Incorporating Social Media Into Your Conference Planning

In the past 10 years, social media has emerged as a foundational communication tool for individuals and businesses alike. Two-thirds of Internet users worldwide have active social media accounts, and the majority of people carry at least one mobile device with them at all times. That provides a great opportunity for conference and event planners to reach meeting attendees and enhance their overall meeting experience.

If social media hasn’t been part of your conference planning strategy in the past, 2017 may be the time to rethink that. Social media can deliver a number of benefits to both you and your attendees, so it makes sense to incorporate social media into your event plan.

What can social media do for your event? Here are a few things to consider.

Engaging the attendees. Engagement is one of the biggest benefits of an event-based social media strategy. Being able to communicate directly with prospective attendees during the event planning and event registration processes is invaluable. During the event, you can also use social media to direct attendees to specific sessions, exhibits and networking events.

Building interest. Social media is also a great way to build interest among attendees in the conference agenda, featured speakers, live demonstrations and other special events well before the attendees arrive at the venue. It can also be a great way to generate new interest in an established conference, and help attendees find new experiences at events they regularly attend.

Disseminating information. Social media can be your go-to method for disseminating information and “breaking news” to attendees while a meeting or conference is in progress. Location changes, late additions, travel and weather information, networking opportunities and off-site events are all great candidates for promotion through social media channels.

Extending the attendee experience.
Engagement is one of the ideal outcomes of a social media strategy, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to really take advantage of everything that a meeting or event has to offer. Social media can help take attendees deeper into subjects that are meaningful to them by providing access to additional materials – presentations, podcasts, videos, working groups – that can keep attendees energized and focused on the subjects that are meaningful to them.

Archiving the event. Many meetings and conferences occur on a regular schedule. Social media archives can act like a library for an event. While that may not seem like much, future attendees will use past meetings to determine whether they want to attend or how many people from an organization they’ll be sending. By storing the value of a meeting or an event, social media can produce long-term benefits for organizers and attendees alike.

Meeting Planning: Coping With The Unexpected

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  Nowhere is Murphy’s Law more true than in meeting planning.  But things that don’t go according to plan don’t have to result in disaster, either.  If there were a first law of meeting planning, it would be Plan for contingencies.

Contingency planning is a standard part of professional meeting planning, so as a meeting planner, you may have to spend some of your time trying to outfox Murphy.  Generally speaking, the more important something is to the success of your meeting, the more likely you should have a contingency plan in place for it.  Here are a few tips to help you plan for (and cope with) the unexpected.

Examine the key parts of your meeting or event.  The venue, your vendors, your hotels and the presenters are all key elements of your meeting plan. As such, you should have contingency plans in place for them.  Double-booking venues may not be in your budget, but you can work with the venue when negotiating space to identify weaknesses and options. For example, you may not want to book a venue along the Atlantic coast during the height of hurricane season.  Instead, choose a location that’s less likely to be disrupted by hazardous weather. A sudden cancellation by a vendor may not be a disaster, if you’ve created a list of other vendors who can step in on short notice. Likewise, if your keynote speaker’s flight is cancelled, you may be able to re-arrange the agenda to accommodate him or her as a closing presentation.

Make checklists.  Good checklists can help you sidestep errors. After each meeting, re-evaluate your checklists and modify them according to your experiences. Over time, your checklists will become an invaluable resource that can help you avoid errors.

Communicate!  Establish good communication with your meeting planning team, your vendors, the speakers, on-site personnel and the venue staff, and make sure they know how, when and what to communicate to you. Making sure everyone is on the same page can go a long way toward eliminating mistakes.

Manage your time carefully.  Meeting planners never wish for “less time.”  The more time you have, the more options you have. Use the time you have wisely.  Everything connected to a meeting becomes time-sensitive at some point, so use down time to complete non-urgent tasks. Arrive early at a meeting space to double check the venue, check in with the vendors and spot potential problems before they can do any significant damage.

Natural disasters.  Try as you might, some circumstances are out of your control.  In the case of a natural disaster, hazardous weather or other unforeseeable event, the only steps you can take involve mitigating your risks. Insurance, negotiating an alternate plan with vendors or venues ahead of time, and providing travel assistance to your attendees who may be stuck in an airport or at the meeting venue can help you manage unexpected events.

Meeting Planning Trends 2017

Attending business meetings are a part of the job for many individuals, and nothing feels better than a business meeting or conference that goes well. Corporate event planners take on the responsibility for making sure that events go smoothly, but if you’re interested in knowing what you might encounter in the coming year, here are a few meeting planning trends to look for in 2017.

No rest for the weary! According to American Express, corporate event planners will be about as busy in 2017 as they were in 2016.  Early indications suggest that the number of business meetings in 2017 will match those in 2016.  That’s positive because the number of corporate events actually increased in both 2015 and 2016. 2017 looks to be a year that sustains recent growth in corporatemeeting planning.

Same time, same place. In addition to a steady number of corporate meetings and conferences, planners expect to see the same number of meeting days. 2017 events will be similar in length to their 2016 counterparts and are likely to involve the same or similar venues.  While cities like Orlando and Chicago remain on the corporate event planners’ A-list, 2017 will see the emergence (or return) of some new venues. New Orleans has again broken into the top-10 North American meeting destinations, displacing Phoenix. In addition, smaller cities may shine in 2017. Group hotel rates are also expected to stay steady.

Meeting budgets.  Most meeting and event budgets in 2017 will reflect spending levels in 2016. That’s good news because 2016 meeting budgets were the highest they’ve been in about four years.  Stability seems to be the watchword in meeting planning trends in 2017.

If all of those things are staying the same, what’s changing in 2017?

Meeting attendance.  Study respondents indicated that they expect to see fewer meeting attendees in 2017, as the focus shifts from quantity to quality.  The quality of the meeting experience will emerge as a primary concern for hosts, which has implications for meeting planning, travel coordination and event registration.

Content.  As indicated above, paring down the number of meeting attendees opens the opportunity for a better overall meeting experience for those who do attend. Conferences and tradeshows will still dominate the corporate meeting space, but incentive meetings and special events will also play an important role. While the latter meeting types may not be as numerous in 2017, those that do take place will see more attendees and a more focused meeting experience.

Social media.  Social media is big and will get bigger in 2017. Meeting planning will incorporate social media and other forms of personalized engagement before, during and after meetings as a way to improve networking among meeting attendees. Mobile apps and social media have the ability to extend the value of the meeting long after the event’s doors have closed, and 2017 will see a renewed focus on attendee engagement.