Flood Your Attendees with Follow-Up

Studies show that twelve percent of what an attendee sees and hears at a conference will be retained. 

That’s it?

For the amount of time and resources that go into executing an event, a 12% knowledge retention rate seems terribly low. Why? As meeting and event planners, how can we stimulate better knowledge retention for long-term learning?


Three Event Tips for Better Conference Learning

1. Make senior management accessible and available to answer candid questions from attendees. This type of transparency and accessibility is an opportunity that may not typically be available, but is valuable for onsite questions and long-term feedback. (Source)

2. Give attendees the opportunity to take control of their learning experience and learn by doing. Using a hands-on experiences to complement (or supplement) a PowerPoint presentation can help attendees retain 70 – 90% of material. (Source)

3. Extend learning opportunities with a microsite that allows attendees to access all content (and new relevant content) after the end of an event. Not all learning is immediate – make the event tools and takeaways easy to find for long-term use. (Source)


Lesson: Foster higher knowledge retention and long-term learning by building attendee engagement and integrating follow-up opportunities into the entire fabric of an event.   


Facebook Activism: A Call to Emotion

Facebook Activism: Call to Emotion

Over the past 24 hours, my Facebook news feed has transformed from proclamations of mealtime shenanigans to statements of unwavering support as thousands of Facebook users change their profile picture to a red marriage equality logo. Facebook is not new to these soapbox tendencies, but this rally of unwavering support across increasingly polarized groups is unusual.

This red equal sign did not appear out of thin air. It was created by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that supports marriage equality and is asking gay marriage supporters to “paint the town red.” But, this is much more than a public relations stunt.  

How do we inspire deep connections across disparate groups of individuals?

Rather than a call to action, let’s consider a call to emotion. This is not to suggest that we resort to slideshows of puppies with a Sarah McLachlan soundtrack, but the widespread prominence of a single logo in support of a once controversial cause emphasizes the motivational force that human emotion can have for individuals and groups. Emotion is a legitimate tool for mobilization, and the personal is powerful. 

The End Comes First

The End Comes First

Meeting and Tradeshow production schedules are built backwards. At the start there are a lot of unknowns – theme, graphics, content, presenters, staging design, guest speakers, breakouts and so much more.

One thing that is known for sure is that 200 or 500 or 5000 attendees are showing up at a certain place on a certain date, and you better be ready to say “Doors Open.”

In the beginning, creating a spreadsheet that shows deliverables, schedule, and budget is basic and crucial. The spreadsheet should assign responsibility for each deliverable, and include a deadline date for completion.  As the event planning moves forward, and one line item changes, others do too.

Time is your friend in the beginning as you can chart out what needs to be done by whom, and by what date.  At this time you can build buffer time into the schedule to accommodate for minor delays.

But time becomes your greatest enemy when the schedule is thrown off and suddenly there are too many items to execute in too little time without the adequate resources.  Pile on labor, prioritize needs, eliminate wants. Profit margins erode, budgets soar.

The process can be as memorable as the final event. You are expected to have the event up and running – that’s why you were hired. You had a plan to accommodate changes along the way.  But, by missing a few critical deadlines, 18hr. pre-event workdays turn into misery and exhaustion on-site. Processes devolve into a frantic dash rather than a smooth, meeting planning machine.

The End Comes First. From the very first kick-off meeting, attendee experience and engagement should be forefront. Keep focus on the day and time, and plan backwards to achieve every meeting element. Be sure to build in time to deal with change, take on additional elements, and fix the inevitable problems.

Google IRL (in real life)

Google IRL (in real life)

Google IRL (in real life)

News surfaced this week that Google is “poised for retail launch.”

Why? Google offers every service under the sun, and their reputation precedes them. If consumers can do everything online, why would they venture into a store? Well, reports claim that Google believes customers will be more likely to purchase Android devices if they have a “hands on experience.”

This news of retail expansion emphasizes the value of face-to-face interactions. IRL (in real life) is powerful (but less creepy than GMale), and even the omniscient Google recognizes this. While the internet can provide endless tools and services to enhance one’s life, nothing can replace the persuasive potential of a real-life interaction.

While this would be Google’s first venture into retail, it is not their first venture into creating spaces for human interaction. The Google HQ office is heralded for its dynamic and unique office amenities – as meeting and event professionals, let’s take inspiration from the strategies that Google uses to motivate their employees and encourage in-office productivity.

1. Be Unique

Offer an experience that your attendees cannot find anywhere else. Anyone can offer free food (which Google does do), but only Google has a conference bike. Productivity has never been so fun.

2. Go Big or Go Home

Create an immersive experience for your attendees. If the event has a theme, incorporate that theme into every aspect of your event – from the napkin rings to the bathroom. At Google, even the Ball Pit features the colors of the logo.

3. Listen 

Pay attention to your attendees and give them something that they want. Will your meeting attendees appreciate Japanese Toto Toliets? Probably not, but Google employees do. Will your meeting attendees appreciate an event app? Perhaps. Take a survey, or just simply listen, to ensure that you are adding value to improve the attendee experience.

Lesson: The personal is powerful. Utilize unique, immersive, and relevant strategies to create the best possible IRL experience for your attendees.

Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago, Ill. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow @Cadence_Live on Twitter, connect on Facebook, find us on LinkedIn, or visit our website.

The (brand) Love Connection

3 Tips for Engaging VIP Brand Influencers

3 Tips for Engaging VIP Influencers

The (brand) Love Connection

From vacuums to whiskey, brands are inviting influencers to exclusive event experiences as part of their marketing strategy. It’s not a new concept, but the idea appears to be getting more and more attention from industry magazines and news articles. These influencer events are not the typical event for a meeting planner, throw out the standard ballroom and replace centerpieces with projected tabletops.

1. Create Small Groups

No one gets lost in the crowd, because there isn’t a crowd. Invite only as many guests as you can pay attention to, and let them know that they are special. Have the product available for guests to see if they express interest, but make it clear that no interaction with the product is expected. The event is meant to entertain and treat the invited guest to a memorable experience.

2. Choose Exclusive Venues (that encourage interaction)

Host your event at a VIP venue that generates intrigue and excitement based on location. Executives have seen countless hotel ballrooms and standard conference rooms, so pick something new and unexpected that sets an exciting tone for the event. But, don’t forget that interaction and mingling still play a key role – what’s the point of an exclusive customer event if you’re all sitting in a dark theater? The goal is relationship building, make sure that you have enough time and space to accomplish this.

3. Understand Your Audience

Chances are that your guests are invited to exclusive events quite frequently. If so, your event must offer something that the others do not – not just a steak, but a waygu steak. Not just Irish whiskey, but a small batch of single malt. Not just a speaker, but a renowned industry guru. Show you guests that you understand them and offer something that they cannot get anywhere else. The event is all about the attendee experience – what will it take for them to think and feel enthusiastically about your brand and your message?

Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago, Ill. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow @Cadence_Live on Twitter, connect on Facebook, find us on LinkedIn, or visit our website.

Disaster Recovery Tweets – Get Ready and Win Big

Oreo Wins Big with Spontaneous Live Content

Oreo Wins Big with Spontaneous Live Content

For $3.8 million, brands reach over 111 million eyeballs for 30 seconds.

For $0, Oreo increased their Twitter following by 8,000, was retweeted almost 15,000 times, gained 20,000 likes on Facebook, gained 34,000 followers on Instagram, and was featured in countless articles on Forbes, Inc., Adweek, etc.

For all the painstaking planning and preparing that a team can do, sometimes the most “viral” and valuable content is unplanned.

Other elements (note: cleverness, relevance, reputation) come into play, but reactions suggest that Oreo’s spur of the moment decision to poke fun at the Super Bowl power outage in a brand-congruent way is the real winner of last night’s Ad Bowl.

Live content can be planned and budgeted, but spontaneous content is priceless. Audiences can recognize the difference between pre-planned and spontaneous content, and while spontaneity is risky, it offers a glimmer of authenticity and personality that is impossible to plan for.  With the right tools (ie: Oreo execs in the brand monitoring room ready to give approval), brands can be ready to deploy if and when the occasion arises.

Lesson: Plan ahead for the unplanned. There’s something much more impressive and “connecting” about an instantaneous tweet that resonates immediately with the audience. Oreo saw its chance and took it.


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago, Ill. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow @Cadence_Live on Twitter, connect on Facebook, or visit the website.

I Got 99 Problems But Lip-Syncing Ain’t One

Ethics for Live Events: Transparency & Authenticity Are Crucial

I Got 99 Problems But Lip-Syncing Ain't One

Ethics for Live Events: Authenticity & Transparency Are Crucial

It happens with B-list celebs and legendary artists.  No matter the medium, message, or caliber, audiences are consistently disappointed. Despite industry retorts of “standard performing practices,” lip-syncing always appears as a scandalous revelation that artists have tried so desperately to conceal.

At the outset, Beyonce’s performance at the inauguration was stunning. But, after news of a pre-recorded track surfaced, the magical moment was tarnished by the stain of lip-syncing. Fans were heartbroken, and even the media felt betrayed (what happened to trust?). The credibility of Beyonce’s upcoming Super Bowl performance was even called into question.

But beyond the disappointment, the core of this story is transparency and authenticity in live performances. There’s something magical about a live performance, and audiences are not willing to accept anything less. Whether it is a corporate sales meeting or a sold-out pop concert, audiences view live experiences as a commodity worth paying for, and they expect the product that they purchased to be delivered.

The fact of the matter is that the value of live content is in the authenticity of the experience. As an industry that relies on the exchange of live experiences, event producers must be sure to provide meaningful experiences in an authentic manner. Audiences don’t like to be tricked, and pre-recorded content that parades as a live performance is wholly deceiving. Don’t put on an act – be authentic. Be transparent. Be truthful.

Pre-recorded content begs the question: If anyone with a passable singing voice could spend a few days in the best recording studio with a top music producer – perhaps someone like Jay Z – could they pump out an amazing song and sound as good as Beyonce? Well maybe, but looking like her would be the next hurdle. But with enough hair extensions and a fabulous stylist…


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago, Ill. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow @Cadence_Live on Twitter, connect on Facebook, or visit the website.

“Going Zuckerberg:” The New Trend in Corporate Meetings and Events

Going Zuckerberg: The New Trend in Corporate Meetings

Going Zuckerberg: The New Trend in Corporate Meetings

If you’re a meeting planner, then you’re familiar with the extravagance of the corporate event scene. Extending floor to ceiling and spanning wall to wall, business meetings are often overdone with fantasies of projection mapping, celebrity entertainers, corny skits and even game shows. And that’s just the “business” side. Evening social events tend to be even more flashy and delicious – the wine flows like a river and the dessert looks like art. Cue the band, let’s welcome the after dinner entertainment!

Yes, much of the over-the-top extravagance in staging and awards has deflated since the recent economic downtown. But so have the event production budgets. Some trade magazines predict a return to opulence, but we predict a return to the essence– the message.

Enter Facebook – a company without any apparent budget issue and a leader whose communication reflects a strong, distinct brand image. In his sneakers and sweatshirt, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg must hate the overblown pomp at most corporate meetings. When presenting his own corporate communications, we’re willing to bet that Zuckerberg doesn’t include pounding Top 40 hits, the “voice-of-God” announcer, or the quasi-motivational opening theme videos.

In fact, this week’s press conference at the Facebook campus proved exactly that. A basic laptop setup with simple graphics and succinct copy stood in lieu of branded screen surrounds, fancy lighting, and elevated platforms. Keep it focused.

There was no need for complicated simulcasts or slow-loading web streams. Live blogging was as good as being there, and the news spread instantaneously throughout the social network.

Though the graphics were minimal, the content was substantial. Surely Zuckerberg could have easily created the flashiest graphics known to man, but that is not the Facebook way.

If Content is King, then Zuckerberg is the most loyal follower in all the land. He presents from a (literally) equal platform while delivering the core message. Logical and direct, Zuckerberg lets the content stand on its own. No tricks.

From the man who redefined interpersonal communication, is Zuckerberg also redefining corporate communications? With a renewed emphasis on the quality and clarity of content, attendees will focus on the content of the message instead of being distracted by theatrical gizmos. Corporate speakers who ‘Go Zuckerberg’ will feel that they are the main act, rather than an understudy in a B-school play.


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago, Ill. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow @Cadence_Live on Twitter, connect on Facebook, or visit the website.

2013: The Year of the Attendee

5 Tips for the Experience Economy


Shrink food portions. Cut coffee breaks. Reuse centerpieces. Eliminate dessert.

We’ve been reading about cost-saving tips for meeting and event planners, but we’d like to propose that it’s not all about the bottom line. It’s about the user experience.

It’s ok to serve smaller appetizers and use local entertainment talent, but you should always evaluate how these “minor” cost savings can negatively impact the user experience. Are attendees hungry between meals and tired from long walks? It may be cheaper to serve hors d’oeuvres instead of a meal, but a happy attendee is the key to a successful event.

The event industry is predicated on the value of interpersonal interactions. As meeting planners and event producers, we work in an experience economy where engagement is the currency. How can we refocus our attention to better improve the attendee experience?

The technology industry got this right a long time ago. Paying $400 for the new iPhone could be considered ludicrous, or it could be considered an investment in productivity, efficiency, and connectivity. In realigning our efforts to provide the best attendee experience, we should all take a few tips from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

1. Focus on the Primary Task

Determine the purpose of the meeting and refer back to it. Why are the attendees here? What does this meeting hope to achieve and does the event flow support the mission? It is easy to be distracted by giveaway items and karaoke machines, so make sure that all decisions support the primary task of the meeting.

 2. Elevate the Content that People Care About

People attend meetings for specific reasons. They expect to learn and strategize in ways that are not usually possible at the office. They have seen every template in PowerPoint and are well versed in reading pie charts. Instead, enhance content with beautiful theme graphics, a vividly illustrated case study, or responsive technology.

3. Always Be Prepared to Stop

Lectures aren’t fun for anyone. Encourage presenters to accept questions from the audience in real-time. Direct user response and research is the key to understanding the audience, and incorporating their input builds a two-way connection between the attendees and the presenter.

 4. Enable Collaboration and Connectedness

Make it easy for attendees to make new connections and interact with others. The crux of any meeting is interpersonal interactions. Foster these interactions by providing adequate time and space for mingling and impromptu meetings.

 5. Enhance Interactivity (Don’t Just Add Features)

Props and photo booths are fun, but how do they enhance the attendee experience? It’s important to make sure that tools and technology serve a larger purpose. Enhance interactivity through run and relevant tools.

The user experience revolves around streamlined interaction with content that people care about. For 2013, we propose the Year of the Attendee.


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, or visit our website.


Photo credit: The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

In Defense of Print

An E-Card is to Spam as Handwritten is to Love Letter

So little business correspondence is printed on paper, folded into an envelope, and sent through the mail. But as the holiday season comes to a close and we examine our collection of e-cards versus print cards, we’d like to argue in defense of print.

Print is not altogether outdated. Yes, email is more efficient in many cases, but is efficiency the #1 priority for holiday cards? Is hitting the send button on your contact list the best that you can do? Holidays are the one time of year when businesses examine those who helped them to achieve their successes. To properly say ‘thank you,’ we’d like for business holiday cards to be printed, signed, and stamped.

E-cards are just not the same. While they can be animated and personalized, that is most often not the case. Most of the e-cards that I received did not easily download in my email. My Outlook required me to ‘right click to download images.’ Did I click to download the images? No. On the contrary, did the office display all of our print holiday cards in the lunch room? Yes.

Some of the worst e-cards are forwarded. E-cards can go viral, but it’s not because they are clever. A quick Google search returns an avalanche of epic holiday card fails: http://www.funnyordie.com/slideshows/aea53b6c88/amazingly-terrible-christmas-cards

With a light-hearted and genuine intention, holiday cards actually reveal many insights about a company’s creativity and brand. I’ll bet that ‘efficiency’ is not typically a brand pillar…unless you work at USPS. Whether it is a custom design or a handwritten message, a personal touch can go a long way.

Show your clients and vendors some love next holiday season and send a real print card.


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think. If you’re interested in hearing more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, or visit our website.