Monday, 23 December 2013

Your Association's Tradeshow: An Important Source of Non-Dues Revenue

The Chapter was fortunate to bring together a panel of experts to discuss some of the latest trends and challenges of managing successful tradeshows. What made this workshop interesting was the varied background of our panel, which had representation from consumer and industry trade shows to innovative meeting and events expos.

Our panelists were:
Martine Proulx, Director of Events, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries
Debbie van der Beek, Publisher, Ignite Magazine & Ignite Business Event Expo
Ian Forsyth, Show Director /Managing Partner, Caneast Shows Inc.

Our moderator for the morning workshop was Nancy Barrett, CAE, Partner, AMCES.

Panelists were asked to share their background and experience. Martine manages the CANSEC show, one of the largest military tradeshows in Canada with over 10,000 attendees and 400 exhibitors. Martine recognizes that your team of contractors are an integral part of a show’s success. Debbie who publishes Ignite magazine saw a gap in the market for a tradeshow with a difference, similar to Ignite’s innovative publication, and introduced the Iginite Business Event Expo three years ago with a fresh and new approach to tradeshows. Ian has been a passionate consumer show producer for over 26 years starting with the Cottage Life show in Toronto and now has five successful shows here in Ottawa - The Home and Design Show, Ottawa Pet Expo, The Home Renovation Show, Outdoor Adventure Travel Show and the Cottage & Backyard Show - with plans to add two more shows next year.

Debbie shared her vision of moving away from the traditional bowling alley tradeshow booth format to more of a golf course approach which includes lounges for delegates to rest, background music, wider aisles and angles. The idea is that if attendees enjoy their experience, exhibitors will join and participate.

Ian introduced the Pet Expo with a strategic policy - what better way to bring in people to the show then to have a ‘pets welcome policy’! Another strategy is to focus on high-end quality exhibitors while limiting the number of exhibitors within the same category. Ian is always looking to bring great value to both exhibitors and show attendees.  This approach has made the Ottawa Pet Expo one of the largest and most respected shows of its kind in Canada.

Working within the more traditional military industry tradeshow environment, Martine expanded  the CANSEC show with the introduction of a Business-to-Business (B2B) application which allows delegates to pre-book meetings with specific exhibitors. Martine ensures private offices/space is available for such meetings and networking. With multi-million dollar deals actually taking place at the event and increased visibility, the show now attracts international attention, and this year 50 foreign delegations attended CANSEC.

Martine expressed the challenges hosting the event which extended from Ottawa’s downtown core to the new Ernst and Young Centre. These were addressed with increased shuttle service and by allowing pre-registration at strategic downtown workplace locations. On the show floor, Martine always takes traffic flow into consideration and will ensure to anchor major exhibitors in strategic locations throughout the hall to create optimum traffic flow benefiting smaller exhibitors.

Debbie uses a similar approach with the Ignite Business Event Expo. The floor design includes various zones strategically located to promote delegate traffic throughout. She urges show producers to take risks, to see what works, evaluate afterwards, and adjust accordingly.

An important point of discussion was sponsorship and how to ensure sponsors get their return on investment (ROI). Ian emphasized open communication and the need to be transparent with your sponsors. You need to always look at ways to be creative and to over deliver on what is promised. Debbie is not big on the cookie-cutter style sponsorship prospectus and prefers to engage/dialogue with sponsors to find out what message they would like to integrate within the event, to look at ways to draw delegates and accomplish their goals for the event. Keys to retaining a sponsor for subsequent events are to look at ways to meet their needs, to be fair and flexible, to not be greedy, and to deliver what you promise.

The next discussion was on the importance of engaging delegates. Ian sees the consumer show industry as similar to the entertainment business. You want to create a positive experience so that when the attendee leaves the show they feel they received value. Debbie continually walks the show floor to keep an eye on delegates, making sure the atmosphere within the show is something the delegate wants to part of. Martine looks for ways to bring added value in the CANSEC show such as the B2B program mentioned earlier and introducing innovative networking activities such as BBQs .

The workshop finished with a discussion on industry trends. Ian has seen a marked change, due in part to the Internet, where people often arrive at a show with their purchase decision already made. They are looking to personalize the transaction at the show which can extend the selling cycle. Martine mentioned that even in the virtualization age, the need for face-to-face meetings is essential. An important role CANSEC plays is to connect people--the customer and the buyer.

Debbie sees a growing use of social media to engage delegates. The hosted planner program and appointment base system is very popular with exhibitors and delegates alike. She sees a younger generation coming to market and it is important to provide value and an environment that meets the needs of cross-generational attendees. The virtual/hybrid meeting is becoming mainstream; however, Debbie sees it as a way to eventually grow your attendee base, where the virtual experience augments a face-to-face meeting.

Martine concluded exhibitors must take some responsibility for the level of booth traffic they experience. Booth etiquette is an important issue - during tradeshows you often see exhibitors on the phone or distracted with food and drinks at their booth when they should be present and interacting with delegates.

Thank you to the many contributors who brought tremendous practical experience and insight about tradeshows as a non-dues revenue source to our workshop participants.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Engaging Next Generations

Recently, over 100 members of the Ottawa-Gatineau CSAE Chapter met at the Sheraton Ottawa to listen to a panel of three association executives that discussed member engagement, particularly the challenges they faced involving the next generations of members.

Panelists Sean Kelly(National Director of Membership at the Canadian Bar Association), Linda Palmer, CAE(Director of Membership Services and Trainee Programs at the Canadian Cardiovascular Society) and Leacy O’Callaghan-O’Brien, CAE (Director, Advocacy, Communications and Events at the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists) shared the experience of their organizations. In each case, the association had identified early signs of weakening interest from younger generations.

The panel was moderated by David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based full-service market research firm. David was particularly well-suited to facilitate a discussion on this topic as his firm offers a Canadian Millennial practice (which includes advice for engaging with this emerging generation) and David is a millennial himself!

As part of his opening remarks, David presented a compelling overview of the importance of member segmentation based on the premise that different generations will have particular interests and needs. For example, education and mentorship rank as highly important benefits for millennials while networking and discounts were the highest ranked incentives for boomers to join an association.

A great deal of valuable information was shared during this session. It was clear that associations need to be attentive to signs or triggers that may indicate that they are, or will soon be, facing a drop in involvement by younger cohorts. Potential indicators include difficult economic conditions (making it harder for organizations to justify a membership dues expense), competition for membership from other organizations, low renewal rates amongst those transitioning from academia to the workforce particularly where membership is voluntary, and difficulty in getting younger members to participate in programs.

All of the panelists agreed that once indicators have been identified it is critical to make informed decisions based on research and consultation so that appropriate solutions can be identified and implemented.

Here are a few of the diverse and original solutions shared by the panel. Some of these may be helpful within your organization:

  • Ensuring the voice of younger members is being heard by providing opportunities to participate in meaningful decision making
  • Inclusion at the top -- dedicating a board position for younger members
  • Naming young professional ambassadors
  • Creating a committee dedicated to new members
  • Implementing recognition programs and awards
  • Increasing social media presence
  • Going visual -- making videos about the brand
  • Delivering specifically what they value
  • Being willing to think outside the box -- not relying on how things have always been done

After implementing a number of these changes, each of the three organizations represented by the panel reported significant improvements in participation from younger generations. Success indicators included increased conversions from trainees to members as well as an overall boost in member numbers.

Ultimately, the fate of membership associations rests with our ability to attract and keep younger generations engaged. The earlier this is recognized and addressed, the greater the likelihood that your association will enjoy a sustainable future.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Attrition Busting Tips

Attrition: The difference between the actual number of sleeping rooms picked-up (or food-and-beverage covers or revenue projections) and the number or formulas agreed to in the terms of the facility’s contract. Usually there is an allowable shortfall before damages are assessed. 

Brenda Howes, Founder & CEO of The Howes Group, has provided five tips on how to ensure that you do not get get stuck with additional attrition charges.

  1. Work from your History - Take at least four years of history and compare destinations.  Consult with us to help you determine which destination tends to draw the most delegates.
  2. Create an incentive to ensure strong pickup – Having delegates stay at the main conference hotels should be an incentive to have them want to stay at the hotel you have chosen for your meeting.  Include incentives in your negotiations to ensure there is a benefit to staying within your block.
  3. Communication – Ensure that your delegates and even board members understand how important it is to stay within your block.  Education and understanding why it is important to book within the block is key to ensure folks understand the ramifications of booking elsewhere.
  4. Delegate Deposits - This has proven to be very helpful with clients to ensure there is a commitment to their reservation.  Cancelling 24 hours out may be allowed by the hotel while this ‘out’ can have a negative impact on your block.  A 50% deposit 30 days out reduces the risk to your organization.  Review cancellations on a case-per-case basis.
  5. Registration Reduction – Reward your delegates who book within the block with a minimum registration reduction.  Often times it only takes a small reduction to ensure that they book within your block.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Generational Leadership

Are you thriving or surviving in your current work situation? Do you ever feel like you don't necessarily fit into the work culture today? It may be that your boss speaks X and you speak Y.

I spoke with Tamara Erickson, author of Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work. Tamara is a McKinsey Award-winning author and has conducted extensive research on changing demographics, employee values, and how successful organizations work.

If you were born past 1980 you are part of the culture known as Generation Y and you now make up nearly 1/3 of Canadians living today. The things you value, the leaders you like to follow and what motivates you are quite different from others in your organization who were born before this time. You have grown up digital, connected and in a time when there has been an amazing amount of change in the world. Along with growing up “digital”, you have witnessed events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Columbine to 911. Tamara shared that “(t)he most common complaint I hear from employers regarding the Y's is that they want everything now. They'll tackle challenges where the proverbial angels would fear to tread. They'll break the rules, and, if we let them, they'll show us how to make our corporations a more humane place for all.” 

As I spoke with Tamara, I realized how these issues have played out in my own career related to the choices that I made, as well as times when I was more and less successful at leading others. Whether you are Generation B (Boomer) X or Y, understanding the nuances of culture and how our beliefs shape our behaviour is crucial to being successful in today’s competitive marketplace. In Tamara’s book she shares six key elements that any generation can use to thrive in their work:

  1. Find your passion: what are you?
  2. Identify your preferences: what you want to do? with whom? what compensation, lifestyle and social activity do you want?
  3. Target your place: geographically, organizationally and role.
  4. Align practical realities: while you may desire to be a doctor, do you want to spend the next seven years of your life pursuing this?
  5. Find the ideal job: this is the role that overall best suits YOU. 
  6. Leverage the unique advantages that you bring to the market.

You may think in the current market, is it even possible to consider these options? While it may take longer to move to a role that is better suited to you, these six principles have never been more relevant. Research shows that professionals who are thriving in their work are less likely to be laid off and if they are affected by restructuring, land in new roles faster and in better positions than the average performers.

These are Tamara’s “David Letterman” Top 10 “Thriving at Work” Tips:

  • Think positively 
  • Show initiative 
  • People can't read minds, learn how to clearly communicate. 
  • Reason and financial logic are important in the business world, not feelings. 
  • Make the most of every experience, good or bad, by learning from it. 
  • Pragmatism is good: what works for others can work for you. 
  • Walk fast, carry a stack of papers, and drink coffee: there is importance in being perceived as purposeful. 
  • Clear the air and move on: discuss, resolve, let go, and move on. 
  • Don't underestimate the power of grace under pressure. 
  • Keep three months salary in the bank: create for yourself the power to walk away. 

As you consider these ideas, don’t ask why…honour your inner Gen Y.

Alan Kearns is Canada's Career Coach and CareerJoy founder, Workopolis career expert, Chapters/Indigo Trusted Advisor and author of Get the Right Job Right Now! Alan is one of Canada's leading authorities on career management issues and has shaped his almost 20 years of career management experience into a company that helps people from all over North America to navigate a wide variety of career-related issues.