Category Archives: General

What are SMERF Meetings?

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A casual SMERF meeting in the park.

Anyone involved in meeting planning should be very familiar with the needs of Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal (SMERF) groups. After all, SMERF meetings are the “old reliable” of the meetings market, continuing even while demand for many other types of conventions and meetings has shrunk. Still, no planner can take SMERFs for granted. Like every other market, the SMERF market has changed and evolved. Successful planners must stay alert.

Social Groups

It is essential to remember that social groups want more opportunities for togetherness. As always, these groups require careful balancing between limited budgets and memorable experiences. But there are new opportunities too. Family reunions and other social events are no longer limited to a mimeographed letter sent out in the mail to announce the event. Now there are e-vites, Facebook messages, emails, Pinterest, and smartphone apps to spread the news about the event.

Unfortunately, this can be both good news and bad news for the social event planner. Cassie Brown, president and CEO of TCG Events, notes that planners for social groups are often overwhelmed by electronic input and burn out.

Military Groups

Military group members often consider the reunion to be a major vacation. They tend to drive to the location and want more time to sightsee. According to Sharon Danitshek, president of Reunion Friendly Network, other factors to consider include:

  • Space for memorabilia
  • A good hospitality room, preferably one that allows participants to bring their own snacks, alcohol, and other beverages
  • A planned banquet for which the group can choose the menu and the portion size
  • An appropriate site for a memorial service

Educational Groups

Joan Eisenstodt, president of Eisenstodt Associates, acknowledges that education groups are a steady business but that they can be somewhat tricky to plan for. One new trend is the desire for first-tier destinations to increase the potential draw of the conference while keeping the budget small. Eisenstodt advises making use of local destination management organizations and convention and visitors bureaus to determine what similar groups have stayed in the area and how the destination has catered to those groups.

She cautions to be very aware of the budgets for these groups. Participants are likely to stretch the occupancy limits of hotel rooms and look for every other budget extender available. The participants need to know about every charge that might come up: costs of getting to the destination from the airport, taxes or fees at the destination, and other extras.

Religious Groups

Don’t think religious means old-fashioned. In fact, one thing Reverend Cricket Park, assistant rector at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, finds very annoying is when a meeting space charges for Wi-Fi. Her diocese is moving toward a paperless system as much as possible, and that means that meeting spaces need sufficient room for each participant to have his or her own electronic devices and access to a large enough bandwidth for all the participants.

Reverend Park also points out another trend she has seen in 30 years of event planning: more persons with disabilities attending meetings and conferences. She urges planners to be sure there is access for wheelchairs, medical equipment, and other adaptive devices.

Fraternal Groups

Big fraternal organizations like Elks and Shriners have continued to meet in almost any economic climate. But other parts of this market, such as college fraternities and sororities, are very budget conscious during more austere times. Kelly Sabol, account executive for Baltimore Area Marriott hotels, reports that many of these groups are booking more locally to save travel expenses. Their planners are cutting back on food and beverage choices and, says Sabol, “They are negotiating more and requesting fewer concessions.”

Fortunately, fraternal groups tend to be more flexible regarding the time of year their meetings can take place. This makes hotel accommodations somewhat easier to negotiate.

More than a Name-tag: Personalizing Your Event

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Personalization is in. In 2014, Coca-Cola took the 250 most popular names in the United States and put one at random on individual cans and bottles of their product. According to The Wall Street Journal, this campaign was responsible for reversing a decade long decline in US Coke consumption.

Put simply, people like to know it’s all about them. But how do you use personalization to your advantage when you’re planning your meeting?

Tagging It

Take a look at the ubiquitous name-tag. Obviously, you want to provide a pre-printed name-tag for all your registered meeting attendees. And surely, we do not need to remind everyone that the name-tag and all other materials should be in a clear font (put away the script and Old English fonts for another time) and in a type size that does not require binoculars to read.

But what name goes on the tag? Take Josiah Pickford Wellington III, who just happens to go by “Trey.” Do you put his legal name on his name-tag? All his friends and business associates knew him as Trey. Regardless of what name he used on his registration paperwork, which name should appear on his pre-printed name-tag? And shouldn’t he, and not the clerical person preparing the name-tags, be the one who chooses what he’s called?

And what else goes on the name-tag? With some planning from the registration materials, you could determine what the attendee would like to publicize. For example, would he like his email address to be visible? His Twitter handle? The name of the product he is promoting? Or, at the cat fanciers’ convention, a picture of his beloved, pure-bred Persian cat? If you can add information that makes the attendee feel more connected at the conference, isn’t it worth it to you to go that extra mile to discover and share these details?

More Sophisticated Identifiers

Don’t forget the other personalization options you might want to make available at the conference itself. At an extended family reunion, perhaps stickers might be available to identify what state the attendee hails from, or a badge might identify what line of the family tree she is descended from. This would create an instant place to start conversations as the participant meets far-flung relatives. At a large company meeting, perhaps a ribbon identifies whether the participant specializes in the manufacturing side or the sales side of the business. This would allow similarly affiliated attendees to easily find people who share their interests.

Strategically Designing Your Event

There are more ways to personalize an event experience beyond customizing identifiers. For instance:

  • - Create custom Twitter or RSS feeds for each person or similar group of attendees
  • - Create a personalized agenda for each attendee that is built on that person’s personal or professional interests
  • - Use apps like Guidebook or Double-dutch that allow attendees to manage their own schedules efficiently and securely

Remember, every attendee experiences an event differently. Take advantage of those differences strategically by personalizing the event for a unique experience that makes you stand apart and sends your attendees home with a “Wow, that was made for me!”

The Value of a Good Hospitality Website

There are a lot of articles out there today that focus on building your company exposure thru SEO/SEM, analytics, PPC/CPC, banner advertising…yada yada.

However, but what happended to good ol' fashion articles on why and how to build a good website? Well, I happen to stumble upon a good one yesterday on Slate.com. This one, focused on the suckiness of restaurant & hospitality websites and why they suck. Hmmmm…I thought for a moment. Really…even when we have great sites like Urbanspoon, Yelp, and others?  I couldn't resist given we run into this all the time at eVenues. We've asked ourselves the same question time and time again as we find cool meeting venues and spaces that don't have any website, let along a page, mention or sliver of info by a venue. Wow, I can only imagine how much $$$ each are leaving on the table. Go figure.

Anyway, this article suggests nothing new or innovative, but rather a focus on simplicity with some good reminders. Happy reading – click on picture below.

Too Many Co-working Sites?

Not all accelerators, incubators, and co-working dens are created equal. Depending on who you ask, there can be debate on the similarities and differences between all three. The latest comes from Jason Johnson, one of the founders of the Founder Den, a co-working space in San Francisco. To quote Jason:

"Most co-working spaces lack a curation process which we saw as important
to creating a dynamic, iron-sharpens-iron community, similar to the
traditional private clubs which appealed to the entrepreneurs of prior
innovation eras (steel, railroad, oil, etc.). In New York, SoHo House
and The Core (while less of a co-working space and more of a lounge)
appeal to entrepreneurs. With Founders Den, we sought a unique,
differentiated model of one-half private club and one-half co-working
space."

Read the entire NYT story here.

LIVE from NYC: TechCrunch DISRUPT

TechCrunch DISRUPT kicked off today in New York City, running thru Wednesday night. This is the first TechCrunch conference to venture East and has a lot of New Yorkers wondering if this will become the norm, since there's been lots of conferences that have both lived and died in New York City!

eVenues is here to compete in the StartUp Alley. We received a FREE ticket after winning The Funded's Founder Showcase event last week in Silicon Valley. The most interesting point about DISRUPT is the actual venue where the event is being held. It's being held in the old Meryl Lynch trading building, 80,000 square feet once used by their traders. It's a little eary…these floors used to hummm…just like the movie with Boilerroom with life and activity. Now, it's sparse and bare…until TechCrunch (Heather) found it and turned it into a national event venue.

Now that's what we at eVenues like to hear and see! The reuse and repurpose of a space for the better-ment of the economy and industry! So far the conference is working in this space, with breakout rooms for VCs (once trading manager offices), eating/networking areas, and long cooridors shoot-out areas.

Stay tuned for more news updates!