Event Mangers' Opportunity to Create Valuable Event Networking

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Event Managers Opportunities forCreating Valuable Event Networking

Margaret Core walks you through the event organizers impor-tant leadership role in hosting networking, driving connections and creating show floor traffic drivers.

Bottom line, its our responsibility to create the event environment in advance and on-site for valuable audience connections and networking.

Our customers - attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers - all have the expectation that the event will be efficient in delivering audience connections.

Where do we start? What is the right mix of events and services to allow the connec-tions and networking? How do we invest in the right technology? Where does the data flow from? We all have scratched our heads over these questions.

These days, its confusing on how to plan an effective set of connection tools for attend-ees. There are a wide variety of ever-changing technology options. Use this article to help identify your priorities and match them against your options.

In the next few pages, I will cover the Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? of creating valuable event networking.

Are exhibitors getting value?Are attendees getting value?Are people and exhibitors engaged?

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In the grey boxes, I walk you through the BIO In-ternational Convention examples and decisions we made in offering our 2011 myBIO personal planner tools via the Zerista event platform.

For the event that I currently work on, the BIO International Convention, life science products usually move along in the production process by engaging multiple partners. The parties involve partnering on innovations, financing, manufacturing options, licensing assets and more. The audiences for this exploration of partnering includes small biotechs, large phar-ma, academics, research institutions, service providers and more. We host a variety of con-nection points, some requiring more of a time and resource investment than others.

BIO International Convention

Step 1: Who? Decide who needs to connect with each other. What are the buying processes of your industry? Who will benefit from connections? Consider the marketplace buying patterns. List the various connection pairings, such as:

Exhibitors & Attendees Attendees & Attendees Speakers & Attendees Media & Companies Public Officials & Companies and more!

As you make your list, consider further defining the different attendee types such as students, companies, universities, media, financiers, etc.

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For our highest level of investment in prequalified meetings, we host the BIO Business Forum, powered by the BIO One-on-One system. The BIO Business Forum provides a private set-ting with the BIO Exhibition and hosts more than 22,000 30-minute meetings over the four days of our event. For companies participating in the BIO Exhibition that want to increase booth traffic and qualified leads, they can utilize the One-on-One system for appointments to occur in their booths.

Gaining access to the BIO Business Forum requires our highest level of registration and an investment to create a partnering profile. For the attendee who needs to make connections but does not necessarily want to make the full time investment of the BIO Business Forum, we offer the myBIO personal event planner tool. myBIO is a set of search and personal planning tools that prompt individuals to make an event plan marking the sessions, exhibitors, speakers (and more) that they plan to connect with during their visit. We find that 50% of our attendees create some level of plans and that the international attendees make the most use of the per-sonal planning tools.

So for the BIO International Convention, we offer two very different approaches to planning and connecting. In addition to the private meetings, the BIO Business Forum has a cocktail recep-tion at the end of one day. The BIO Exhibition has a 1.5 hour time period where exhibitors host receptions, and we also have a variety of special events including a few blocks of time with no education programming in order for attendees to focus on the BIO Exhibition.

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In your planning process, I suggest that you start listing the assets that each of your attendee types brings to the event and how they can interact with other groups. Assets are needs such as specific purchasing requirements, knowledge to share, training and certifications. What are the pressing business needs of each group? What content elements can they share with oth-ers? How best can you make use of their time at your event to deliver the most impact? For example, if your audience is professional meeting planners, they most likely need to find event venues and they can share RFPs. Can they share the RFP in advance so the event ven-ues could respond in person? What sort of venue search tool can you offer to make the best match?

Examples of audience assets and what they could share:

Step 2: What? Making Use of Audience Assets

What sessions are relevant to me?

What exhibitors do I need to see?

Who should I meet?

Attendeesorganization of the products and services they are seeking to purchase

Exhibit Booth Personnelservice, product details and specifications, how-to information

Speakersknowledge, instructions, benchmarking, how-to information

Public Officialsregulatory insights, government funding, process, issues

Delegations Organizerscountry opportunities, profiles, economic development

Exhibitor

Attendee

Who are my qualified prospects?

How can I engage them before, during and after the event?

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Examples of services you can offer to provide connections and exchanges for your audiences: virtual literature collection and distribution press release distribution appointment requests following exhibitors messaging session check-ins affiliated event list (party listings) commenting white papers and other documents on company listings import/export match making RFP response system country profiles

At our event, one out of three attendees come from out-side the United States. Therefore, we see the need for countries to share their life science infrastructure such as university research areas, business climate such as regulation, tax incentives and manufacturing infrastruc-ture. To allow companies to search and connect, we cre-ated a myBIO Company Network which combines and consolidates the exhibitor list, the companies active in the BIO Business Forum, our sponsor list and speakers. The myBIO Company list is a much stronger presenta-tion of the company involvement at BIO than if we pres-ent the lists separately. The prospective attendee can see the show floor activity and the companys involve-ment in other elements of our event in one place.For us, the combination of lists allows various groups to view how companies are participating in our event. In the past, because some companies were only in the BIO Business Forum, they were hidden until a person registered and logged into the partnering system. Now, when prospective attendees search, theyll find a more comprehensive company involvement.

BIO International Convention

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Company Personnel List

Another suggestion is to consider consolidating or changing the lists you present.

New Ways of Organizing Event Lists

Old

Exhibitor List

Sponsor List

Program Listings

Speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, active companies list all in one place

Comprehensive Schedule of Eventssearchable!

Company Participation List

New

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Step 3: When? and Where?

When and where to capture personal data in order to create profiles for connections and net-working are critical decisions. I have a number of lessons learned and this is an area in which I believe registration companies and tool technologies providers could create better options for clients.

The fact is that as humans on this earth, we are not interested in maintaining multiple profiles on the Internet. I personally have invested in my LinkedIn profile and have no interest in creat-ing other profiles for events I attend. Therefore, event organizers need to make use of import-ing profiles and photos from Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media sites. For demographic information used in creating profiles, consider importing the information from the registration process or the data you have on file in your association database.

BIO International Convention

For our 2011 myBIO system, we transmitted basic attendee data and demographic informa-tion from our registration partner, CompuSystems to the Zerista platform. We also transmit-ted individual information from our a2z, Inc. speaker database. The attendee myBIO profiles were created instantly and hosted tags that could be searched and sorted. For example:

For our educational program display, the default was the chronological display and then there were different subsets that a user could select, such as breakout sessions, recep-tions, keynotes, booth giveaways and more.

Links and data tags from info in registration record

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Step 4: Identify Where Your Data Sources Are Stored.

When my good friend and co-worker (at three different employers!) was planning the transi-tion from a Consumer Electronics Show type-set exhibitor directory to an exhibitor self-entry database way back in the 1900s, I can remember being overwhelmed by the changes we were discussing. As she ran her hands over the type-set pages, she said, Its just data! Years and dozen of technology projects later, I agree.

Make a list of whe