Do You Know Your Venue Power Schedule?

In an effort to save on electricity, many facilities have installed either motion-sensitive or timed lighting systems designed to light the rooms when people are present and/or during predetermined hours. While these systems are fantastic for saving money on monthly electric bills, they can be a hassle if your event is held during non-business hours.

Powerless venues are often empty ones. Be sure you know when the lights are going out.

Going Black
Sudden outages are frustrating, often cause extreme confusion for attendees, and are not always easily fixed. Sometimes lights need time to warm back up, sometimes the physical switch to turn them back on is hidden, and sometimes the building supervisor needs to be on hand to flip the switch.

What time is it?
If your event is during normal business hours, most timed light systems shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s a great idea to check with building maintenance to know exactly when the lights are planned to turn off, and how to turn them back on. We’ve seen too many late-night set up crews have to quit before they were done—or paid overtime—because the lights went out and no one still at the facility could turn them back on. Check, recheck and then have someone available to turn them back on.

Check the schedule
While venue power schedules are not usually public information, IT or building maintenance should have this information. Making friends with them is an integral part of a successful event. While the venue contact may have all the necessary authority, it’s the guys and gals working in the bowels of the building that have real power (pun completely intended). Be nice to them and get to know their names; they’ll make your life a whole lot easier.

When the lights go out, make sure you're the one flipping the switch.

Educate attendees
For motion sensitive systems, remind room users of this feature. We often see this type of setup in small rooms or offices where the lights going out won’t cause mass confusion, but be sure to explain exactly how to turn them back on, even if it’s just raising a hand.

People don’t like surprises. Teach your staff what to do with something out of the ordinary happens and attendees will love you for it.

Is Your Staff First Aid/CPR Certified?

Do you know what to do during an accident? Do your first responders (your staff) know proper First Aid and CPR techniques? Is it worth it to spend the money and take the time to train and certify you and your staff in case of injury or sudden illness. We think so.

The American Red Cross sells a variety of first aid kits for $60 or less.

Trained Staff
It would be fantastic if every staffer was CPR certified, trained to use AEDs, knew the disaster-preparedness plan by heart and used to be a paramedic before they entered into the illustrious world of event staffing, but we know that’s not always the case.

Temp Workers
This isn’t something you can control when working with employees from temp agencies, but it is a good idea to offer safety certifications to employees that you’d like to work with in the future. Continuing education may cost a bit up front, but it could lead to better insurance rates, and a near-guarantee that if something bad happens that you’ll be ready and prestige among your competitors.

Insurance Savings?
While we haven’t seen this yet, there’s no question insurance companies are in a constant price war. They, like you, will do nearly anything to reduce liability and improve risk management, so having a safety-certified staff could allow you to negotiate lower premiums as part of your package. We’ve seen plenty of high-risk candidates pay higher rates (smokers, athletes, etc.), so why shouldn’t low-risk candidates pay less?

Risk Management
Risk can’t even be avoided, but it can be mitigated. An interchangeable, trained staff will go a long ways in first responder time, allowing your event to be seen as safe by attendees and sponsors. It’s been said that people show their true colors in times of crisis, and making sure your employees are trained to handle minor incidents will do wonders in not making incidents appear on the nightly news.

Standing out from your competition isn’t always easy to do in this business, and safety regulations are one thing that will allow your company to be better, at least on paper, than the next guy. We recommend publishing studies and videos extolling your staff’s skill in responding to the unexpected, and cornering the market as the safest event organizers out there.

The American Heart Association offers CPR classes around the nation.

Scott Guthrie Talks EventDay At TechDays Netherlands

Publicity is gold to startups. Because they lack the market share, mind share and usually an advertising budget, any time startups have a respected speaker mention them on stage they get giddy.

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie did just that in his recent presentation at an Azure conference. Here, at the tail end of his speech at TechDays Netherlands, Guthrie discusses a few tricks our own Scott Cate uses to make EventDay print from Azure using the service bus described in an earlier Guthrie presentation.

Guthrie’s full presentation is nearly an hour, so we edited it down to show our bit. Thanks for the support!

Do You Know Your AEDs?

As technology becomes cheaper and more available, we’ve seen a proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops at every conference. Projectors can be pocket-sized now, and cords for everything but power and seriously high-speed intranet connections are on their way out.

Easy-carry handle!

Automated
Advances in tech aren’t limited to handheld productivity devices, however. For at least a decade, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) have been publicly available and affordable. They have been credited with saving numerous lives, as the time between cardiac arrest and beginning treatment makes a huge difference.

While this may sound a bit callous, having AEDs available is also great PR. Should a situation arise that requires an AED, prepared event staff can do a good thing AND likely be recognized for it. While we certainly don’t advocate buying one only for the press, it’s a great feeling to know everyone wins.

Though simple to use, AED training should be included with CPR/First Aid training.

External
AEDs are no longer only available in the most forward-thinking of venues. As large spaces and businesses have adopted the devices, the prices have dropped from $3000 each to right around $1000, which should be a no-brainer purchase for anyone. We’d love to see more event planners or venues themselves provide AEDs, or perhaps give breaks on insurance premiums if such devices are present at the event.

Sites like AED Superstore offer great deals on package deals, which should be enough to convince event planners to have enough on hand for multiple, simultaneous events or incidents.

Defibrillator
While AEDs are typically extremely to use and come with clear instructions, it’s important to have trained on them previous. Every staffer with medical training should be familiar with a unit, in case directions become unreadable. Training for AEDs usually includes First Aid and CPR certification, which will drastically improve attendee life expectancy should the unthinkable happen.

Have you ever had to use an AED? What was the experience like? Did it work?

Small Venue Catering — Enough Pizza!

No matter how short your conference is, where it is or the type of attendees expected, people will always expect some kind of food and they will always expect some kind of refreshment that isn’t water. While small venue catering tends to be a bit simpler than providing for a large expo, sometimes too many choices paralyzes planners.

For years, most event organizers have had two options. The first, pizza, is fairly cheap, ubiquitous, doesn’t require utensils and is easily customizable. The bad part? It’s not great for you, can cause carb comas in the afternoon and we can’t count how many grease stains we’ve seen from errant bites. (Note: provide enough napkins)

The second top choice, sub sandwiches, is a healthier option, but it too has its drawbacks. They’re tough to customize, don’t keep all that well, and, most of the time, taste like they were prepared last week and left under the refrigerator exhaust. So what is a small venue to do about its catering issue?

Full Meal
If your event requires a full meal be served, buffets work very well for smaller groups and venues. They’re easy to set up, simple to manage, and allow for a wide variety of foods at a fraction of a typical plated-meal cost.

Snacks
We like snacks that are pre-packaged, fairly resistant to the elements (think granola bars) and simple to replace. Fresh fruit (apples, bananas and oranges) also make for great pick-me-ups late in the day. While many attendees would probably prefer sugary items, we know candy and such can cause energy crashes toward the end of the conference and/or on the way home, so anything that can be served that’s non-processed would work best.

Refreshments
Bring water. Lots of it. Here in Arizona, most people have come to expect bottled water to be available at all times. While we typically frown on purchasing a bunch of plastic bottles that will usually be thrown away before they’re even drained, refillable solutions are often a pain to set up. Unless the building has an existing water cooler, bottles are likely the way to go. Be sure to offer recycling!

What have you served that attendees have liked? Anything we all should avoid?

How We Define Events

Most events never focus on just one thing. They’re usually product, vendor or attendee focused, with myriad subgroups and agendas in wait in an effort to make the best use of time. But here at EventDay, we like to categorize as much as possible so we have an idea of resources and manpower necessary to get stuff done. The events we handle are no different. We like to define events into three categories: Expos, Conferences and Workshops.

A large variable in our definition process is size of the event, but that’s not the only determining factor. We understand that events can also be a blend of more than one. Here is how we define events:

Expos
These events are vendor focused and usually take place in exhibition halls or conference centers. These mostly consist of vendors at tables, booths or spaces, and require some kind of uniform organization for crowd control purposes. The money at these events is usually made by sponsors contributions, vendor fees and attendee tickets.

Conferences
These events are topic focused and are often held by large companies or groups looking to pass along information to a large audience. They usually involve one or more speakers, and possibly more than one large, open space, such as breakout rooms for smaller presentations or for attendees to work together. Money is made here by charging sponsors and/or attendees, or the costs are covered by the company holding the event.

Workshops
Events like these are attendee focused and usually have either an immediate goal (such as learning a new skill) or meet repeatedly (like a PTA group or an academic-type class). These are usually one-room affairs, but sometimes have small breakout rooms. Revenue is attained here by charging attendees or having the organizing committee cover/supplements costs, such as a with a company doing employee training or a sales-type pitch.

Many events blend elements of all three of these, or even have all three available simultaneously. In any case, proper categorizing of your event makes for more efficient planning, a clearer idea of what to expect for attendees/participants and a more obvious approach to revenue stream opportunities.

Event Giveaway Tips

Anyone who’s ever attended an event anywhere hopes the takeaways are great. Not tangible goods, but rather the knowledge and experience they’ve gained as a result of them being part of the event.

And we all secretly hope the event giveaway is great, not some tchotchke that you don’t feel good even giving to your kids. We recommend something useful, lasting and worthy of brand association. Just many local restaurants promote their products or offer giveaways via amateur sport schedules, events can offer giveaways item that possess calendars of recommended similar events. Yes, this means you’re giving your ‘competition’ a plug, but pretending similar events aren’t out there is a pretty good recipe for failure.

Do movie fans even like this stuff?

Event giveaways shouldn’t be branded crap that attendees won’t use. While getting your company logo on ANOTHER keychain may fit your budget, you’re likely wasting your money. Why not get something they’ll actually look at again? We recommend:

Branded thumb drives
Load up the thumb drive with calendars in all major formats so people have a reason open the contents. Outlook, iCal and gmail are leading formats. Anything else will likely be immediately erased, as it has no value for the consumer.

Discount/demo/info codes
Everyone likes to save money, feel important and be smarter. By giving out access to one or all of these things, you’re giving customers a little more than what’s expected. These early adopters may be poor reviewers, but they’re great promoters.

Limit your quantities
Most conferences over order everything. They fear they’ll run out and be embarrassed. Don’t do this. Your giveaway item is more valuable if it’s scarce and it prompts people to wonder a bit about how to get something next year.

Make it a game
Try a scavenger hunt type game where participants have to answer questions from other attendees. Sure it sounds cheesy, but it’s a good way to promote interaction between strangers and it’s fun, and a business conference can always use more fun. Make what they find useful or they’ll be unsatisfied.

Don’t buy generic
If you’re going to give away the same thing everyone else does, don’t bother. High-quality food attendees WANT to give to their spouse is always a winner. Just remember that not everything needs to be abundant and certainly not unlimited.

What success have you found with giveaways? Examples?

Do we need Unpublished Session Titles?

We have a dilemma. A current customer with a 2500-person event has made a feature request that we’re not sure if we custom build just for them or add to our basic software configuration. While we know it’s not smart to build any software for one specific company, this feature could be useful to others.

In the above video, co-founder Scott Cate talks about an upcoming event product launch that is meant to be kept secret from the audience. The big reveal will be during the keynote, and the rest of the event consists of classes designed to make working with the client’s new product easier.

Ideally, they’d like to be able to set up speakers, sessions and tracks but NOT publish them until after the keynote. The programming to do this takes time, and we’re wondering how many event organizers out there would find this kind of feature useful. Anyone with an unconference (speakers/sessions are chosen the morning of the event), a product launch (the need for secrecy, obviously) or some kind of members-only information could use this.

Do you see yourself needing unpublished session titles? Is the ‘big’ reveal something your attendees would appreciate? Is the ability to add a bit of mystery to your event worth it?

Let us know!

Microsoft Underground PDC event a hit

Microsoft asked us to handle online registration for their Underground PDC event at L.A. Live on November 9, 2010. We nailed it.

There’s a lot we do to make sure an event goes smoothly. From hiring capable staff to having backup badge printer(s) and troubleshooting software to having a strong wireless connection, it’s always the little things that make or break an event.

Photo of one of the on-stage presentations. Courtesy of yfrog.com user Verdiggo.

Name badge design is one of those little things. Scott was especially proud of the name badges at the Microsoft Underground PDC event on November 9 and for good reason: people called each other by their first name. Often.

Take a look at your last event badge. Is your first name the same size as your last? Is your company name also similar? Do short and long names automatically re-size to be readable? No? Ours featured the first names in large type that was auto-scaled before they were printed. No space issues, no fumbling with markers and certainly no errors.

The ability to quickly and easily print customized name badges that could easily be read was our biggest win of the evening. Sure, the queue was handled well, the software ran glitch-free, everyone showed up on time and changes were made to the invite list with ease, but man, we were and are still proud of those badges.

The view from the balcony. Photo courtesy Verdiggo.

We were also able to give Microsoft real-time updates on checked-in attendees, pick out VIPs without calling too much attention to them (VIPs received special raffle tickets and an extra wristband) and even served as bouncers when called upon to help clear out the upstairs to prepare for the VIP party.

While we had plenty of successes, there are a few things we learned from the event, including:

1. Make the first name BIG
Stick-on badges or badges in lanyards always make finding someone’s name awkward. No one likes to think someone is staring at their chest for too long and with the big first name there, this wasn’t a problem. Conversations were started quickly, people became closer a little quicker and it gave people one less thing to worry about when socializing with a roomful of people they didn’t know.

2. Always have a backup
One of our label printers went down during the event. We have no idea why, nor were we in a position to troubleshoot the issue. Having one extra printer allowed us to swap the defective unit out and keep the registration line moving.

3. Always have a free station
Most large conference check-in areas are packed with row after row of occupied stations. When a name is wrong, a guest’s name isn’t on the list or someone wants upgraded status, they get sent somewhere far away and feel like a problem. We left one station open and solved issues right away. Everyone left happy.

Many thanks to Microsoft for asking us be a part of a successful event. Can’t wait for the next one.

Event Planning Takes Time

Good event planning happens months (or quarters) before an event is announced. We’ve seen far too many well-intentioned people try to shorten this timeline, only to forget something big (like insurance) or overlook something ‘small’ (making sure your name badges don’t suck) because they didn’t bother to outline their event planning process.

Event Planning

Waiting too long to start event planning can be disastrous for events that require a lot of space. Photo courtesy Dylan Passmore.

Most events can’t be planned in a day, a week or even a month. For any event to be successful, planners must take the requisite amount of time and steps to ensure success. Problem is, many new event planners and even a few seasoned ones may not know the perfect amount of time to allot for planning.

EventDay can help. Our software will reverse engineer your event, and depending on size and scope, give you the most accurate possible plan to make sure you have everything ready to go when it needs to be. We’ll help you plan timelines for giveaways, sponsor/giveaway deadlines, A/V rental or setup, speaker/attendee reminders and even throw a few promotional tips your way so your event gets the attention it deserves.

Here are a few tips to get your event planning started:

1. Pick a topic/subject
As easy as our software is to use, we can’t make a nondescript event great. Pick a solid big idea to build on and then follow the rest of the steps. Conferences are seldom huge money makers, so it’s a good idea to have a motive that’s not directly profit related.

2. Find a venue first
Without a place, your event can’t really exist. Venue rentals tend to be the biggest expenditure for any event, so picking one early will give you an idea of how much money you need to budget.

3. Pick a day
Once your venue is set, get the exact date and time taken care of. It’s tough to invite speakers and woo sponsors without a set time. Many people are unwilling to commit if you can’t even commit to a date and time.

4. Figure out your costs
Some things you may be able to live without, like WiFi at a large conference center. Other things, like water and snacks, are going to be necessary. Construct a wish list based on order of importance and eliminate what you can’t raise money for.

5. Pick your team wisely
If you can afford to hire professionals to help you, that’s great, but if you’d rather spend your money on making your event worthwhile to attendees, be sure to pick your management team wisely. Every missed deadline is something the event organizer has to do, so be cognizant of your time.

Anything we missed?

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