Inspiration, learning and networking at TBU

At the beginning of September I attended TBU’s annual conference (TBU stands for Travel Bloggers Unite). This was my first conference about travel blogging and it was all about inspiration, learning and networking, just what all conferences are supposed to be, right?! (Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to attend by Visit Nantes and Atout France, but all opinions are my own). Before the conference, I didn’t know a “travel blogging industry” actually existed. But this turned out to be a really stimulating experience. I believe we should all attend, from time to time, conferences from outside our expertise! Continue reading


What I learned at PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2014

Convening Leaders' Opening session

Convening Leaders’ Opening session

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending PCMA’s annual conference (Professional Convention Management Association) in Boston, where I received an award as one of the top young professionals in the events industry.

It was 3 days full of education, networking and inspiration at a really well organised conference. What did I learn that can enhance your next meeting?

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EIS 2012: changing the meetings industry one event at a time

Impressive stage with coolux and mapping projection

Stage with coolux and mapping projection

If I had to pick one of the most disruptive conferences from 2012 in Spain, it would be the Event Innovation Summit . And not because I was the meeting designer…. 🙂  but because it was an event that placed the participant at the center, that created an effective learning environment using neuroscience principles. The main goal was to make an impact on the delegates: not just to surprise them with a spectacular setting or delicious food (which we also did) but to add value to their professional lives by providing them with relevant education, delivered in a way that would stick with them. I think that today too many events still focus too much on the logistics, forgetting that content is what really adds value.

This conference was organised by Grupo Eventoplus , who are on a quest to advance the meetings & events industry in Spain. Thanks to a very open-minded CEO, we were able to push the boundaries and innovate on many levels.

Here are my personal highlights:

1. Brain food: following the guidelines from Andrea Sullivan, brain researcher, the only food on the menu was healthy, organic and contributing to learning. For example, during the coffee breaks there wasn’t a single croissant, instead, lots of  power foods such as nuts, yogurts or eggs, which give you physical and mental energy. Same for lunch. Bear in mind that in Spain we usually have a 3-course meal and alcohol… This time alcohol, sweet desserts and red meats were banned! And guess what? People loved it!

2. Starting the day with visualization exercises and doing a Qi Gong session after lunch. Want people to be ‘present’ and forget about their daily stresses at work or at home? Then using some visualization techniques helps delegates focus on the conference. Feeling drowsy after lunch? Some physical exercise (like Qi Gong, which is very smooth) will surely help!

3. Short sessions to optimize learning. There’s many empirical evidence that people have really short attention spans (even just 30 seconds, as this study found!). So why program sessions that go on and on for 1 hour? At EIS, most of the sessions lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. In this way, speakers go to the point and attendees don’t fall asleep.

2012-10-23 14.23.384. An Innovation Lounge to encourage networking, including the Lego challenge. Because networking is one of the top reasons why people attend events, we made sure to introduce ample of opportunities for people to connect. We prepared both structured and unstructured networking, including plenty of games and ice-breakers such as this one in the picture. We included a Lego block at each delegate bag and a set of instructions: the NASA was looking for a new aircraft prototype and wanted them to design a new one. That gave delegates a fun way to interact and work together.

5. Highly interactive sessions, aided by tech (such as IML Connector) and  non-tech tools (eg. coloured paper cards to vote). Interactivity helps getting attention, however, we just didn’t include it for the sake of it. Everything had a purpose and helped to enhance learning in one way or another.

6. ROI Point and Social Media Point: at the Innovation Lounge there were two ‘Genius Bars’ where participants were able to get free advice on social media and ROI during the entire day.

By the way, this conference was sold out in just 3 weeks, which shows how hungry people are for this kind of events!

If you want to know more about it, watch the making of video or this cool review by William Thomson from Gallus Events.

And stay tuned because this year we’re putting together another Event Innovation Summit and its younger brother, the Meeting & Incentive Summit!

What are you doing to transform the industry? Would love to hear your examples of other cool events!

Book review: Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice

Book cover – Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice

I recently organised an Advisory Board meeting attended by some of the most prestigious event professionals in Spain. We discussed what are their main headaches, what keeps them awake at night… and they all agreed that a big challenge right now is to increase the learning of the participants. In a time of austerity, event owners have to make sure their message is getting across.

Does that ring a bell? If so, I urge you to get a copy of Steen Elsborg and Ib Ravn‘s book, Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice. A short and sweet book, based on research, that explains several different formats that you can use to boost learning and networking. Not all formats will work for every audience and purpose, but it is worth a read. A hint: in learning meetings, a facilitator is key, but you should definitely book less speakers, so you will even save up money!

ROI vs. ROE: why this debate is missing the bigger picture

Source: Conexo

Warning: this may hurt a bit!

During EIBTM 2011 I had the pleasure to be invited at a panel session called ‘ROI vs. ROE’, organized by the MPI’s Spanish chapter (picture on the left).

Obviously, I could say many things about why you should always use the ROI Methodology… But for now I’m just going to share with you my main takeaway of the session: the so-called ROE may be a bigger threat to the meetings industry than what I had envisioned.

First of all, let me clarify that ROE has probably got as many definitions as people that talk about it. But in this particular session, ROE meant ‘Return On Experience’, and one of the main indicators of ROE was WOM, both word of mouth and word of mouse (which is the digital version of word of mouth).

Based on the comments by some panelists and the audience, I had the impression that event planners are now really excited about social media and most importantly, social media metrics. This should be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, it is only to an extent.

I feel like some event planners think that they’ve found the Holy Grail: now they’re able to set measurable objectives (I want to get 1,000 Twitter followers!) and easily show the impact of the event (I got 35 Retweets! The event’s hashtag was mentioned 20,000 times!). As I usually hear, event experiences are intangible, hence they can’t be measured, but social media help us to make them more tangible.

Alas, I think many of them are missing the point. The impact that your event had on social media should be part of your evaluation (if that was one of your objectives), and undoubtedly WOM will increase the ROI, but it is not connected to the bottom line of the company. How many of those who clicked ‘Like’ on Facebook are your target audience? How many of them will ultimately buy your product? And the questions could go on and on.

Usually, measuring something is better than nothing, but event planners shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that just by tracking the impact of an event in social media they’re doing the best job. Because, if one thing we’ve learned after the recession, is that most meetings and events do not have a strong business case yet (ask AIG…). By measuring ROE, we risk getting distracted and not focusing on the real value of the event.

Are you finding that strong focus on ROE as well? Do you think it hinders the measurement of the real value of an event?

The Triple Bottom Line and the ROI Methodology: what do they have in common?

A sustainable event contributes to the Triple Bottom Line by minimising damage to the environment, supporting local communities and providing value for money to stakeholders, sometimes referred to as Planet, People and Profit. 1
It may surprise you that the ROI Methodology embraces all three aspects of sustainability, not only the financial viability. And it is not just a tool for measuring results, it is just as much a planning tool. This is simply because if you intend to measure results, you have to start by setting objectives that are clear, measurable and logically connected. This is the most important prerequisite for planning a successful event.
Consider the ROI Pyramid as your planning as well as your measurement model. You plan by setting objectives from the top down, and you measure from the bottom up.
Meetings and events can only create value to stakeholders by changing the behaviour of participants. There is no other value creation mechanism. This is the Level 3 in the Pyramid. Behaviour leads to Impact and Return on Investment.
For a business event, the ROI is a monetary calculation, a statement of contribution to shareholder value. For a non-business organisation, the impact on its mission is the ultimate value. For the International Cancer Society, the mission is to combat cancer and the event needs to make a contribution to this end.
After setting objectives for Impact and Behaviour, we ask ourselves what Learning experience (Level 2) will lead to the change in Behaviour. How will participant Satisfaction and Learning Environment (Level 1) support the Learning? And finally, what number and types of participants, the Target Audience (Level 0), provides the largest possible multiplier for the ensuing Chain of Impact, measuring results step by step up the Pyramid towards Impact and ROI.

The ROI Methodology

People, Planet & Profit
All events have several stakeholders. We need to set objectives and measure results as a separate exercise for each of them. When there is alignment of objectives, this is no problem. But sometimes we have to reconcile conflicting objectives. By introducing the concept of sustainability, we simply add the local community and the environment, People and Planet, as stakeholders, and reconcile objectives.
Alignment between Profit and People is not too difficult to achieve as events provide business to the local community, and can do even more so by sourcing local products and services.
The Planet is trickier as events often generate large amounts of waste and invariably leave a carbon footprint. Perhaps ROI will be better by going virtual, or hybrid (both virtual and real), but then there is less benefit to People, less business to the local community.
In the final analysis, it is always a matter of value to stakeholders. It would be a shame for a business event, for example, to have a negative impact on the environment and also make a loss to the company. If we have a negative impact on the environment, we had better make sure to maximise the positive impact on People and other stakeholders. By using The ROI Methodology to plan and measure the sucesses of events we are able to to analyse and reconcile objectives for each of the core three spheres of sustainability, People, Planet and Profit. The Methodology creates effienciencies, supports the implementation of sustainability objectives and provides a framework for measuring the results.

Article written by Dr. Elling Hamso and Rosa Garriga Mora

“ROI washing”, a new phenomenon?

I think that ROI measurement is suffering from a phenomenon that I’d say it’s similar to the so-called ‘green washing‘. According to Wikipedia, green washing refers to the ‘deceptive use of PR in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly’.

In the ROI case, I’d say ‘ROI washing’ is a new ‘dangerous‘ trend. At my new role as Marketing Manager of the Event ROI Institute, I’m paying close attention to every mention of ROI. And what I’ve been finding is that ROI is being used as an equivalent of ‘value’. Obviously the ROI Methodology is about increasing value, but also much more: evaluating impact, setting objectives, benchmarking, and so on.
I’ve seen so many companies just mentioning ‘by using our product, you’ll increase your ROI’. But are they assuming the client is measuring the impact? Or are they providing any kind of metrics?

I expect that every for-profit company provides an increase of my ‘ROI’, if not why are they doing business?  However, I think this wording is misleading and it’s ultimately a shame if this means they’re not going to take advantage of all the other benefits that ROI measurement has.

Do you also think ‘ROI washing’ is a new phenomenon, or this is all non-sense? Is it good or is it counterproductive that ROI is included in marketing communications in such ‘unconscious’ way? Or is it me that I’m making false assumptions?