One of the biggest errors convention organizers often make is how they prioritize their expenditures and programming. Very often, organizers spend an insufficient amount of time on creating their Convention flow sheet, and how and on what to spend their funds. Many conventions also suffer because of a lack of adequate marketing.
After three decades in the industry, I have repeatedly heard attendees complain that they did not get enough value for their expense. Often, this is the reason given for someone not bothering to attending, feeling it was not worth their time, effort or money. Therefore, convention planners should understand that their flow sheet is their most important marketing piece, yet they generally spend more time discussing lesser issues than that.
A flow sheet for a convention should indicate a “bustling of activities,” with multiple categories of activities that might attract a varied audience. Many organizers mistakenly believe that because they are interested in a specific thing, and that is what interested and motivated them, that others felt the same way. However, in most cases, various potential attendees might be attracted by different alternatives.
The next thing the flow sheet should clearly demonstrate is that this Convention is offering a value-oriented experience, that will meet all the other objectives of the particular conference or convention as well. If the convention has a substantial registration fee, potential attendees must clearly see that they are getting “bang for their buck.”
A convention organizing committee needs a central negotiations point person and expert negotiator. An expert negotiator can often get substantially more for the same or lower costs, and understands concepts like menu-tweaking, win-win negotiating; cost savings, etc.
Organizers should prioritize how they spend money. Too many conventions spend too much money creating items like logos and fancy ads, both of which attract few attendees. While direct postcard mailings are the most effective (both statistically and cost-wise), I have continuously seen organized neglect this form of marketing, citing many, generally ill-conceived reasons. Too many organizations do not take advantage of free or nearly free promotions. For example, if the organization has a magazine or newsletter, there is almost always some “blank space” somewhere in the issue. Organizations should take advantage of that space by promoting their event as often as possible. Too many organizations recently have attempted to become almost entirely digital, yet many people screen out much of their e-mail (considering it Spam), or merely give a quick, cursory look. Marketing anything requires continuous, organized and ongoing efforts. An organization need not spend a lot of money on special expensive paper, or four-color printing, but needs to promote effectively.
Many things related to convention expenses are “economies of scale” type items. Therefore, the more attendees to a convention, the more the Convention can offer.
Too many organizations have turned to “booking” companies to assist them in making their arrangements. While hotels and these companies will always state that the commissions paid and received do not adversely impact the organization, logically speaking, the hotel and Food and Beverage people will somehow adjust their flexibility on certain cost-related items, in order to compensate for the commission paid. While there may be times when these type of companies help organizations, it is generally when room-only type events for small to medium sized groups are arranged.
If an organization does not present a convention with conceived value, eventually the number of attendees will drop. This can create a devastating impact on that organization. Organizations should “fix” the situation before it is broken!
Richard Brody has over 30 years consultative sales, marketing, training, managerial, and operations experience. He has trained sales and marketing people in numerous industries, given hundreds of seminars, appeared as a company spokesperson on over 200 radio and television programs, and regularly blogs on real estate, politics, economics, management, leadership, negotiations, conferences and conventions, etc. Richard has negotiated, arranged and/ or organized hundreds of conferences and conventions. Richard is a Senior Consultant with RGB Consultation Services, an Ecobroker, a Licensed Buyers Agent (LBA) and Licensed Salesperson in NYS, in real estate.