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Creating Memorable Conference Experiences

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 11, 2019

It takes a team effort to make conference experiences memorable for attendees, presenters and exhibitors/sponsors. All parties play an important role in the success and value of attending in person events.

Our Event Management and Marketing & Communications departments formed a Conference Success Team to help our clients improve the conference experience for speakers, sponsors/exhibitors and attendees by creating a resource landing page with all the resources to ensure a positive conference experience before, during and after an event.

The number-one priority is creating relevant content for each audience. So, it’s important to research trends in the profession, conduct a professional development assessment, review membership surveys and past conference surveys to use feedback to improve and enhance the conference experience. Doing it “the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it.

When you understand what your audience wants, you can then create the framework and tracks that will be the basis for your call for presenters. In addition to contact information, make sure you collect the following session information:

  • Presentation/Session Title (15-word limit)
  • Presentation/Session Description or Presentation (150-word limit)
  • Learning Objectives (require at least three)
  • Select Audience (for example: experience level, society type, organization size)
  • What keywords relate to your presentation topic? This is for search engine optimization as we promote the conference.
  • Provide a two-sentence promotion of your presentation for social media postings.

Getting this information at the beginning will provide the structure for the conference marketing plan.
Exhibitors and sponsors help keep the cost of conferences down for attendees and they also offer a way to make connections on business resources available to attendees. Creating value and ROI for exhibitors and sponsors creates value for the attendees.

The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) offers unique sponsorship opportunities that enhance the value for both the sponsor and the attendee. They also utilize cool technology at their conference such as a full LED wall with movable graphics, a Gobo light with logo sponsors and video. They also have a dedicated HEDNA TV Channel on YouTube that features conference sessions and helps promote future conferences, giving attendees access to the quality content that is delivered at the event.

HEDNA doesn’t have exhibitors but rather offers different types sponsorship opportunities to show unique value to the sponsors while enhancing the conference attendee experience. They have Nooks/Event pods branded with sponsor logos, offering the attendees a soundproof space with white boards, television monitors, videos and allowing for attendee conversations.


Example of nook/event pod with gobo lights (left) and coffee logo (right) at HEDNA LA 2019

Gobo lights make it possible to project sponsor logos on the walls. It’s a simple and effective way to enhance the conference experience at a reasonable price. In addition, they set up a HEDNA café with existing furniture in the hotel and a barista, featuring specialty coffees with the sponsor logo on top of the coffee froth.


Event app gamification example from Eventmobi

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) offers a variety of hotel signage and walls/door clings and gobos for conference sponsors as well. This year, PDMA will use gamification in their mobile app to engage attendees.
For the Qualitative Research Consultants Association and Recognition Professionals International, we launched a “Reporter on the Scene” program; members volunteered to fill out an online form for each session and these were developed into blog posts and other content.

At the conferences, we encourage attendees to use hashtags and provide social media tip sheets to get conversations going and keep them going year-round after the conference experience is over. A strong conference and in-person connections foster loyalty and year-round connections.

For attendees, we offer ways to connect with other attendees at the conference in meet-ups, connecting in the mobile app and offering interactive sessions. It’s also important to create time between sessions to allow for conversations, sharing and networking so that learning sticks and new connections are created.

Half of the population are introverts — so it’s important to offer a variety of ways to connect in the manner attendees want. We will share tips on how to get the most out of conferences in a future post.

Mindfulness and wellness activities — both in the workplace and at conferences — are also becoming more popular. Organized walks and runs, yoga or other exercises, healthy snacks and meditation tips are a great way to add new value for attendees that they can take home.

Create memorable conference experiences for your members before, during and after each event!

Tags:  conference  engagement  event planning  member engagement  success  tips 

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MUST-HAVE Event Formulas

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 3, 2019

Planning an event? Here are some MUST-HAVE event formulas from functional room set-ups to food and beverage formulas that will help you plan the perfect event!

I. FUNCTION ROOM SET-UPS

Reception

  • 9-10 sq. ft. per person (standard bar/hors d'oeuvres)
  • Rule of Thumb:  10 feet

Theatre

  • Less than 60 people = 12-13 sq. ft. per person
  • 60-300 people = 11-12 sq. ft. per person
  • 300+ people = 10-11 sq. ft. per person
  • Rule of Thumb:  10 feet

Theatre Notes:

  • Allow at least 24 inches of space between rows
  • If room is rectangular, set presenter to the long side
  • First row no closer than 2x screen height (2x8 rule)
  • Center section of seating no more than 14 chairs
  • 2 side aisles should be at least 4 feet wide

Schoolroom

  • General = 17-22 sq. ft. per person (18" tables - add 1 sq. ft. per person for 30")
  • Less than 60 people = 22-23 sq. ft. per person
  • 60-300 people = 20-21 sq. ft. per person
  • 300+ people = 17-18 sq. ft. per person
  • Allow 3.5' between rows
  • Rule of Thumb:  20 feet

Conference

  • 2-3 feet of table length per person

Banquet

  • 60 inch = 8-9 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • 66 inch = 9-10 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • 72 inch = 10-11 people (12.5-13.5 sq. ft. per person)
  • Rule of Thumb:  13 feet

Platforms (a.k.a. Risers)

  • Can be 6, 12, 16, 24 or 32 inches high
  • Usually 4x8 or 6x8 dimensions

General Function Room Set-Up Notes

  • All schoolroom and banquet tables are 30" high
  • Rectangular tables that are 6 or 8 feet long by 30" wide are used for U-Shape, Conference, etc.
  • Rectangular tables that are 6 or 8 feet long by 18" wide are used for schoolroom set-ups

II. CONTRACTS AND REGISTRATION

  • Standard Comp. Room formula = 1 per 50
  • One (1) registration personnel per 100 attendees

III. EXHIBITS

Square Footage

  • Apply 2x rule to determine total sq. ft. needed (two times total square feet of exhibit space)
  • 10x10 = 100 sq. ft. per booth
  • 8x10 = 80 sq. ft. per booth
  • Net square feet (needed for booths) x 2 (for aisles) = total sq. ft. needed for booth and aisles + square footage for ancillary services = total square footage needed

Standard (In-Line) Booth

  • 10' deep by 10' long or 8' deep by 10' long
  • Faces one aisle
  • 8' 3" maximum back wall height

Perimeter (Wall) Booth

  • 10' deep by 10' long or 8' deep by 10' long
  • Faces one aisle
  • 12' maximum back wall height

Peninsula Booth

  • Minimum of two standard booths, usually 4 or more
  • Faces three aisles
  • Usually 16' maximum wall height but depends on show rules

Island Booth

  • Bordered on all four sides by aisles
  • Faces four aisles
  • Usually 16' maximum wall height but depends on show rules
  • Rule of Thumb:  20'x20' (40 sq. ft.)

Exhibit Lighting

  • 70-110 foot candles to light an exhibit hall

Floor Load

  • 300 pounds per sq. ft. on ground floors
  • 50 pounds per sq. ft. on upper floors

IV. BUDGETING

BEU = Break Even Units = Number of Attendees
BEP = Break Even Price = Cost Per Attendee
VC = Variable Costs
TFC = Total Fixed Costs
CF = Contribution Margin (Registration Fee-VC)

ROI = (Gross Revenue − Gross Expenses) ÷ Gross Expenses × 100

BEU = TFC ÷ CF

BEP = (TFC ÷ # of people) + VC Per Person

TFC = # Attendees × $ Per Attendee

** To make a dollar profit, add the desired profit dollar amount to the TFC in the above equation.
*** To make a percentage profit, add $ per attendee to VC and multiply by desired percentage profit

V.  AUDIO VISUAL

Formula One - First row of seats and last row of seats (2x8 rule)

  • No one should be seated closer than 2x screen height
  • No one should be seated farther than 8x screen height

Formula Two - Minimum Ceiling Height

  • Screen height + 4 or 5 feet (minimum distance floor to screen bottom)
  • Rule of Thumb:  5 feet

Formula Three - Screen Width

  • Overhead = 1:1 (8x8, 10x10)
  • Multi Image = 1:3 (6x18, 8x24, 10x30)
  • Slide = 2:3 (6x9, 8x12, 10x15)
  • Video = 3:4 (6x8, 9x12, 10.5x14)

VI.  Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Compliance

General

  • Hallways and Corridors = 36" clearance and occasional spaces for turning/passes

Hotel Rooms

  • At least 2% barrier free; at least 1% of these having roll-in showers
  • Doors and hallways inside rooms have 32" clear openings
  • 32" clearance on at least one side of the bed
  • Sink mounted at least 29" above floor with toe clearance under drainpipe
  • Toilets no higher than 29"

Meeting Rooms

  • Doors have at least 32" clearance

Entrances, Corridors, Stairs

  • Approaches to building entrances at least 5' wide
  • Single door entrances minimum of 32" wide.
  • Double door entrances minimum of 48" wide

Elevators

  • Doors have 32" wide clearance
  • Space no greater than 1.25" between the floor and platform

Restaurants and Lounges

  • Self-service counters no more than 34" high
  • Aisle for buffets 36" wide

Public Restrooms

  • Flush controls no more than 44" from floor

Parking

  • Designated parking space within 200' of building
  • One designated space per 25 total spaces

Ramps, Curbs and Walks

  • Slope of all ramps is 1" of rise to every 12" of run
  • Ramps have 5' wide level landing at top and bottom

ADA Budget

  • 5-7 percent of overall accommodations budget

VII.  FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Continental Breakfast

  • One attendant and separate buffet table per 100 attendees
  • Breakpoint for second buffet = 120 attendees
  • Usually run 30 minutes to one hour

Full Breakfast Buffet

  • Usually runs about one hour

Refreshment Breaks

  • 30 minutes = minimum amount of time
  • One attendant per 100 attendees
  • Morning = 65% Hot/35% Cold
  • Afternoon = 35% Hot/65% Cold
  • 50-75% regular soft drinks
  • 25% diet soft drinks
  • Coffee = 20 cups per gallon
  • Coffee = 60% regular/40% decaf

Luncheons

  • Typical time = 1 hour 15 minutes to serve
  • Schedule 90 minutes

Banquets

  • Two hours per dinner service
  • Three bottles of wine per table of 8 (2 white and 1 red)
  • 1/2 bottle per person + 10% buffer
  • Every 10 bottles white=two red (opposite for red meat)
  • Wine Stewards = 1 for every 5 tables
  • Servers = 1 per 20 people (optimal), 1 per 32 (standard), 1 per 16 for upscale or with wine service
  • Rule of Thumb:  1 per 20

Receptions

  • One attendant per 50 guests
  • One bartender per 100 people if arriving in intervals
  • One bartender per 50 people if arriving as a group
  • Immediately following meeting - food consumption is less
  • Less food/more drinks if reception is prior to dinner

Type of Reception

Type of Eaters

# Hors d'Oeuvres
per person

2 hours or less (dinner following)

Light

3-4 pieces

Moderate

5-7 pieces

Heavy

8+ pieces

2 hours or less (no dinner)

Light

6-8 pieces

Moderate

10-12 pieces

Heavy

12+ pieces

2-3 hours
(no dinner)

Light

8-10 pieces

Moderate

10-12 pieces

Heavy

16+ pieces

Beverages

  • 21-25 drinks per bottle of liquor
  • 32 ounces to a quart
  • 50/50 soft/hard liquor consumption
  • Wine consumption = 3 glasses during a 2 hour reception
  • Women consume more wine than liquor
  • Cash bar will consume less than host bar
  • Cash Bar - before lunch - 30% will have 1 drink
  • Cash Bar - after meeting - 50% will stay and have 1.5 drinks (1 hour reception)
  • Hosted Bar - Cocktail Hour - 80% will stay and have 2-2.5 drinks in 1 hour
  • Hosted Bar - Cocktail Hour - 80% will stay and have 3-3.5 drinks in 1 1/2 hours

Source: Pam Soules, CMP Director of Events, Mid-States Distributing

Tags:  association management  conference  event planning  success  tips 

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An affinity for success or failure?

Posted By David Ewald, CAE and Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Thursday, February 26, 2015
Untitled Document

Three quick tests to gauge the strength of your affinity program

Non-dues revenue has steadily become more essential as associations aim to balance their budgets through diversified income streams. Membership dues are no longer the leading revenue source for many associations. The search for new sources of non-dues revenue often includes consideration of potential affinity programs.

Done well, an affinity program can be a way to reinforce the association’s value proposition to individual and corporate members. Done poorly, it can become a catch-all discount program that dilutes the message to members and distracts staff and volunteer energy away from work that is central to the association’s mission without adding substantial value. Perhaps your association is considering an affinity program of its own. If so, here are a few quick steps may to get you started.

It is important that any affinity program meet three tests:

  1. Exclusivity of Access. The program must provide a real benefit to members that is not easily available to them through other means or off the street through "hard bargaining."
  2. Benefit to the Association. The program must include a significant benefit to the Association from the providing entity. This benefit must be more than "you will get more members because of this affinity program." In other words, there should be a financial incentive or free in-kind service to the association in exchange for endorsing or adopting the program. It should also align to the association’s mission.
  3. Provider Marketing. There must be willingness and intention by the providing entity to actively market the program.

In addition to these three tests, affinity programs are most likely to be successful if they address an industry-specific need of the members. The American Society of Association Executives and Center for Association Leadership has published a variety of articles that discuss affinity programs and affirm this point. It is important to prioritize what you are going after for the member. Bear in mind that those you approach about an affinity program must see something in it for themselves as well.

How to begin

  1. Prioritize a list of up to 10 different programs that could best meet the criteria discussed above.
  2. Survey members regarding their preferences and collect data from them regarding the potential market size so that can be leveraged when approaching potential providers. Also, review your current data on your members to develop a profile of your membership. Don’t underestimate the value that your members bring to the table if there’s a good match between the affinity program and your membership. If there’s real interest, the program will succeed and add real value to the member value proposition. It must be win-win for both the member and the affinity program and a real partnership where both parties are vested in the success of the program.
  3. Selectively approach vendors to implement a few programs at a time so the association can gauge interest and success. These results can be leveraged if the association decides to approach additional vendors in the future.

It is essential to keep in mind that implementing these activities can be very time-consuming — so they really must accomplish something that makes it worthwhile for both the Association and the member. If it adds real value, it will be worth the effort to put time and resources to the activity. In addition, it must be integrated in the marketing plan for the association as we need to remind our members of the value of their membership throughout the year as well as expand the membership base by providing a compelling value proposition.

Tags:  affinity  affinity program  david ewald  ewald consulting  failure  kathie pugaczewski  success 

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Dir-ACTION

Posted By Monte Abeler, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Untitled Document

You’ve probably heard the famous phrase, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Undoubtedly, there is a lot of evidence proving the validity of that phrase.  Kodak would be one example, as the photography giant was completely overrun by digital photography. However, a plan doesn’t magically transform into success all by itself. That would be like trying to create water with hydrogen alone. You need the oxygen! It would be like a farmer having seed and a plan for what to do with it, but never actually sitting down in the tractor and making the effort to plant; there’s a component missing. You probably know where I’m going with this.  Yes, we truly need both direction and action.  So what is, “Dir-Action,” exactly? It’s an epic combination of direction and action, giving you an opportunity for success. 

Take some time to ponder the following questions:

  1. Do I (we) have a clear direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would recommend holding a strategic planning session.  You can find countless advice and opinions on the best way to conduct strategic planning, and there a lot of successful ways to do it. When it’s all said and done, just make sure you know the mission, understand the direction, and are clear on the goals set to move forward. If your answer is YES, continue on to question two. 

  2. Are you taking intentional action on your direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would encourage you to pinpoint the reason why action isn’t happening. Common causes include vagueness in regard to who is responsible for certain tasks, a lack of accountability to complete assigned responsibilities, apathetic volunteers, volunteer work overload, and the absence of a timeline. Once you have the reason pinpointed you should be able to reestablish forward progress.  Smartsheets, Basecamp, and ProWorkFlow are three resources you may wish to consider to help with project management and deadline completion. If your answer is YES, then congratulations are in order.

Tags:  clear direction  ewald consulting  kate madonna hindes  success  take action 

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Signs Your Association Won’t Be Around in 8 Years

Posted By David Ewald, Monday, August 11, 2014
Untitled Document

The great advisor to CEOs, Marshall Goldsmith, wrote a book, What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. I have paraphrased that, saying often to my staff: "If we were doing business today the way we were eight years ago, we'd be out of business. And, if we are doing business eight years from now the way we are today, we will be out of business."  Every organization need to change, adapt and improve — associations are no exception. Organizations that fail to do so may not be entirely gone in eight years, but they will be well on the path to irrelevance.

Here are five signs that your association won’t be around in eight years:

  1. Failure by leaders to keep pace with technology (often blaming it on their age or budget).

    I'm amazed when well-paid people who have been in their careers for years admit, "I'm bad at technology". Take a class. Read a book. Hire someone. When the leaders give up on technology, so does everyone else. Problems with technology are one of the greatest morale busters in any organization.

  2. Failure to recognize that the world has changed.

    Unless we stay abreast of current trends and push our own organizations to be faster, better, smarter they will fall behind. The assumption that an organization can continue to do things the way it always has is a losing proposition and one guaranteed to fail. Other organizations are working hard to change, and improve. If you don't pay attention, you just don't realize it.

  3. Failure to confront recurring problems and solve them.

    Time and again, organizations find themselves dealing with the same problems: people, technology, product quality, systems, service quality. They talk about the problems with no resolution while often having their attention lured away by a new, "bright shiny object" — much to the frustration of their staff.

  4. Failure to invest in staff.

    Staffing is usually the largest budget item in an association. Not investing in finding great employees, then training and working hard to motivate them, is like trying to drive an IndyCar on wagon wheels. Those who are content with a weak staff are content with a weak organization. Find the best people you can, then give them what they need to do a good job, and do what you can to reward and retain them.

  5. Failure to harness the power of volunteers while directing the energy in a consistent direction.

    Like a fast-flowing river, volunteers provide the energy for an organization. Unchecked, that energy can overflow the banks and overwhelm operations. Unmotivated, the streambed dries up and the power goes away. Engage your volunteers.  Let them share in the joy of moving an organization forward.

Associations with their finger on the pulse of their members, our economy and world at large thrive and grow well. Those that do nothing more than stay the same quickly go the way of the buggy whip manufacturer. I'm planning on my business being here in eight years – how about you?

Tags:  association management  associations  business  david ewald  ewald consulting  success 

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KNOWLEDGE & RESOURCES

MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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MARKETING | View all Marketing articles
9 Marketing Ideas for Your Organization by Kathie Pugaczewski
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MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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