipment; 3 dedicated class studios with up to 140 classes per week including Yoga, Body Pump and Keiser Cycle; 80 route bouldering and climbing wall; and a whole range of additional facilities for our customers to enjoy 52 weeks of the year!
If only this was free for every conference delegate…
1. The Right People for the Job
Everyone has been the victim of poor customer service, no exceptions.
Selecting a conference venue which offers the services of competent staff is one of the best decisions you could make. Delivering a successful conference where delegates are impressed is the best advocate a business could wish for. Conference staff play a massive role as they will not only facilitate the day, but will also accommodate any last minute changes (additional photocopying, room changes, customer requests…). These are the things that people remember, therefore if the conference venue staff are friendly, helpful and flexible, it will create an overall more positive experience for your delegates.
However, even the friendliest and most deferential staff can be an annoyance if thoroughly benighted, as shown by Geoff Tooley, our Health & Safety Training Manager in this entertaining blog.
Over to Geoff:
“I said this before in my blog above, but I will say it again: Having looked at what customer care training is available it seems most providers use exactly the same template. It can lead to infuriating circumstances when you have a problem or concern that a member of staff tries to remedy with a blanket response they have memorised from a training manual.
In the case of a conference or event, this can lead to you, as the organiser, wasting valuable time on a situation that could be dealt with by a competent, caring and responsible individual.
At the University of Leeds, and in turn at MEETinLEEDS, we employ people who have the ability to communicate naturally and also respond as individuals, as well as displaying our values. I am not convinced all the training in the world can change attitude if it is wrong in the first place.”