Anyone in the meetings and event planning business knows what a busy industry it is. This fast-paced, customer-focused field runs continually throughout the year, giving event planners and their teams little down time to take care of themselves.

In the midst of planning conferences and events for their clients, event planners can benefit from attending one or two conferences, as well. Conferences and conventions focused on the event planning business can provide planners with an opportunity to relax, be rejuvenated with new ideas, and feel refreshed and enthusiastic about going back to their clients.

While there are many event planning conferences, these are a few of the ones you won't want to miss this year.

Momentary quiet before the conference begins.

National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), Expo 2013.
It's right around the corner, but you'll still want to mark your calendar for the NACE 2013 Expo in Chicago from July 14th through the 17th. Event planners, caterers, and other professionals can take their businesses to the next level with workshops, networking, contests, and showcases.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress.
On July 19th, nearly 3,500 people from the event planning industry will converge to Las Vegas for this year's World Education Congress. With sessions focused on career development, business, and leadership, MPI provides a four-day conference that's full of expert knowledge imparted at about 125 different sessions, a trade show, networking opportunities, and good, old-fashioned fun.

International Special Events Society (ISES) Eventworld.
Paradise Island, Bahamas, is the location of the next ISES Live Nassau 2013 Conference. Event-planning professionals will have the opportunity to be inspired and gain knowledge through creative and interactive workshops. Participate in breakout sessions and listen to keynote speakers share their insight. You'll leave this three-day conference, held August 22nd to 24th, feeling invigorated and excited.

2014: The Special Event.
Wedding planners, caterers, and other event planners won't want to miss The Special Event in Nashville, TN, from January 7th through the 10th. This four-day extravaganza is jam-packed with professional development sessions, trade shows, and various track programs geared toward specific industries and groups. Held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, this conference will be a great way to kick off the New Year.

Event planners can keep up with what's new in the industry by attending a conference.

Get Started, Get Involved

The best way to get involved in event-planning conferences that suit you best is to join your local or regional event-planning association. These associations work tirelessly to bring members current news regarding professional development opportunities, networking meetings, and upcoming conferences.

Join a local association and get involved as a volunteer, if possible. You'll be up close and personal with all that's new and exciting in the event-planning industry, which will ignite that passion and enthusiasm your clients appreciate so much. Although it may not be possible to attend more than one conference per year, doing so is beneficial to you as a professional, and your clients will directly benefit from your attendance, as well.

Mary Ylisela is an author who writes about business, professional development and tourism for organizations such as


event marketingMarket share and mindshare: A successful event can bring heaps of both kinds of attention to your business. The key is to plan it so that your execution is flawless. That's where the practical concerns such as insurance, safety, security, and logistics come into play. Many decide to hire an event planner once the scale of even a "small" event is understood.

This article focuses on getting the most marketing mileage possible. Let's look at three crucial time periods that can affect how the marketing is received: prior to the event, during the event, and after the event.

Prior to the Event

Major planning starts here. What will the event say about your company, service, or products? What is the desired mood you want to achieve? What will attendees learn, or what other benefits will they receive from attending? This is the time to craft the strong message that will be repeated throughout the event.

[ ] Comprehensive marketing plan

Direct mail, website, radio spots, TV, newspaper ads, film and photography, and other methods should be part of the planning process depending on the audience you want to reach.

[ ] Logo, colors, and style guide

Events with strong visual branding throughout the experience tend to be more memorable and feel more cohesive.

[ ] Press kits -- paper and digital

Plan to notify local and/or regional media prior to the event for the best hope of earned media. At minimum, you'll need a press release with photos, bios, and information packets ready to distribute.

[ ] Social media marketing plan

Word-of-mouth is still the cheapest and most effective marketing method; social media should be the centerpiece.

[ ] Pre-show emails

Whether a part of your existing newsletter or as stand-alone promotion, emails are an important way to build buzz.

[ ] PPC, SEO, and online advertising

Target keywords and phrases for advertising leading up to your event.

[ ] Create the agenda packet

This document is a potent sales tool to get attendees. Highlight the benefits of attending and the proposed schedule of events. There should be at least two versions, one electronic and one printed for the event itself.

[ ] Show giveaways

Order the giveaways you'll use during the show to encourage participation.

During the Event

Every part of the event contains a marketing possibility. A strong, consistent message should be seen and felt from start to finish. Plan activities that support this overall message and be sure that all materials designed for attendees to take with them also conveys your theme.

[ ] Creative materials at the venue

Consider distributing packets of information in a suitable format. This may include novelty tchotchkes or branded everyday items. It may mean digital materials, such as free apps or games.

[ ] Visuals at the venue

Marketing potentials include all signage, posters, banners, balloons, boards, name badges, tent cards, plaques, etc.

[ ] Filming and photography

Events are goldmines for marketing materials. Be ready with a professional photographer or videographer. Hire a pro to ensure quality images and good lighting setup.

[ ] Social media "live streaming," "live tweeting," or similar

Have a dedicated group of people creating social media updates for Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites to maximize and capture the real-time experience.

[ ] Collect testimonials

Video is the ideal way to collect testimonials since you can reuse this later (be sure to have attendees sign a release). Soliciting written feedback and photos also work well.

After the Event

Immediately after the event is a time to collect feedback, materials, and measurements. All of these data points can be processed for improvement in the future or used in upcoming marketing materials. Organize the post-event media and other information as diligently as you planned it for best results.

[ ] Measure and report on social media outreach

Use a site like to measure discussion reach.

[ ] Collect links to social media updates

You will be able to point to these again later since most will stay online for a long time.

[ ] Archive the event on your website or post again to social media

This archive can provide valuable social proof for future events.

[ ] Collect and organize feedback

Attendee testimonials can be organized for future use, as can post-event survey responses. Look through feedback for verbiage useful for marketing future events. Be sure to get permission for attribution.

For more detailed steps check out The Definitive Guide to Event Marketing produced by Marketo. It is a free download with email registration.

Featured images:

Katie McCaskey is a freelance journalist who covers event marketing tips and trends for Vistaprint, a leading source for address labels, invitations, and other products to help you market your next event successfully. Katie has written about marketing for 12 years and is co-owner of a neighborhood grocery/cafe outside of Washington, D.C. 

countryside meetings

Photo By: Joe Shlabotnik

For most of us, at least 40 hours of our week is spent in the sprawling urban world, surrounded by the glass & concrete of office towers and bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion.

When it comes time to host a meeting, the venue of choice often ends up being in the exact same environment, even though most events are typically meant to act as a change of pace from the normal day-to-day working life. So why not shake things up a bit and host a meeting outside of the city instead?

Out in the countryside, you have nearly endless choices for unique and memorable meeting locations that are as far from the metropolitan experience as you can get, including everything from valley resorts, to forest cottages, charming hotels, and so much more.

For both event planners and attendees, hosting a meeting outside of the city has a number of benefits, including enjoying a relaxing & laid-back environment, taking in the fresh air and peaceful scenery of rural areas, and inviting the opportunity to take part in team building activities that you just can’t find in a city.

Enjoy A Laid-Back, Small Town Feel

Help your meeting attendees escape the chaos and bustle of city life for a little while by hosting your event in a small town, rural area, or secluded location. Outside of the city you’re guaranteed to find locations that offer a laid-back atmosphere surrounded by small town hospitality and charm that you just can’t find anywhere else.

One of the best reasons to escape the city for your next meeting is that it gives attendees a chance to wind down some stress from their day-to-day working lives. This can hopefully lead to a much more enjoyable & productive event, as well as a more memorable experience than having just another get-together downtown.

In fact, psychological research has shown that being in novel environments; from a quaint small town hotel all the way to something incredibly unique like a wine barrel room tends to lead to more pleasurable feelings and improved outside-the-box thinking. As a result, hosting your next meeting in these types of locations can have a hugely positive impact on the quality of the event.

Take-in the Fresh Air & Scenery of the Countryside

Taking any opportunity to reconnect with nature is always a good thing, and you can help your meeting attendees out by booking your next event far beyond the skyscrapers and highways of the city. The fresh air and scenery of rural spaces will do wonders to calm some minds, leading to a more relaxing and productive gathering.

In a city it can be easy to lose touch with the natural wonder of the world, and the constant buzz of urban life can be draining at times. Having just another meeting in the a city environment might lead to a less than enthusiastic crowd, so you’ll probably be greatly appreciated for taking a leap and planning an event that gets all your attendees out into nature for a change of scenery.

You don’t even have to go far outside of the city to reconnect with the natural world. For example, if you take about a 90-minute drive outside of Los Angeles, you’ll find the peaceful Korakia Pensione oasis villa in Palm Springs, or if you’re in Edmonton, Alberta and up for a short flight, you can experience the natural beauty of the Athabasca forest in nearby Fort McMurray.

Get Involved in Unique Outdoor Activities

If you’re planning a team building event rather than the usual conference or typical business meeting, consider doing it outside of the comfort zone of your team’s day-to-day city lives, and explore what the countryside has to offer instead. This change of pace can lead to once-in-a-lifetime experiences that can be a huge help in building longtime bonds and unforgettable stories.

While team building events in the city can often be meaningful and bring your team closer together, the impact of sharing a completely new experience in relatively unknown environments can really leave a lasting mark on how your team sees each other. The great outdoors of the countryside encourage a bigger sense of adventure, challenge, and fun that simply can’t be replicated in between office towers in the downtown core.

Depending on the destination and time of year, your team building activities can include a large variety of unique experiences. You can do everything from hiking in the woods outside of your hotel, sailing the waterfront outside of your cozy maritime meeting venue, to skiing the slopes alongside your mountain resort. The variety of countryside activities are nearly endless, but no matter what you choose to do, it’s certain that your team will never forget it!

Michael Smith is an Inbound Marketing Consultant at Powered By Search, writing on behalf of Quality Hotel Fort McMurray offering hotel rooms and meeting space in northern Alberta, Canada.

Facebook Events is a marketing tool that’s growing in popularity with small business owners. Even those who’ve just started a business or are on a tight budget still need to get the word out about the opening of their business or the introduction of a new product.

Since Facebook Events are free, it’s smart for them to be included in a small business’s promotion and advertisement campaign. To get the most out of a Facebook event, there are specific dos and don’ts a businessperson can follow.

Following is a list of Facebook Events best practices can help maximize their promotional benefits.

Facebook Events Best Practices


  • Use Facebook Events Sparingly. Most people don’t throw parties for everyday occasions, and it wouldn’t be wise to host a Facebook event for every business occurrence. Rather than hosting an event to announce a new greeting card on their website, a paper goods business might host a Facebook event to introduce their new line of wedding invitations before peak wedding season.
  • Promote an Event through Additional Venues. Promoting a Facebook event on Facebook only is not enough, even if it’s open to the public. The event should be promoted on a business’s website, as well as through Twitter, email, and on the company blog. Businesses shouldn’t overlook traditional promotional methods either, such as word-of-mouth and fliers placed in customers’ bags.
  • Increase Communication for a More Successful Event. Good communication before and during an event can increase the sales a business achieves from their Facebook event. In addition to conversing with invitees directly on the event page, business owners can also use hosted VOip for real-time communication and email.


  • Don’t Be Vague or Long-Winded. The overwhelming amount of information available these days means that consumers are looking for information that’s concise and to the point. It’s best to keep Facebook event information brief, to the point, and enticing. For example, it would be more effective to say “You’re invited to view and purchase our new line of handmade, nature-themed wedding invitations printed on recycled paper” than to say “Come see our new wedding invitations.”
  • Don’t Forget to Involve the Community. It’s always smart to be community-minded. Anytime a business can get out in the public to meet consumers and benefit the community at the same time, everyone benefits. This can be achieved by supplementing an online debut of a new line of products with a debut at a local exhibition where 20 percent of all proceeds will go to a local food bank or charity.
  • Don’t Assume that People Won’t Be Interested. It’s common for small business owners – especially those who are new in the business world – to make the assumption that certain people won’t be interested in their event. As a result, the business owner doesn’t invite these people. Avoid this mistake, and let everyone decide for themselves. The results may be surprising.

All Things in Moderation

Small businesses that are successful are run by people who know it’s wise to not put all their eggs in one basket. As beneficial as Facebook Events can be to the promotion of a new business or new business line, this marketing tool should never be used exclusively.

An effective social media marketing campaign will include consistent efforts in two to four different social media venues. Facebook Events should be viewed as an added boost to increase results from the current marketing campaign, attract new people, or announce a new addition to the business. Like anything else, if the use of them is overdone, their effect will weaken to the point of no longer being worth the effort.

About the Author:

Mary Ylisela is a writer and social media marketing manager who is passionate about helping other freelancers and small-business owners learn how to promote their businesses. She writes for companies such as

Photo Credit: SAP Design Guild

This is a guest post by Dennis Shiao. See the list of contributing authors.

Recently, I watched a 60 Minutes episode featuring David Kelley. Mr. Kelley is the founder and chairman of the global design consultancy IDEO and professor (and founder) of Stanford’s Kelley is a leading thinker on “design thinking,” a methodology for designing products and procedures via empathy, diversity, collaboration and iteration. The program highlights many of Kelley’s (and his firm’s) great product achievements, including the design of the first mouse for Steve Jobs at Apple.

Design Thinking for Events

In a Harvard Business Review piece on design thinking, IDEO’s CEO (Tim Brown) writes:

“As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful … design thinking is the tool for imagining these experiences as well as giving them a desirable form.”

I suppose this blog posting was foretold by Mr. Brown: let’s use design thinking to create “sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful”!

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking about design thinking for events:


Overview: Design Thinking
The design thinking process can be broken down into three components: inspiration, ideation and implementation. To quote a design thinking article co-authored by Mr. Brown:

  • Inspiration: “Think of inspiration as the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions.”
  • Ideation: “Ideation as the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas.”
  • Implementation: “Implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.”

Here are some useful resources that provide overviews on the design thinking methodology:

Incorporating Design Thinking into Meetings and Events

I’ve taken a look at the tenets and methodologies of design thinking and considered how they could be applied to meetings and events. Let’s consider some.

Attend Your Own Event (Empathy)

Meeting and event planners should take off their “planning hats” and attend one of their events solely with their “attendee hats” on. After all, you can only have true empathy for your attendee if you put yourself squarely in their shoes. And that means that you can have no part in planning the event. Go through the entire cycle of registration, travel, sessions, workshops, social events, etc. Practice further empathy by understanding how fellow attendees are experiencing the event.

Deepen (and Broaden) Your Team Roster

Design thinking introduces the notion of “multidisciplinary teams,” in which people of assorted backgrounds (and schools of thought) ideate, iterate and collaborate. Consider it a blender, where what comes out is a fascinatingly tasty beverage. You need a group that creates divergent thinking, which, according to Mr. Brown of IDEO, “is the route, not the obstacle, to innovation.”

Mr. Brown suggests “architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs, or engineers with marketing experience.” While this may be a stretch for the typical event planner, I’d recommend adding folks from Finance, HR and Engineering. They don’t have to be core members of the event planning team; however, their perspectives can be more valuable that you’d think.

Where No Idea is a Bad Idea
The scientist Linus Pauling once said, “To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas.” (quote source: an SSI article co-authored by Mr. Brown). Design thinking teaches you that no idea is a bad idea. If you make an early judgment on the quality of an idea, you may have just squashed a “germ” that would develop into a breakthrough.

The ideation process is critical in creating the next breakthrough event.

Instead, design thinking teaches you to build upon each other’s ideas, sort of like the “yes, and..” methodology in improvisational theater. As a meeting planner, then, your role is to encourage ideation and “shepherd” the process so that no idea is left abandoned (too quickly). And to the earlier point, here’s where multidisciplinary teams can be a goldmine.

Meeting and Event Prototypes
Recall that part of the ideation phase is “testing ideas.” It’s an iterative process in which you deploy a prototype, collect “real user feedback,” determine what you learned, then ideate on product refinements (repeating the cycle all over again).

Let’s say you’re planning next year’s 5,000 person sales kick-off meeting and you have innovative new ideas for it. Create a prototype using 50 sales people and actually implement those ideas in a “real prototype” (event). Determine what worked, make adjustments, then plan another prototype. When the “real thing” comes around, you’ll have a much better “product.”

Potential Barriers to Adoption

Seasoned event and meeting planners (who’ve gotten this far in my post) may be calling me crazy. And I can understand that. What I’ve proposed (in concept) must be balanced against the realities of a meeting planner’s job. And the following barriers could come into play.

Budget, Timeline and ROI

Simply put, design thinking methodologies could add significantly to meeting and event costs, while extending the timeline to deliver them. The ideation phase of design thinking is intentionally non-sequential. Meeting planners are highly organized creatures who thrive on delivering against a sequential timeline. Additionally, meeting and event management may not be comfortable spending more without knowing the precise ROI on it.

Risk Mitigation

The meeting planner is like an NFL coach: every season (i.e. every event), your job can be on the line. In his article, Mr. Brown wrote, “One of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is simply fear of failure.” The natural tendency of the meeting and event planner is to be risk averse, which is very much the opposite approach of design thinking.


Design thinking is surely not applicable to all meetings and events. And as I’ve outlined, meeting and event planners will likely shudder at the very concept. What I hope to accomplish with this post, however, is to introduce its concept to meetings and events. It’s my belief that true breakthrough events and experiences can result from it.

Kenji CroslandAbout the Author: Dennis Shiao is Director of Product Marketing at INXPO and author of the book “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.” At INXPO, Dennis is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, and for shaping product and platform evolution via the “voice of the customer.” Dennis has managed virtual event campaigns for Cisco, HP, Oracle and Microsoft, among others. Dennis blogs about virtual events at INXPO, and on his personal blog, “It’s All Virtual.” Dennis can be found on Twitter at @dshiao.