Meeting and event planners are always trying to find new ways to add value to their events and better compete in the industry. More often than not they’ll opt for bigger speakers, more technology, or some other gimmick that “wows” their audience but might not do much to increase the genuine value of the event for attendees. One solution which provides a clear value for attendees and vendors alike, is the inclusion of a hosted buyer program (sometimes known as a “supplier showcase”).
If you’re considering adding the element of pre-scheduled meetings to your hosted buyer program, make sure you start with strong technology to support the process. See the additional tips below to build an ROI-driven appointment program.
Here are 5 best practices to make your next hosted buyer or supplier showcase event a success:
- #1 – Carefully consider the qualification criteria you set for participants. Try not to limit yourself to the typical criteria used by most planners: purchasing authority, annual budget (or purchase volume), and target industry or market (geographical representation). In order to increase the quality of matches, emphasize selection. Consider also purchasing intent (how soon are buyers expected to make their next purchase?) and participation at previous events. You could also use a decision board, ask suppliers who their ideal leads are, or leverage intermediaries (a la IMEX).
- #2 – Be sure to manage contact between participants in order to prevent spam. In the past, some buyers have avoided hosted buyer programs and supplier showcases because they didn’t want to wind up getting spammed by exhibitors. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to carefully manage participant’s contact information in order to prevent spam.
- #3 – Save time by using powerful technology to plan your program and appointments. You want to ensure that the event is valuable to all participants. One of the benefits of these programs is that it not only gives businesses the opportunity to make profitable connections, but attendees also have the chance to attend seminars and workshops and do some additional networking. However, because there is so much happening at an event that conflicts are inevitable – scheduling manually is just not an option. By using automated hosted buyer scheduling software with a powerful algorithm, you can sit back and let the system create all your attendee and host schedules, AND to distribute them — both in print and digitally — efficiently.
- #4 – Speed things up for participants (create a separate registration/credential pickup line so participants don’t miss their appointments). Since most hosted buyer programs require that participants arrive at all scheduled appointments on time, it’s a good idea to setup a separate registration and credential pickup line for your hosted buyers and sellers, especially if your meetings start at the same time that you open your conference. This way, there is less likelihood of anyone missing their meeting, making a poor impression, and potentially blaming your event for a loss.
- #5 – Be sure to follow-up. Make sure that you take the time after the event to follow up with participants. Was the meeting successful? Were both participants pleased with the exchange? What ROI did each party see as a result of their participation in your program? It’s a little difficult to claim a successful event or promise an ROI to potential future or returning attendees if you don’t have any measurable results to back them up.
Hosted buyer programs, supplier showcases, and 1-to-1 meetings can bring incredible value to all participants, but it’s important to make sure that you are focusing on their needs so that the time they spend on the showroom floor ultimately translates to an ROI on their balance sheets. By doing so, the positive feedback from attendees and happy businesses will help establish your show as the premier event for your industry.
Why attend a conference or trade show?
Most people attend conferences on the assumption that they will either be educated on something new and relevant OR they will have the opportunity to network with people and companies who will help them meet their business objectives. Pretty clear participant objectives, but do most events deliver?
It’s time to “up the game” and start to change the approach we take in measuring the value for events. Conferences need to promise — and deliver — on education and increasingly critical business objectives, or Business Return On Investment (B.R.O.I). This proves value and keeps all participants – attendees, sponsors and even speakers — coming back year after year.
Providing education at a conference is formulaic, and even easy, especially if you have an event highly sought after for speaking proposals. In fact, most conferences are designed specifically for this tried and true setup, with education scenarios repeating a mix of sessions, panels and seminars. For attendees, the most difficult part of accessing education at a conference is simply choosing which sessions they’d like to attend based on their interests. They show up in the appointed room focused on content, handout and speakers, often with little time to really connect with many participants. Even in cases where participants are able to find other professionals with a common interest, they often aren’t given the opportunity to connect.
At a conference, meeting people representing relevant businesses opportunities can be incredibly difficult. One can only imagine the time wasted by conference attendees as they wandered session hallways, exhibit floors, and huge convention networking parties in the hopes of making meaningful and productive business connections. How does one even find and start a conversation outside of conference sessions? How do you approach certain topics or communicate your company’s needs? And how can one even be confident about the potential of a positive outcome? And let’s not mention today’s digital diet breeding folks who may find it harder than ever to start conversations.
The Answer? Guarantee Connections
A 2014 survey by CT Business Travel and Neomam Studios found that 95% of professionals believe face-to face-meetings are key to successful business relationships. [source]
Event planners have a way to not only facilitate connections between conference attendees but also to guarantee a level of predictable and productive interaction that can drive maximum value for all event participants. By offering prescheduled meetings, planners help registrants focus on pre-show preparation so that when they arrive, they have an itinerary of set appointments and plans to discuss specific topics and needs with their planned connections.
Powerful, algorithm-based technology, like our SwiftSchedule solution, can help boost these appointments by matching attendees based on pre-selected preferences, while saving time for meeting planners and eliminating manual processes. Instead of having participants take a chance on finding and striking up a conversation, we can now work to have more and more participants saying those 3 or 6 or even 10 meetings “made the whole event worth the trip.” And the best part? No manual process or back and forth necessary from the planning team or participants.
According to survey results cited in Forbes Insights, 44% of professionals say they prefer in-person conferences and business meetings because they provide a better environment for tough, timely decision making. Additionally, 87% of professionals believe that face-to-face meetings are essential for selling a business deal. These decisions and deals can’t be made unless conference attendees are able to get themselves in front of the people and companies who are most relevant to their goals. Ultimately, prescheduled, preference-based meetings provide value beyond far beyond typical conference sessions because of these powerful connections.
Business Return On Investment = B.R.O.I.
Providing ROI is vital in the world of events, 75% of organizers with event budgets between $50 and $100 million say they expect an ROI of more than 5:1 for live event and experiential programs. Instead of leaving a conference feeling as though their time away from the office and money was wasted, businesses need to participate in conferences where there is at least some sense of progress towards business goals. That’s not terribly difficult when 74% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event.
However, when conference attendees and participants walk away from an event, planners want them to recognize the value of the conference. The best way to guarantee repeat attendance for future events is by ensuring that attendees are leaving with not only new information and greater insights into their goals and objectives, but that they have also made new powerful connections and participated in productive meetings with those connections. This eases follow-up for all participants and greatly ensures they feel the value of not just event ROI, but of true B.R.O.I.
LinkedIn has been acquired by Microsoft to the tune of $26.2 billion. The acquisition potentially represents Microsoft’s new shift towards enterprise social media.
The software giant intends to pay $196 per share which is a 50% premium over LinkedIn’s Friday closing price. The social media platform will be keeping it’s branding and product but will become part of Microsoft’s productivity and business segment. LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner will report to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
According to inc.com, “It is by far Microsoft’s largest acquisition, bigger than Skype, which the company bought for $8.5 billion in 2011.”
However, the deal is still subject to approval by LinkedIn’s shareholders, other regulatory approvals, and closing conditions.
“Microsoft may find ways to generate revenue from LinkedIn’s professional network that LinkedIn couldn’t independently,” said Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Brad Reback in the Wall Street Journal.
The acquisition could be big news for developers of mobile apps for meetings, events, and conferences. If LinkedIn is tied to tools like Outlook, one-to-one meetings could be directly associated with calendar and contact functionality. Imagine participants potentially accessing professional data more efficiently during an expo, and then even adding notes or business card info into OneNote.
While events professionals are aware of both companies’ products to help in event planning and attendee engagement, this deal will no doubt help weave the two activities together to better help connect professionals at events.
Because this announcement has such a big impact on one of the most used social networks by event professionals, we asked 3 event industry leaders to weigh-in with their thoughts on the acquisition.
“LinkedIn is a one of a kind platform for the business community. Our dialogue with LinkedIn leadership has always been productive.
LinkedIn, while significant at well over 440 million users and close to $3 billion in annual revenue, is not nearly the scale of Microsoft at over $90 billion in revenue and a mountain of cash, thanks in part to their relatively early/sometimes forgotten pre-IPO investment in Facebook.
The combination could enable Microsoft to add a suite of sales, marketing and recruiting services to its core business products, and possibly challenge rivals in the cloud such as Salesforce.com over time.
As to the impact of Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn on the meetings industry, I believe it will be moderately favorable in time. Microsoft is a big believer in the power of business events. Together they will identify a way to better target prospective event attendees for event organizers, through an ever larger user base, and a user experience that will deliver highly targeted audience acquisition tactics to Office365 users especially.
This deal certainly puts Twitter a step closer to an acquisition, and that is especially meaningful to our industry. It is the boldest acquisition by Microsoft in its history. After Nokia especially, they are due for an M&A win. This just may be it. At minimum, you have to admire the collective vision behind this deal.
Key is making it work.“
— Tony Lorenz, CEO AlliedPR
“With up-to-date LinkedIn profiles, this acquisition has the potential to plug into more systems, giving attendees better insight and improving quality of networking opportunities on site. It’s a great move for business professionals to better connect with technology we use every day.”
— Laura Welsh, CEO Conference Solutions
“Whether expressed in databases, spreadsheets, or pages, the sharing of ideas with the right people, quickly and easily is the core of productivity in the information age. Therefore, merging the leaders of these two spaces, business documents and professional networks, should unlock significant value for the present and future users of both companies.“
— Michael Barnett, CEO Ingo
Here at Conference Software Solutions, we have the opportunity to talk with many meeting planners and attendees. When you talk to many different people in the same industry independently, it’s interesting to see how often the same topics come up, how everyone has the same concerns and are interested in the same trends. Just a few years ago, MOBILE was the hot topic (and still is), but now the question is “Now that we can communicate more effectively information to a large group, how can I now target communication to the RIGHT PEOPLE? How do I connect?”. Attendees need to meet the right people at the right time.
A recent report by Conventions 2020 on the future of the meetings and event industry found that 76% of respondents cited the quality of networking as the single biggest factor that would encourage them to attend an event. Event networking beat out content, interaction and technology as the primary motivation to attend an event. Yet many events have been slow to implement a one-to-one or hosted buyer program for their attendees.
There are many reasons why adoption of these programs has lagged behind the demand:
- Confusion on best practices. What technology should be used? How much more work will it take?
- Budgeting happens early. Planners have to plan really far ahead. How can I afford to implement one-to-one meetings when my budget is already set a year in advance?
- Change is hard! Planners already have so many moving parts that adding a new program seems overwhelming.
Our software has been running very large hosted buyer and one-to-one meeting programs since 2010. We can help! From understanding how to implement a program, to integrating the meetings with your existing mobile solution and all the little details that need to be taken care, we know this stuff inside out. Even if you just want to learn a little about these programs, as big believers in the importance of connecting people, we’d love to talk.
Early adopters are making big investments in building best in class networking programs. Attendees are demanding better networking, better connections, and qualified introductions to get business done. Better ROI for your attendees will drive more people to your events and grow our industry as a whole.