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.