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BUSINESS CLINIC38 as an add-on in the past, social and digital media channels are now an innovative way to drive interest around speakers, exhibitors and delegates at your events. So, how can marketers make the most of social and digital media when planning an event?The lead up to an event is paramount to its success. Online event pages allow attendees to register their interest and sign up for additional event communication. Online registration sites are extremely useful as people can view important information about the event, all of which improves overall customer satisfaction.But also think about how the information provided can be used to your advantage. For example, if an attendee is coming from far afi eld, send hotel recommendations. Or if they mention that they're vegetarian, provide details about catering options at the event. This personalised care is what events must do to stand out from the crowd and ensure repeat attendance year in, year out.EVENTS AND DIGITAL MEDIASMike Spicer shares how social and digital platforms can help your message and improve visitor engagement all year-roundDigital media will engage your attendees during the event. It's important to use social and digital media to enhance the experience for attendees. Marketers have tapped into increased smartphone use through 'Twitter Falls'. These large screens update continuously in response to Twitter activity around the event. This unfailingly encourages attendees to tweet about the event (there's nothing like having your name up on a big screen) and participate in online debates, all the while increasing the audience of the event dramatically.Another element of integrating digital media with the traditional is that rather than waiting for an online response from the company or other delegates, people attending the event can fi nd spokespeople and have face-to-face discussions regarding a topic previously only discussed across online platforms. Set up an online forum beforehand, requesting queries which spokespeople can then have to-hand on tablets at the event itself. This reinforces the truly personal element that is an event's USP, while also incorporating the communication potentials of digital.In addition, marketers can encourage digital registration upon entry as a way of monitoring which key industrial fi gures and companies are attending. For some exhibitions, marketers use digital scanners to sign up delegates for mailing lists and future events. Post-event engagement creates long-term rewards. Rather than treating an event as a one-off occurrence, marketers are fast beginning to consider events as an extension of an online discussion, with marketers using mailing lists, Twitter and LinkedIn to create long-term attendee relationships. Social and digital media can also be used to measure responses to the event itself: The popularity of the theme and those who would be interested in attending future events.Ultimately, the benefi t of social and digital media is that they create online communities. If marketers can incorporate the immediacy of digital technology with the personal nature of face-to-face contact, it is possible to establish a far wider audience than in pre-digital times. This environment in which people can connect with a brand and other like-minded people is crucial to achieving business buy-in and lead conversion. - Mike Spicer is CEO of Pulse Group.Marketers are fast beginning to consider events as an extension of an online discussionNew research undertaken to coincide with the launch of The Sunday Times App 500 List has shown Britain loves mobile apps, especially if they're free. According to an Opinion Matters survey, the majority of smartphone and tablet users believe apps have made their lives better. Almost 80 per cent of the apps people download are free, and during the last week of 2011 there were 81m downloads in the UK alone. The study found half the UK population now owns a smartphone, with more than half using their phone more for apps than emailing, texting or calling. Over half download a new app at least once a week. In addition, the average smartphone owner keeps 38 apps on their device. There are about 1m apps available in the UK today. - Opinion Matters research was released with the Sunday Times Top 500 Apps list in January 2012. APPS INDULGENCEINDUSTRY PROSPECTS Two-thirds of event industry representatives surveyed for a new report claim their prospects for 2012 are brighter than they were in 2011. The UK Event Industry Investment Survey was conducted by the International Outdoor Event Expo (IOEX) and designed to measure the buoyancy of the event sector. According to the report, 66 per cent of respondents found 2011 a more profi table year for their business against 2010, compared with 15 per cent who found it the same. When looking to 2012, 64 per cent said their prospects are better than last year, while 27 per cent reported them to be on a par. Investment results proved more mixed, with 47 per cent of respondents declaring their company's investment budget is higher year-on-year, against the 36 per cent who reported investment to be the same. Among the top areas of spending are event technology, AV equipment, event management, attractions and entertainment, and lighting and sound.In terms of improving staff skill sets, 52 per cent of those surveyed claimed to be investing in training programmes and 51 per cent in incentives. Not surprisingly, 86 per cent of respondents said they are increasing their use of social media to market their events, and 47 per cent are increasing experiential activity in 2012. But there are still challenges facing the industry. The most pressing issue cited by respondents is the economy and budgets (45 per cent), followed by proving and providing value on investment (21 per cent). The positive and negative infl uence of the Olympic Games was on the minds of 18 per cent of survey participants, followed by equipment availability (8 per cent). Survey respondents also commented on the length of average job runs year-on-year. Fifty-eight per cent said the time allocated to do a job remained the same, while 23 per cent believed times were shorter. Interestingly, 15 per cent claimed to have seen an increase in the average job length. The survey was conducted in January 2012 across 205 professionals, 80 per cent of which organise events. IOEX will debut with International Confex from 6 to 8 March at Excel London.

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