How to overcome negative social media reviews for your events business

Overcoming Negative Social Media Reviews and Negative Customer ReviewsBad or less-than-ideal customer experiences happen to all of us at some point. No matter how professional and diligent we are and no matter how hard we try to be perfect (and, BTW, nobody is perfect), sometimes things just happen. Sometimes those things are accidents (your caterer’s van got hit and ruined the luncheon meal … thank goodness nobody was hurt), sometimes they are acts of nature (your keynote speaker came down with the flu), and sometimes they are plain-and-simple oversights or mistakes made by you, your staff or your vendors or subcontractors.

I can attest that we here at Planning Pod aren’t perfect either, and although 99.99% of the time things go smoothly, it’s that 0.01% that always haunts you because you know you and your staff try your damnedest to get things right the first time.

In fact, for centuries businesspeople have made mistakes, and we will make them for countless centuries to come. But what has changed over the last several years is that our customers now have a huge megaphone called social media at their disposal to announce our occasional slipups to the world.

Despite what you think I might say, overall I think negative social media reviews have been a fairly positive development, because they force event business that behave badly to either improve their practices or find a new line of work, and it gives prospective clients another way to screen out mediocre or poor event vendors.

However, there are a couple of negative developments regarding negative customer reviews on social media, namely…

  1. Lots of unnecessary or unwarranted flaming and namecalling is directed at businesses that are trying to do the right thing, fix their problems and make things right for their customers.
  2. Internet trolls and haters who never have anything good to say about anyone or anything now have a forum where someone may actually pay attention to them (because if they acted this way in public everyone would treat them like the pariahs they are).
  3. Unscrupulous competitors can post patently false negative customer reviews about your company.
  4. The people mentioned in items #1, #2 and #3 can hide behind a cloak of anonymity and demean you with impunity.
  5. A permanent online record now exists of items #1, #2 and #3.

So what are you to do if you find customers or unnamed, anonymous people blasting you on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Here are 5 steps you can take to control the damage of negative social media reviews and show the world that you care about your current and future customers.

1. Get in touch with the customer fast and fix the problem immediately.

If you have not yet had the chance to redeem yourself, now is the time. Do whatever you can to address your customer’s issue and make things right with them. 98% of the people on this planet are rational, sentient human beings who, once removed from the initial emotion of whatever happened, will be willing to work with you, mainly because they would rather have their problem addressed than continue to complain about it and not have it fixed.

The key here is to address the issue as soon as you are aware of it because customers appreciate immediate and tangible action, even if it isn’t a perfect fix. All this should be done offline and privately.

And what if you can’t make things right and fix the relationship? Well, unfortunately that’s out of your hands … all you can do is try to fix things to the best of your ability, and then it’s up to your customer to forgive you or hold a grudge.

2. Ask the customer to either delete their initial negative customer review or, better yet, add a comment that you addressed the issue.

This one will depend on the current status of your relationship with your customer, but if you have mended the relationship, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to delete the comment or post a reply that you fixed their problem. To be honest, having the customer leave up the negative customer review and add a positive comment is much better than deleting the negative social media comment because it shows that you respond to your customers in a timely manner.

If they resist, tell them that negative social media reviews do have an impact on your business and you want future customers to know that you will do the same for them by quickly fixing any issues that arise.


The best way to overcome negative customer reviews is avoiding them in the first place. Planning Pod gives you 24+ easy-to-use tools to streamline your event business practices and keep you and your staff on time and on task so you can provide great service to your customers.

Try our event planner and venue management software free today.


3. Post your solution as a reply to the negative customer review.

Your customer was the one who made this issue public by posting it on the Internet, so you have every right to post a reply regarding how you addressed their issue. If they want to leave the negative comment up, refuse to add their own positive comment and you have a decent relationship with them at this point, tell them you will be posting a response to how you fixed the situation. And if you your relationship is broken and unfixable, go ahead an post your reply.

However, there are a couple of best practices when doing this:

  • Take the high road – Avoid the blame game and don’t make any comments about the customer’s mental state or erratic behavior (even though you may be tempted). Be courteous and sound like the reasonable, attentive person that you are.
  • State the facts but don’t go into great detail – Just talk about the basics of how you tried to fix the situation and make things right with the customer. Avoid any editorializing or personal comments … stick to the general facts.
  • Don’t post anonymously – Let the world know who you are and what your company did to address the issue.

Again, the key here is to reply as soon as you have fixed (or tried to fix) the issue so that people who find this exchange online will see a quick reply posted, giving them the correct impression that you address problems quickly.

If the post is a completely fake online review one or one that you suspect is a fake online review , you should first reach out to the social media company that you believe someone is posting false negative customer reviews about you and that you want them investigated and/or taken down. They may take no action (and they may not even respond to you), and if this is the case then #2 above is your only course of action at this point.

Here are some great links for removing or addressing fake negative reviews on Facebook, Amazon , Yelp , and TripAdvisor.

And here is some great information on responding to negative customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau  and Angie’s List.

4. Encourage your satisfied customers to post positive reviews.

Most customer review sites have ratings that weigh your positive reviews against your negative reviews, so if you do have a few negative social media reviews or negative customer reviews on sites like Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau, one of the best things you can do is to encourage your happy customers to post positive reviews to outweigh or dilute those few negative reviews.

Put it this way … if you have dozens and dozens of glowing reviews and a few negative ones (with replies about how you tried to resolve the issue), your prospects will realize that nobody is perfect and also that haters will hate and give you the benefit of the doubt.

5. Monitor all social media channels

Even if you don’t regularly (or ever) post to social media, you will still need to monitor social media in case someone posts unfavorable customer reviews about you. One great free tool to use is Google Alerts, where you can set up daily alerts regarding mentions of your company online. Social Mention is also another great tool that works like a search engine … just enter in your company name and it gives you a rundown of your social media mentions and an overview of public opinion regarding your brand. Tools like Mention and Hootsuite also let you monitor social media postings with your name in them. We employ Google Alerts, Hootsuite and Mention to track our online mentions and respond back quickly to both customers and interested prospects.

Other paid online reputation management software tools and apps include Trackur, Brandseye  and Reputation.com.

Have any additional tips regarding responding to online customer complaints or reviews? Add them to the comments below.

How to gear up for event season / wedding season in 6 steps

Event Season & Wedding Season PreparationHere in the USA, we are deep in the November doldrums, which means that event season is nearly upon us. Caterers are prepping for banquet season, which starts here in a few short weeks, while wedding season officially starts during the holidays when newly engaged couples start to search for event planners. And convention season and annual meeting season both start after the new year.

Some event professionals dread this time of year because it’s slow (sometimes we event pros can be adrenaline junkies, and I’m as guilty as anyone) and revenues shrink a bit. But I must admit that I sort of like this short slow season because I have time to take a deep breath, focus on tasks I haven’t been able to complete during the busier periods and start preparing for the coming events season.

So whether your busy time is banquet season, convention season, wedding season or annual meeting season, now is the time to lay the groundwork for a successful 2014. Here are some of the things on my annual checklist for preparing for event season, and I encourage you to consider using your down time to focus on at least one of these items, because it could make your life a whole lot easier when you are in the weeds.

Boost your productivity and efficiency
Do you have some convoluted processes or old ways of doing business that you know slow you down and that can be more efficient? Of course you do, because we all do.

For example, are you tracking all your leads with a Google calendar and crossed fingers, hoping that nobody falls through the cracks? The spend some of your down time moving over to a customer relationship management tool that simplifies how you and your team manage your sales funnel. Tired of the inefficiency of spreadsheets to track and share details (and the hassle of emailing them back and forth and hoping you are using the right version)? Consider switching to more efficient event management software tools.

There are a thousand ways you can be more productive … you simply need to analyze what you spend too much time working on and look for a better solution.

Research new trends
What are the trending colors of the new year (Pantone always has a great take)? What event themes are growing in popularity (check out Special Events and BizBash)? What costs are driving up the expense of events (our 2014 event industry report says rising food-and-beverage and venue costs)? What new technologies will event professionals be picking up this year (see the Event Manager Blog)?

Now is the time to find the answers to these trending topics and more.

Your clients hire you (or your company hired you) for your inside knowledge of the events industry. And they count on you to be up-to-date on the latest industry trends and practices. So take a few hours to take the pulse of what is going on throughout the industry so you are prepared with answers to questions you know you are going to get in 2015.


Get ready for 2015 by streamlining your event planning processes so you can be more productive.

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Regroup with your key vendors
Lots of things change going into a new year for many event-related businesses … menus, price lists, inventoried items, policies, personnel, etc.

That alone is a great reason to check in with your key vendors and see if they have made any changes that could affect your event planning or preparations for the coming year.

However, the best reason to check in with your key vendors is to maintain your rapport and great relationships with them. Your most reliable vendors are also the biggest reasons why your events are so successful. There’s the old saw that nobody is ever successful by themselves … there is usually a large team of talented and dedicated people behind any successful endeavor or individual. And this goes double for event management, as our staff, vendors and contractors are indispensable in making our events run smoothly.

So reach out to your vendors, take them out to lunch and find out what’s going on in their world.

Try one new marketing tactic this year
Whether you run an event planning business or an event venue or plan big events for corporations, non-profits or higher education, you are always looking to improve your marketing campaigns. I’ve been in marketing for more than 20 years, and the most successful event professionals are the ones who are always trying new marketing approaches and tactics.

If you talk to any astute marketing veteran, they will tell you that marketing is all about trial and error (or success). You try something and you measure it as best you can. If it works, you improve upon it and put more resources into it. If it doesn’t work, you change it dramatically or drop it altogether.

So if you haven’t done much video marketing, focus on that this year and grow your Web traffic with video. Or try advertising on a new Web site or local magazine. Or spend more time networking at events that your target audience attends. Whatever the tactic, make sure you measure it as best you can so you can know if it worked or not.

Tweak your pitch
Is your pitch still relevant? Does it resonate with your target audience? Does it still accurately reflect the brand identity and promise of your company or events?

Often we spend a lot of time upfront coming up with our brand and our unique selling proposition and then put it on auto-pilot for years to come. But the brands of your organization and events are evolving things and aren’t static because they are changing as you and your audience change. So take a look at your pitch and your marketing messages and tweak them if necessary.

Incrementally raise your prices
When I suggest this to many businesspeople, they flinch, shake their head and say “That’s not really possible. Our customers would rebel.”

But is this really true, or is this just a kneejerk reaction based on fear alone and not facts or logic?

I completely understand where they are coming from because, first of all, people hate change, and second of all, people really hate higher prices. And most event professionals assume that higher prices will scare people away from attending their events or hiring them to plan events.

However, every year price inflation erodes the buying power of every dollar and eats into your profits, and you must raise prices to at least keep up with rising costs. In addition, luxury brands are proof that people WILL buy more expensive things (because they assume it is better and will pay more for things they believe are better and have an air of exclusivity… lots of social psychology studies back this up).

But the secret to raising prices isn’t to jack them up by a large margin every 3-5 years or so. Instead, you incrementally increase your pricing/rates every year. Most customers don’t notice few dollars more here and there each year, but you will notice it in your bottom line. And if you are great at what you do and your services or events are in demand, people will pay because they want the best.

What tips do you have for preparing for wedding season / annual meeting season / convention season / banquet season / whatever events season it may be? Leave them in the comments below?

5 Revealing Facts From the 2014 State of the Event Industry Study

2014 Event Industry Report Survey ResultsHow did the event industry perform in 2014 compared to 2013? What were the big developments and issues this past year for event professionals? Our annual State of the Event Industry survey has provided some great insights into these questions and more, so let’s take a look at the 5 most striking findings from this year’s event industry survey …

Note: Our pool of respondents included 418 professional event planners, corporate event mangers, event venues and non-profit organizations, who provided us with their input, and we thank them for their participation in our inaugural events industry study.

Finding #1 – Event revenues grew across all events in 2014.
The first big event industry statistic from our survey was that event professionals said that their revenues grew across all kinds of events – including conferences, meetings and fundraisers as well as social events like weddings and parties. Of all the respondents, 59% said that their revenues in 2014 were higher than 2013, and another 32% reported that revenues were about the same as last year.

All in all, 2014 was another growth year for events, and many of the event professionals we talked to are already very optimistic about 2015 just by looking at their current 2015 bookings.


Another shocking fact … most event industry professionals are still using 20th century tools to manage their 21st century events.

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Finding #2 – Event attendance also grew in 2014.
Not only were event professionals making more revenues from their events this year, but more guests and attendees were coming to their events, too. 55% of the respondents reported increased attendance at their 2014 events, and another 36% said attendance at their events was about the same as in 2013.

Finding #3 – Higher food-and-beverage (F&B) and venue rates are driving event costs up.
As event industry stats go, this one wasn’t too surprising. Event professionals have been reporting higher F&B and venues costs in various event industry reports over the last few years. In our survey, 70% of respondents said that F&B costs increased over the last 12 months, and another 57% reported that venue rates have increased during that time span … and these higher costs are pushing up the overall price tag for most events.

Finding #4 – The average event lead time in 2014 was 6.7 months.
This one shocked us a bit because it seems so short.

Granted, this is for all types of events across the board, and smaller parties and weddings don’t often require as much prep time as larger conferences or meetings (although that isn’t always the case).

However, even many meeting planners were citing event lead times as short as 6-10 months. And when asked about the shortest lead time they were given in 2014, 58% of our respondents said that their shortest lead time in 2014 was less than 30 days. Ouch.

What this points to is that event clients are waiting until the last minute to sign off on a final budget for an event (residual behavior from the belt-tightening practices of the Recession). Shorter lead times generally mean clients and event professionals have fewer (and often more expensive) options, but we have found that many planners are working with their venue, catering, decor and other vendors to expedite the proposal processes. In addition, event pros are getting more creative with tighter deadlines – like finding alternative venues, scheduling events on traditionally less busy days and hours, and choosing from pre-packaged deals offered by vendors (BTW – this is one key way in which vendors are accommodating shorter lead times on their end).

Finding #5 – Finding competent event staff is getting harder and harder.
Event planning businesses, event venues and caterers have been hinting to us over the last few years that it has become much harder to find qualified candidates for entry-level positions. And our recent findings back this up.

54% of respondents said that finding and hiring competent staff was as difficult in 2014 as it was in 2013, and 33% said it has become even more difficult in 2014.

This stat seems incongruous with current unemployment numbers, especially among twentysomethings who have been beaten up jobwise over the last several years due to a stagnant economy. However, as one event industry pro told us, finding people for open positions is one thing … finding a qualified person who is eager to learn about the industry and take on more responsibility is quite another.

In early 2015, we will be releasing more event industry statistics on the outlook for the new year, so stay tuned for more.

5 proven techniques for influencing event clients and prospects

Tactics for Influencing Event Clients & ProspectsWhether you are an event venue or an event planner, prospects and clients are looking to you for guidance and answers. However, sometimes they aren’t always quick to take your seasoned advice. This may be because they are fixated on having a certain thing done in a certain way that isn’t really feasible in the way they envision it. Or they may be following misguided advice that was provided by a friend or family member. Or they may simply be stubborn.

Regardless of the reason, it’s your job to guide them away from bad decisions that will adversely impact the overall goals of their event. Yes, this can be one of the most difficult parts of our job as service professionals, and talking someone out of what they think is a great idea may make you feel a bit like little Johnny Raincloud. I myself have had to plead with clients until I was blue in the face to not take a certain path because I’ve been down that path before and it almost always leads to disaster. But this is part of our jobs, and our clients will be thankful later that we gave them great advice.

However, for your event prospects and clients to be inclined to follow your advice, you must lay the groundwork first. Thankfully, recent research in the field of social psychology has provided us with several scientifically proven techniques for influencing people and persuading them to follow a better course of action. Here are a few of these techniques … try implementing them into your business and see how they work for you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If these techniques sound a bit creepy or invasive, they aren’t meant to be. Sure, you could use them to try to influence people in negative ways, but you wouldn’t do that because you are a good person, right? And as a good person, you simply want to help people plan for a great event that exceeds all their goals. That’s not creepy … it’s actually noble.

BTW, I just “labeled” you (see technique #3) in an effort to convince you to use these techniques to do good.

#1 – Position yourself as the “likeable expert”
There are two tried-and-true rules of sales:
1. People are more likely to listen to and buy from people they like.
2. People are more likely to defer to someone they consider an expert.

So how do you get someone to like you? For starters, people tend to like other people who are similar to them, so try to find common interests and similarities with your prospects and clients and use these similarities to bond with them. For example, in casual conversation, ask your client what hobbies or pastimes they enjoy, and start finding common ground there. Or find out if the like to travel and strike up a conversation about places you both have been.

Oh, and flattery will get you everywhere, even if the person who is being flattered suspects that it’s not completely sincere (again, studies prove this out). So if your prospect is wearing an interesting pair of shoes, compliment them. Or if they have a great idea for their event, tell them how much you like it and ask them their inspiration for it.

In addition, people are more likely to acknowledge you as an expert in your field if you dress the part. Studies have shown that if you dress like a doctor or a pastor, people are more likely to deem you as an expert in those areas even if you actually aren’t. As an event professional, this means that you should be dressing at least 1-2 levels nicer than your prospects and clients, with dress casual being the bare minimum.

Finally, associating yourself with positive attributes and things that indicate your expertise will also make you more of an expert in the eyes of your clients and prospects. This is why people earn professional accreditations and use their associated titles (CSEP, CMP, CPCE, etc.) after their names … because it successfully distinguishes them as an expert. And pictures posted on your website of you standing next to Colin Cowie, Preston Bailey or David Tutera won’t hurt, either.


Do you know that thousands of smart, savvy event planners and venue managers like you use Planning Pod every day to manage their leads, clients and events?

Try our 26+ easy-to-use event planning tools today for FREE!

(And, yes, I just used techniques #1, #3 and #4 from this article).


#2 – Ask lots of questions and listen closely to discover their motivations
Have you ever been approached by a salesperson and then have them talk over you for half an hour as they try to pitch you? Not only is this massively annoying, but they didn’t spend any time learning about you and your needs so that they could tailor their pitch based on what you want.

I have discovered that when first talking with a new prospect, you should start out by asking lots of questions and then listening to find out about their needs, pain points, fears, motivations and goals upfront. This gets them talking about themselves, and the one thing that people like to talk about most is themselves. This puts them at ease and also starts to create a bond with you.

Once they have opened up, when it comes time to start your pitch, you can zero in on how you and your organization are uniquely qualified to assist their specific situation. This technique also works well at screening out clients who don’t fit your business or who might be very difficult to work with.

#3 – Label your client so you can make requests of them later
Here’s how this works. You start off by labeling your client with a trait, belief or attitude. For example, say you want your client to feel like they are a good delegator of responsibilities (which is essentially what they are doing by hiring you). You can say to them, “You strike me as a great delegator. You know, someone who is successful by finding the best, smartest people to delegate tasks and responsibilities to.”

Once you have labeled them, later on when you are trying to talk them out of a bad idea, you can say, “Remember when I said you are a great delegator? Well, I like the fact that you hired me for my expertise and value my input. And I would never lead you astray or give you advice that I thought was wrong. So I would really recommend…”

By applying a flattering label early on, the client quickly applies it to him/herself, and because they want to live up to that label, it makes it easier for you to persuade them of the validity of your position or idea.

#4 – Use social proof
We see social proof at work every day. When we see someone who looks like us and is dressed like us driving a BMW, it makes us curious about how we would look sitting in one. When a good friend recommends a book, we feel like we need to read it. When people in our community all turn out to a local festival, we need to be there, too.

The way social proof works is that, when we see people who are similar to us acting in a certain way or engaging in a certain behavior, their behavior serves as a model for how we should be acting or behaving. This is why testimonials are often so persuasive, because the person offering the testimonial looks or sounds like us and they are showing us how their behavior helped them and can help us too.

How can you use social proof to guide your clients into good decisions? You can show them examples of what similar clients did and talk about the successful outcomes of their events. You can tell them stories about how similar clients chose the recommended path and how happy they were. You can offer up written or, better yet, video testimonials on your Web site and let your clients talk about their wonderful experience working with you in their own words.

#5 – Play into their self image and values/beliefs
When you are asking questions and listening, find out what your prospects or clients identify with and how they define themselves. Are they image-conscious? Do they align themselves with a particular group, cause or religion? Is there a hobby or avocation that they are absorbed in? Do they see themselves as a leader? A rebel? A parent?

All these things relate to a person’s self image, and most people are very diligent about remaining consistent with their core image, values and beliefs (sometimes to a fault). So you can refer to these traits later when you are trying to convince them of the appropriateness of your guidance.

For example, if you find out a client prides herself in having impeccable taste, you could say something like “I love your sense of style, and you have great taste, and I really relate to this because I pride myself in having good taste, too. And let me tell you, my other clients with great taste love what I’m recommending to you, and it has worked out great for them.”

See how I incorporated flattery, self image and social proof into one persuasive argument? Try out some of these approaches and see if you can more effectively guide your clients to the best decisions for their events.

13 Event technology startups to watch in 2015

Event Technology Startups 2015I just got back from IMEX America 2014, where Planning Pod was honored to be one of the 10 event technology products featured in the 2014 IMEX Event Technology Startup Competition. My experience was a wonderful blur, both because of the pace of the show but also because of all the great new event technology apps and founders I encountered.

IMEX Event Technology Startup CompetitionIt seems like the last 3 years have seen a massive groundswell in event technology development, and I wanted to share with you a baker’s dozen of the groundbreaking event technology apps and software I encountered at the show. Kudos to all the other competitors … it was great meeting with all of you and hearing your stories. I will now cover these great new event tech companies in reverse alphabetical order:

VeeKast  – You may have heard about social media walls at events, and VeeKast is a great provider of this type of event tech. They let you create video walls with split/divided screens for broadcasting all types of media, including videos, pics, social media feeds, sponsor content, event schedules and event polls.

Topi  – A next-gen type of event technology app that utilizes beacons and geofencing (these two items will get lots more play in the coming years) and integrates these with lots of social-media-esque features and content sharing for a very cool tool for creating new connections at conferences and meetings.

Speecheo  – Really the best new event tech out there for speakers. It lets you share relevant content with your audience in real time on their smartphones as well as gauge their interest and collect feedback during or after the event. Oh, and your audience doesn’t even need to download an app because this works via a mobile Web browser.

Speaker Sponsor  – It is what it says … an online portal for connecting professional speakers with sponsors. For example, if you are speaking at an event and they aren’t paying you an appearance fee (a fairly typical scenario), you can list a sponsorship opportunity on Speaker Sponsor to get paid for speaking at that engagement by being sponsored by a company. Great idea.

Sli.do  – Very cool live polling and Q&A tool for events, meetings, etc. Attendees simply go to Sli.do, enter the meeting code and type in their questions. They can then be moderated and put to your presenters, or the audience can also vote on their favorite questions.

Planning Pod  – Yes we’re blowing our own horn, but mainly because we were featured as a finalist in the IMEX Technology Startup Competition. Our online event management software pulls together 26+ easy-to-use event planning tools to simplify how event professionals and event venues manage details (like tasks, budgets, itineraries, floorplans, etc.) and collaborate with their peers. It lets event pros manage their details on their computer, tablet or smartphone and saves them time with features like reusable templates (for proposals, budgets, task lists, schedules, etc.) and shared calendars.

Moove  – Probably one of the more creative apps I saw at IMEX America from a user’s perspective. This platform lets event managers create apps for literally gamifying your event. Lets you create apps for treasure or scavenger hunts, rallies, challenges, team competitions, augmented reality, even virtual presenters (George Clooney, anyone). Plus Daniel Herrero, Albert Roca and their team are from Barcelona, and how can something from Barca not be cool.

InitLive  – If you’ve ever organized volunteers for an event, then you know what herding cats is like. This handy application keeps you connected to your volunteers with shared schedules and real-time stats and communications tools so everyone is on the same page via a smartphone app. Excellent event tech for non-profit events. I talked with CEO Debbie Pinard and they are looking forward to the launch of this very soon.

Eversnap  – An interesting new way for collecting and sharing the photos and videos that your guests take at an event. Just have your guests download the app; enter in your event code; and let them share their pics and videos. Everything is uploaded to an online album, and you can even share your guests’ pics in real time at the event on a feed.

GruupMeet – Handy Web-based application that simplifies managing the logistics of your attendees and provides relevant live reporting, feedback and attendee notifications.

CatchTalk.tv  – It’s the YouTube for video content from conferences, meetings and events, but with a great twist. Event speakers can post their own content here and link to it. And conferences themselves can post the prior year’s keynotes and speakers here and collect leads from viewers who have enjoyed the content. Great lead gen tool for conferences and great publicity tool for speakers. And it plugs right into LinkedIn to simplify things.

Crowd Mics  – An ingenious piece of event technology that turns your attendees’ smartphones into microphones so they can ask their questions and connect to the venue’s sound system. This technology also comes with the ability for your attendees to text their questions/comments and lets you create simple polls to collect data in real time.

Attendify  – At the 2014 IMEX America show there were more than a dozen event app companies, but Attendify really stood out for me for two reasons. One, as CEO Michael Balyasny explained to me, they are really focused on creating a “private social network” for your event that goes beyond mere content sharing to stimulate and enhance real-life connections. Two, their model is more DIY than others, in that you can set up your event app yourself. This keeps the price tag much lower than other event app providers.

All these event technology tools are worth checking out, and hopefully they will save you time and make your event planning go even smoother.

9 Event Email Marketing Tips That Always Deliver

Event Email Marketing TipsI have been a professional marketer for more than 20 years now, which both makes me feel old and, shockingly, at times wise. Email marketing has changed immensely over the last two decades – including email marketing for events – and I admit I’ve made my share of embarrassing mistakes while learning how to properly conduct event email marketing campaigns.

For example, I once accidentally sent out a test email to a database of 10K people with the subject line “Test Monkey” (which oddly had a much better open rate than the actual email I ended up sending, providing more evidence that subject lines with the word “monkey” often perform well). About a decade ago, I also stumbled into discovering that the colors red and green are optimal for emails (and especially for call-to-action buttons) and that blue just blends in with everything else.

Now, I will admit that I have also tested and measured my marketing emails quite a bit (more than I want to admit, actually), and based on my years of research and diligence, I want to save you from all the mistakes and painful learning moments I had to go through in building event email marketing campaigns.

So I sat down and wrote out my best, top-of-mind event email marketing tips that have worked for me over-and-over again and that won’t steer you wrong, whether you are marketing events to potential attendees or marketing an event planning service or event venue.

#1 – Be honest and upfront with your intentions.
If your audience signs up for your list thinking they will get useful resources and value-adds only to later receive a slew of stale sales emails, you will anger more people and damage your brand more than you can imagine.

However, if you would have told them you would be primarily sending them crappy sales emails, your signups would be dramatically lower, but those people receiving your emails will be ready for your crap.

But lets turn that around … Better yet, never push lots of sales pitches to your audience (because they are sick of being sold), stay far away from salesy language and instead be courteous, positive and honest in what your email recipients can expect when they opt-in to your list. And yes, they do need to opt in.

#2 – Build and maintain your list with strategic content and surprising offers.
It’s a good thing you already know that self-promotional emails don’t move the needle much ;)  So what emails do work? For starters, timely studies and research conducted by you on topics that interest your audience. Videos detailing useful ideas and tips that educate them in their areas of interest and your areas of expertise. Images and graphics that illuminate, inspire and entertain (oh, and infographics are still very effective, too).

Beyond providing your email recipients with educational and inspirational content, occasional offers and discounts that are of value to them also make great email topics.

Yes, you can certainly provide the expected offers like early-bird savings or discounts off your services. But adding the element of surprise can make your offers more unique and appealing. For example, you could curate discounts from events industry partners and offer them to your list. Or you could offer discounts for people who tweet your event to 100 of their colleagues. Anything that varies from the norm but still reflects your brand and offers value is worth trying at least once. And email, if it’s about anything, is about testing constantly.

#3 – Mail to your list frequently in the first month, regularly after that.
If you are like us and garner opt-ins via a variety of tactics (like product trials, e-newsletters and how-to guides), you want your new recipients to understand the kind of value they will get from your emails. And you don’t want to wait too long for them to receive your first email; otherwise they may forget they signed up and mark your emails as spam.

So a good rule of thumb is to send six emails to your new email list members within the first month of them signing up. Usually a mix of educational content and discounts work well, and towards the end of the month you may want to toss in an opt-in confirmation email to make sure they are interested in sticking around.

After that, I would recommend emailing to your list not more than twice a month and sending out one (1) offer email for every four (4) educational emails. The reason for this is that people enjoy mulling through content and don’t mind getting more of these types of messages, but if they receive too many offers they tune them out and start ignoring them.

The key here is consistency, and dropping off will only hurt you because your list members will forget about you.


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#4 – Tap your blog for email content.
If you’re like me, you often don’t have spare time to write unique content for both your emails and your blog. So ask your blog to do double duty and use your posts as content sources for your emails and e-newsletters.

I have found that my social media friends and followers are much more likely than my email list members to read our blog, so I have provided my email list with abbreviated versions of blog posts. In addition, you can curate content from other blogs and industry Websites and include blurbs and links to those in your emails. Just make sure that the content you are curating resonates with your target audience.

#5 – Use your company name, alliteration and question marks in your subject lines.
For starters, subject lines should be less than 45 characters (including spaces) so that they can fit onto smartphone screens. Never use all caps. And, if you want to stay out of spam filters, your emails should never include the words “free”, “buy”, “cost” or “avoid.”

So what does work in a subject line? Well, by putting your company or product name in the subject line, people will more easily recognize you among all the detritus in their inbox and be more likely to open a mail from a known entity.

Using alliteration in your emails (words in a phrase or sentence that have the same first consonant) also catches people’s attention and has been found to regularly improve open rates. Word parings like “swimmingly serene” or “downright dirty” might sound glib, but try your own alluring alliterative phrases and see how they pump-up and bump-up your open rates (yes, rhyming works, too).

Generally I would say to avoid punctuation in subject lines (especially exclamation points … another spam flag). But question marks actually perform extremely well because people are intrigued by questions and want to know the outcome or answer, so consider using enticing questions in your subject lines, too.

#6 – Rely on text and links – not images – to generate interest.
Event professionals love to include lots of gorgeous pics in their event marketing email messages, and for good reason … you get lots of amazing photos from all the great photographers working your events.

Here’s the thing … quite a few email apps/clients like Google Gmail have images turned off by default. So any emails you send that are a single image or are image-heavy may not be opened by a large percentage of your recipients who have their images turned off.

A better practice is to focus on the messaging and basic HTML layout of your email, which almost all recipients will be able to see, and strategically embed one or two images in your emails that the user can turn on once they have opened the email.

Oh, and avoid using attachments in your email blasts … they are also a spam flag for Internet service providers and email spam filters.

#7 – Keep each email to a single message (and put that message in your headline).
This email event marketing tip comes from my journalism teacher in college Dr. Grace, who once critiqued my then fairly florid newswriting by politely but firmly reciting the age-old mantra of editors: Don’t bury the lead.

The “lead” is the one main message you are trying to convey, which also doubles as the most interesting and compelling idea in your email. If you have a unique or notable offer, lead with the special deal. If your big event secured a great speaker, lead with this exclusive appearance. If you are launching a new kind of event, lead with why it’s fresh and different.

And don’t just lead with your one big idea … make it the focal point of the email (including your subject line and headline) and don’t clutter it up with other offers or ideas. One email, one idea.

#8 – Send business emails in the middle of the week.
In my decade of hard core email event marketing, I have rarely had any success sending business event related emails on weekends or Mondays or Fridays.

If you are sending event email invitations for social events like weddings or parties, blasting your event emails on weeknight evenings or weekends may actually show better results. But for emails for business events, your best bet is to send out on a Tuesday or Wednesday between either 8-10 am or 2-4 pm, with Thursday being a close second.

Why do these days and times work better for business event email marketing campaigns? Mainly because many people take long weekends and are sometimes out on Mondays and Fridays, plus those are the two work days in which people are the most buried. And in the middle of the week people aren’t as buried and are more accessible.

#9 – Always, ALWAYS have a call-to-action that is the first place your readers look.
People make fast decisions on whether they should read or trash an email, and you usually have 1-2 seconds to get their attention. So you want them to dial into your message fast and be directed immediately to your intended action.

This is where your call-to-action (CTA) is vital. It needs to be direct, clear and short (less than 10 words), and it needs to be the next step the person should take regarding the email. If it’s an offer, the CTA is should be for buying or registering now. If you are providing content, it should be to click on links to navigate or to download something.

For your call to action to stand out, it should be in another color than the rest of your email; red is the most visible and garners the most attention, but green also works well. And it should be above the fold (visible in the email viewer or when the email is first opened) and the first thing a person notices when they open the email.

Bonus Extra Tip – Never sell or share your list.
This dilutes the value of it, and other people tend to overuse your list and do things with it you would never do. Your list is gold and your most valuable marketing asset, so don’t let someone ruin all your hard work and piss off your audience in the process.

Oh, and never buy lists. Purchased lists are often unreliable and the members of the list have not opted in to receive your emails, so your messages may not be welcome. Instead, take the time to build your own event email marketing list … it’s worth it.

Anything you’d like to add … then feed the comment monster.

11 proven tips for hiring event staff or event planners for your company

Hiring Event Staff and Event PlannersIn a recent survey conducted by Planning Pod, one of the biggest challenges facing event professionals and venues today is finding and retaining qualified staff members. This includes hiring event planning staff for full-time positions as well as hiring event staff who work part-time.

There are dozens of great articles that provide recruiting tips like here and here and here and here, but we wanted to offer up a handful of proven best practices used by successful event planners and venue managers. Here they are…

For finding qualified candidates…
#1 – Craft your job requirements and desired behavioral traits

The first thing you need to do is determine your company’s needs and what responsibilities the new staff member will perform. From this you can identify the skills sets and temperament that the individual needs to possess, and finally you are ready to distill this down to job requirements as well as desired behavioral traits.

Note that putting desired behaviors in the job description is just as vital as required experience and skills/abilities, because it conveys to job seekers the culture and drive of your business. So instead of just saying something like “At least 3 years of event management experience required”, elaborate a bit more with something like: “Idea candidate will have 3 years of experience in a high-energy workplace managing event details and interacting daily with clients, prospects and vendors.”

#2 – Consult your network
Your network is not only a great source of leads and prospects; you can also employ it to find great candidates. However, there are a few best practices when doing this.

Start by consulting professionals or businesses in your network who know your business and understand your brand and your goals. You want people referring candidates that fit your culture, so instead of blasting an email to all your contacts, hand pick the ones who know you best and will take the time to think about ideal candidates.

You can also leverage any relationships you have with your local event/convention facilities as well as local chapters of professional industry associations (like Meeting Professionals International or International Special Events Society) to see if chapter leaders have any people they can refer your way.

#3 – Use online tools like LinkedIn Groups
Sure, you could try posting job listings for event planners or event staff on Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com, but it will cost you money and you will get thousands of resumes, many of which may not come close to your requirements.

A better bet is to join LinkedIn Groups that are related to the events industry and post job listings in those groups. There is no cost and you can hone in on your target audience very quickly and efficiently. You can also seek out local job boards as well as industry specific job boards (About.com has a great summary of events industry job boards ).


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#4 – Consult local schools or specialty trade schools
If it’s a fresh, young face and a hungry attitude that you require for an entry-level position, a great place to find candidates would be a local trade school, community college or university that offers event planning or hospitality courses. I have found that it’s always best to first speak with the career services department of the school and see if you can get permission to consult their instructors so you can get references for their best students.

However, you can also contact one of the many online schools that offer event planning and/or hospitality training courses. Lovegevity Wedding Planning Institute  and The Wedding and Event Institute  are two examples, but there are many more you can consult, and the schools would be happy to refer local candidates to you as you pursue hiring event planners or event staff.

For screening candidates…
#5 – Ask candidates to describe specific examples of their skills
It’s one thing to list a set of generic skills and traits on a resume, but it’s a completely different thing to have to explain those skills in action during an interview.

By having a candidate provide real-life examples of when and where they put their skills to the task, you can gain a better understanding of their mastery of said skills and see if they truly do have the experience required to fill the position. This tactic really does separate the pretenders from the contenders, and the only question you need to ask is “Give me a real-life example of when you put your [INSERT SKILL HERE] to work in managing an event?”

#6 – Find out their motivations and values
Your company has a culture and a set of values that set you apart from your competitors and have a huge influence on how you treat customers and run your events. In order for an employee to fit into that culture, they need to share most if not all of these core values.

So during the interview, you should be asking questions like:
• What makes you want to work in the events industry?
• What would you say to a prospect who isn’t sure of the value of hiring an event planner?
• Give me an example of great customer service.
• How would you address a customer or attendee who is upset that something was not delivered as promised?

Questions like these will reveal how the candidate interacts with other people – a vital skill for working in the events industry – and their level of passion and commitment to their profession.

#7 – Attend more to body language and tone and less to looks
Social psychological studies have proven that attractive people are more likely to get interviewed for jobs, hired for jobs and given more perks than those of us more ordinary looking folk – even if they are less qualified for the job .

So don’t let yourself get swayed by the candidate’s looks and focus more on body language and tone when hiring event staff or planners, because these will be a much better indicator of their demeanor in the workplace. Does the person have good eye contact? Do they listen well and ask good questions? Does their voice put you to sleep or is it vibrant and inviting? Is their posture relaxed and comfortable or tight and defensive? Do they frown a lot or furrow their brow? Keep notes on your observations, as the new hire will be representing your company and interacting with prospects and clients.

For retaining candidates…
#8 – Offer competitive pay (and pay your interns)
The fastest way to lose a great employee is to not pay them enough. Fair or not, most employees mainly feel valued based on their salary, and if it isn’t as much as their peers at other companies are getting paid, they will feel as if you don’t really appreciate their efforts and start looking.

To determine what a fair salary is for the position, you can consult sources like PayScale.com and Salary.com; you can even consult your professional network and professional organizations and see what they think a fair salary would be for the position you are listing.

What if you can’t afford to pay industry-standard wages? Then think like a non-profit and get creative by offering other incentives like more vacation time or the ability to telecommute more.

In addition, if you are hiring an event planner or event staff as an intern, you will get better performance from the person you select if you pay them at least minimum wage if not a bit more. The person will not only be learning from you but will be assisting you with your events, and they will be more motivated to learn and help if they are also receiving some sort of compensation.

Also, the Department of Labor stipulates that an unpaid internship must be similar to the training provided in an educational environment and must not benefit the company in any way. Since most internships benefit the company (because the intern is doing work that helps the business advance its interests), by law they should be paid.

#9 – Create a rewards/incentives system
Another way to provide additional compensation for standout employees and keep them in your fold is to give them rewards for outstanding performance. For example, your event planning staff members may frequent many other events where they may encounter prospective leads, so offer them some sort of commission reward for bringing in and landing new clients for your business.

Or you could make your rewards simpler, like giving employees gift certificates to a nice restaurant for going over-and-above on a particular event or for a particular client. Regardless of the reward, make it very public and show how much you appreciate the employee by encouraging and praising them.

#10 – Give both guidance and responsibility
Your goal is to be a mentor who helps your employee grow and learn so that they can take on more responsibility. This begins with providing them with lots of guidance and goals on how to perform certain tasks and your expectations of the results. The key here is not to be exhaustive, as you want your employee to learn on their own and be motivated to learn more, so letting them struggle a little is good because they need to learn how to problem-solve without you always providing the answers.

Once you can rely on an employee to pick up new skills and apply them, you can start to give them more and more responsibilities, which makes them feel valued and like they are an essential part of your team.

Oh, and here’s one thing to avoid…

#11 – Don’t hire friends, family or hobbyists
You may have a great, close relationship with a friend or loved one and have intimate knowledge of their skills and abilities, but hiring them comes with lots of other baggage and emotions, and these will almost certainly get in the way of your business relationship with them (and, god forbid, what if you have to lay them off).

Your current relationship with them will also make it difficult for you to be their boss. What if you have to discipline them for not following through on a project? Or give them constructive criticism when they have done something incorrectly? Would you have to change your approach because they are a family member or friend? And how will they take it?

It is possible to have a harmonious working relationship with a loved one, but you are better off looking for someone else and avoiding any potential drama (and possibly damaging your relationship).

And hobbyists are people who simply think working in the events industry would be fun but don’t really have the skill set or dedication to follow through, and you will soon find yourself doing their work as well as yours.

Any other ideas you want to offer on hiring event staff or hiring event planners? Leave them in the comments below.