Provide Value and Attendees Will Come (and Return!)

Topics: Associations

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Is “Corporate Social Responsibility” important to your events?

Are attendees important your events?

Yes is the answer!

However, when I learn that events are dropping printed educational materials to “be more green”, what I am really hearing is, “We need to save money/reduce costs.”

We know that travel has the largest negative impact on the planet. We know the per cup rate of coffee at some meeting locations are in the range of $10 to $15 per cup. And, we know that attendees are looking for increased value for the hundreds to thousands of dollars they have invested to attend your meeting.

So, why do meeting professionals and educational leaders cut printed conference materials attendees find useful?

Let’s just suppose there is an option to increase value to help justify the current or even a higher price an attendee pays!

MPI to Drop Printed Conference Journals. Really?

After learning that my dear friends at Meeting Professionals International (MPI) wanted to take a more “responsible” approach to their WEC event by not providing their attendees with a Conference Learning Journal, I was shocked.

Let me make this known: I’ve been a MPI member and sponsor since 2004, and I am an MPI fan! And, as an attendee and avid conference go’er to many events each year, I had to respond to what is right.

Here are some excerpts from my email to MPI that I encourage you all to consider when planning your event:

Hi (name withheld to protect the brave MPI-er here),

Thanks for the note. I understand MPI’s thinking on this but I respectfully disagree. Please indulge me for a minute or two on this…

I actually think we should come at the CSR issue in the context of “what is the best attendee experience we can deliver” and then offer things that meet this objective in a responsible manner. I truly think that MPI is doing a disservice to its attendees by removing minimal yet useful tools from the on-site offering.

—  Attendees need something to navigate through the event so they will likely print out (on paper) the conference schedule and bring it with them.
— They will likely want to take notes in some of the sessions they attend, which causes them to buy, bring or borrow a note pad to do so (again, paper).

I think a great stance for MPI is to present a value in the form that anticipates an attendees needs and then fills those needs… so attendees come away with the thoughts of, “Wow, they thought of everything and gave it to us in a responsible manner.”

A small printed journal using all recycled materials helps do this and helps attendees walking away with this thought… “Geez, this event is offering less value every year.”

How MPI Responded

MPI thought it over and decided to proceed with a useful, on-site printed tool that will enhance the attendee experience. Now that’s gutsy because it reverses an earlier decision to not produce any printed materials and at the time of their decision when they were only 5 weeks out from the event. Nice work MPI!

Here Are 3 Ways To Better Your Meetings

  1. Design your events to meet your attendees objectives first while considering other guiding principles like CSR, diversity, etc.  If you don’t know their objectives, ask them!
  2. Be open to advice from trusted sources, even if it is at the last minute (that’s one of the many things I like about MPI!)
  3. Be open to change, change for the better.

I’d like to hear your stories of how you are maintaining… or better yet, increasing value to your event attendees while still meeting higher level objectives for Corporate Social Responsibility, Green and Diversity.


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July 29th, 2010Rachel Williamson says:

Thanks Tony,

For the very timely ‘gut check’on this question. We have talked about this very issue and wondered what others think about it.


July 29th, 2010Paul Wehking says:

Rachel and others,
From the response we received at MPI, I’d say the attendees loved it. Several suggested that the content on the fold out map thingie be placed into the Journal notebook next year to make a super useful tool. We are anxious to get feedback from the event surveys also on this topic but our initial sense is that attendees loved the tangible tool to navigate the event with and to take notes.

Lastly, we were in several sessions where the speakers apologized to those present that they did not have any handouts. I believe this was an edict from MPI to the speakers but some speakers clearly see the need for these to aid in learning. I give MPI kudos though for providing attendees the journal notebook… nice tool!
Paul Wehking recently posted..Flip That Book

Twitter: paulwehking

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