What the Arctic Monkeys Can Teach You About Event Management

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/poll/2014/feb/20/alex-turner-brits-speech-what-did-you-think

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire via The Guardian

One of the major talking points from the Brit Awards 2014 is the Arctic Monkeys acceptance speech for Best Album (their second award of the evening).  Alex Turner certainly divided opinion with his talk of sludge, swamps and rock ‘n’ roll.  People seemed to love or loathe it!  Watch the full clip at the end of this post or for comment see Alex Turner’s Brits speech – what did you think?).

At the end of his monologue Alex invites the Brits organisers to “invoice me for the microphone if you need to” and drops the mic to the ground.

As event organisers it struck me that this incident can remind us of few valuable lessons!  Here are the 5 things the Arctic Monkeys can teach us about event management:

1. Always have a plan B.  In this case it was a replacement mic!  Try to plan for the unexpected, including technical malfunction, whenever possible.

2. Be alert at all times during the live event and ready to react quickly.  In this case the sound technicians swiftly muted the microphone before it smashed to the floor.

3. People will always over or under run their allocated time.  However well you brief people, plan and rehearse timings, give cues, timing warnings, etc speakers and performers will inevitably always finish sooner or later than you have planned.  The key is dealing with it effectively to get the schedule back on track.

4. Never underestimate how unpredictable musicians/celebrities/creatives can be!  We have come across a fair few “divas” and egos in our time, particularly when working backstage at festivals and concerts.  People skills, diplomacy and patience are a must for Event Managers!

Another example of this from the Brits was Harry Styles from One Direction being at the toilet and arriving on stage half way through the rest of the group accepting an award!   

5. Controversy can be great for an event in terms of driving discussion, social media and press coverage.

Watch all of the action via this clip:

I truly think the Arctic Monkeys are lyrical geniuses and I am a big fan of their music; however if I am honest this act seemed completely unnecessary, forced and decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll to me!  However it was certainly more entertaining and thought provoking than some of the other predictable acceptance speeches we heard on the evening!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!  In your eyes is Alex Turner a legend or a loser for his speech and subsequent actions dropping the mic?  What else can we as event managers learn from this incident?

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….

How To Maximise Tweets at your Next Conference, Seminar or Workshop

We are big believers in social media and it is an essential and integral part of almost every event we run nowadays.  Twitter is often the platform of choice and can really enhance the event experience before, during and after the event.  Even some small events we have run with only 70 attendees have trended on Twitter.  So how can you maximise tweets for your next conference, seminar or workshop?  Here are some of our top tips for before, during and after the event!

 

Dedicated Event Twitter Profile

Consider creating a dedicated event Twitter profile, particularly if the event isn’t just a one-off.  This is more likely to appeal specifically to the target audience and avoid annoying your regular loyal followers.  You can also then include more specific information in your Twitter bio such as event date, location, hashtag and website address.

If you do this ensure you start working at and building your community well in advance of the event date as a profile with no followers can be off-putting or even detrimental to the event brand.

Event Hashtag (#)

Check that your preferred event hashtag isn’t already in use by doing searches on Twitter in advance.  If it is in use you will have to choose a different variation.  Hashtags should be as short and memorable as possible to maximize usage.

When the hashtag is decided ensure you start using it and send regular tweets to start growing your community and reach.

Make sure all event stakeholders are aware of the event hashtag and commit to using it and sharing content, particularly clients, partners, sponsors, speakers, staff and exhibitors.

Include the chosen hashtag everywhere – on the registration site, your email footer, on all event literature, on Lanyrd, Conferize and other event listings.

Twitter Handles (@)

Ask your attendees to share their Twitter handle (@username) when they register for the event.  This allows you to start following them or perhaps give them a shout out to thank them for registering.

Likewise ensure you have a current list of speakers, sponsors, clients and partners Twitter handles too.  If a speaker uses an organisation and a personal Twitter account it is always best to check which should be publicized.

Registration Confirmation Email

Include the event hashtag and Twitter handle on the automatic confirmation email sent to all attendees when they register for the event.  Ask them to start following you and using the hashtag to tweet.

Twitter List

You may find it useful to create a Twitter List to listen, keep track and quickly check content from those attending a specific event.  You may want to make this public for others to see or keep the list private just for your reference.

Event Marketing

Ensure you follow the 80/20 rule – no more than 2 tweets in every 10 should be promotion of the event otherwise you risk alienating your followers (you have been warned!).  We favour sharing interesting and relevant content, asking questions and engaging.  For example we like to share research, blog posts, content posted by speakers, media articles, guidance, etc.

We would recommend a minimum of three tweets a day but this depends on the event, the audience and how much relevant content you have!  Sometimes every hour would be more appropriate and this should include evening and weekends too.  We find it is most efficient to pre-schedule tweets in big chunks and just check in regularly (or set up notifications) to respond back to any mentions, RTs, new followers, etc.

Don’t forget to ask your followers questions.  Maybe you want to know their opinion or ask them to comment and help shape the event in some way.

Your followers may also want to be updated about what is going on behind the scenes, announcements, how the event is progressing, what the team is working on, teasers about what one of the speakers is going to talk about, etc.

Attendee Information

Give attendees a reminder of who to follow and how to tweet in the delegate information (directions, programme and other important information) that is sent out pre event.  We generally send this one to two weeks in advance which is often when the number of people tweeting about the event really increases.

Twitter Guidelines

We sometimes create Twitter guidelines with facts, figures, stats and other interesting content to encourage easy scheduling and posting by key stakeholders.  Some content may be embargoed until the day of the event and if so the content, date and time should be specified.

List the Event Hashtag and Speaker Twitter Handles on Printed Materials

We like to include the event hashtag and the correct Twitter handles for each of the speakers on the event programme and speaker biographies.  Also ensure that the hashtag is on the cover page of the event folders or brochure and signage.  Make it as easy as possible for people to tweet by providing the information in relevant places for them, otherwise they may not bother.

Badges

If space allows add the hashtag to the badges for quick reference!

Pre-schedule Tweets

Event days are so busy it doesn’t always leave us much time for Tweeting.  Often we will pre-schedule some basic tweets for the day ahead e.g. “if tweeting about the xxx event please use the hashtag #xxx” or facts and figures from the Twitter guidelines and thank yous to sponsors, etc.

WiFi

Whether or not a venue has good, reliable, free and easily accessed WiFi network can make or break whether a venue is booked or not.  Unfortunately this lets down so many venues and obviously can have an effect on the volume of tweets.  You can bring in suppliers with technology to boost the WiFi capacity or provide a dedicated WiFi network if not is available or up to scratch.  As a back up also try to ensure a good 3G signal is available to all.

Chair/MC/Host Introduction

In the Chair briefing notes encourage him or her to mention the Twitter hashtag during the introduction and to keep phones switched on but turned to silent.  It is good to let attendees know that it is ok to use mobile devices in this way in case they are reticent (particularly true the older the audience is).

Presentation Slides

Encourage speakers to include their Twitter handle and the event hashtag on their presentation slides (e.g. as a header/footer/slide background) and add to the holding slide shown as the speaker takes the stage.

Elect Dedicated Event Tweeters

We like to elect dedicated event tweeters to share content and updates from the event and speakers.  It really works to have live tweeting summarizing the key points from each presentation, repeating questions asked by speakers, sharing stats, pictures, short video, etc.  This encourages RTs and engagement and also allows those that can’t attend the event in person to see what they are missing.

These event tweeters are also tasked with checking the feed and responding promptly to any questions asked about the event.  They can pass on any feedback to the event manager (e.g. the room is too warm).

Twitter Walls

Outside of the speakers presentations (e.g. at lunch and breaks) we like to show the event Twitter feed on the big screen.  This doesn’t cost any extra as it is equipment that is already in place and so you should make use of it.  Sometimes we will have permanent Twitter walls via plasma or digital screens around the room or in the networking areas.  This can often be a good ice breaker for attendees with the Twitter feed sparking conversations between delegates.

Event App

We find that even those that are not active on Twitter like to view the discussion and buzz around the event.  Some event apps (such as the event app from Advanced Event Solutions) allows the feed to be viewed easily which is a real hit with attendees.

Twitter Gimmicks

Use a tool/gimmick to encourage tweeting volume e.g. a robot that blows bubbles with every tweet sent using the event hashtag (we are considering buying one of these to use at our events and to hire out to others!).  We have also heard about a similar product that fills a balloon with more air with each tweet until it finally launches!

wpid-IMG_20131121_095157.jpgCompetitions

You may want to consider running a competition on Twitter e.g. encouraging pictures to be taken and shared, filling in the blanks in a sentence, coming up with an idea, etc.

This picture was taken at EIBTM where @MeetMrHolland provided a prop to encourage pictures to be taken and shared.

Ask for Feedback

Twitter can be a great way to gauge how well the event was received and the highs and lows.  It is easy for people to feed back via Twitter and can be really valuable, even if only in 140 characters!

Post Event

Don’t just suddenly stop tweeting after the event has finished!  Continue the buzz afterwards by sharing highlights, feedback, comments, etc.

We like to create a Storify for some of our events (see http://storify.com/eventsnorthern) and to share event pictures, survey results, videos, blog posts, etc after the event is over.

 

We hope that you found this post useful and that you will see the benefits if you implement these tips before your next event!  In the comments below we would love to hear your top tips for maximizing tweets at events – before, during and afterwards.  Also do you think we should buy the Twitter bubble blowing machine we mentioned?

 

Related Blog Posts:
Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day

 

Discover 2011

Canal Street Cart at Blists Hill Open Air Museum

Blists Hill Victorian Village (Image via Wikipedia)

Becki and Gill from Events Northern Ltd were invited to attend ‘Discover 2011’ – a familiarisation weekend to Telford and Shropshire taking place on the weekend of 16th – 18th September.  Organised by Telford and Shropshire Conferences and the Southwater Event Group the trip brought together over 150 event managers from across the UK to give them a taste of what the area has to offer.

We arrived on the Friday evening in time to check into the Holiday Inn Telford/Ironbridge, drop our bags and head out to Blists Hill.  This is a Victorian town, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.  Here we could explore the period shops and attractions such as the chemists, drapers and sweet shop and choose where to spend our shillings and pence, which had been issued to each of us on the coach.  Characters in period costumes invited questions and interaction and set the scene for what it was like to live during Victorian times.

We explored the streets, mine and foundry, enjoyed traditional fish and chips, washed down with dandelion and burdock and eventually found ourselves in the fairground at the coconut shy, wooden swing boats and motorised chair swings.  The evening was concluded with a singsong and hot whiskey toddy.  This was certainly an unusual experience and would make a different setting for a group event or indeed a wedding – Blists Hill is licensed for Civil Ceremonies within the Club Room and the Forest Glen.

We had a range of excellent activities and trips to choose from for the Saturday and it was difficult to decide which appealed the most as we wanted to be involved in them all!  We opted to visit Weston Park for a show around the stately home and time to enjoy the

Weston Park

The house at Weston Park

Midland Game and Country Fair taking place on the site.  Becki often attends V Festival at the Staffordshire site but it was great to enjoy the splendour of the house and to see it in its true glory.

The House at Weston was built in 1671 and is set within 1,000 acres of historic Parkland.  The house can be hired for corporate events, conferences, dinners and weddings and comprises 28 bedrooms, each with its own individual character.  When you hire the house it comes fully staffed and is hired on an exclusive basis.

We were particularly inspired by the beautiful Victorian Library which homes 3,000 leather bound (and no doubt first edition) books.  The Dining Room was also impressive, overlooking the formal gardens and with Weston’s finest and most important collection of paintings, including works by Van Dyck and Lely.

Inside the house, Weston Park

The house is licensed for civil ceremonies (various rooms) and is also next door to the Parish Church of St Andrews, which is linked by a private corridor to the stately home – perfect to keep celebrity weddings private or simply if the English weather lets you down!  The Victorian Orangery has natural stone walls, complete with foliage and fairy lights and huge period windows offering superb views over the Gardens.  This would be a truly magical setting for a wedding breakfast for up to 120 people.

After viewing the house we had time to enjoy lunch and cup-cakes and to explore the Game Fair at our leisure.  Although we were a little disappointed to miss out on the jousting and ferret racing (!) we really enjoyed the falconry, gundog and dog agility demonstrations and the numerous stall holders throughout the site.

On Saturday evening we were amongst 500 guests attending a black-tie gala dinner to launch the brand new, 1300sqm Ludlow Suite at The International Centre.  With over 11,600 square meters of event space in total, The International Centre is one of the largest conference and exhibition venues in the West Midlands. The venue provides a contemporary and versatile event location for events ranging from boardroom meetings, gala dinners, conferences and large exhibitions.  The Ludlow Suite offered a stunning backdrop for the dinner, complimented by excellent food, drink, entertainment, hospitality and service.

The Ludlow Suite, Telford International Centre

Discover 2011 Gala Dinner, the Ludlow Suite, Telford International Centre

The 400 metre and relay runner Roger Black gave an after dinner speech, which was particularly inspiring and heart-warming less than a year away from the London 2012 Olympics.  It was an honour to be able to speak to Roger afterwards and to hold his beautiful silver Olympic medal – the medal for his personal best of which he is most proud (despite achieving a gold medal with the British relay team).

Telford is already a popular destination with event organisers – it is situated at the heart of the national motorway network, with direct trains from London Marylebone and over 3,000 bedrooms within a 20 minute radius of the centre.  Discover 2011 celebrated the major investment the destination has seen in the last 10 years, and promoted the ongoing developments that will take the area to the next level, including the £250 million Southwater development programme to create a new convention quarter in the heart of the town.

The weekend was an excellent taster to highlight some of the ideas and versatility of Telford and Shropshire.  It was an inspiring weekend, not only in terms of the excellent venues and facilities on offer, but also in terms of networking and generating ideas with other event professionals.  Throughout the weekend we discussed some great plans for new events, partnerships and collaborations with some of the lovely people we met; and who knows maybe some of these ideas will come to fruition in Telford and Shropshire venues!  Discover 2011 once again proved the power of bringing together people who share similar interests and areas of expertise.  The energy and ideas created by meeting face to face cannot be created in any other way and once again highlights the importance of events and the event industry.

The organising team from Telford and Shropshire Conferences and the Southwater Event Group worked tirelessly to ensure an informative and thoroughly enjoyable weekend was had by all and the variety and quality of venues on offer shone through.  These are very exciting times for Telford and Shropshire and we are looking forward to bringing more business to the area.

Thanks and credit to Southwater Event Group for providing the photos of Discover 2011 featured in this blog post.