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Tag: event management

Event managers: 3 things we don’t want

Puzzled by event managers

I am not an event manager.  In truth, frivolity and religion both seem to be beyond my neural circuitry.   I accepted that a long time ago.

But I am puzzled by an event that I have been invited to.  No, invite is the wrong word.  An event I feel pressured to attend.

3 things we don’t want from our event manager

1. A complicated decision

It’s years since I have worked with my hosts but the event managers seem to have got my address from an old list and I have become a valued associate.  The first message told me so and promised a light supper at a London venue with a surprise speaker!

Now if I lived in London, I would trash that message. I would want to go home after work.  And I am adult.  I want to get my information up front, make a decision, answer yes or no, and put it in my diary.  The golden rule of management:  keep tasks down to 30 seconds

But I don’t live in London and sometimes I will go down to the capital for 3 or 4 meetings on one day where I wouldn’t go for one of them only.  So I noted the event and thought I would decide later.

2.  Promises of the Easter Bunny

Then I got another reminder and then another.

Finally, the surprise was revealed and it was a surprise, but entirely of the wrong kind.  So my choice came down to “I wonder how good the supper will be?”

3.  Not knowing the company we will keep

Of course, if the organizers had arranged this event through Meetup or Amiando, I would know who else was going and the other attendees might be a reason for going.

I am a simpler soul (but not a marketer, I know)

Gee, if the event manager had written to me and said, “We want to launch ourselves on the London scene.  Would you come to an event?” – I’d be motivated to help.  I’m just that way.

I don’t want to be beaten or bribed.  Just tell me the score.  I’ll help when I can. I’ll join in when it suits me.  And I’ll retweet and pass on your request even when I can’t take part.

Let your event speak for itself

I know packaging matters.  We can be put off a good product that has bad packaging.  But we also sick of excessive packaging.

We don’t have to be cajoled, bribed, and threatened to take part in an event.  A simple, courteous invitation will do.  Honestly.

Just ask if we would like to join you

If you want my help just ask.  If you can give me supper, that would be cool as I will be driving home afterward.  If you let me know who is coming, I’ll adjust my expectations so they have just as good time as I intend to have.

Seriously, some of us are easy to get along with.  Just ask!

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Social media has raised the ante in events & conference management

I am not an events manager.  If you want information on events management, follow @tojulius and @carmenhere.

I am writing this because someone asked me how an event could be better.  Events are a highly specialized and skilled form of organizational management, but as a sub-class of organizational management, some general rules apply.

My question is this:  if apply the four basic rules, do I arrive at any insights of value?

1. Make it easy to join in

If we stumble on the sign up, or forget our passwords, nothing more will happen.

The basics are having the event at a place we can reach with public transport, on a day that isn’t filled with competing events, etc.  You get the point?  I can move on?

2.  Make it easy for people to connect

I still go to conferences where I cannot see in advance who is attending, let alone connect with them.  And the attendance list does not include email addresses or twitter handles.  There is no way to find anyone at the conference once we get there.  We are under-utilizing the social, or connect-potential, of the meeting.  Grossly.

I know why we continue to organize like this.  It is not technology. Amiando and Meetup have full social capacity.  It is the ‘control-freak’ nature of British-society.  We like to dis the government for being control-freaks, but it start with us.

Maybe we should give every meetup a control-freak rating?  Anyway, it is time to stop.  I don’t come to your meetup just to meet you!  I want to meet other people too.  I don’t want to meet up with 1% of people I could meet.  I want the full potential!

3.  Find a way for people to learn

We learn whenever we ‘do’.  We are learning animals.

But just as there are levels of convenience in #1 and levels of sociability in #2, there are levels of learning.

When I introduce myself and the other person struggles to understand what I am on about, I learn.

I also learn when Twitter feeds go up on a big screen. Those big screens can be distracting though.  Sometimes they are just a techie gimmick.

Whether they add value or not seems to revolve around ‘feedback loops’. Which feedback loops can we add to highlight great examples of what we do?  And is there a way of making data available so people with the skills and inclination can mash it up, dress it up, and present it back to us?

A raffle in which we put our business cards in a bowl for a prize is an example of this principle.  The pile of cards grows and we feel good to be at a popular event.  The lucky winner is highlighted for being present (and being lucky).   I am sure the organizers are looking through the cards too, to see who came (with cards and who will have a gamble)?

What else can we amplify in this way?  How can we help people learn?

4.  Find a way for the event to add meaning

We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  I don’t mean belong to a group bigger than ourselves.  We want our group to fit into a wider landscape in a meaningful way.  The existential purpose of the group must be clear.  Not just the instrumental purpose or the social purpose.

How does this group fit into the wider community?  Why would the wider community be happy that we are there?  Why would they mourn if we were not there?  How does our meaning change with our activity?  How does the wider community thrive and flourish because we thrive and flourish?

This is the big ask.  So many old organizations feel rotten because they are no longer connected with the wider well-being of the community – in the community’s eyes, that is, not their own.  Does the community see them?  How does the community see them?  What is the symbiosis?

What is the symbiosis between our event or startup and the wider community?  How do they see us? When they talk about us, or our activities?  Which parts of our work bring a light to their eyes?

Social media has raised the ante in events management

Tough.  In the olden-days we were a star to get #1 right.  It is not enough any more.  We have to step up through the levels. So point me to good examples, please, because I am still learning too.


Events management from the point of view of a participant

I am choosy about events

Well, I am easy-going in the sense that I will pitch up and help anywhere if I can, but I distinguish in my mind between events where I am just being obliging and events which I really enjoy.

Seeing events from the point of view of a participant

I’ve been asked about why I enjoy some events and I’ve tried to articulate the whole process of event participation – the flip side of events management.

When I am being choosy,  I look for three things.

#1 When I look at myself in the mirror of the event, do I feel more vital and more alive? Do my dreams seem more full and more colourful?  Do my dreams seem to belong and do I get the feeling that if I choose, I can make my dreams come true?  So not all events are for everyone.

#2 Does the location, timing and pace of the event allow me to be relaxed and playful?  Do ideas start connecting in unusual ways?  Am I likely to end the day having made new connections that I could have made at home or at the office but won’t because it is too busy there?  An event that doesn’t allow time to unwind will just be work.

#3 Was I able to be heard at the event?  We often don’t know what we think until we hear ourselves aloud.  Sometimes the simplest things aren’t getting done because we didn’t label the task out loud.  Sometimes priorities have shifted and as soon as we say so out loud, our action plan is startlingly clear.   When I hear other people, do their lives provide sufficient insight about my life that I get an “aha” experience.  Actually, I am greedy.  I want many “aha” experiences.  I want to get an inkling that an idea is worth pursuing.  And then I will  pursue it away from the meetup – much richer for realising there are interesting possibilities in places that I had never thought to look.

What is likely to be part of an event that I really enjoy?

#1 Style. I am sensitive to chi and like to feel it flow.

#2 Good food.  I don’t mind the style of cuisine and it can be very simple but I like it to be done well.

#3 Competence.  I love listening to competent people and watching them work.  I like mixing with competent people.  I like admiring competent event managers.  I cannot do what they do.  But I watch them as happily as I will watch a Wimbledon Tennis Final.

#4 Voice.  I want people to be able to speak up and be heard.  It is hard to organize an event where everyone is heard.  It is a big ask and I think it can only be done when all the other factors are in place.

#5 Connections.  Surprising connections bring astonishing futures.  The right people, who are interested in meeting each other and helping each other, generate possibilities we couldn’t imagine until we got together.  We attend new events hoping this ingredient is there.  We go back when it is right.

Creating atmosphere as a competency

Now, none of this is too hard, is it?

I jest.  Creating a good atmosphere is the most mysterious of competences.  Good Headmasters and Headmistresses do it.  Good Presidents and Primeministers do it.  And so do event managers.

Maybe this is the age of event management.

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I invest in 10 ways at a meetup and expect to get nothing! What’s your equation?

Carmen asked me what I “get out” of Spicy Networking and my answer is nothing. I don’t get anything.  That is why the meetings are so enjoyable!

Robin, whose last name I didn’t catch, also asked me, and I asked him if he knew the concept of “chi”.  Rooms have chi (or not).  Well, events do too and so do people.

To use an example to explain.  I don’t get anything out of putting a money tree in the wealth corner of my house. Putting a money tree in the right corner simply pays respect to what is respect-worthy, and creates the right environment for good things to happen.  They may or may not.

The expression “make my own luck” is similar. I have to create the conditions to be lucky – but I can’t force luck.   Luck doesn’t like to be forced.

Chi can’t be forced.   Joy can’t be forced.  But I can’t function without chi and joy in my life.

When I try to “get something” at an event, it won’t happen.

But it won’t happen either if I don’t make an effort. It’s the asymmetry that confuses people.  People want a linear equation – if I do it, it will happen.

It works more like this.  If I do certain things, something I value may happen.  But if I don’t do certain things, it  certainly won’t. I know people struggle with this lack of equation.  But there it is.  Life isn’t a straight line graph!

So let me ask the question the other way around.

What do I invest in a networking event?

#1: I am choosy.

Why go to a dull or badly organized event? And certainly why go back? I think people who tolerate rubbish events (and go back) have no respect for themselves.  They are unlikely to be a good environment for me.

#2: I show up

90% of success is showing up, reasonably on time. We can’t benefit if we are not there.

#3: I introduce myself to people

We gain little by standing in the corner (next to the snack table or the bar) having the same conversation that we had with someone last time.  First rule – don’t hold up the bar!

#4: I make time to listen

Particularly to people who haven’t learned the art of networking.  It is hard to introduce ourselves concisely. Like everything it takes practice. Those of us better at it need to give people still learning some air-time.

#5: I try to learn

People can ask amazingly disconcerting questions.  Last night, I often said I was from a small town.  Everyone wanted to know more.  I need to think seriously about what they want to know about my town.  Questions simply tell us what is unclear to people. And we all are unclear to someone!

#6: I (sometimes) ask open-ended questions

It’s smart to end our elevator pitch with questions so the next person learns about us while talking about themselves.  It’s much better than interrogating them or yawning as they stumble though some waffle.

#7: I rephrase what people do and tell them how they benefit me

It’s good for people to hear how their work has value.  It struck me last night that a lot of people have got into the habit of concealing their contributions.  I must think about this a bit more.

#8: I play “happy-families”

How many people can you talk to in an evening? 15? And if we introduce ourselves randomly, how many will share our interests?  If I can speed up the time it takes to find someone with mutual interests by pointing out who has what in common with whom, very good.

#9: I connect after the event

I look up their website/blog and follow up using one of the channels they provided.

There is no point in sending an automated message that does not remind the person of our specific conversation. I am really arrogant if I think  they will remember me among all the people they met.

And to send an automated message via a service they don’t use is just an irritant.  I know I avoid anyone who does that to me.

#10: I am grateful and allow the possibilities to bloom

In a good evening, the ‘chi’ gets my creative mind going. I come away feeling that I want the day off to think through the ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. They came out of my head of course.  They don’t come from anyone I met.  It’s just that being in a good environment sets the process off.

I suppose that’s what I “get” – though I can’t “get” with any certainty because chi, luck, job, connection, belonging, creativity cannot be forced. They can only be encouraged.

Your turn.  Review time!

Should I be striving to “get” something?  10 things I do are a lot – I don’t actually think about it when I do it.  Writing it all down just makes a long list.

What do you do?  What could I do differently?


Events Managers teaching us the central concept of management

I had an interesting exchange today with Events Impresario, Julius Solaris.  Well, I had two, but I will tell you about this one.

Julius tweetedd about the lack of creativity in events.

  • I asked whether lack of creativity mattered and whether we would rather have events where creativity happened.
  • Quick off the mark, Julius tweeted: “@jobucks but providing a creative environment is key to foster creativity IN the event”

Yes!  Which the boundary conditions does the Event Manager create, so that you and I can be creative when we meet at the party?

These days, people do Masters degrees in Event Management.  So, somebody must know.

How do students learn this double-layered approach to management?

Which conditions do we manage to raise the likelihood of creative activity by the guests?


8 must-haves for conferences in 2009

About once a year, I go to a formal conference, I am not sure why.   I prefer unconferences and most conferences these days are streamed. I could put my feet up and watch at home.

So for me, there is an increasingly “high ticket to entry”.

I think these 5 are what are called “table stakes” .  They are the minimum to be credible.

1.  I want the venue to be clean (it usually is in the UK).

2. I want parking (preferably free). Importantly, though I want details on how and where to park. That means the postal code and how I will pay and for what period. Should I have trekked off to bank to find pound coins in advance, etc. What do I do if the machine is broken, etc.

3.  I want the postal code of the venue. Google has maps and cars and phones have satnav. I don’t want a diagram or written instructions. I want a postal code so I can use the map of my choice. But peculiarities like the number of exits at the Tube, the one for me and direction I should turn when I hit fresh air would be good. London is notorious for not marking its streets.

4.  I want working WIFI and it should work the minute I switch on my device.

5.  I want to know where to get refreshments. In the UK, we usually travel a long way. When the hosts provide refreshments, they really do need to be healthy and match the diversity of UK.  Otherwise arrangements at a local eaterie might be preferable.  I don’t want to ruin my health for the sake of being cheap.

With Web 2.0, I think we get another list which allows us to prepare before we come to the meeting.

We don’t want to spend several days following people up afterward. Ideally, when we walk out the door, we’ve wrapped up our routine business and moved on to coordinating opportunities that arose out of the meeting.

1.  Registration on Amiando because they provide a community. Meetup is fine for non-conferences.

2.  Registration information that does not dwell on rank or institution. Life has changed. I don’t want to talk to you if you don’t want to talk to me! Tell me why you are there and what I can do for you.   In advance. Put up a link to your blog and give me your Twitter name.  I’ll scan the lists and connect up with you before the meeting.

3. A Twitter stream is good but so is a way to find each other.  We must have contact information in advance and our twitter names should be on the participants’ list.

I am looking forward to the wider use of ecards too. I don’t want to enter cards when I get home. I want to send an ecard directly to my contacts database. That’s for 2010.

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