Introducing #eventprofstalk digital festival: to spark creativity, grow your network and set your skill set for social media mastery in the events industry

After concluding the successful #eventprofstalk hackathon there was suddenly a void. During the hackathon we had a steep learning curve and enhanced networking opportunities that we didn’t want to end. We immediately started to think about what’s next for the #eventprofstalk community and the events industry!  

We are constantly willing to try new things, experiment with new event formats and continually look for ways to add more value for you, providing a platform for personal growth by up-skilling and creating networking opportunities. 

The second #eventprofstalk online hackathon is already in the planning stages, and with our approaching live conference in Bern from 27-30 August, we want to shorten the wait and anticipation by providing you a further opportunity to master the pivot to digital. 

We’re excited to present to you the very first #eventprofstalk Digital Festival! 

As we all are getting the hang of pivoting to digital, we want to challenge you and your skills. Over the course of the week of 22, June, we want you to challenge yourselves to host virtual events across Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Be as creative as you want, share your skills, get out of your comfort zone to learn something new and share the process with fellow #eventprofs. 

Why a digital festival? To avoid another sign-up form and webinar fatigue, we want to make it simple and fun. Being able to access it on your phone, either as a speaker or a participant, we want to make the experience as flexible and convenient for you. You don’t need to sign up for any of the sessions, and can hop on and off any time you want allowing you to be in control of your time, design your own programme and choose the way you prefer to consume your content.

You will be introduced to some of the most forward thinking event planners who will host the sessions, and you will be able to host a session by yourself, sharpening your virtual presentation skills.

The festival will run from 22-26 June 2020, to provide a great variety of topics and ensure that there’s no overlap of the sessions. We want to provide everyone a chance to participate as a speaker or host. 

How will it work?

Over the week starting 22 June we and our community will host educational sessions on Twitter in the form of Twitter chats and on Instagram in the form of Instagram Live. 

Some sessions will be hosted from our account (Twitter: @themiceblogHQ, Instagram @eventplannerstalk) and some sessions will be hosted on the accounts of our speakers. So you will be able to move from one session to the next, learning and meeting something or someone new at each stop. 

And to add a fun element to the whole virtual experience and set your skill set for social media mastery, there will be also a week-long TikTok challenge for #eventprofs! Don’t worry you won’t need to dance or sing! We’ll explore ways how to use this platform for B2B purposes to engage the younger demographics. More details to follow. 

While all sessions will be free and open to join on social media, we’ll have an exclusive group on Slack where you can purchase your ticket to join. All participants can exchange further about the sessions and connect with the speakers for more in depth insights and exclusive networking. By joining the group you will be able to start networking leading to the event, and have the opportunity to co-create the content. Not all sessions are set yet, so it’s your chance to co-create, collaborate and decide what topics the industry needs to talk about!! 

Secure your ticket and be sure to save the date and stay tuned for more information!

First online #eventprofstalk hackathon: WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT + FULL BUSINESS PLAN

After reading and hearing the unfortunate news of event businesses having to furlough employees or close down, businesses losing income for multiple months and clients keeping contracts on hold, we had to do something about it.

There is no time to look backwards. Instead, we need to work collaboratively as an industry and think about solutions that will make our businesses more secure, robust and agile in the future. 

The way we work and communicate will evolve and take place increasingly online when businesses reopen and travel resumes. That knowledge means that it will require adjusting and evolving the current business models of the entire events industry. 

That’s how the idea of the online #eventprofstalk hackathon was born. 

From 23–25 April 2020, the first #eventprofstalk hackathon took place with the challenge to ‘develop a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.’ The ‘agency’ was a fictitious entity for this challenge, but when working on this, we suggested that participants also think about it as their business. 

Fifty event professionals from all around the world registered to take part in this inaugural project. Four groups collaborated for 48 hours on Slack across different time zones. 

The entries were of a particularly high quality, setting a very high bar for the first edition of the hackathon and exceeding all expectations. 

The group members thought out of the box, strategically and sustainably, creating a business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19 to give back to the industry that we love so much. 

Seeing the concepts develop from a short brief to a detailed business plan really made the process somewhat emotional—that emotion that you have at live events and until now thought would not be able to be replicated in the online space. 

We could see now clearly what events in post corona crisis world would look like: collaborative, challenge based and cause driven. 

All four groups have delivered outstanding work. We were so impressed by the high standards of submissions and concepts, which exceeded all expectations. This first edition will set a whole new level of expectations for the next hackathon. 

Each one of the business plans had elements that made it stand out from the rest, and all were different and original. Because we loved all of the entries so much, we’ll be doing an additional ‘best of’ recap and sharing our favourite parts from each of the business plans in the next weeks. So you have more to be looking forward to! 

Before you get to see the winning business plan, here’s an overview of the requirements that the participants were tasked with to include in their entry: 

  • How to maintain networking
  • Selecting travel when businesses resume
  • Noted webinars to attend
  • Keeping in contact with clients
  • Developing alternative income streams
  • Business goals
  • Additional ideas

The judging criteria were the following: 

  • Active participation and contribution from all team members
  • Applicability of the ideas. Concepts should be able to be implemented immediately
  • Elaboration of concepts and ideas
  • Additional important elements beyond the ones suggested in the business plan outline that can contribute to the agency’s success over the next 12 months

And the winner is..

The winning team comprised five international event professionals from the UK, Spain, Belgium and Ghana. Group 5 came up with the creative name ‘Pyat Anum’, which derives from the words for ‘5’ in Russian and Ghanaian. The team has demonstrated a high level of commitment and collaboration to this task and over delivered on all the requirements listed on the business plan. 

Meet the team members and their winning business plan  

We awarded this business plan because there was substantial detail on what the agency wants to do, and how they will do it. They’ve introduced phases to the recovery plan, focused on sustainability by discussing locality and presented how they’ll add hybrid and online events to existing services. 

We enjoyed the approach towards maintaining a strong identity as an agency and being visible during the pandemic. 

There was a great approach for putting new protective procedures in place because this will be a big concern for event planners and businesses moving forward post COVID-19. 

We enjoyed the idea of developing new roles according to different needs, such as moving to content marketing, logistics managers to shift things by post, and online relation management. 

We enjoyed the idea of creating one’s own profit-making experiences, particularly looking at new services such as virtual assistants and copywriting. 

The detailed listing of all industry associations, online events and their webinar offerings was excellent, and event industry professionals can maintain ongoing education and networking.

This winning plan is highly operational and hands on, close to the industry and understands how market needs will evolve. The plan is also very open to adapting to the new reality whilst also creating new roles. 

Creating a three-phase recovery plan was highly strategic. We appreciated that the team was very aware of all industry associations and understands the new need to make crisis communication paramount and integrate it into the communication plan. We also loved that they empathised seeking to support local suppliers and developing a sustainable business model going forward. 


We want to thank all of the participants who have taken part in the first #eventprofstalk hackathon and to the entire online community for supporting the teams. We hope that throughout this process, all the participants have been able to have personal wins, be it learning a new tool, developing a new idea or meeting new colleagues. For us this process has been a rewarding journey working with everyone, and we hope to keep in touch and welcome you to our future events. 

And now, the wait is finally over, and below you can read the full 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19 written by Katinka Meszaros, Natasha Russell, Anastasiya Saukina, Amy Cowan and Linda Owusu.  

Hackathon FINAL Version

Event Planners Talk conference in Bern, Switzerland, is going ahead as planned, from 27–30 August 2020

When the events industry came to a halt in March because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, we had to stop our event promotion for the time being. Our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat rapidly became a regular hub for knowledge exchange and business advice, helping event professionals navigate through this crisis. In recent weeks, we have focused on how we can add value remotely to our online community while following governmental guidance to stay at home. 

Following announcements regarding an easing of restrictions on public life and movement, with initial liftings on social distancing taking place around the world, we have been constantly assessing the situation. However, in the meantime, we also aim to communicate our action plan for the Event Planners Talk conference due to take place this year in Bern from 27–30 August. In the following paragraphs, we want to share with you a full update on our recent online activities and those leading to the conference in Bern.

Regular online events and new online initiatives 

In the past few weeks, we have fully focused on covering current topics on the #eventpofstalk Twitter chats every Monday (from 9–10 pm BST) and Friday (from 8–10 pm BST). Although these two slots focus on advanced education, we also recognised the need to offer a place where event planners can promote their best work done in recent months.

Together with Megan Strahle—a Tourism, Hospitality & Events master’s student at the University of Queensland—we launched the #eventprofstalk marketplace, a new Twitter chat slot on Friday from 1–2 pm BST. The aim of this chat is to provide event professionals with a platform to promote their best work among community members, ask for feedback and share recent or future projects that could be of interest. Another important reason is to network because when the pandemic is over, the industry will bounce back more strongly, and now is the time to strengthen relationships. We’ve already seen new connections form and new industry initiatives taking place—providing promising evidence for the future and reassuring us that the industry will come out more strongly from this crisis.

Another new initiative that we launched is the #eventprofstalk hackathon, which took place from 23–25 April this year, a collaborative project also with Megan Strahle. After reading and hearing the unfortunate news of event businesses needing to furlough employees or closing down, businesses losing income for multiple months and clients keeping contracts on hold, we had to do something about it.

There is no time to look backwards. Instead, we need to work collaboratively as an industry and think about solutions that will make our businesses more secure, robust and agile in the future. The way we work and communicate will evolve and take place increasingly online when businesses reopen. That knowledge means that it will require adjusting and evolving the current business models of an event agency. 

The idea of the online hackathon was born. We put out the challenge to our community to ‘develop a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.’ The ‘agency’ was a fictitious entity for this challenge, but when working on this, we suggested that participants also think about it as their business. Fifty event professionals from all around the world registered to take part in this inaugural project. Four groups collaborated for 48 hours on Slack across different time zones. 

The entries were of a particularly high quality, setting a very high bar for the first edition of the hackathon and exceeding all expectations. The group members thought out of the box, strategically and sustainably, creating a business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19 to give back to the industry that we love so much. The winning entry will be announced in May of this year and published across our channels. Seeing the concepts develop from a short brief to a detailed business plan really made the process somewhat emotional—that emotion that you have at live events and until now thought would not be able to be replicated in the online space. We were overwhelmed by the depth and creativity of ideas, and we’ll be planning a second hackathon in June, with details to be announced in the coming weeks. 

Event Planners Talk conference going ahead as planned

Today, we have begun to see the initial lifting of physical restrictions in Europe. That change makes us optimistic that our first international event will be able to take place from 27–30 August 2020 in Bern, Switzerland. We are constantly monitoring the situating and following the Swiss government’s guidance to ensure the full health and safety of all our attendees. We are working closely with Bern Meetings & Events and the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau and monitoring the situation on a regular basis. If the situation remains unchanged, and/or restricted movement and international travel are still in place, a final decision to cancel this year’s event will be communicated on 26 June, two months prior to the event. All ticket holders will be refunded. 

Going ahead with the event will require several adjustments. The conference will be smaller than planned and capped at 25 participants. The good news is that all the educational sessions will be live-streamed and recorded for the global event community to participate and engage with the content online. 

Furthermore, the educational programme will change, and topic selection will include current issues that are on top of the event’s industry agenda: how to design digital event experiences, mental health and wellbeing, lessons learned from COVID-19 and what measures should be put in place to ensure that the industry will survive further potential global crises in the future. 

Through the regular Twitter chats, the hackathon and the live event, we are working on delivering a 365-day experience that is valuable, educational and can help event professionals grow their network and generate business results. At the event in Bern, attendees will also be introduced to a highly unique destination experience. We truly believe in live experiences and that they are irreplaceable. These events can enhance networking and education when they take place in the right setting, allowing attendees to discuss the content and develop it further, sharing opinions and networking in a particularly unique and inspiring environment where they can clear their head for new ideas. We look forward to welcoming you in Bern! 

Registration for the event is now open on our website. Sign up for the latest news and updates about the upcoming programme here. 

Business models of online events: Interview with Bogdan Maran, Founder at Visual Hive and AMMP

Over the past seven weeks, the event industry has experienced a rapid digital transformation. From working from home to shifting communication and meetings online and hosting virtual events.

Up until the COVID-19 outbreak, only a few event agencies were ready for online events. However, very quickly, everyone had to adapt because it was the only possible option. When businesses reopen, things will never return to where they were before, and online events will significantly increase.

We are not prepared for online. We know how to monetise live events, but the same rules don’t apply to the virtual environment. Online requires rethinking current business models and creating new revenue streams.

To learn more about business models of online events, we interviewed Bogdan Maran, Founder at Visual Hive, about what event planners can do now to adjust their business models to online. Bodgan is an experienced international photographer and videographer who, after working with Splento, has now founded Visual Hive. His passion has always been how to maximise the value of visual content. In addition to creating visual content, the company focuses on collecting and analysing data around it. It looks at artificial intelligence, the blockchain and how to measure live spending. They are building a sponsorship engine that matches brand and event audiences, such as at mass-participation sports, and how to maximise revenue and interaction in terms of creating a bespoke online experience. The second company where Bogdan is a co-founder, AMMP, is a production company that examines strategy, production, delivery and analytics. They also (due to event cancellations related to COVID-19) pivoted to online event production and broadcasting, but were already well prepared for this and very quickly hit the ground running, helping their existing customers to pivot to online events.     

What online component does your current event business model include? 

We look at events from two perspectives. Our first aim is to help our clients go digital. We’ve had this approach for physical events. We strongly believe that live is an experience, and we see visual content as a teleporter; that is, taking this experience online. This is the first example of how we can use visual content to take the event digital; that can be, for example, a launch event, a conference or a series of conferences. What we are doing now is attempting to experiment in order to innovate, and this approach represents the creation of a new market. 

Visual content means photos, moving photos, videos, graphics. Now, such visual solutions are increasingly important. Video is top in terms of priority.

There is a perception that you need to meet ‘YouTube high-end expectations’, where we go and watch the high-end content on YouTube and movies, but it costs a significant amount of money. But you don’t need to do it. You have to be strategic, smart, creative and fast. If you had to be fast before, and we believe in live and live interaction and targeted content within minutes, now that’s significantly further in terms of speed—it’s nanoseconds now that your content needs to go live.

We are now initiating a webinar series and podcast interviews focused on experimentation and innovation during this time. We will also be launching a series about how to communicate better using visual content. For example, when having an online interview, both parties must have the same microphone/sound quality and the same lighting in order to have a good experience, and that is what we train people to do.   

Do you think that online events can be as profitable as live events? Yes/no? Please explain.

Yes, 100 percent. I don’t think that anyone who says differently understands what’s happening. At this point, if we just take the short future, we didn’t want to monetise online events, because the events industry is highly conservative. However, at this point, we’ve created a market where everyone is a broadcaster—you’ve done Instagram live, Twitter chats, podcasts—you’re a broadcaster by definition. Everyone who hasn’t done it yet must start tomorrow. There are going to be some negative experiences, but out of that, you’ll have a very healthy market. Even now, after how many years of holding events, we still have bad events, but there’s a tremendous number of nice events, and that’s where we are going. So, online events are going to become profitable and add significant value, even when we look at this period (which I think is going to be short) in terms of research and development for new revenue streams. Therefore, when we return to the hybrid model, we can add that value, and it will still represent a substantial asset for us. 

How can #eventprofs make their online events attractive for sponsors? What arguments/data/testimonials etc. are required to make a strong case study?

Sponsors will be delighted with online events regardless of whether or not they are hybrid. You need to have a community to build an event, and this happens online or physical. Online, you’re not restricted by the physical barrier of a venue, so you can go even broader. Doing so means that you need to go more into details in terms of creating the experience, but you have data—online means data. We perceive content as a huge barrel of data. We can study emotions, language, brands, understand images and brands in a video etc., and this data can be transformed into sponsorship assets.

Don’t think of content as what you see. Think how you use it and how you share it. This is also data and good for sponsors. I think it’s more valuable from a sponsor point of view to go to a digital event rather than a physical one.

Sponsorship placement can involve logo placements, links back to the articles, shout outs to sponsors—everything that has an image can be branded if you do it correctly. I personally view it as a value exchange. If I give you something of value as the audience, I associate this value with the image of a sponsor—that represents content that can be sponsored. 

Sponsorship revenues will become multiples of the content. Because you have the ‘live recording’ part of the content and then repackage that into something further, the lifetime value of that content can be sponsored ‘live’ by one brand and sponsor everything afterwards as well with other brands.  

Would you pay to participate in an online event? If no, why and if yes, what price would you be ready to pay for an online event?

In the past three weeks, I’ve primarily been involved in online events and webinars for several reasons. I love to do my research to understand what people are currently doing. I also wanted to experience from the other side how that feels and works because it differs to experiencing a piece of content at home when your kids are around rather than in a conference room. I also made it for education, one of the top three reasons for people attending events. I consider that there are many ways that we can get through this in the next few weeks and transform everything into digital events. 

Because I’ve been working remotely for several years now and managing teams from six different countries, I’m used to this—it’s natural. What struck me is how I react when I don’t like it, when something doesn’t meet my expectations. When the production value/sound is bad or something goes wrong, you can feel it, and you detach very quickly. You’re just one click away—you don’t need to take a bus to go somewhere else. 

How is it possible to overcome the challenge of content length and ensure that the audience stays on and maintains their engagement over one hour? 

I don’t think that there’s a magic wand, but this is linked to value exchange. How much do you pay for an event? We are very scared of the short attention spans that everybody has online.

The monetary value I will pay for an online event is approximately 100 GBP for a large-volume corporate production and about 30–35 GBP for individuals because it’s hard in this period, and we’ll learn more as we have more data. However, the more an individual will pay (it doesn’t matter how—it can be cash or their time), the more they will pay attention. 

Does it mean that online events should be more expensive than live events? 

I see the value proposition in terms of value exchange. If you give me something of value, I’ll give you something of mine, it can be attention or cash, give me something of value, and I’ll pay for it.

But now that everyone is doing it, how are we going to win an audience’s attention, and what’s the USP of an online event? 

There was an answer on the #eventprofstalk Twitter chat by Victoria Matey from Matey Events suggesting to ‘go big or go niche’ because that means bringing highly specific value. I think that everything in between will not go away but will become more hybrid. But being niche means you offer value and you are in the top 10 of the best, and your value proposition is there. 

We need to change how we examine ‘going big’ because our mindset is currently with the ‘physical event’. When you think of the Mobile World Congress, you picture that big event. It may be that the meaning of ‘going big’ will change over time; perhaps that will mean that the live event is there and then it expands to so many branches that it can go over for months after the ‘live’. Even at the World Mobile Congress, you can’t do everything in four days even if you want to. You go to these big events and eventually spend all your time in one hall; therefore, such live events require an online component to extend the discussion to those who are not able to be there physically.   

What revenue streams can be applied to online events?

I think that there will be substantial possibilities in terms of revenue streams. We look at anything from pay per view; so, instead of paying 1,000 EUR to go to a large finance conference to see two keynote speakers, I can pay for the keynotes only. It can be pay for connection instead of pay for square meter because the square meter is gone. You also have traditional ticketing. The way I see it and what fascinates me is that when I go to a large conference, you usually have a specialist from this domain speaking on stage—you can monetise that (e.g., TED Talks and YouTube, BBC, CNN—they are all monetised). It can be correctly done, recorded, shared and available to access. You can have access bundles—what do you want to see? Why do I have to pay to see everything when you say, ‘I spend all my time in one hall (at the exhibition) because that’s where my business is.’ Hence, this process involves understanding and making personalised packages and streams. You might not have 1000 people paying 1000 GBP for tickets, but you will have 100,000 paying 100 GBP for a ticket. 

Passive income will always be present; for example, charging for a recording because you’ve missed the live stream (e.g., if you mention a brand, it can be ‘sponsored by’ or ‘brought to you by.’) When you see your audience engaging with that content, then it’s easier to bring them something special because you understand behavioural patterns, and that way an affiliate link can be personalised and be more effective depending on what the audience is interested in.  

How do you justify paying for an event when people such as Gary Vaynerchuck and Tim Ferris put all their content out for free? ‘I don’t think that anything is free’—those high-end speakers make a significant amount of money because everybody watches them; that’s their value proposition. You give me your time, and whoever is paying me, my sponsor, my affiliate, pay because I have this audience; that’s the value exchange. If now we say we put up a free event and have thousands of subscribers, we go to a large sponsor and monetise it so much that you can add a 0 to it as opposed to a live event, and you’ll see your revenue increase.’

Looking past coronavirus, do you think that online events will replace some of the live events? Please explain. 

Yes and no. I think it will be a combination. There will likely be more online events appearing because we see the value of them—we had no choice but to experiment now—but I think hybrid events with people who know what they are doing will be substantially more valuable and more powerful. Then, everybody will adapt—we inadvertently created a new market. We are all broadcasters, and we therefore need to learn quickly to adapt, experiment and then go hybrid. Then, my child won’t ask me why we are flying so much, and can we save the planet? Our costs will then go down. Live is never going to disappear—we’ll need this connection, buzz and experience. But online is going to remain, short term at least. We’ll get through this, but perhaps in three weeks or eight weeks—we simply don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can guarantee that you can add 3–6 months of nothing in terms of travel afterwards. What are we going to do? Are we going to cancel everything? No—if you’re a speaker at my conference, I’ll send you a conference-branded microphone and will ensure that you’re going to be ‘live’ at my conference. 

Let’s develop a business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19

The world for all of us has changed overnight. The defining moment for us as event professionals was on 28 February when the ITB Berlin was cancelled, followed by IMEX Frankfurt cancellation on 11 March. Two big European trade shows that were significant for us, but also for numerous international event agencies and suppliers involved directly or indirectly.  

In the current situation each day feels like a month, and the news is not becoming more promising for the event industry as we know it. It might take months before the business gets to (the new) normal, and it is clear that certain things will need to change in our business strategy to adapt to the new reality.

We’ve been reading the unfortunate news of event businesses needing to furlough employees or closing down, it breaks our hearts. As much as it might be hard now, success comes often when we’re faced with adverse situations. The only thing we can do now is to come together as an industry and think about solutions that make our businesses more secure in the future.

The way we work and communicate will also evolve and take place increasingly online when the businesses reopen. That knowledge means it will require adjusting and evolving the current business models of an event agency.

We don’t have the solution now, but collectively we can find it. We are excited to host our first online #eventprofstalk hackathon about ‘creating and developing a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.’

Grab your fellow event industry professionals and join us from April 23 -25! We are looking for innovative and out of the box thinking ideas for developing a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.

Ideas to include in the plan should involve:

  • How to maintain networking.
  • Selecting travel when businesses resumes.
  • Noted webinars to attend.
  • Keeping in contact with clients.
  • Developing alternative income streams.
  • Business goals.
  • Additional ideas.

Be as creative as you want in terms of presenting the business plan! The winning plan will be published on the Event Planners Talk website and shared with the global event community on the website and social media channels. 

How does it work?

We’re looking for innovative and applicable solutions for an events agency. After registering, you will be added to a Slack group with other 7-10 participants and you can start working on your solution straight away. We have provided initial guidelines for the business plan, and anything beyond is open to your imagination, creativity and problem solving skills.

The challenge will run for 48 hours, starting on April 23 at 8pm BST, and finishing on April 25 at 8pm BST.

This event is not just for participants from event agencies, this is a collective industry effort where all event stakeholders are welcome to participate: MICE destinations, DMCs, venues, hotels, AV providers, caterers, students, freelancers, associations – everyone is welcome! Team members from the same company are welcome but will be placed on different teams. 

How will participating benefit you?

  • You will actively contribute to supporting the global event industry by working on creative solutions.
  • You will expand your network by working in a small group with fellow event professionals and in the process will be able to build new business relationships.
  • The winning entry will be published on the Event Planners Talk and promoted on our social media channels.
  • You’ll be working in an innovative and fast paced environment and gain new learning skills that you will be able to apply to your event business.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch by responding to this email. 

We are so excited to see what you come up with! Places are limited, so make sure to sign up quickly HERE.

Working from home and what it means for productivity, trust, leadership and communication: Interview with Caleb Parker, Founder of Bold

The world has changed overnight. With the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the current lockdown in Europe and in other parts of the world, entire industries require their staff to work from home. The new reality will transform entire industries and post coronavirus, a new business world will emerge. 

Events will not be the same again. The way we work and communicate will evolve and take place increasingly online. Although there are opportunities in such adverse situations, it’s also important to acknowledge the anxiety that people feel about it right now, working from home and being isolated. 

During this challenging time, we continue to host our regular #eventprofstalk Twitter chats and seek additional expert advice via Instagram Live interviews on some of the subjects we cover on the Twitter chat. This time, we want to focus on new work and working from home. We interviewed Caleb Parker, an American London-based entrepreneur who’s the founder of Bold, a small meetings and flexible workspace brand in the UK. Caleb has been heavily involved in the events industry and with the Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA), and we’ve also worked on multiple events together over the past five years. 

For some event professionals, working from home is a new environment, whereas others have been doing it already for years. Caleb believes that although there’s a lot of talk about being productive while working from home, it’s also a very stressful time for people; however, it’s also a time when we need to realise that governments around the world are doing all they can do to ensure that from both health and economic perspectives, most of us will survive, and he is highly optimistic about that.

How the trend of new work is impacting the events industry 

Even before the coronavirus began to spread, ‘new work’ became a trending topic and is also regarded as one of the mega trends that is impacting the events industry. According to Caleb, this trend is not specific to the events industry but absolutely has an impact. Working from home provides the ability to be productive anywhere in the world as long as you have a good internet connection. If companies give their employees the option to work from home, that provides people with freedom and empowers them to be productive anywhere they work. Hence, employees don’t need to come into the office anymore in order to be productive. People don’t need to go to an event to learn. ‘I think that new work is significant for many reasons, but it’s not a binary thing, meaning that we go to an office or we don’t, or that we go to an event or we don’t. Those are two options, but the choice should be given to people to do either.’

How can event planners and their stakeholders build trust online with their suppliers when working/coordinating events remotely?

‘It’s not about not going to the office or to an event, it’s about not having to go. In the commercial real estate world, it has been a big question for years, about forcing people to come to the office, to manage them and to make sure they are productive. And there’s also a big trend in the recruitment of talent, to give people a choice about when they work, how they work and that they create a results-based culture.’

Caleb suggested that a question that frequently comes up is, ‘If people don’t have to come up to the office, why should they? And the answer is that they still should, but not necessarily every day. There are various types of work that people do that not require them to be face to face, not require to be in the office if they can get this work done anywhere they are. But when we talk about collaboration and building trust and instilling confidence in people who are working, that does take an element of face to face. But then, we can break it down further—should it be face to face in person or should it be over an online platform. There are times when face to face in person is much better because you can read body language differently.’

Talking about events, Caleb shared that ‘When we meet in person, that is a different feeling, and the feeling we get when we are there and shake hands, hug, see peoples’ smiles and feel the warmth—it’s what’s lacking in online experiences.’ 

How do you compensate on the social aspect of working from the office or attending an event

Caleb thinks that ‘Everyone in the events industry is facing this challenge right now. There’s a new app called “House Party” where you create a virtual room and invite people who you know. When people who are invited by the host are in the room they can socialise with other guests who know the host but don’t know each other. This is just one example, and currently, there are many virtual groups either offering support through the crisis or virtual socialising.’

Caleb continued, ‘If we don’t think about it in a corona time, but generally working from home, you can really get focused on your work and build in breaks. It’s important when working with your team to reach out but not interrupt them throughout the day.’

‘Everybody has their own way to compensate on the social aspect of working from home; there’s no one size fits all, and it’s not binary, to go to the office or not. There are still reasons to go to the office and go to an event. If you don’t go, you won’t be able to keep in touch with people, and not know what the right way people want to be contacted. Some people want WhatsApp messages, some people want voice notes or to connect over a livestream. It’s about having communication with people you want to stay in touch with to understand what works best for them.’ 

Speaking about events, ‘When it comes to events, Twitter is a great tool that allows to connect around hashtags, join conversations and be part of it. Instagram is also good with hashtags and live streaming of video. There has been a big debate about why should people pay for a ticket if they can watch the content online. To me it’s a clear answer—when you go, you get the face to face, which is an extra because you feel more part of it. But if you can’t attend for any other reason, you can still participate and receive that content.’ 

What is the etiquette of working from home? Have you learned something new about it this week that you weren’t aware of before?

Being professional is bringing all the other professional aspects regarding how you conduct yourself in business, all of which sustain how you conduct yourself online and in person. For Caleb, this is not a connotation regarding how you dress but is more about how you conduct yourself. Punctuality is something that we should be very mindful of. You don’t have an excuse to be late when you’re online. Asking what the preference of communication is (audio or with video) is recommended. Dress code can be an exception, it can be more relaxed if you’re working from home. 

The online audience during the interview on Instagram Live suggested that dressing up puts you psychologically in the mindset—if you need that, do it; if you don’t need it, find other things that do. Dress code also depends on whom you are having the call with because some clients are more formal than others.  

Should #eventprofs working from home stick to office working hours? Yes/no, and why?

It goes back to what works for different people. Caleb thinks that if you work a certain schedule in the office, try to stick to it if you are just starting to shift to a home office. Caleb has been working remotely for a long time, so for him, it really depends on what he has on his schedule. Caleb shared that ‘In the past, I was that person who would work around the clock. Now, I try to be more mindful and call it a work/life blend. If I work more in the morning, I might compensate in the evening and vice versa. If I had international calls late into the night, I might not start the next day as early.’ 

What are the challenges of working from home? 

The working hours that were previously discussed is one of them. Diet is another one. Often when working from home, if you don’t set your time for lunch and work through and not eat, you’ll snack on unhealthy food. Caleb recommended, ‘Just as you plan your schedule and your calls, plan your food, and don’t skip your meals.’ Exercising is also important. When you go to work, at least you walk to the train station, but if you move less in your flat, it’s important to exercise. 

Best practice is to have a dedicated workspace somewhere in the house, and when you finish working to break it down because if you feel that your home is your office, you’ll never feel as though you can disconnect. If you break it out, you can feel like it’s a fresh start for the evening. 

Have you experienced the fear factor of not feeling like you’re doing enough when you’re working from home? 

Depending on the work culture you’re in, management might make you feel like, in your mind, if you’re not there, you’re not doing enough. Then, depending on your own work ethic and how you think about things, you might not feel like that. You will be trying to meet all the deadlines, but feel you’re not doing enough just because you’re not there. It’s important to look at what you have to accomplish that day. I think that we need to be results driven in our work ethic, so if we have an outcome we’re trying to achieve, make a list of the tasks you need to accomplish to achieve this. Sometimes on a daily basis, it’s less about the outcome, it’s about the work you put in to achieve the final outcome. Ultimately, it’s about the outcome, so if you did all the things but haven’t achieved, the outcome is bad. So, it’s important to put a plan in place to achieve it.

What skills and learning about remote work and working from home can we bring back to the business when the pandemic is over? 

Caleb concluded, ‘I’ll be very curious to see whether companies realise that they’ve been able to stay productive. With the people who were able to work from home and the jobs that were still able to be done, companies will see how much percent of productivity they were able to accomplish. When that is determined, the question is, “Will they be required to get back to the office?” That’s the big lesson we’ll all learn.’

In terms of skills, the value of communication is going to increase massively. Leadership skills will be required as well. Because when working remotely, managers won’t be able to watch over their shoulder what other employees are doing—they must be able to trust their team. You will need to be good at delivering your strategy. 

From online to offline: digital experiences at live events that keep delegates constantly connected: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

In the events industry, we often talk about how to engage the online community with live events and vice versa. BUT, there is one thing that is often missing in this discussion—how to engage our audience online while they attend the live event. Perhaps controversial, because the focus of the live events is face-to-face interaction, but the fact is that social media and technology are not going anywhere, and it’s better to use it to engage and enhance the attendee experience at our events rather than leaving it to chance. 

There are many digital experiences at live events that keep the delegates connected to their mobile devices, including registration, social media, hashtag usage, photo walls, online polling and apps. Which tools are the most effective? To explore this area further, we hosted a Twitter chat to ask our global event community about digital experiences at live events—‘From online to offline: Digital experiences at live events that keep delegates constantly connected’—and gained valuable knowledge on the subject! You can read about it in the following sections and add your views in the comments below. 

#eventprofs often talk about moving from online to offline interaction at the events. But there are also online interactions at live events. What are these? 

According to Valerie Wagner, blogger and podcaster at Hotel O Motion, these include ‘answers to posts, retweets and questions… but unfortunately most of the time, they are not answered by organisers.’

According to the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, ‘These involve apps and the use of social media live from the event; for example, with event-specific hashtags and audience interaction tools, such as Twitter walls or live Instagram feeds, social-photobooths or online surveys.’

PCMA, a platform for business event strategists, shared that ‘We use social media to share views of our events that participants are posting about, but it isn’t just limited to that! Communications between our live streamers, on our app and in private groups (a la Facebook) help grow physical and digital connections.’ 

SF xLab, event technology specialist from the digital experience wing of Shelton Fleming, added that ‘My favourite is the under-used video tweet, “Here’s what’s going on live at our stand. Come see us at C130 and try to beat Carla’s score on this funky game we have. Top prize is a magnum of champagne”.’

Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, added that ‘Online interaction includes to a significant extent social media—and because attendees are constantly on their phones, there are opportunities to enhance their online event experience by providing interesting content worth sharing on social media and connecting with other participants and using a hashtag.’

How online interactions can support and add value to delegates attending live events: Is it necessary or just a distraction? 

For Irina, it’s a must, ‘Organisers need to design the event so that delegates can have something valuable to share, connect and also be interesting for people who are following online. For delegates, it can serve as external memory to document all the highlights and store them for later, such as names of speakers and venues.’ 

Calgary TELUS Convention Centre commented that ‘Online interactions can add tons of value to the event experience if done right. They can be highly informative for attendees, keeping them updated on what’s happening and engaged in conversations. These factors provide opportunities for networking too.’ 

The Vancouver CVB shared their thoughts from a CVB perspective, ‘We engage with the delegates of our large citywide conventions to provide helpful destination information (rapid transit, local events on now, unmissable experiences, etc.), and we keep a keen eye on the event hashtag to make sure they are happy.’ Calgary TELUS Convention Centre added that they take a similar approach, ‘As a Convention Centre, we also use those online opportunities to provide value to our visitors: where to eat, what to do around the Centre, important updates such as weather, transit, etc.’

Ain Chiara Bensenouci, Events Manager at Penguin Connect, shared that ‘Online interaction is necessary before/after the event to prepare, connect with other delegates, navigate content and access key learnings from the day. However, on the day, live events should be about connecting with people face to face unless the event is around tech/online.’ But she also added that ‘If the event is based around information and learning, everyone should be allowed to participate somehow, and online tools will help with that!’

Valerie offered that ‘Online interaction is particularly important if participants are not allowed to enter into a country for economic or political reasons. An alternative, in that case, would be to follow the event online. Online interaction not only relates to the events industry today; in the digital age, “as well as” applies, not “either or”.’

Irina highlighted that ‘Knowledge shared at events is no longer exclusive to the event. People go to events to have an experience and share this experience with other like-minded people. Therefore, there should be opportunities to transfer the knowledge into the digital space and look for ways to engage both online and offline audience in the co-creation of content.’ 

Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive at Manchester Central – Convention and Event Complex, shared that online interaction ‘can actually add valuable engagement; dynamic sentiment tracking, quick polls, expanding the conversation through Twitter or similar delegate response solutions, curated content suggestions, meet-ups and timed exhibitor activities can all form parts of such engagement.’ Irina added that ‘Online engagement from an event will generate interest and can attract new delegates for the next event.’ 

SF xLab commented that ‘Live streaming an event is actually fairly accessible and can be low cost. Combine that with Twitter, and you have people outside of the room adding to the conversation with references and articles about what the speaker is saying live. And take polls from everyone. Aside from that, more value comes out of being “present” at the event instead of with your head in a phone. About six years ago, I live-streamed a small conference using YouTube live/google hangouts, a laptop, an iPad, a cheap Zoom camera and a selection of very long cables. The hashtag was number 1 in London for hours and briefly number 3 in the world before being kicked off by #HarryStyles.’

Valerie added that ‘Online communication can be professionally accompanied by people who are at the event just for that. It must be co-organized and have a concept for the live event coverage.’

Robert Densmore commented, ‘If you have 1000 attendees at the event—you can have 1000 versions of your event…it’s like at a concert where the band play their big hit—1000 people singing their version of the same song…magic.’

PCMA concluded, ‘More people are embracing the idea that social media in business events isn’t just about being online—it’s about forming connections that bridge the gap between digital and physical communications. These are essential, but you also need a balance.’

There is a growing trend towards ‘digital detox’. Would you go to an event that forbids the use of mobile devices (partly or entirely)? 

Calgary TELUS Convention Centre suggested that ‘Everything in moderation is fine. We love the wellness spaces many events have implemented with the goal of making people feel present, relax and enjoy themselves. Those moments to “recharge” are important too.’ 

Megan Strahle—Tourism, Hospitality & Events Master’s Student at the University of Queensland—commented that ‘It depends on the type of event! If the purpose is wellness or networking, yes. But for a conference/expo, no.’ Valerie also noted that how the event is communicated is important, ‘If it was clearly communicated from the beginning, I can make a decision; otherwise, no. Digital Detox is also a buzzword (and marketing).’ 

Victoria Matey—an event consultant specialising in event psychology—commented that ‘Although there are studies showing that the mere presence (!) of smartphones influences our productivity and diminishes attention, I’d say that there should be a balance between strict limiting and the extensive usage of devices. Balancing these options will improve engagement.’

For Irina, it’s no, ‘Using social media while at an event increases my interaction with the event and other delegates and helps me store/access key information throughout the day and also post event; it makes me more effective and productive.’

Ain added that ‘It would have to be very clear what the purpose of removing mobile phones is (i.e. help with creativity, connection, focus). Instead of digital detox, we should learn to interact with tech and social media in a healthy way because they aren’t going anywhere.’

Jasmine Smith, event entrepreneur and creator, shared that she would go to such event, but also that she has adopted unplugging regularly in her personal life, ‘Being offline requires me to pay attention and write things down; research has demonstrated that this a much better way to process information.’

For SF xLab, it is also a no, ‘Removing mobile devices would increase the use of printed material, which is bad for sustainability. I use my phone to take photos of many of the things I want to remember or show. My phone lives on silent and do no disturb, but is counterproductive for an event to enforce (if they could!).’

Shaun observed that ‘We see an increasing number of wellness installations/sessions in our events that is associated with less device dependence. That said, your digital companion can enrich an event experience, and so the “digital detox” idea won’t work for all.’

Events are about bringing people together to interact with each other, to make connections. Is it really necessary to have online experiences at live events? 

According to Valerie, ‘It’s necessary in order to transport the event to the outside world, to expand the target group in any case! It is not for nothing that “Talk about the camp” applies to bar camps (an event format): How else can others be made aware of it and be there next time? With newspaper ads? Probably not!’

Irina thinks that ‘Because events are big gatherings, it’s not possible to see and meet everyone; therefore, technology can help delegates to navigate through the event and design their own programme, relying on their online interactions with the event and other delegates.’ 

Megan also thinks that the answer is yes, ‘Some people can be quite shy! Having the opportunity to interact online can give them the courage to go up to someone and ask to further the discussion. Online experiences (such as group chats) are also necessary for hearing-impaired inclusivity.’

SF xLab stated that ‘If >50% of people are in the room then no—there are more meaningful ways of making connections in the physical space. If there’s a large potential audience outside the room, you can add value to/get value from them, sure. You can’t get the same quality of experience through a screen.’

Robert also responded yes, ‘The live experience is the energy point—the digital can add value, context, democratise and increase interaction—inside and outside the event.. and it’s all recorded.’

PCMA shared that ‘When professionals are unable to attend, online experiences are a window into what the event offers, and can assist those who need some of those resources without being on the show floor.’

Shaun also agreed that the answer should be yes, and explained that ‘It reflects how we live, communicate, work, play. It’s integral. The clever bit is keeping it relevant and complementary. There are plenty of gimmicks, but good online engagement delivers a mass customisation solution tailored to the individual delegate.’

Live blogging vs extending event life cycle: What’s the difference? 

Calgary TELUS Convention Centre suggested that both are important, ‘Live “blogging” is important because it provides opportunities to connect with other attendees, but it also creates content that can resonate with your audiences and provide value to them as well. And if the content is good, amplify it and extend the reach. Keep the conversation going!’

Valerie added that ‘Live blogs can extend the event, but only if the content from the live blog is merged into new content with all content created before, during and after the event. This content can also be used for the next event if it is prepared differently. For example, audio interviews with participants, impressions (e.g. pictures, video) and testimonials.’ 

Valerie added, ‘The question is: How valuable is content? If I look around me, once content is created, it expires as soon as it is published. But texts can be used again and again, in a different form: podcasts, videos, infographics, new text.’ Geraldine Huybrechts—social media and branding specialist and event planner—agreed and added, ‘That’s a shame because indeed, (pieces of) content can be recycled/reused.’

Irina explained that ‘Blogging happens only at the event, and extending event lifecycle is an ongoing process that takes the delegates on a journey and also encourages interaction and co-creation before and after the event.’

Robert explained that live blogging is short form, and extending event life cycle is long form. Live blogging involves adding value and democratising the content to an external audience—the post-event cycle should be longer form, reflective and more nuanced…with its value in the long form…’

SF xLabs defined extending event lifecycle as ‘carrying on an event community in a digital space post event. It’s something delegates (particularly to technical conferences) are crying out for, but they take cost and commitment to moderate for a full year (or more!) until the next event.’

From your personal experience, what are your top three online experiences at live events that you engage with? 

Geraldine recommended ‘Live Twitter Wall, #hashtags and photo booths to share your picture with the logo of the company online. In general, online communication is (still) not particularly well integrated into live events.’ Irina also highlighted social media and hashtags, as well as live polls such as Slido to increase audience engagement.’ 

Valerie shared that ‘If an event is really accompanied online, then the online participants should also be included; that means answers, questions, linking, sharing. And in the best case, pass on the questions live on the site. I follow hashtags of events where I cannot be present. None of them have inspired me so far because unfortunately, the questions or answers of online participants are answered far too rarely.’

SF xLabs shared that ‘For me, attending events is about the here and now, but I do appreciate when talks I couldn’t get to are uploaded to YouTube post event, podcasts are made, and general round-ups.’

PCMA concluded and highlighted the three online experiences: 1. Hashtags, 2. Keynote quotes and 3. Livestreams! We’ve also found that bringing social media into a physical space (e.g. a digital post wall, or an Instagram Mosaic such as @ThisIsLuster), builds up interaction and excitement both online and in person. 

Trust reduces complexity: tips for successful collaboration between event agencies, convention bureaus and venues

Event design is a highly current topic in the events industry. We asked our community on Twitter how they define event design, and the various definitions highlighted how complex the definition and the process is and how it can mean various things to different stakeholders. 

One definition that gave a good introduction to our live session in Rorschach, Switzerland was offered by Robert Bagust, Worldwide Congress Manager at Bristol Myers Squibb, who shared that ‘It’s starting with “purpose”. You cannot think about (event) design until you know what it is you are trying to do. Perhaps you are attempting to solve a business challenge; an event is just one option to consider…nail this clearly, then comes design. For the event design phase, it’s about putting into place all the required elements to help you achieve the objectives you’ve set out… the design is then “everything”…’

After covering the topic of event design extensively online on our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat, we hosted a small regional event on the 8th of November 2019 at Würth Haus Rorschach in Rorschach, Switzerland. This session took place as part of the #GrenzenlosesEventdesign educational trip organised by the Destinations Circle networking group and the Convention Bureaus Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, Convention Partner Vorarlberg and German Convention Bureau. 

The focus of the discussion this time was how local stakeholders can support event planners to design more impactful events. Our panel included Anja Sachse, co-manager at the St. Gallen-Bodensee Tourism, Anja Gunz, responsible for Sales & Marketing at Convention Partner Vorarlberg and Ursula Kaufmann, responsible for sales at Kongresskultur Bregenz. This session was moderated by Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog Event Planners Talk. 

From what stage of the event planning do event planners start talking about event design

As mentioned in the introduction, ‘You cannot think about (event) design until you know what it is you are trying to do’, and all panellists agreed that event design can start only when event objectives are defined. According to Anja G., ‘Defining an event objective is the starting point that needs to be addressed consciously. An event format shouldn’t be forced at an event because it’s liked by the organiser, but it has to be the right format for the content and event objectives. For example, a classic theatre-style seating format is one of many and if the aim is to share knowledge, this could be an appropriate choice, and this is event design. Therefore, event design starts very early in the planning—first the event objective, and second the design that will help achieve these objectives.’ 

For Ursula, event design also begins at the beginning of the event-planning process—as soon as she knows what the event objective is and what should be the takeaways for event attendees when they return home. As a location, they want to be a good host, and a good host needs to give thoughts on how to help their guests achieve their objectives. They try to understand the needs of event planners prior to even approaching them, and when they understand their specific objective, they can co-create the event.

According to Anja S., from a perspective of a convention bureau (CVB), they can provide information up to the point when the planners choose the respective suppliers to continue the planning with. Anja S. suggests for the CVB to be able to put themselves in planners’ shoes and understand how it is to be in their situation and what information they would need. Don’t leave the planners to Google for hours regarding what the CVB might know off the top of their head. The information that can be found easily online, such as a venue search, should be available and easily found. Some CVBs have a dedicated venue search function already on their website that can filter the requirements.   

There is a need for more education about the role of the CVB

The CVBs function as neutral consultants and shouldn’t be perceived as if they want to sell something. They can support event planners to a significant extent as the local partners on the ground. CVBs are there as long as event planners need their support, regardless of the phase of the event planning, and the scope of support can range from a small hotel tip to more extensive support on event design. While venue searching is becoming commoditised on the Internet, CVBs have an opportunity to be seen as a trusted partner who can provide support with an event concept. The role of the CVB is evolving; it’s not enough anymore to be a contact person for the location or venue because event planners can obtain this information online. CVBs need to bring more value; this is the chance for the CVB for example to provide support for event design concepts.

CVBs can also be in the position to try something new if they haven’t done it before. A way to do so is to organise their own events, therefore putting them in the position to be able to recommend similar events to future customers. This is the case for the #GrenzenlosesEventdesign. This approach is highly beneficial for all of the local partners with respect to gaining this experience and to be on the same eye level with their clients in order to be taken seriously. 

Event planners should be open to consultations with the CVB

Event planners should have a certain level of readiness and trust to speak openly with the CVB. They should be ready to share what they have done before, and perhaps even be ready to change the way they have been doing things in the past and be ready to try new things. They ought to be open minded about being consulted. Hence, there should be mutual trust. This can be difficult in terms of to what extent and more importantly, how the CVB can ‘intervene’ to suggest their own ideas. In reality, until this conversation is about to take place, there must be more groundwork to be done about the role of the CVB and for the event planners to understand that they possess this competency. It was mentioned that it could take years to build this trust. 

It’s believed that in order to conduct a transaction in B2B, it’s necessary to have between 5–12 interactions, whether that be face to face or online. CVBs should look out for these opportunities to keep in touch with event planners. It was advised that when a request comes in, it’s ok to pick up the phone for a short chat or use FaceTime to break the ice. CVBs should ask questions (about the event) and demonstrate their competence, showcasing that they know all the local partners and suppliers at the destination. Open communication is key to offering where and how the CVB can help. The client can then decide how much they want the CVB involved in their project. 

Examples of event design 

Anja S. shared that they organise local events for their members. Thus, the members allow themselves to be consulted and trained by the CVB. The second reason for this event is to exchange knowledge and expertise among themselves. 

Ursula shared that venues should also organise their own events on their premises. For five years, the Kongresskultur Bregenz had their own VLOW Festival about communication, design and architecture; they initiated it to gain the experience and try different formats. The next phase of their own events will be launched this year and is called LandStadt 2020, where the venue is highly involved in the event design. Additionally, they have recently begun offering ‘Event Planning Sprints’, which on their website is described as ‘Your event concept will be further developed in a short space of time by a heterogeneous team using design-thinking methods. Through its close association with micelab:bodensee, Kongresskultur additionally can call on a wide network of creative and innovative professionals.’

Ursula shared the experience that ‘For a location, it’s also a challenge to get into the planning process early because it’s usually from the planner’s perspective not the first point of contact. After internal analysis, it became clear for us that this needs to be communicated. If you don’t say, no one knows. There must be more than just a “we-can-consult-you” approach, and the Event Planning Sprints concept was well understood by event planners. For example, our regular client who was interested in revamping their event uses this workshop to bring fresh air to the existent event format. In such cases, the client is involved from the very beginning, and we supported them in getting the local stakeholder into the planning process too, and for all to develop the new format together.’ 

Anja G. shared how they are embracing digitalisation. One year ago, the Convention Partner Vorarlberg developed and launched the Convention App Vorarlberg app. It offers events that take place in Vorarlberg with a customised package to the type of events (sport, culture, congress and exhibition). The Convention Partner Vorarlberg wants to help organisers initially test the app free of charge with respect to how it can support their events. But that process serves the purpose of rethinking the communication strategy of an event as well. Hence, it starts already pre event when the delegates can network via the app, presenting the sponsors, share ‘push notifications’ via the app, offer an internal chat function etc. This (digital) process is also part of event design. 

Is event design a question of budget?

For Anja S., event design is one of her job requirements. For a long time, it has been a deliberate aspect of her work as well as indirectly because there should be ‘leitmotif’ to an event. Yes, there is a point where the budget reaches its limit, but also with a smaller budget there are opportunities to produce an event that has a consistent central theme. 

According to Anja G., the art of event design is ‘What can be achieved with the given budget’.

Some ideas don’t have anything to do with the budget but involve creating emotional moments for people. The audience commented that ‘There are “gimmicks” that cost thousands of euros, but on the other hand, there are moments where delegates can converse and look at each other, and this don’t cost anything—these are the moments that stay in the memory. There is no correlation between money and touching people emotionally.’

Further, audience discussion touched on return on investment, ‘The stakeholders who are paying for the event are part of the event design, and they can decide how to spend the money. There is an area of conflict between innovation and simplicity because “The Bait Must Attract the Fish, Not the Fisherman.” For some, it might be enough to reach the people emotionally, but for corporations who want to be perceived as highly innovative, it is not enough, and expensive technology could be a solution. Touching people emotionally might be the end goal, but it’s not the intention of the corporate stakeholders at the moment.’

Another aspect that was suggested is that ‘It depends on the delegate personas. For someone who needs to see, taste and touch, there should be other elements at the event, such as pleasant-to-touch table cloths or furniture material, which can be simple but yet pleasant—this approach can also fulfil emotional needs.’ 

Further discussion was about to what extent tech products can create emotions. Apple was mentioned and the emotional impact it creates at its product launches and the product itself when individuals purchase it; from packaging to usage. Tech often involves pure emotions; therefore, it has to be integrated correctly in the event design. But eventually, it needs to be determined who the stakeholders are and how to reach them emotionally.  

It was also countered that the event should please the end consumer (the attendee) not the sponsors because if attendees don’t come anymore, there is no event. This is easily said than done because the decision-makers have the money.

One audience member suggested that events need to have a surprise element. For example, that could involve looking for locations that are not usually accessible to the general public or providing a unique storytelling element. Food can also be regional to add to the local flair. When people attend events internationally, they only rarely have the opportunity to explore the locality, so organisers can integrate the local elements and stories into the event. The WOW effect can come from different directions; the location can be a WOW effect, and the people can create a WOW factor. One example was shared that involved a corporate company training their engineers to become speakers (engineers frequently don’t have high-level presenter skills). They were trained professionally to polish their presentation skills, involving a reduction on their reliance on PowerPoint and shortening their speech. The WOW effect here was that their colleagues got to know them differently, not as engineers but as presenters. At first, the engineers could think that they would fail as presenters, but it gave them an opportunity to shine in a new area for them. People want to get to know other people; therefore, when there is also a trend towards digitalisation, we should be careful with categorising personalities. 

Event design requires time. How to approach this process when there is a short lead time towards an event? 

According to Anja S., ‘It’s through a relationship, to communicate to the client quickly that the CVB is a partner they can trust because the CVB has extensive knowledge of the region’. When a previous site visit is not possible, the trust should be established immediately via other channels.

According to Ursula, the venues need to be creative. That can be for example taking the client on a virtual site visit via FaceTime on a mobile. Audience discussion also mentioned virtual reality (VR), but it’s not suitable for everyone (cost attached to producing the material or the sickness effect created after wearing VR goggles); therefore, venues also need to be online on social media channels where planners can gather already initial information and get an idea of the location or destination through videos and photos. It was also suggested to show full rooms rather than empty spaces. 

How can agencies help the CVB?

The final discussion question was how agencies can help CVBs. It was suggested that agencies also need to understand each other in terms of how they work and further to respect the work that goes into collecting information for the planners. It was also advised to let the CVB get involved as soon as possible. Another idea was to host regular meet-ups for agencies, CVBs and their members and talk openly about the industry. 

The agencies shouldn’t see the CVB as a competitor but instead as a partner, take the advice seriously and work collaboratively. And lastly, familiarisation trips are a highly effective way to get to know the local stakeholders personally and to cover a large amount of information in a short period of time. It was summarised that trust is key in collaboration, and it can reduce complexity. 

How micro-moments are taking event personalisation to the next level: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

An event experience comprises many micro-moments that consumers undertake on their customer journey as they interact with an event. Do event planners look at each customer interaction strategically, making it an ‘experience’? 

According to Google’s report from 2015 ‘Think with Google’, micro-moments ‘are critical touchpoints within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends’. In 2019, ‘micro’ is having its moment again because event and travel professionals have begun to highlight the benefits of having bite-size experiences, using terms such as micro-experience, micro-travel, micro-learning and micro-influencers in their corporate communication.  

It is understood that micro-trends are all about more personalised experiences that help individuals save time, be more efficient and productive and obtain results. Therefore, we wanted to understand better what micro-moments have to do with changing attendee needs and expectations.

To find more about this growing trend in connection with the event industry, we hosted an #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 7 October 2019 about micro-moments and below share with you the highlights from our community members.

Micro is defined as ‘extremely small’. How can event planners relate this growing trend to the events industry? 

According to Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, ‘Attendees are getting busier and have growing specific needs that can be met with highly customised experiences. Large events can be a platform for smaller experiences to take place, and smaller events can serve a very specific target audience, such as an industry vertical’. The Calgary TELUS Convention Centre added that ‘micro-experiences within larger events are totally possible and are a great way to engage attendees who are looking for “out of the box” moments.’

Johnny Martinez, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Shocklogic, highlighted that he loved the simplicity and at the same time brilliance of making a macro-experience out of many micro-experiences.  

Aleksandra Panyukhina, Head of Event Marketing at SEMrush, shared that she sees ‘micro’ as a growing trend, ‘I also talked to a few organisers this year who are changing their approach exactly to “micro making it macro” ’. Irina also found the concept of macro vs micro fascinating but suggested that she thought that it’s happening the other way around, making micro-moments from macro, meaning breaking the overall event experience into smaller pieces. Calgary TELUS Convention Centre commented that they ‘see more and more big events incorporating “micro” sessions or experiences within their main event. Boutique is a trend that is here to stay. Organisers can create “micro” sessions or experiences that are highly unique and niche, attracting a particularly small group of people who could be interested in that specific topic.’

Alexandra suggested that ‘micro’ has to do with personalisation, which ‘basically leads you towards micro-events and experiences. You can’t personalise an event for 20K people (and if organisers say they do, it’s quite a low level of personalisation actually)’. Therefore, she strongly believes that personalisation and micro-moments will lead the industry to a more boutique style, tailored to the target audience experiences. Johnny added that micro-experiences are all about the little details, such as a personalised brand experience.

Why has ‘micro’ become a trend in the past 1–2 years? We hear about micro-experience, micro-travel, micro-learning, micro-influencers and micro-moments. What does it have to do with changing attendee needs and expectations? 

According to Irina, ‘it is about changing attendee needs to get more done in a pleasant way and be efficient; for example, micro-learning on a mobile, micro-travel to have a short getaway without disrupting the daily schedule or routine. People want more for less and be efficient.’ 

According to Valerie Wagner, podcaster and blogger at Hotel O Motion, ‘I think it’s related to “back to the roots” and the digital transformation. Information and knowledge are everywhere. Minimalism is important in this day and age. We consume too much, and participants long for shorter and more intense experiences and no longer for mass, but quality.’ 

Alexandra thinks that it’s just like in any other aspect of life—trends come and go. Trends such as “festivalisation” and “going big” have been huge for years. Now, everyone talks about intimate, low-scale but high-efficiency happenings.’ 

Johnny suggested that this trend is very much aligned with the concept of “think global, shop local” as well as the importance of connecting with individuals in meaningful ways. 

We’ve chosen to focus on the micro-experience, out of the many other ‘micro-trends’. What makes such experiences so unique and essential? 

Irina stated that ‘The micro-experiences are very simple and short, and they can occur at any stage of the customer journey; so, each attendee will have a different perception and experience at an event. But they still need to be created by the organisers.’ 

Johnny added that ‘there’s something highly unique about catering to people’s true needs and desires. Understanding people’s behaviour is at the heart of having a successful product.’ 

Is micro-experience attendee led or event organisers led: Who creates these moments—attendees by themselves or the organisers for attendees? 

According to Helen Brady, Senior Event Manager at Events Northern, these micro-experiences are ‘led by event planners, by creating the moments that attendees can then participate in. Then, the discussions, interactions and engagements between attendees that have been sparked by these moments can occur.’ 

Aleksandra added that she believes that to maximise the value of an event, mutual effort is required. However, organisers do a large portion of work by studying their audience, understanding what resonates with them, how to bring it to life and actually executing it. But unless attendees are open to the experience and are ready to interact, they won’t uncover all of it. Experience requires a person to live it—it can’t exist on its own.’

Johnny proposed that ‘many people seek these experiences, and there are many “micro-experience” providers in the chain. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Is the micro-industry coming?’ 

Irina offered that ‘It can be both because organisers can create the foundation for delegates to learn and network, but attendees can also create these experiences by themselves when they choose a specific event. I would say that it is 70% organiser and 30% attendee led.’ 

In what stage of the customer journey do the micro-experiences fit? Can organisers integrate them throughout the entire customer journey or only at the physical event? 

Valerie gave an example during our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat ‘these are my micro-pulses every Monday. 😉 I became aware of the big picture (Eventplanners + Conference + Irina). Then came the first meeting, and next year I will be at the Event Planners Talk conference. Hence, I have become a reader, guest and podcast host through micro-impulses. Someone else may have attended a regional event in London and heard about the regular chats. And a third one regularly reads the blog and gets the impulses on Mondays. I think a micro-experience is possible in any status, but it should be left to the participants to decide when they want to record it.’

Johnny expressed that event planners can ‘really fine-tune the entire event life cycle to cater for personalised experiences that can be appreciated by diverse attendees. Artificial intelligence is the next horizon to achieve this. Bring on the next revolution!’ 

Alexandra stated that yes, and that also pre and post event, these moments should be cultivated, ‘if we speak of promotion and pre-event communication, that’s a must of modern marketing. If the event is a micro-experience, it means that your targeting and promotion will be quite similar for all attendees. But there is always a place for extra creativity :)’.

Irina agreed that it should be throughout the entire customer journey, from micro-content to customised seating arrangements, networking etc. The organisers should know their audience and aim to design each stage accordingly for them (which is not easy but possible).’ 

How can event professionals create a series of micro-experiences at their events? 

Irina suggested to ‘make each part of the event an exciting happening, excite people to be there, facilitate networking, audience engagement, try new formats and consider how a certain aspect of the event can serve multiple target groups (e.g. online and offline, entertainment and education— “edutainment”).’ 

Valerie presented that there are many nice new formats and that she has tested Pecha Kucha in internal communications and the feedback was great; she suggested doing something different. 

Helen recommended transforming ‘every stage of the process into an “experience”. Something on arrival, something when people need to queue, something when people eat, something when delegates leave, something when attendee share feedback, etc.’ She also recommended to break the entire event up into smaller chapters to deliver an overall story. 

Valerie concluded that delegates are in the position today to acquire knowledge independently, but the event organiser can give impulses and think more and more outside the box, network and connect. Irina added, ‘It’s important to give people a topic they can relate to and talk about also during and after the event. Knowledge, coupled with a short experience, will be more memorable and meaningful for attendees.’ 

How can collaboration lead to innovation: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat with Becky Dempsey, Account Manager at The Collaboration Company

Collaboration is particularly interesting for the events industry because event planners work so often with venues, suppliers, destination management companies (DMCs) and clients, yet it sometimes can seem that the various stakeholders do not truly collaborate, but actually cooperate or coordinate an event. Therefore, collaboration is the most misused and misunderstood word in business. 

Collaboration vs cooperation and coordination 

Have you come across phrases such as ‘We’re really good at collaboration, we have Skype, shared servers and online tools, so we can always collaborate?’. According to Becky Dempsey, Account Manager at The Collaboration Company and who will also speak at our annual conference next year, these examples are referring to ‘Sharing information and connection, not collaboration.’ 

Have you come across the phrase ‘All my team collaborate on an event because we have the client in mind and are making sure the event is right?’ Here Becky explained that ‘This is working to a shared goal, so maybe more cooperation than collaboration.’ A further example is when collaboration is confused with coordination, ‘We collaborate with all of our suppliers to ensure the best event.’ Here, Becky suggested that this is yet not fully related to collaboration, but rather suppliers are working in parallel on their own section of the event; therefore, it is more about coordination rather than collaboration.

Defining collaboration 

Collaboration is particularity important in the events industry because event planners often rush to the end goal. According to Becky, ‘If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you know the tips and tricks, have good contacts and people you trust and can deal with situations, but sometimes that knowledge can hold us back from innovating because we reach for the end goal all of the time—get that event organised and run it smoothly! Event professionals are so organised (most of the time!) that we rush to the how and ignore the possibilities.’

But it is here where collaboration can make a huge difference. Instead of reaching for the end goal straight away, Becky suggested, ‘What if we took the time to sit with our clients and explore, imagine and build together to really innovate! I accept that it’s tricky with clients, but we should put the time in with our teams, and certainly could with our suppliers/venues/DMC’s, or even with fellow industry colleagues! I often run workshops bringing together people from a range of different industries that have never met before, and when they are intentional and specific about collaboration, the results are always amazing. Collaboration is often thought of as a team thing, but if we truly collaborated with our partners, clients, suppliers and customers, rather than pushed information at them or got a like or a retweet every now and again, surely that can only strengthen those relationships, providing those involved with a sense of ownership and pride and therefore a greater sense of commitment to the end goal.’

That’s also what we hope to achieve after learning from Becky at our annual conference in Bern, takeaways that will help us advance personal careers and progress industry standards through collaboration between the most ambitious event planners. But until then, we wanted to explore the topic further and define the difference between collaboration, cooperation and coordination because collaboration when done right leads to innovation. We opened up the discussion to our community on the #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 23rd September 2019, and below are the highlights!

How would you define collaboration? 

According to Becky, collaboration is ‘exploring, imagining and building together whilst trusting each other completely—Truly working together and making time for it to solve a complex challenge!’. According to Robert Kenward, Chief Talent Officer at YOU Search & Select, collaboration involves ‘listening to others, and taking other people’s opinions into account’, with Becky adding that listening constantly rates as the top thing that employees wish their leaders did more of!.

According to Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, ‘Collaboration is when multiple parties are working together to develop a new idea, concept or product and taking advantage of collaborative tools, such as digital but also using principles of event design, various meetings formats etc.’ 

LeAnna Toups-Bennett, project manager at the Louisiana Department of Education, shared that ‘Collaboration is taking out the me, mine and my. It is about focusing on the group’s objectives and goals in a manner not only productive but also conducive to thought sharing.’

Do you think collaboration is important? Please explain 

Becky noted that ‘Collaboration leads to innovation, but it’s not required all the time. When a challenge/brief is complex, it’s perfect, but it’s not required for everyday tasks!’. Robert discussed the challenges of collaboration as a self-employed event professional, ‘It’s tough when you work for yourself too because these can be the times when you feel most lonely and vulnerable due to the fact that your decisions mean so much more because you’re the brand/business not a corporate.’ Becky agreed that ‘It’s important to get multiple opinions and experience together to collaborate and develop the idea or event further. Take today’s chat, for example; there were so many interesting perspectives I hadn’t even thought of, it’s like collaborating on a content piece together.’ This is a great approach for small agencies who want to learn and solve complex challenges, for example, put them out on social media to the event community and develop the topic further!

LeAnna suggested that everything has a time and place and ‘not everything needs collaboration. However, much should be collaborated on. In group settings (formal and informal), everyone brings a different lens to the table. Each lens is a unique perspective that should be validated and respected.’ Becky agreed, ‘Definitely. We always say different perspectives are the point of collaboration, not the problem!’

TELUS Convention Centre added, ‘Absolutely. “Two heads are better than one”. We believe that to be successful, no matter the industry you are part of, you need to co-create, learn from others and be surrounded by organisations that can work with you towards the same goal.’

Conference Care Package highlighted that collaboration can solve problems, ‘Collaboration is a great way to approach a problem because it brings together different perspectives. There are many ways to look at a problem, and the more heads, the better.’ 

How can collaboration help in the events industry? 

According to Irina, ‘The events industry needs more collaboration between the smaller or new players in the industry with the established ones, but also more collaboration with other industries. This will keep the industry more agile, innovative, and all actors can benefit from the larger network.’

Becky presented an example of collaboration vs coordination, ‘We so often answer briefs and request quotes quickly from suppliers that event responses are often based on past experiences…use the same entertainment, the same process etc because we know it works…but it’s not providing an opportunity for innovation and change!’ Irina explained that that’s why collaboration is so important, ‘Attendees evolve, and events should evolve at the same speed to constantly exceed expectations.’ When everyone completes the tasks leading to the event day, that means that everyone is doing their job to a common goal but in their own way in parallel. On event day that’s perfect, but in the lead-up, it would be great to share and build ideas to take the event to a new level!’

Robert highlighted, ‘There is no events industry without collaboration, and there are certain areas in events, such as recruitment, where industry professionals should collaborate with specialists.’ Further discussion highlighted the reasons for lack of collaboration: Competition, fear of failure and not making the time or other general excuses! It was mentioned that ‘The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.’

LeAnna recommended to think broadly about collaboration, ‘I think we need to think about collaboration as not happening just before events. Collaboration also occurs during and after them, too. It is not just between planners and suppliers, but participants and hosts, hosts and planners, suppliers and participants.’ 

What are the barriers to collaboration? 

All chat participants agreed that barriers are linked to personal interests, negative past experiences, an ‘I-know-it-better’ approach, a corporate culture that prevents collaboration, egoism and some who refuse to work with others, competition, lack of time and discipline and lack of communication between stakeholders. 

Becky suggested avoiding the phrases ‘”No, we’ve tried that before”, “That won’t work because”, “No, I don’t like the idea of that”…it stops teams from wanting to collaborate for fear of our ideas being shot down!’ 

What’s your top tip for helping inspire collaborative working? 

Robert and Valerie Wagner, blogger and podcaster at Hotel O Motion, suggested to ‘Just do it’ and Valerie added not to be afraid to share an idea due to fear that someone is going to steal it, and furthermore ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously, work for the cause and always focus on the customer. Irina agreed, ‘There is so much between an idea and the execution, no one is going to steal your ideas.’

Becky highlighted the importance of the group structure, ‘Creative styles should also be considered. In a group, you need more than just innovators. You need detectors to pick out key points, adaptors to tweak it, refiners to make it happen and enthusiasts to keep it all on track! Much more than an idea to collaborate on. Be intentional and be specific! Bring together people from different areas and varying experience levels and even people who have no idea about your industry, and see where you can take it!’

LeAnna encouraged not to limit yourself by being afraid to try something new and embrace technology. 

Are there ways other than collaboration that could lead to innovation? 

Becky encouraged that ‘We can spark innovation with our own ideas, but it’s unlikely to become anything more than an idea without exploring, building and imagining what it might be with others!’

Irina also thinks that merely an idea isn’t worth much unless it’s further explored, ‘It’s important to exchange knowledge and the idea with others and bounce it around, listen and fine-tune it. An idea is highly abstract until it gets context, which can be achieved through collaboration.’ 

LeAnna concluded, ‘There is always trial and error. However, you get a faster result through productive collaboration. Valerie summed up that exchange is vital, ‘Talking to each other is always important in order to hear different perspectives and to develop further.’