Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance

April 29, 2014

Tweeting at conferences

Photo source: S&S Media on flickr.

Note: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.

Introduction

I’m about to give you advice on things I’ve failed miserably at.

You see, I love Twitter. I use it every day. Put me at an industry conference? My love grows into an addiction. Armed with a smartphone, you can become a Twitter rock star at industry conferences. Take this to the extreme, however, and you can miss out on a lot of what the conference has to offer. After all, your goal was to attend a conference and not to spend the entire day on Twitter.

An Acid Test for Twitter Overuse

Here’s the perfect acid test to know whether you’ve overused Twitter at a conference: do you need to re-charge your phone before the conference is over?

It’s happened for me at every conference I’ve attended in 2014 (thank you for those sponsored charging stations!) My use of Twitter has taken away from other things the conference has to offer. I’ll always be able to connect with like-minded people on Twitter. I won’t have the same opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.

Here are six ways to keep your conference Twitter use in check.

1) For every 10 new people you follow, introduce yourself to 1 person at the conference.

I follow the event’s hash tag on Twitter. I like to read attendees’ observations about a session. I even like to hear what sponsors have to say, aside from the invitations to visit them at booth #317. When someone shares an interesting tweet, I follow them.

It’s quite easy to follow 50+ new people in a day. It’s harder to introduce yourself to real people in real life. So make sure you do that.

Photo source: TopRank Online Marketing on flickr.

2) For every 5 tweets, share 1 thought with another attendee.

It’s very easy to quote the keynote speaker and add the event’s hash tag to your tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else (yes, those get counted towards the 5). But how about the old fashioned way of communicating: face to face? Sharing your thoughts on Twitter is great. A lot of people can see it. Mix that with the more personal approach of expressing your thoughts to other people. In person.

3) Find and meet 5 people from the Twitter stream.

Once at a highly-tweeted conference, I got into the elevator during a break. I recognized another attendee from her Twitter profile photo. She and I had been tweeting during the same session. I knew her name (from Twitter, of course), so I introduced myself, saying that I recognized her from Twitter. Do this five times.

4) Put the phone down every 5 minutes or every 3 slides.

Photo: these two ought to take breaks to put their phones down. Photo source: Ed Yourdon on flickr.

There are some conference sessions (especially workshop sessions) that are learning-focused. When I’m in such a session, I take a lot of notes. If I’m tweeting every two minutes, I’m not able to take as many notes. And, I’m less likely to have heard all the valuable nuggets shared by the presenter. So force yourself to put the phone down. I recommend an interval of 5 minutes or 3 slides.

5) Collected business cards > number of tweets.

Sometimes, I’ll collect a business card from an attendee and the exchange will be superficial. We bumped into each other while waiting for coffee, but didn’t have a meaningful conversation. That being said, business card collection is a good proxy for the amount of networking and conversations you’ve had. Aim to have your collected business cards exceed the number of your tweets at the conference. To date, I’ve failed miserably on this metric, but hope to achieve this goal in future conferences.

6) Include 1 out of every 4 shared photos in a post-conference blog post.

Photos are becoming an increasing percentage of the tweet streams at events. They also work very well in blog posts about the conference. Write a blog post to share your takeaways from the conference. For every four photos you share on Twitter, pick one of them to include in your post.

Photo source: JD Lasica on flickr. Follow JD on Twitter: @JDLasica.

Conclusion

To get the most out of a conference, set some goals before going. Remind yourself of those goals throughout the day(s) of the conference. Twitter can help you achieve some of those goals, but stop to ask yourself whether (and when) it’s getting in the way. I’ll be sure to do the same for my next conference.


A New Way to Follow Up with Attendees after Events

July 6, 2013

The New Way

Photo credit: Flickr user bernatcg via photopin cc

Introduction

Recently, I attended a virtual event. The event had a large number of sessions and virtual booths (exhibitors). Due to a number of meetings I had scheduled that day, I couldn’t stay too long. I attended one session and visited a few booths to see what was going on.

The Current Way

A day after the event, I received an email from the event organizer. They thanked me for attending and invited me to log back in to view all of the sessions on-demand. So far, so good.

And then it started. Over the next two weeks, I received emails from exhibitor after exhibitor. I recalled visiting some of the exhibitors’ booths. For others emailing me, I had no idea they were even part of the show.

The New Way

I don’t like the current way. It results in too many emails, most of which aren’t relevant to me. So here’s the new way.

Warning: this takes extra work on the part of the event organizer. But in the end, I think everyone wins.

1) An exhibitor can only email an attendee when the attendee requests it, on the event website.

2) All post-event emails come from the event organizer (only).

3) The event organizer becomes an Editor of sorts, assembling emails that pair vendor-neutral content (the on-demand sessions) adjacent to vendor information (product listings that relate to a session).

4) Continuing the Editor role, the event organizer builds sections of the event website (or, the virtual event environment itself) segmented by “solution type.” As attendees view on-demand sessions, they’re able to view lists of vendors within each solution type.

5) In this way, it’s the event organizer who’s helping move attendees along the sales cycle!

Benefits of The New Way

More Credible Emails

In The New Way, the emails come from a credible source. I attended the event, so I’m likely to consider the event organizer credible. An exhibitor I never heard of that’s decided to start emailing me? Not so credible.

Better Email Management

We receive far too much email

Photo credit: Flickr user deltaMike via photopin cc

The New Way results in far less emails. By centralizing the sending from a single source, attendees have one opt-out to manage, rather than 5, 10 or 15 opt-outs from all the exhibitors. With a single opt-out, the stakes are also raised for the event organizer.

More Effective Emails

Today’s approach (from exhibitors) amounts to a shot in the dark. The recipe for the email is:

You attended event X. I sell a product, Y that has some relation to X. Want to buy?

With The New Way, the emails focus on the content of the event and attendees are invited to self-select their follow-up paths. They do so based on the sessions they view, the pages they visit and the requests they submit for more information.

More Qualified Leads

The New Way can invert the process: instead of exhibitors pursuing attendees, the attendees can be the ones asking for appointments with the exhibitors. It’s the job of the event organizer to facilitate this match-making: NOT to simply hand over lists of email addresses to exhibitors.

For bonus points: event organizers can create multiple “email tracks” (by topic) and invite attendees to select the track(s) most relevant to them. Combine this with email analytics and marketing automation to tailor subsequent content down to an individual basis.

Conclusion

It’s up to you, event organizers. By adopting The New Way, you can make your attendees much happier. And if done right, you can enable your exhibitors to achieve higher ROI than they’re getting today. Let’s leave the shot in the dark emails to those selling snake oil.


Why Mobile + Big Data = The Future of Events

May 11, 2013

Mobile + Big Data = Future of Events

Introduction

Lindsey Rosenthal (@eventsforgood) and Liz King (@lizkingevents) host a fabulous online radio show called Event Alley Show. On a recent episode, Lindsey and Liz interviewed Joe English about the future of events. Joe is Creative Director, Intel Developer Forums (at Intel). I was captivated by Joe’s take on the future of events:

The future is about contextual tools that bring information sources together about the audience.

When I ponder the future of events, I tend to jump directly to mobile apps, location awareness and other features tied to the smartphone. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that mobility is a feature: part of a larger picture. And the larger picture is about the impact that events can make. In other words, what Joe said (above).

The mobile technologies of today will morph into new forms (of technology) tomorrow. So technology is the tool that facilitates context about the audience. And the better events can deliver “attendee intelligence” to sponsors, the more effective sponsorships will be.

Let’s take a closer look.

Step 1: Mobile-enable Event Attendees

The Double Dutch mobile event app

Image via Double Dutch.

Historically, events have been an inefficient medium, as far as data capture goes. Think about all of the “micro transactions” that occur within an event and how we’ve existed all these years without capturing them. Baby steps were made with post-event web surveys, RFID and badge scans, but the game changer has been mobile apps.

So step 1 in the future of events is already here. Event planners can choose from a wealth of mobile event apps. Michelle Bruno published an excellent overview of the mobile app vendors at Event Tech Brief.

Mobile event apps provide a personal assistant to help event attendees find the right content, meet the right people and generally get the most out of their experience. Meanwhile, all of the activity enabled by the app creates a stream of data that can turn into actionable intelligence when aggregated and interpreted.

Step 2: Aggregate Data Sources into a Common Repository

Image via Grzegorz Łobiński on flickr.

There’s an opportunity for a new player to emerge in Step 2. And that’s a vendor-neutral “Switzerland,” who builds interfaces for the industry’s vendors to exchange data (from the vendor’s applications into Switzerland). Here are just some of the many data sources that exist at an event:

  1. Mobile event apps.
  2. Registration.
  3. Online/hybrid events platforms.
  4. Badge scanners.
  5. Twitter.
  6. Survey systems.
  7. Photo sharing services.
  8. Third party location apps (e.g. Foursquare).
  9. Other social network apps.

The role of Switzerland is to combine proprietary data (from vendor applications) with publicly available data (e.g. public check-ins, tweets and other social streams) into a common data repository. From here, the next step kicks in.

Step 3: Apply Big Data to Deliver Attendee Intelligence.

We now apply Big Data technology against this enormous pool of event-specific data. Let’s return to the vision of Joe English: “contextual tools that bring information sources together about the audience.” Let’s consider a few applications of this.

An eHarmony for Events

Photo source: User VideoVillain on flickr.

Amazon makes awesome product recommendations for you because it’s gotten to know you (via your mouse clicks) and it compares your “profile” to what similarly profiled people have purchased. Via our new data repository, we’ve now collected a wealth of event data.

So now we can apply some science (similar to what eHarmony does to pair couples) to pair attendees to attendees and sponsors to attendees. As an attendee, wouldn’t it be neat for Big Data to tell you, “here are the three sponsors you should go visit today.”

Intelligence to Make Sponsors Smarter

Imagine mining the Big Data repository to provide aggregated intelligence profiles to sponsors. Activity data could be sliced and diced across numerous dimensions, including topic and frequency.

For instance, at a healthcare event, the analysis identifies the particular healthcare sub-topics that are receiving the most interest. Throw in a little sentiment analysis on top of this (e.g. from profiling public data and event-specific chatter) and you have some interesting possibilities.

With this sort of data crunching, attendee intelligence could tell sponsors:

  1. The specific sub-topics to focus on.
  2. The probability that particular profiles of attendees will engage with you.
  3. Whether attendee sentiment positive, negative or neutral about your company.

While this technology won’t deliver more visitors to your booth, the intelligence gained can allow you to adjust tactics “on the fly,” resulting in a more organic uptick in attendee engagement with you.

Intelligence for The Event Planner

By aggregating activity and engagement data (from attendees) and marrying that with sentiment analysis, event planners can infer attendee satisfaction. The thinking goes: the more engaged and active you were, the more you enjoyed the event.

Throw in the sentiment analysis and you can validate this. So you’d now have this option: instead of surveying attendees about your event, you can use Big Data to give you the answer implicitly.

Conclusion

So that’s my take on how technology can be applied to generate the contextual tools needed for attendee intelligence. I’d like to thank Lindsey, Liz and Joe for inspiring this post!


Separated at Birth: 10 Reasons Product Managers and Event Managers are Kindred Spirits

May 4, 2013

Product Managers and Event Managers are similar

Introduction

Creating a great event is like creating a great product. You need to have empathy for your user (attendee) and create delightful experiences that satisfy needs and make them come back for more.

Companies innately “get this.” It’s not surprising that some of the best product companies also produce great events. Two companies that come to mind are Apple and Salesforce. Let’s consider ten similarities between product managers and event managers.

1) Your job is defined by one thing.

Product managers are defined by their products. Event managers are defined by their events. I used plurals there, but more often than not, it’s singular: a product manager handles a product and an event manager handles an event. Most other jobs lack this singular focus.

2) Determining “market fit” is critical.

Before designing a product, a product manager needs to build the business case around market fit: will there be people willing to write a check for my product – and if so, how many are there and what’s the average selling price? Event managers need to follow a similar exercise, to determine whether people will attend the event and (in some cases) whether companies will pay for sponsorship.

3) Your work is determined and defined by a schedule.

Product managers and event managers work from a schedule

Image source: User sadiediane on flickr.

Yes, we all tend to work from a schedule. But product managers and event managers run against a schedule 12 months out of the year. For products, the schedule is built around the current release. For events, it’s built around the current event. After those “ship,” a new schedule is built for the next release or for next year’s event.

4) You apply feedback to make the next one better.

Effective product and event managers identify lessons learned and apply those lessons to make the next release or the next event even better.

5) Empathy for the user is a requirement.

Product managers need to put themselves in the shoes of their target customer. Event managers need to do the same with their target attendees. Without a sufficient amount of empathy, great products and great events will be merely good.

6) You need good marketing to succeed.

An example of good marketing

Image source: Boston Public Library on flickr.

A product never achieves greatness until it’s adopted by the market. An event can’t be great if no one attends. In both cases, marketing is needed to drive awareness and adoption. Without marketing, products may cease to have customers and events may cease to have attendees and sponsors.

7) You have a job that never ends.

I marvel at 24 hour news networks like CNN. Yes, I know that not all programming is truly “live,” but still, there’s programming around the clock. It’s similar for product managers and event managers: rarely is there downtime, because you’re always on to the next release or the next event.

8) The focus of your job is experiential.

So there’s my fancy term for this post, experiential. For events, this is obvious. And it’s true for products: craft a great user experience and you create great products (and events).

9) You’re required to lead multi-disciplinary teams across the finish line.

Great coaches lead great teams

Image source: User farmerdave8n on flickr.

Product managers and event managers need to lead. You’ll work with people across numerous functions and assorted personalities. In the end, you have a single goal: bring the team across the finish line to a great product release or event.

10) You need to make an impact to achieve customer loyalty.

Want customers to renew their SaaS subscription or purchase your next device? Want attendees to return to your event next year? It’s simple: satisfy their needs and make an impact.


Crazy Idea: Let Attendees Define Your Event’s Sponsorship Packages

March 11, 2013

Let attendees define your event's sponsorship packages

Introduction

Combined with attendance fees (i.e. ticketing), event sponsorships are the economic fuel behind meetings, events and conferences. In a post titled “Questioning the Effectiveness of Conference Sponsorships,” Sean McGinnis (@seanmcginnis) raised an interesting question.

For McGinnis, conferences that charge for admission and sell sponsorships (at the same time) put attendees in the awkward position of being (a) a customer (of the conference) and (b) a product (for sponsors).

My solution? Let attendees define the event’s sponsorship packages.

The Role of Sponsors

Image source: User Phillie Casablanca on flickr.

McGinnis notes that in his 312 Digital business, his goal is to deliver digital marketing conferences without sponsorship. And this model is fine: the mission of your conference is to educate marketers and you can deliver on that mission, soup to nuts.

There are larger conferences and trade shows, however, whose objective is to bring together entire industries. These tend to be run by media companies and associations. Traditionally, sponsors have received a bad rap in these sorts of events.

Most attendees think of sponsors as the people who give out schwag and spend the event pitching their product. Sponsors can (and should) play a much more meaningful role. Consider industries such as technology, healthcare and finance and you quickly realize that sponsors provide the products and services the industry uses.

Sponsors, and by extension, the customers who purchase and implement the sponsors’ products, actually define some industries. The customers, after all, are the same people who attend these events.

Sponsors and The Information Ecosystem

I consider events and conferences an “information ecosystem,” with sponsors as an integral part of that ecosystem. Too often in events, there’s a wall: a separation of church and state between “organic” content and sponsor content.

Look no further than the booth. By definition, the partitions that designate the beginning and end of a booth tell us that “inside these partitions is where you engage with this sponsor.” To me, that’s unnatural. To create the most useful information ecosystem, we should get rid of booths and embed sponsor “education” (content) more naturally throughout the event.

Attendee-Driven Sponsorships: The Benefits

Image source: User Martina Photography on flickr.

Let attendees define your sponsorship packages. You’ll have final say, of course, but attendees define a set of packages from which you choose. Benefits will follow.

It puts attendees in charge.

By handing over a portion of the event planning, you give attendees more “buy in.” In addition, attendees will naturally propose sponsor interactions and programs that place the focus on the attendee experience (where it rightfully belongs). The result is a better event.

It increases engagement with sponsors.

Sponsors will see increased engagement with attendees, because both parties are engaged in activities defined by the attendees. When you allow attendees to determine the packages and they’ve “bought in” to shaping the event itself, all parties win: attendees, sponsors and event organizers (you).

How to Solicit Input from Your Attendees

First, you’ll need to define a basis for your conversations with attendees. Perhaps that’s last year’s sponsorship packages. Or, it’s a set of proposed packages that you’re considering for this year. Some ideas (and affordable tools) to solicit the input:

  1. Regular Google+ Hangouts, hosted by your staff.
  2. Wiki pages (PBworks is an option – and it’s free) that attendees can use to document their ideas.
  3. A tumblr microblog – publish proposed packages and allow attendees to “like” and comment on them.
  4. Create a public document on Google Docs and allow attendees to provide comments there.
  5. Host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit (if your target audience is active there).

Brainstorming Sponsorship Concepts

If I were asked to develop sponsorship packages for an event or conference I planned to attend, here are some concepts I’d suggest:

  1. Eliminate booths.
  2. Use game mechanics to award sponsors. Instead of “Top Chef,” you’d award a “Top Sponsor.”
  3. Attendees determine the game mechanics parameters.
  4. Ask attendees (in advance) for their top business challenges and make sponsors responsible for addressing them.
  5. Have attendees define the sponsor’s “function” they wish to engage with (e.g. Engineering, Executive, Sales, Marketing, etc.)
  6. Implement Donna Kastner’s suggestion on a 5 Smart Ways Theater, but allow sponsors to provide the presentations. Disallow sponsors from mentioning any of their products.
  7. Give attendees a limited number of “tickets” to schedule short appointments with sponsors. Learned a lot from a sponsor’s “5 Ways” talk and want to chat with them? Use one of your tickets. The relative scarcity of tickets will create higher quality interactions between attendees and sponsors.

Potential Roadblocks to Adoption

Image source: User Zahlm on flickr.

Having laid out a framework for how this all might work, I realize that it’s far from easy. Let’s consider a few roadblocks for making this happen.

Wanted: A Passionate and Active Attendee Base

Attendees may be passionate about your event. They look forward to it all year long. But that doesn’t mean they’re interested in taking action above and beyond the usual call of duty. Only highly passionate and active attendees will have the desire and energy to roll up their sleeves and define your event’s sponsorship packages.

Taking Risks

Let’s face it: this is an “outside the box” concept. Event organizers and sponsors like to mitigate risk, rather than increase it. In many cases, next year’s event doesn’t happen if the sponsors from this year’s event aren’t happy (i.e. don’t renew). Perhaps a phased approach is necessary. In year one, have attendees develop a single sponsorship package and see how that goes.

Conclusion

We like to think that “the attendee always comes first,” but sometimes economic realities get in the way of such pure and noble goals.

With the sponsorships you sell, sponsors will walk the fine line between “providing useful information” and “let me sell you my product.” Straying too far to the right (selling) leaves attendees with a bad taste in their mouths.

By providing attendees with an opportunity to define desired sponsor interactions, you’re truly “putting attendees first.” And, you may find that the quality of the resulting interactions make your sponsors more satisfied than ever.


Design Thinking for Meetings and Events

February 11, 2013

David Kelley speaks about design thinking on 60 Minutes

Introduction

Recently, I watched a 60 Minutes episode featuring David Kelley. Mr. Kelley is the founder and chairman of the global design consultancy IDEO and professor (and founder) of Stanford’s d.school.

Kelley is a leading thinker on “design thinking,” a methodology for designing products and procedures via empathy, diversity, collaboration and iteration. The program highlights many of Kelley’s (and his firm’s) great product achievements, including the design of the first mouse for Steve Jobs at Apple.

Design Thinking for Events

In a Harvard Business Review piece on design thinking, IDEO’s CEO (Tim Brown) writes:

“As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful … design thinking is the tool for imagining these experiences as well as giving them a desirable form.”

I suppose this blog posting was foretold by Mr. Brown: let’s use design thinking to create “sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful”!

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking about design thinking for events:

Overview: Design Thinking

Design thinking components

Image source: SAP

The design thinking process can be broken down into three components: inspiration, ideation and implementation. To quote a design thinking article co-authored by Mr. Brown:

  1. Inspiration: “Think of inspiration as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions.”
  2. Ideation: “Ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas.”
  3. Implementation: “Implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.”

Here are some useful resources that provide overviews on the design thinking methodology:

  1. Stanford d.school’s crash course on design thinking
  2. An Introduction to Design Thinking from SAP
  3. From the Emergent By Design blog: What Is Design Thinking, Really?

Incorporating Design Thinking into Meetings and Events

I’ve taken a look at the tenets and methodologies of design thinking and considered how they could be applied to meetings and events. Let’s consider some.

Attend Your Own Event (Empathy)

Meeting and event planners should take off their “planning hats” and attend one of their events solely with their “attendee hats” on. After all, you can only have true empathy for your attendee if you put yourself squarely in their shoes.

And that means that you can have no part in planning the event. Go through the entire cycle of registration, travel, sessions, workshops, social events, etc. Practice further empathy by understanding how fellow attendees are experiencing the event.

Deepen (and Broaden) Your Team Roster

Design thinking introduces the notion of “multidisciplinary teams,” in which people of assorted backgrounds (and schools of thought) ideate, iterate and collaborate.

Consider it a blender, where what comes out is a fascinatingly tasty beverage. You need a group that creates divergent thinking, which, according to Mr. Brown of IDEO, “is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation.”

Mr. Brown suggests “architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience.” While this may be a stretch for the typical event planner, I’d recommend adding folks from Finance, HR and Engineering.

They don’t have to be core members of the event planning team; however, their perspectives can be more valuable that you’d think.

Where No Idea is a Bad Idea

The scientist Linus Pauling once said, “To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas.” (quote source: an SSI article co-authored by Mr. Brown). Design thinking teaches you that no idea is a bad idea. If you make an early judgment on the quality of an idea, you may have just squashed a “germ” that would develop into a breakthrough.

The ideation process is critical in creating the next breakthrough event.

Instead, design thinking teaches you to build upon each other’s ideas, sort of like the “yes, and..” methodology in improvisational theater. As a meeting planner, then, your role is to encourage ideation and “shepherd” the process so that no idea is left abandoned (too quickly). And to the earlier point, here’s where multidisciplinary teams can be a goldmine.

Meeting and Event Prototypes

Recall that part of the ideation phase is “testing ideas.” It’s an iterative process in which you deploy a prototype, collect “real user feedback,” determine what you learned, then ideate on product refinements (repeating the cycle all over again).

Let’s say you’re planning next year’s 5,000 person sales kick-off meeting and you have innovative new ideas for it. Create a prototype using 50 sales people and actually implement those ideas in a “real prototype” (event). Determine what worked, make adjustments, then plan another prototype. When the “real thing” comes around, you’ll have a much better “product.”

Potential Barriers to Adoption

Seasoned event and meeting planners (who’ve gotten this far in my post) may be calling me crazy. And I can understand that. What I’ve proposed (in concept) must be balanced against the realities of a meeting planner’s job. And the following barriers could come into play.

Budget, Timeline and ROI

Simply put, design thinking methodologies could add significantly to meeting and event costs, while extending the timeline to deliver them. The ideation phase of design thinking is intentionally non-sequential. Meeting planners are highly organized creatures who thrive on delivering against a sequential timeline. Additionally, meeting and event management may not be comfortable spending more without knowing the precise ROI on it.

Risk Mitigation

The meeting planner is like an NFL coach: every season (i.e. every event), your job can be on the line. In his article, Mr. Brown wrote, “One of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is simply fear of failure.” The natural tendency of the meeting and event planner is to be risk averse, which is very much the opposite approach of design thinking.

Conclusion

Design thinking is surely not applicable to all meetings and events. And as I’ve outlined, meeting and event planners will likely shudder at the very concept. What I hope to accomplish with this post, however, is to introduce its concept to meetings and events. It’s my belief that true breakthrough events and experiences can result from it.

Note: This post was originally published on the eVenues blog. Here’s a link to the original piece.


Tapping the Collective Wisdom of the Meetings and Events Industry

December 19, 2012

Industry thought collection (blog posting) via eVenues

Introduction

I’ve had the privilege of contributing to two “industry thought collection” pieces assembled by Kenji Crosland (@KenjiCrosland). Kenji assembled the pieces for one of his clients, eVenues, a marketplace for meeting and event spaces. You can find the two pieces here:

Biggest Trend in 2013? 21 Meetings Industry Leaders Give Us Their Predictions.

26 Meetings and Events Industry Leaders Share their Best Career Advice

These pieces provide great value to eVenues: traffic, awareness, thought leadership and perhaps sales leads and new business. To get some insights on how Kenji pulls it off, I did a Q&A with him.

Q&A with Kenji Crosland

Kenji Crosland (@KenjiCrosland)

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

A: Since I moved from Tokyo to Seattle about 2 years ago, I’ve been helping startups like eVenues with their SEO and content marketing strategy. I have been working with eVenues closely for over a year to help drive traffic to their site.

Q: Tell us about eVenues?

A: eVenues is an online marketplace for meeting spaces, bookable by the hour or day. Over the last three years the company has evolved from a instant booking service and scheduling system for participating venues, to a fast response lead generation system for venues and space seekers.

Not only do we list spaces, but we now have the “virtual concierge” technology to help renters find what they need without being overwhelmed by options. This last innovation has served us well and has propelled our growth.

Q: What inspired you to assemble these “industry thought collection” pieces?

A: I’m always on the lookout for great content in other industries that manage to get a lot of links/tweets/and shares. I saw a similar “industry thought collection” piece for a completely different industry and thought it would be a good fit for the meetings industry as well.

Q: What benefit have you (or eVenues) derived from them?

A: These pieces have helped establish our blog as an important resource for those who wish to keep abreast of the meetings industry. It shows to potential clients and customers that we aren’t “just another startup” trying to disrupt an industry that we don’t know anything about.

One secondary benefit of these posts is the number of links that they attract, thus helping boost our domain authority. The higher our domain authority, the higher our listings rank in the search results.

Q: How did you find and recruit contributors outside of your network?

A: The first place I looked was the list of eVenues’ twitter followers. While technically a twitter follower is already a connection it’s a relatively weak one. I sent very short direct messages asking influential followers in the meetings industry if they wanted to contribute to the post. Because they were already following eVenues, there was already a bit of credibility established. That made it easy to move forward.

I did, however, reach out to complete strangers outside of the eVenues network. I compiled a list of influential people in the meetings industry and used an email finding tool (http://linksy.me/find-email) to make the first approach. I’ve found this tool extremely helpful for content marketing outreach purposes. This tool is a marketer’s dream and I don’t share this it lightly because of the potential for abuse, but I figure the readers here will use it for good and not for evil.

Q: Do you edit any of the contributions?

A: I’ve had to shorten some submissions slightly and have made small wording and typo fixes. I make sure to send a preview to contributors before the post is published so they can see changes made if there are any.

Q: Are there any online tools you use that help you put these together?

A: I mainly use Gmail to keep submissions organized. When anyone sends me a submission to a post I’ll move it into a folder like “2013 trends post”. This makes it easy to keep track of who submitted and who I may need to follow up with. No special tools other than that.

Q: Approximately how much time does it take you to do one of these?

A: It takes about a week and a half to do all outreach, collect submissions and create the post.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to do something similar in their industry?

A: Most people, no matter how much of a big deal they may seem, are probably more accessible than you think. You’d be surprised how many of them are willing to take the time to share their knowledge and experience.

2013 Predictions for the Meeting Industry

Q: Let’s turn the tables: tell us your 2013 predictions for the meetings industry?

A: Three predictions:

  1. With a younger generation rethinking large events with such meetings as barcamps and unconferences, we’ll see small meetings take a bigger chunk of the pie. Although events will get smaller, they will likely become more frequent and informal, meaning a quicker turnaround when it comes to dealing with suppliers.
  2. The content of the event is much more likely to be recorded and distributed through online channels, either for SEO/content marketing purposes or selling the content itself.
  3. Finally, the industry will be surprised by the actual revenue generated by the “hidden planner”.  Typically these are planners that spend 1% of their time “planning a day meeting or event”.  eVenues has begun to partner with many and will continue to increase the marketing efforts to capture this data and report back to the industry.

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