What If The Avengers Were Your Event Staff?

The event planning business works through a lot of what ifs. Good planners need contingency plans in case of inclement weather, entertainment not showing up, supplies not arriving on time, vendors not properly set up and, in the case of a malicious act, fire or vandalism, an evacuation plan.

Most of these risks can be mitigated with proper planning. But what if your task was a little bit more daunting than most? What if your event was so important that it required a super kind of security not found at most events? What if you were able to hire The Avengers for your staff? Where in the heck would you put them?

That’s easy. Read on for quick tips on how to use Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Nick Fury to their full capacity at your next event. But just like the Dream Team, you can’t just throw together a bunch of people really good at what they do, you MUST assign them tasks that take advantage of their talents.

Nick Fury

Nick Fury, Event Coordinator
This is almost too easy. As the sort-of leader of The Avengers, Fury is at his best when he’s giving orders and running interference to keep manager-types away from his people. He’s your guy for dealing with vendors, corporate bosses, accounting and anyone else with a stake in your event. Also, people listen to him, which must be his special power.

Black Widow

Black Widow, Vendor Liaison
As she proved in Iron Man 2, Black Widow is fantastic at blending in and either helping clients get what they want or reporting back to her bosses about whatever they are doing. Because liaisons have ever-changing job duties, anyone assigned as such better look as good on the dance floor as they do in the boardroom, with enough brains to know when it’s time to use brawn. Of all The Avengers, there’s no one better suited.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye, Videographer
What good is a guy that can hold stuff to his shoulder and aim it at a conference? Well, unless you like your video footage out of focus, off-center or just plain bad, Hawkeye certainly is the man for the job. His athleticism and ability to shoot (see what I did there?) from any position ensures your conference video will look nothing like anyone else’s conference video. Just be sure Hawkeye is loaded with extra SD cards, not projectiles.

Captain America

Captain America, Customer/Client Support Services
His ability to sing and kinda dance aside, Captain America’s best trait is his ability to gain trust from those around him. From leading captured soldiers back to camp to helping attendees find places to eat and work, Cap is an everyman dressed in a fancy outfit. If you’re looking for someone that your customers can identify with, there are few better than a skinny nerd in a buff guy’s body.

The Hulk

The Hulk, Shipping
The Hulk is strong enough to carry cars, can jump high enough to not need elevators and tough enough to get all the heavy lifting done without needing OSHA-approved safety equipment or a room full of union guys. While he can get a bit surly, surely The Hulk is no worse than your stereotypical union foreman. Be sure to have labor on hand for backup, as The Hulk tends to be bad at hiding his frustration.

Iron Man

Iron Man, Stage/AV/Conference Technician
Is there anything Iron Man can’t do? If Tony Stark can build it, Iron Man could blow it up. If Iron Man can’t blow it up, Stark could build a weapon that could. Iron Man is resourceful, technically skilled and comes equipped with far more than a simple tool belt and a few extra batteries, making him ideal for running the most intricate, complicated and important part of your conference: the technology. And if everything fails, he can ditch the suit and tell Tony Stark stories all day.

While we may never be able to employ a super hero group like The Avengers, there’s no argument that the best event staffs are complementary and work well when each person is assigned tasks suited to their abilities. Remember this when you’re handing out assignments for next time!

Blogging Is Freedom

The world of social media changes almost daily. Consumers tire of ads on their walls, but they still seem to click. They don’t like interacting with brands on Twitter, yet that’s the first place they go when there’s a problem.

And every few months, someone claims that blogging is dead. We think they’re all crazy.

Handle The Truth
While it’s true the online world is ever-changing, it’s also true that the reason people write and read blogs, post on Twitter and share on Facebook stays the same. Whether you’re publishing vacation pictures from and for your family, posting a few thoughts on a recent conference or simply sharing a life story that happened to take place at work, humans are constantly searching for people to connect with.

We Have The Power
Therein lies the power in blogging: it’s a mostly informal, easily accessible and cheap (hard costs, not time commitments) way to share ideas, thoughts, plans, problems and emotions that people can identify with.

What Most People Say
“Why would I need to blog when I have Facebook, Twitter and maybe a website? People see my stuff, right?”

Sure they do. Problem is, you don’t know how or when they see it. An average tweet is gone in seconds. Facebook posts may last a minute in someone’s stream. And unless a web site is fantastic, your bounce rate is guaranteed to be high.

Could You Repeat The Question?
Blogs are your answer. Blogging gives anyone, whether you’re a CEO in an ivory tower or a marketing guy for a small startup, an equally large platform to share the stories that make up our lives.

Control
And unlike Twitter or Facebook, we control our blogs. We can make them to complement our websites, we can make them stand alone. We can make them to allow comments, or we can make it so people can just read. Blogs, especially self-hosted ones, allow anyone to express their humanity in whatever way they choose.

Good Stuff Is Always Hard
So why don’t more people blog? Well, it’s hard to write every day. It’s hard to boil down thoughts into a coherent, shareable package. It’s hard to get over the nagging feeling that our lives just aren’t interesting enough to share.

Desperate To Connect
But what we too often fail to realize is that people desperately want to connect with the people behind the Twitter and Facebook accounts. People want to see beyond the Marketing and Legal Department approved website. They want to read real stories from real people about real issues that they too may face.

Quoteable
Hugh MacLeod says that “freedom is blogging in your underwear.” While we won’t assume to dictate what you should wear while blogging, the sentiment behind Hugh’s statement is solid. With only a computer and internet connection, any single one of us can express ourselves to nearly anyone in the world in a few minutes.

What’s the ROI of that?

Conference Ideas We Haven’t Seen Yet

The best ideas seem to come when you’re least prepared. Whenever we’re working late at night, early in the morning, between appointments or even on the road, we can’t stop our minds racing from new idea to new idea. Problem is, we barely have enough time to record our breakthroughs before we’ve moved on to our next project.

Life moves pretty fast, doesn’t it? After seeing the artwork by a few kids in our conference room this week, we figured it was time to get a few ideas out there. Warning: these are not complete ideas. They may not even been possible. But maybe they will grow into something else, or maybe they will inspire something completely different. Here we go!

Johnny 5 IS alive.

Roving Robotic Camera
Why not attach a web cam to a computer, add some wheels and give it the Johnny 5 treatment (we mean to mobility, not the electrocution)? Roomba-like technology could keep it from running into people, and think of the video you could capture! The hilarity of attendees treating it like Johnny 5 or R2D2 would be worth the time and money.

Storyboards As Giveaways
We talked about storyboards as event giveaways last week and we’re still surprised no one has offered them yet. Throw them in with conference videos or charge for them separately, as we see these as hot items. If Gaping Void is so successful with drawings on the back of business cards, imagine how useful creative images about interesting content would be! We vote very popular.

Analog Way To Distribute An eBook
For all the strengths of publishing online, an ebook lacks one characteristic that a paperback or hardcover will always be great at doing: you can’t hand it to anyone. Sure, USB keys work, but they get pricey and people lose them. Yes, collecting their business card and emailing them a copy works too, but they have nothing to hold.

Why not solve this with a QR code? Affixed to a business card or 3×5 card (flyers get too messy), a QR code could prompt anyone with a mobile device to send the book to their reader of choice. While PDFs are mostly universal, having mobi or Nook copies on hand will bring smiles to techies.

Follow Along
We’re going to post ideas as they come to our Pinterest account. Feel free to join in the fun.

Event Giveaway Idea | Storyboards From Sessions

It’s tough to hand someone a presenter’s slide deck; sending it digitally feels a little impersonal and no business card can truly capture the energy of a great presentation. Short of requiring all your presenters to have a book-type giveaway, there is one fantastic way to both convey important information and make it something worth holding on to.

No, it’s not an infographic.

It’s a storyboard. Long trapped in artist notebooks because they, well, quite honestly they just don’t show up at many conferences, storyboards are excellent ways to capture the spirit of both a conference and a presenter while allowing for analog and digital portability. At this week’s Reinvention Summit 2 (Tyler attended in exchange for recording and promoting it), Amanda Lyons captured each session visually.

While most of us walked away with doodles and text notes that we’ll loathe to review later, Amanda’s approach is valuable and unique enough to be sold to attendees that don’t like to take notes or prefer not to. Images like these would look great as handouts, index cards, or iPads. We could see vendors or sponsors giving them to attendees with their information on the back, even.

While such detailed pieces wouldn’t work well as presentation slides, surely they would the coolest flash cards any of us have ever used. What a fantastic way to help attendees with a problem they likely didn’t know they had!

Storyboards could also be used to promote specific channels or tracks, introduce behind-the-scenes colleagues, sponsors or customers and as advertising for other conferences.

While finding a visual designer like Amanda might not be easy, we bet it would be worth it to be different.

Do you have any giveaways that work particularly well? Ever tried something like this?

Stories Make Business Happen

Seth Godin once wrote a book titled ‘All Marketers are Liars“. He was not lying.

Changing Gears
But now that technology has shifted, consumers have grown wary of advertising. And as marketing threatens to invade every digital channel we use, Seth tells a slightly different story. He talks about how authenticity and storytelling are the future of not only marketing, but customer services, sales, advertising and any other kind of product or service promotion.

Tales From?
Telling stories of customer success is what we’re hoping to do. Whether our service eliminates the need for pricey ticket services, speeds up check-in or helps event organizers print easier to read name badges, these simple victories are not only the stories we want to share with the world, but the reason that drives each service tweak and UI improvement.

Reinvention Summit with Michael Margolis
During Reinvention Summit 2, Day 3 yesterday, participants learned how Mike Koenigs makes customers the heroes of his business stories. Each of them has used his product to overcome some obstacle, and many of these tales follow the generic hero storytelling arc. This distinction of customers as heroes is right on, but far too many businesses ignore such teachings.

Who’s Your Hero?
Instead, businesses want to make their product, service or employees the hero of the story. They want to be seen as the white knight rescuing the damsel in distress, when successful businesses TRUE role should be as the sword, shield and horse. Let your customers be the knight. They’re the ones overcoming.

Nominations Welcome
We plan to share customer successes on this blog in the upcoming months, but first would like to know what you need from an online registration and event check-in service. Low fees? High-end equipment? Great staff? Easy setup? Interoperability with all major platforms? And analog version that works on a typewriter (kidding)?

Let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll help you become the hero of your very OWN story.

What’s Your Company Story?

As part of our company’s push for continuing education, I am attending a virtual conference this week. It’s broadcast from NYC, Michigan and at least seven other locations, and is attended by people from 43 countries.

Dubbed Reinvention Summit 2, it’s five, four-hour days packed with storytellers sharing how to best tell your stories and those around you.

As part of this process, I’ll be sharing highlights from the conference, how what I learned applies to EventDay, and how far our team has come and where we’re going. For starters, here’s a loose outline of the story behind EventDay.

Characters
Like any good startup, we’re a small, nimble company. We have four people working full-time in the office most days, with a varying amount of project-based contractors working in other states and countries. Because of our remote set up, our group functions as an ensemble cast, rather than as a typical company with a top-down structure.

While this geographic disparity can make telling individual stories difficult, it allows for a richness to our main tale.

Plot
EventDay exists to make online registration and event check-in easy. We’re on site for our larger clients, and have found ourselves not only running registration desks, but acting as customer service reps, info desks, and tech troubleshooters.

Because of varying responsibilities to our clients, much of what we do doesn’t have a manual and can’t be practiced. Our unwritten policy regarding this is simple: do the right thing. As our company grows, this thinking makes everything we do so, so much easier.

Setting
We’re mostly online, so our setting is wherever companies need us.

Storytelling
While the aforementioned subheads don’t tell the complete story, they are a solid anchor to start with. While they may seem traditional and a bit stuffy, sometimes it’s easier to start from the beginning and work through the basics instead of jumping somewhere in the middle. We’re looking forward to sharing more of our story, telling better stories and learning more about both our story and yours in the upcoming week.

So…what’s your company story?

Event Definitions Revealed! (Part 2 of 2)

Regardless of whether you’re running a expo, workshop or seminar, there are limited reasons for throwing such an event. They range from informing customers to selling services and from training employees to revealing a new product.

While the reason for the event is, in itself, irrelevant, you MUST know why you’re inviting tens, hundreds or thousands of people to partake in schedule presentations. Here’s the second part of our two-part Event Definitions Revealed! blog series.

Sell Stuff
Expos, huge swap meets, traveling specialty retailers and high-end auto shows sell stuff and they sell it well. These type of events are usually in large, covered venues like stadiums, conference centers or tents. Seating is minimal, parking is abundant and booth space is usually taken by large companies looking to sell their wares on site.

Most attendees regard these as amusement parks, as you seldom see passive onlookers at something like a gun show. The people that show up are either there to buy or be seriously entertained by what the companies have to sell. Security is a huge concern here, as many vendors bring their inventory with them and need round-the-clock monitoring.

Promote
Macworld, SXSW and anything held by a video game company ever have this type of an event down to a science. The purpose is to surprise, wow and whip their audience into a frenzy, ensuring they hit the streets with plans to purchase, as well as promote, whatever they saw.

A/V concerns are huge here, as most companies are going to have more than a speaker onstage with a copy of their product in hand. This means movie screens, sound systems that register on the Richter scale and enough lighting to illuminate a city. If Las Vegas could be made portable, this is what it would look like.

Celebration
Graduation ceremonies are a common large, celebratory event, but certainly aren’t limited to college or high schools. These type of events present unique problems, as many of the attendees are actually part of the event itself, with the rest relegated to fighting for position to get that one great photo of their pride and joy walking across the stage.

These events are often dual purpose, with the ceremony and then reception held in the same general area, but never the same area. Cocktail tables and rows of seats don’t mix all that well.

Public Deadline
Any type of government meeting falls under this category. These events are held in order to maximize the number of people that can attend, but unfortunately are usually very tough to plan for, as many of those in attendance won’t RSVP for myriad reasons.

Be sure to be flexible, have extra crowd management and security staff on hand and know the Fire Marshall’s room limit. Standing-room only is the norm here, and having an overflow area with video/audio available goes a long way in helping stem the crowd flow.

That’s it!

We miss anything? Please share in the comments.

Overcoming Obstacles in Real Time — InfusionCon 2012 Retrospective

Business is easy when everything runs correctly. For us, that means attendees have been sent and brought their QR codes, our mobile app (iOS or Android) works quickly, and name badges appear almost as fast as we can tear them from the printer. When those three things are working in harmony, the check-in process takes about 20 seconds.

Yes, you heard that right, 20 seconds. For 95% of InfusionCon 2012 attendees, the system worked as designed. Lines went quick, badges and lanyards were procured, and attendees went on their merry way to see Gary Vaynerchuk or Chris Brogan or one of the many InfusionSoft employees that gave fantastic presentations.

But when things DON’T go correctly, say when there’s a software glitch, internet bandwidth isn’t sufficient, WiFi isn’t strong, registrations aren’t filled out correctly, reservations aren’t in the system or (insert your issue here) goes wonky, it’s up to the people on site to handle the issue. And no, it doesn’t always involve fixing a specific issue, because some things just can’t be fixed while in production. And whatever the cause may be, the bigger problem is this: attendees are standing in line longer than they’d like to.

Our main focus, regardless of scope or size of event, is to reduce the amount of time spent standing in line to check in. Once it’s beyond 20 seconds, it’s our problem, regardless of root cause. So when things get a little more hectic than you’d like, learn from what we did to help make the experience better for everyone.

DON’T PANIC
Douglas Adams’s old advice still rings true. Unless panicking, and by panicking I mean glaring at attendees, sniping at your colleagues, pulling an Office Space on your malfunctioning equipment or berating your boss has an extremely high probability of solving your issue — we doubt it does — don’t do it. Just smile. It may be a fake smile at first, but try grinning like an idiot for more than a few seconds and see if it doesn’t help things.

Be Honest
I can’t say this enough. If something doesn’t work correctly, say that. There’s no reason to place blame or give specifics while checking each attendee in, but it’s helpful to share that there’s something off. Attendees will appreciate the honesty, and are likely to empathize if given the chance.

Send Them On Their Way
Once we realized our issues may cause attendees to miss part of the conference, we instructed them to head right in to the keynote. There was nothing to be gained by them standing in line, and certainly no loss in allowing them inside without a badge. We bet most of those people, even if they hadn’t already paid, would be willing to come back and get registered later. We were right.

Smile. A lot.
Tell jokes. Ask questions. Be upfront with those in line. Dance. Sing. There’s no reason why waiting in line has to be a negative experience, so take advantage of the time you have people captivated. Or you could bring them water. Or snacks. Or just smile. They’ll smile back.

Fix The Problem For Next Time
While we always take full responsibility for issues at registration, we know that it’s not always our fault. And if it IS our fault, we make sure to fix the problem as soon as possible. At InfusionCon, we realized that our wireless print server wasn’t behaving the way we designed (and tested) it to, so we bypassed it. Next time, we won’t be so reliant on its convenience.

InfusionCon 2012 was one heckuva event. Looking forward to InfusionCon 2013 at the Westin Kierland!