Is This the Best Event Thank You Gift Ever?

Event thank you giftOver the years we have been lucky enough to receive lots of lovely and unexpected thank you gifts from happy clients.  These have ranged from thank you notes, flowers, wines, chocolates, teddy bears and other token gifts.  

I always think that it is really lovely when people do take the time to send a formal thank you post event; after all we are just doing our job and it is our job to ensure that every project is a success!  It is however wonderful to be appreciated.

In this age of digital and electronic communication though I wonder if traditional/formal gifts are becoming less common?  And if so will that make them even more treasured when received?

Flowers as a business thank you gift Over the years myself and the team have even received gifts from delegates and attendees attending our events, little trinkets, foreign delicacies and good luck charms from other countries have been a wonderful surprise – for example see the wonderful wooden carved and painted horse keyring pictured below received from an international delegate at one of our conferences.

Horse trinket thank you from international delegate

When clients ask our advice or ask us to arrange thank you gifts for speakers/special guests we always try to be inventive.  We find the best gifts are not necessarily the most expensive gifts but rather the items that offer a reminder of the event itself or location and I think my own favourite thank you gift really proves this!

Favourite Event Thank you Gift

My favourite business thank you gift however will possibly never be surpassed (picture right).  To explain; in May 2013 we ran a conference in Bad Pyrmont, Germany, which is near the town of Hameln (Hamelin), which is famous for the legend of the Pied Piper.  On the last day the organising committee that I had been working on behalf of handed me this book depicting the tale, complete with a hand written note on the back page.  The note reads:

Dear Becki
Thank you so much for shaping this SOL2013 story with us. You were key to making this happen and soooo contributed to the flow of this experience.
It’s a pleasure to watch with what passion you do your work, your skilled effictivity, the respectful way you work with your team, the lightness and freshness you bring to the event. You’ve got brilliant leadership skills and if we organised SOL conferences professionally, we’d partner up with you each year.
It was easy, quick (amazingly quick) and very pleasant to work with you.
Thank You!
Penny, Annie, Christoph, Anton, John

Event thank you gift personal messageAlthough the book itself probably only cost a few Euros the sentimental value of the gift is un-measurable!  This is the perfect token in my eyes – it entwines the memory of the event and unique culture and folklore of the location with such a personal and heartfelt note of thanks which they have taken time to compose.  I will treasure this forever and pass it down through my family for them to feel proud too!

chocolate thank you gift received for speaking at an event

What is the thank you gift that means the most to you?  

How do you like to thank speakers and special guests at your events?  

I would love to hear your comments below….

Ensuring Your Event Attendees Arrive Relaxed and Happy

The topic for #BEDN today is ‘Relax‘ so I wanted to share some basics to ensure attendees arrive at your future events happy and relaxed!

When I attend events organised by other people it often surprises me how they sometimes overlook the basics.  This blog post was particularly inspired by a recent business event I signed up to attend at a football stadium which has two completely separate entrances and no internal access from one side to the other without walking around the outside of the stadium, which as you can imagine takes some time.  On the event online registration site it didn’t specify which stand the event would be held in and no further information was given on the booking confirmation either, so I sent an email to the organisers to check which car park to park in and which entrance to use.  I received a curt email back informing me that full information would be sent out on the Friday before the event (note that the event started at 9am on the Monday).  When this information finally came through to me (at around 4.30pm on the Friday!) it didn’t actually specify which side of the stadium it would be held at, nor which car parks or entrance to use so I wasn’t actually any the wiser!  Likewise sending information out so late on the last working day before the event must have vastly reduced the chances of people actually receiving the email in time, even if full information had been included.  Understandably it was chaos at the event – there wasn’t any signage or staff either it seemed!  I somehow managed to stumble across the right room in the stadium but I never made it to the registration desk to officially sign in as apparently that was at yet another entrance still!  I dread to think what they drop out rate will have been for the event as I am sure many people will have decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to make the trip in the first place or arrived but then turned around and gone back to the office in frustration.  The funny thing was that post event I then got an email telling me off for not attending!  I then sent my own curt reply informing them that I was in fact present but I just didn’t manage to locate their registration desk!  This was an extreme case but I have seen similar examples of this time and time again from various different organisers.

It really isn’t rocket science – my 6 basics to ensure your attendees arrive at the event happy and relaxed are as follows:

1. Ensure the booking process is straightforward.
There are many online registrations sites available today.  Make sure you choose a suitable platform and complete a number of test registrations before opening bookings officially.  You want to make the registration process as quick and easy as possible whilst still ensuring you collect all of the information you need from your attendees.  If you ask for unnecessary information or expect attendees to jump through too many hoops they may decide not to bother and possibly never register to attend the event.
Top Tip:  Many online registration sites such as EventBrite give 15 minutes as standard for the registration to be completed, after which it times out and the information is lost if not submitted within that time period.  I often increase this to 30 minutes so that if the person registering gets caught up on the phone, etc they can hopefully still complete the registration they started within the time period, rather than having to start all over again from scratch.

2. Send confirmation of the booking, explaining when further information will be sent out and who to contact in case if any queries in the meantime.
Online registration sites enable you to customize the confirmation message issued automatically when someone registers for the event.  Under no circumstances should you leave this as the default suggested basic text or not make use of this feature.  You should rewrite the confirmation message to detail key information about the event.
Likewise if there is a waiting list for the event the acknowledgement sent should be a bespoke message you have created.
Top Tip: We suggest that the automatic confirmation should include acknowledgement that the attendees registration has been received, reminder of the event name, date, times (making clear the registration period, start and finish times), venue full address, details of when further information will be issued and full contact details for the organisers in case they have any questions in the meantime or need to cancel/amend their booking.  You may also want to include details of how attendees can stay up to date for instance through social media channels, the event Twitter hashtag, etc.

3. Send out detailed directions and final information in advance of the event.
We spend a lot of time creating and checking the final attendee information before sending it out well in advance of the event.  This information is bespoke to the event and venue but will generally include the full final event programme, venue address, directions, map, parking information, public transport information, social media information, access information and any important information or special instructions for attendees.  Regularly we include walking routes too to encourage active travel and sometimes even details about cycle routes and cycle parking.
In normal circumstances we would recommend that this information should be sent at least 7 or 10 days ahead of the event.
Top Tip:  Don’t overlook anyone, make sure that you send this important information onto everyone that is attending, including speakers, staff, exhibitors, sponsors, photographer, AV company, etc.

Event Manager at information help desk4. Ensure plenty of staff are there to welcome attendees at the registration desk.
Accept that however much you do to encourage and entice attendees to arrive at an event early the majority will still arrive in a very small window just before the event starts (this often seems to be 20 minutes before the event start time).  This means that you may have many people to register in a short intense period of time and so it is vital that you are prepared for this, otherwise you risk queues of people at the registration desk and the event starting late.  Ensure all staff are well briefed to ensure all attendees receive the same key information as they arrive and are checked in quickly and efficiently.

Top Tip:  If you need to register a lot of people in a short space of time consider using a barcoded registration system which triggers the delegate badge to be printed from their barcoded ticket within a matter of seconds.  Events Northern Ltd have developed our own barcoded registration system which is available for hire

5. Start at the advertised start time
Even if you are still waiting for some people to arrive try to start at the advertised start time if at all possible.  It is unfair on those that have arrived in plenty of time to keep the waiting and will only cause frustration if there is too much delay.  Plus if there is a hold up it may encourage the attendees to arrive later at the next event, compacting the problem each time.
Top Tip: If you are delayed starting the event apologize and keep people informed

6. If anyone does arrive late make them feel welcome and get them settled quickly
Attendees arriving at an event may have had a long or stressful journey through busy traffic.  Even with the best of intentions delegates can arrive later than they wish through unforeseen circumstances out of their control and can often be feeling stressed and frazzled as a result.  It is our job to welcome them to the event as promptly as we can and to relax them and put them in the right frame of mind for the event ahead.  We always ensure that late arrivals are registered really quickly and personally shown into the relevant event room.
Top Tip: We always endeavour to reserve and leave seats free at the back of the room near the entrance so any late arrivals can slip into the conference or function without drawing lots of attention to themselves.

What other suggestions would you give to ensure that attendees arrive at your event relaxed and happy? 

Starting Out in Business > Working from Home

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumThe topic for #BEDN today is ‘Workplace.’  When I set up Events Northern Ltd in 2004 I started out working from home – first from a desk under the stairs and then from the spare room.  It made perfect sense not to burden a new company with excessive overheads and also ensured maximum productivity – no time wasted in travelling to and from work and no worries about working till all hours and then walking home alone afterwards.

It was however great when we did start renting an office to separate home and work life again.  When I worked from a home office it did feel almost like you never switched off (if indeed running your own company you ever can truly switch off?!).  Even if the phone rang at the weekend or well after hours with a home office there was always the temptation to go back into work mode and answer or otherwise be wondering who the call was from anyway!  If that same phone was ringing in your external office somewhere you wouldn’t necessarily even know it had rung until official office hours the next day.

When people discovered I worked from home back in the early days people were intrigued and often asked “how do you get any work done with all the distractions like daytime TV and housework?” and “do you work in your pyjamas?”  I found this regular line of questioning bizarre and basically insulting!  No I have never worked in my pyjamas and no working from home is not an extended weekend to get your chores done or watch Jeremy Kyle!  I realised however that it did show the complete lack of understanding most people have about setting up and running a company and reveal a lot about what some people consider “working from home.”  I can tell you it is a hell of a lot of hard work starting up in business and in my experience involves working very long hours!  Plus when you have your own company or are self employed it is up to you to pay the bills and the wages, no-one else, which is perhaps the biggest motivator.  Above all though – is daytime TV actually that good?!

Do you work from home or did you start out working from home like we did?  Do you find it difficult to switch off at the end of the working day?  Or do you find it hard to focus with so many household distractions all around you?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Do you Need to Be an Ogre in Business?

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumToday, 13th November, is World Kindness Day and todays #BEDN topic.  In planning this post I started pondering about kindness in the world of business.  At Events Northern Ltd we always try to go the extra mile for our clients, giving that little bit extra whenever we can.  Although some would argue it is bad business practice giving away more time/effort/services than you have quoted for I would suggest that this is one of the reasons why we have such a high level of repeat business and so many fantastic long term clients.  To us it makes perfect business sense!

An age old belief has been that you have to be tough to make it in business, but do you really have to be an ogre to succeed?  Or is it actually “what goes around comes around?”

Recently I heard Rachel Elnaugh speak at a business event in Preston, Lancashire.  Rachel was the Founder of Red Letter Days and a former Dragon.  The title of her presentation was ‘The Future is Feminine’ and she suggested that everyone (male or female!) should actually get in touch more with their feminine side and repress their masculine aggressive traits.  She argued that if more people did this our businesses would be more successful and the world would be a better place to live.  Definitely food for thought!

If we all embraced the ‘Pay It Forward’ mentality (an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives) the world would certainly be a better place.

I really enjoyed this blog post: Smile and the World Smiles with You.  I agree that a smile is such an simple thing but can mean so much, particularly in the hospitality and events industry.  It is definitely the most important tool in non verbal communication and is universally understood.  A smile really can work magic and service with a smile really does make a huge difference!

 

Twitter Chats

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumTwitter chats, or tweet ups, are a great way to use Twitter to network virtually with individuals from a specific industry or with a shared interest or location.  It is a great way to find interesting people to follow and hopefully pick up a few more followers yourself too.

People come together at a set time, generally for a set hour each week and communicate by using a specific hash tag in their tweets.  It may be an open discussion for people to chat freely and ask questions or it may be more structured with some set questions throughout the hour (which may or may not be publicised in advance).

Twitter SymbolThere are a number of Twitter hours we would recommend listed below – we hope to “see” you there in future!

#BlogHour is organised by the UK Blog Awards (@ukblogawards) and takes place every Tuesday between 9 and 10 pm GMT.  It is an opportunity for anyone that blogs to come together to share hints and tips, connect and network with bloggers and to promote your blog and latest posts.  New and experienced bloggers are welcome whatever your motivation for blogging and whether you blog as an individual or on behalf of an organisation.  Click here to find out more and read their handy #BlogHour Tweeting Guidelines.  It is aimed at UK bloggers nationally although people often join from further afield too!

#EventHour was launched by Event Industry News on the 29th of May 2013 via its Twitter handle @eventnewsblog.  It takes place every Wednesday between 9 and 10 pm GMT.  Read their step-by-step guide to #Eventhour.

#LancashireHour was established in July 2012 and is a weekly Twitter Networking forum where Lancashire based individuals and businesses can interact every Thursday 8 – 9 pm GMT.  Since its creation, many #LancashireHour members have said that they’ve picked up some real new business from the contacts they’ve made and all for the price of an hour per week on a laptop, PC or mobile device. At a time when most businesses are reviewing the effectiveness of their marketing budgets, it’s hard to find a better free way to promote your business and make leads that can generate sales so effectively.  (source: http://lancashirehour.co.uk/).

#NorthWestHour connects North West people & businesses Wednesdays 8 to 9 pm and Fridays 9 to 10 pm.

#SmallBizHour runs every Tuesday between 9 and 10 pm and every small business in the UK is welcome to join in.  Follow this link for more information about #SmallBizHour.  This clashes with #BlogHour but we try to keep our eye on it and contribute when we can!

You may find this blog post from North West Business Life useful in locating other Twitter Hours relevant to the North West Region: Directory of North West Twitter Hours.

Which Twitter Hours do you find worthwhile?  Any others you would recommend we join either nationally or for the North West region?  We would welcome your thoughts and comments below!

Lancashire Tourism Awards

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

The topic for #BEDN today is ‘A Day in the Life‘ so we thought we would share a little bit about what we have been up to!  Yesterday (7th November 2013) Becki and Gill from Events Northern Ltd were lucky … Continue reading

Event Management – a Stressful Career Choice?

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumWelcome to day six of Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN).  The topic today is National Stress Awareness Day.

A recent article by the Telegraph has revealed that almost half of Britons consider themselves stressed.  Stress is one of the most common conditions experienced by people in the UK today. It can contribute to serious physical illnesses, and be a cause for obesity. People going to work whilst suffering stress contribute to poor performance of businesses and services, and can be a contributor to poor care, errors, and disasters caused by lack of concentration. The financial cost to the UK has been estimated at £60 billion or about £1000 per man, woman and child (source: ISMA Press Release).

National Stress Awareness Day got us thinking about how well we cope with stress and whether a little bit of stress is actually a good thing in terms of encouraging peak performance at work?

We read with interest this blog post: the 10 most and least stressful jobs in 2013.  In the study to determine this they looked at 11 job requirements that contribute to stress including:

  • the amount of travel required
  • growth potential
  • deadlines
  • working in the public eye
  • competitiveness
  • physical demands
  • environment conditions
  • hazards encountered
  • risk to life
  • risk to other’s lives
  • and need to meet the public

The role of an Event Manager can be stressful at times in terms, particularly in terms of immoveable and numerous deadlines (the event dates and milestones within each event project), working with the public (members of the public can be trying on occasions!) and perhaps even physical demands (on conference and event days I walk for miles, plus unloading, lifting, etc).  Likewise depending on the project and the event there can be a lot of travelling required (we ran a conference in Germany in May) and the environmental conditions can be harsh (outdoor events and the English weather – need I say more?!).

Overall based on the stress indicators they have suggested it seems that Event Management is certainly not a job for the faint-hearted.  Plus of course, however well you plan for every eventuality it is inevitable that the unexpected sometimes happens, leaving you to make immediate decisions about the best course of action to take, often in a very public arena and then to communicate that to the attendees.

Furthermore I would also say that running your own business can be stressful at times, whatever the industry.

Don’t get me wrong I adore my job and running a SME and I couldn’t imagine doing anything different, however with this in mind I was wondering perhaps if Event Manager or MD of an Event Management Company might actually make the list!  Alas it wasn’t listed, although I feel that in some ways an Event Management role could be more stressful than a Public Relations Executive which comes in in 5th place.  The full list of the most stressful jobs is below.

Most Stressful Jobs of 2013:

  1. Enlisted military (stress score 84.72)
  2. Military General (stress score 65.54)
  3. Firefighter (stress score 60.45)
  4. Commercial airline pilot (stress score 60.28)
  5. Public relations executive (stress score 48.52)
  6. Senior corporate executive (stress score 47.46)
  7. Photojournalist (stress score 47.12)
  8. Newspaper reporter (stress score 46.75)
  9. Taxi driver (stress score 46.18)
  10. Police officer (stress score 45.60)

Are you surprised by the list at all?  Do you think a little bit of stress can be good for your work performance?  After a hard day what do you do to switch off?  We would welcome your thoughts below!

Social Media for Women

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumOn 26th November 2013 I will be speaking at Social Media for Women 2013 (#SM4W13), in Preston, LancashireEveryone, male and female, can attend the conference but the line up of speakers are all female.

A recent survey conducted in the UK found that a greater proportion of women are using social media than men. It was also found that women who use social media, tend to be more influential both online and offline. However, the majority of speakers in this area tend to be men so #SM4W13 is taking a brave stand and reversing the trend!

sm4w13The aim of The Social Media for Women Conference is to inspire and support more people (male or female!) to feel confident in using social media and take their social media skills to a higher level. It also aims to highlight some of the inspirational women, already working with social media in a professional capacity and provide inspiration to those who would like to start their own businesses, take on more senior roles, or just be able to gain skills to support others within their communities.

The conference organisers, Liz Hardwick (www.DigiEnable.co.uk) and Jane Binnion (www.janessocialmedia.co.uk) are fantastic role models and would like to see more women speaking at professional industry conferences.  They see this as the first step to recognising and promoting female speakers, but more importantly based on their level of expertise and not their gender.

Between you and me I am really excited to be presenting, rather than organising and ensuring everything goes smoothly behind the scenes for a change!  i can’t wait to sit in the audience and immerse myself with all things social media.

I am running a workshop at #SM4W13 entitled Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day.  I amcross platform social media management passionate about the potential benefits and return from social media but as MD of Events Northern Ltd and Director of Advanced Event Solutions Ltd life is busy!  As much as I enjoy social media I know how much of a time sapper it can be and how vital it is to stay focused to ensure it is manageable for small businesses.  With this in mind back in May 2012 I created a blog post which triggered my invitation to speak at the event (follow this link to read the earlier post): Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day.

My social media journey has continued further since that original blog post but I still firmly believe that the key to social media is little and often.  In the workshop I will be sharing my top tips for how to look after your social media presence in manageable chunks, which i believe is viable even within the busiest of work and life schedules!

I am really looking forward to presenting at the event and learning from the fantastic speakers and varied programme and topics on offer.  I think there are still a few tickets left so if you want to find out more or book a place go to: http://socialmediaforwomen.co.uk

What are your top time saving tips for social media?  What are the essential social media tasks you carry out every day?  I would welcome your comments below.

Starting an Event Management Company

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumDay two of #BEDN (Blog Every Day in November) and the topic today is ‘Something You Made.’  In this post I want to share a little about setting up Events Northern Ltd, which was incorporated in 2004.

After I graduated from university (2:1 BA Hons in Event Management from Leeds Metropolitan University) I worked for event management companies in Manchester and Liverpool.  The company I worked for in Liverpool then downsized and in essence closed its events department, leaving me without a job.  I applied for a few positions but there weren’t many events jobs advertising at the time and although I somehow got a few interviews they were ideally looking for people with 5 years minimum experience and I wasn’t successful.  At the same time a plan started to form that perhaps I would set up my own event management company, which would then also give me the freedom to do things my way!

At the time of setting up the company over 9 years ago the industry seemed even more London-centric than it is today and so the name emerged as I wanted to offer quality event and conference management services across the North of England.  To this day this remains our primary market, however we have also run numerous events nationally, plus international conferences both in the UK and abroad.

I had always imagined that one day I would set up my own company and follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather (who both set up their own businesses and always worked for themselves).  I didn’t however anticipate that I would be setting up a company before I had reached my mid twenties!  At first I was very conscious of my age, thinking that it would hold me back but I soon realised that age is irrelevant as long as you are offering a quality service, and so I stopped worrying.

Early EN pictureI accessed an eight week evening class which helped me create my business plan.  For the first 6 months I worked evenings and weekends in a bar as well as for Events Northern to give me an income until the company could start paying me a wage.  Within the first week of the business I tendered for a conference working on behalf of numerous prestigious partners including Arts Council England.  It was a great boost when I won the contract and delivered a successful event, receiving lots of fantastic testimonials.  Early on I cemented our niche of conferences for the health, arts and business sectors, however we work across many sectors for very varied clients to date.  Many of my earliest clients are still clients today and most of our business comes from personal recommendations.

The events industry, technologies and business in general has changed immensely since 2004.  It is funny to think that for many years event registration forms were filled out with a pen and faxed or posted back to us to then be typed into our database (no online registration systems!) and very traditional outbound marketing was used, social media and other inbound marketing was unknown!

Early in the life of the company (2004) I won the handbag.com Barclays Business Plan Awards, under 25 category. I was also runner up in the Everywomen Business Awards in 2006.

We have organised every type of event you can think of.  Conferences are my ultimate passion and I am excited about the many developments and opportunities the event industry offers today.  Our largest project was a complex 4-day conference with a gala dinner at the Natural History Museum and a launch party at which Diversity performed.  Over a thousand international delegates attended from 100 countries worldwide and we had over 30 event management staff.  As well as the conference plenary and concurrent keynote strands there were also 80 individual workshop panels comprising over 200 presenters.

Setting up your own company is not a decision to take lightly and as well as the highs there have certainly also been darker times too, such as battling through the recession, the NHS transition and upheaval, working ridiculously long hours and testing personal relationships as a result.  However despite the trails and tribulations I believe overall I definitely made the right choice and I am proud of our achievements.

I am passionate about business and I strongly believe that more young people and people of all ages in general should consider starting their own company.  It is import to instil entrepreneurial skills and ensure that more people do realise it is an option to them.

I have enjoyed sharing a little bit about the creation of Events Northern Ltd.  Thank you for listening!

Outbound Marketing is Dead

Inbound Marketing Overview. Photo Credit: Business 2 Community

LEAD at Lancaster University Management School recently held a reunion for past students.  Becki was excited to return and hear from Nathan Smith of Smith and Smith PR.  Nathan gave a presentation entitled “Outbound Marketing is Dead: An Introduction to Inbound Marketing.”

Nathan explained how sales calls, direct mail, tv ads and unsolicited emails (outbound marketing) are no longer effective, consumers nowadays are much more sophisticated, selective and wary (or even fed up?) of these methods.  If they want information they will seek it out themselves and so it is up to us as businesses to make available the information people want and lure them in (inbound marketing).

We have often wondered how effective cold calling is for businesses as we find it such a turn off.  Likewise mail shots just seem so out of date nowadays (think of the planet!) and I have email overload already without spam adding further to my inbox!

So what is inbound marketing?  Inbound marketing includes:

  • SEO
  • blogs
  • social media
  • enewsletters to a verified opt in list
  • Ebooks
  • webinars
  • word of mouth/recommendations
  • PR/news/media
  • video
  • forum
  • podcasts
  • and other forms of content marketing.

The landscape has changed unrecognizably from outbound to inbound marketing since I started out in the events industry and since I set up Events Northern Ltd in 2004.  The great news though is that inbound marketing costs less and has better a ROI!

This infographic by Mashable provides a useful visual explanation:Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

Further useful reading can also be found here:
Hubspot: Inbound Methodology

Calling all bloggers!
If you already “blog” you may be interested to enter the UK Blog Awards.  It is open to individuals/freelancers and organisations across 12 industry categories and 3 sub categories.  It is FREE to enter.  The deadline is midnight on 1st December 2013,

If you are interested in the power of social media….
We recommend you attend the Social Media for Women 2013 Conference, Preston, 26th November 2013.  Becki is delighted to be running a workshop on Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day.