The Secret Weapons of an Event Organiser

David Wilson

Biography for David Wilson

Husband | Father | Entrepreneur | Event Professional

David is a family man, a husband, a father of 2 boys, multiple business owner and tech junkie who likes to try stay fit by cycling and on the odd occasion running when being chased.

His passion lies in people and solving problems. David is enthusiastic about learning, acquiring new knowledge and skills. He positions himself on a continual journey of self-improvement.

David has successfully built and personally funded two businesses from scratch and currently working on the third. He is the founder and owner of Participate Technologies, a technology service company supplying services to conference and events as well as selling response technology to corporates, government, universities and schools. Within a decade over 500 companies and 250 000 people have experienced using its technology across 12 countries.

Listen to my 12 min interview with on "The Secret Weapons of an Event Organiser"

Whether you are an experienced event organiser or just starting out as an event professional I don’t need to tell you how many moving parts there are when it comes to successfully orchestrating large-scale conference or events. Almost daily event organisers face this almost insurmountable task of continuously inventing and creating better and bigger events to meet the demands of our customers and audiences.

Never dropping a ball, they must balance travel arrangements, be one step ahead of venue staff and service providers to ensure they do their jobs, check the food tastes great and the drinks are cold, make sure rooms are perfect and continuously heard people around like cattle to ensure they don’t miss a thing!

Further still, they need to prove success and a return on their investment for their clients. They must measure and track feedback for every aspect of the event.

The best events I have been involved with share the following core ingredients:

  • A dynamic event team of ‘A players’
  • Knowledgeable and experienced service providers
  • A great venue
  • An investment in the right technologies

Most event organisers have all been there, doing everything on your own, juggling too many balls, eventually dropping one or all of them resulting in failure, unhappy customers and disappointed audiences.

Could technology be what you’ve been looking for without knowing it?

Just over a decade ago I identified that we could help. We could provide technology that could become the event organisers side-kick, their secret weapon. Our company uses technology to relieve some of the greatest challenges events face and allow organisers to focus on what matters most, creating those amazing events.

Having serviced thousands of events across 12 countries with hundreds of customers and walking alongside many event professionals we have learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t at events.

Here is some food for thought around typical challenges faced by every event organiser.

Delight your Audience with Real Engagement

So, the event starts but your speaker is dull. Your audience begins fidgeting and looking at their phones, they are bored, what now? You can avoid this situation by using the right technology. Make dull speakers seem brighter and great speakers rock stars using technology. Connect them with their audience using audience response technology or an event app. Change the one directional monologue into an engaging multi-directional conversation, it’ll make a HUGE difference I promise!

Most people fear public speaking, roving mics are only really used by the small minority who are comfortable to do so. Consequently, you lose many potentially valuable insights and conversations. There are better other ways to create engagement.

Live Polls to the Rescue

The standard modus operandi in a presentation is for a speaker to ask questions and then three or four roving mics dart around. What if you could level the playing field and make participation fun?

How about inviting everyone anonymously to participate and answer questions where their responses are instantly displayed? Using an event app or wireless handheld devices your whole audience can respond in real-time, compare their answers, reflect on the experience and perhaps even start debates.

Real-time Comments and Questions for the Win

What about those who don’t have the confidence to ask the speaker questions directly? Using the ‘ask a question’ function in an event app can help. Using it the whole audience can pose questions and comments anonymously. The really cool feature of this is the option to ‘up vote’ your favourite comment or questions. This creates a really dynamic experience for everyone! By voting the audience organically prioritises what they feel is most important and the speaker can then address the actual most burning issues rather than assuming what’s important or unknown to them.

The Million Dollar Questions

How was your response rate to the last event survey you created? You’re lucky if you got 30% of the audience to actually complete are return the survey forms. Beyond that, someone still has to collect them all and begin the time consuming and costly exercise of data capturing, collating and building a report. Some don’t even bother as the required effort outweighs the value. With an event app, you can have active surveys running all the time, you’ll find some participants will complete them whilst exploring the event app on their own. You can also use automated direct notifications or emails with direct links to the surveys, this will increase your completion rate because it’s effortless and easy to do. Even better you can incentivise the completion of the feedback with surprise giveaways or run a competition for those who complete the surveys.

Give the Event Life before its Begins and long after it Ends

Have you ever calculated the cost of your event per hour? It’s a sure way to raise your blood pressure and anxiety! When you use an event app you automatically extend the longevity of your event. Firstly, you begin communicating way before it starts. Develop your pre-event strategy, communicate and publish what’s most important and be sure to track open rated and page views. Once you send out the first communication everyone installs your event app, effectively placing your brand on every participants personal device. How’s that for exposure!

Post event the event app remains on everyone’s device as a point of reference and a great resource. It becomes a digital directory of all who attended, photos of newly made acquaintances and business prospects. It contains the presentation content, records of conversations, photos and shared memories of the experience.

Case Study

You may think you need a tech savvy audience for an event app but you really don’t!

In one case, a Blue-Chip law firm arranged a partner meeting with 150 partners across Africa. From their late 30s all the way into their late 60s, it would be fair to assume that not everyone was tech savvy, our client took the leap of faith, and trusted us. We built the event app and the results were incredible! There was no printing, everyone got on the event app and the whole process was seamless.

This event is a particularly great event for a case study of how an event app can change the game! It was two and a half days in length, with 150 people in attendance. Presentations were intense, there was a lot of required pre-reading. The speakers loved the event app! With access to the event app analytics they had insights revealing how many audience members had downloaded the pre-reading. This meant they could save the time discussing case history as they knew the audience had done their reading. They could spend more time engaging with comments and questions from the app that the audience submitted creating the best audience interaction they had ever had as a firm. Amazingly so, over the course of those two and a half days, 55,000 page-impressions were collected in the event app. Almost every aspect of the meeting had been revolutionised by the event app. Without it, all they normally had were reams of paper and a lot of guesswork. Now they had true insight and measurable data to work with into the next season of business. In fact, the chairman closed the conference by thanking us for forever changing the way they meet! It was really humbling for us and super exciting to have an overwhelmed customer who let us help them achieve results they never thought possible.

Your Event Ninja, a One Stop Solution and Secret Weapon

The Event App isn’t purely to engage with an audience and collate data, it’s far more useful for you as an event organizer and for the experience the guests can have. Think of it as your printed program on steroids with a truly interactive functionality, a mobile information kiosk customised for each person that fits in their pocket and just makes everything easier, it is your ninja sidekick, your secret weapon!

Let’s look at the main benefits:

  • Event Registration and RSVPs are all efficiently managed digitally with integration into the event app, from the moment you first connect with your audience you can already start measuring their interaction with your meeting and driving behaviours.

  • Digital Agenda, Speaker Bios, Maps and all pertinent Event Information is neatly structured and conveniently accessible on everyone’s personal devices. More importantly, the horror of a last-minute changes are eliminated. One need only update the information to have it automatically push to everybody's devices. It also means you don’t have to wait for every last bit of information to be available before going to print! You can communicate and publish content as necessary and then continue to do so throughout the event adding new and helpful content.

  • It’s good for the environment, no need for those expensive printed programs! For just about the same print budget you can have an Event App! We can’t always foresee those dreaded changes to a schedule, venue or speaker moments before the event is meant to take place. Instead of wasting paper to print a loose insert with the amendments (per guest!) that often just gets lost anyway leaving the guests unaware of the changes and with the wrong information, rather just update the Event App and send out a notification! This is a solution that can really help save your time, money and the planet. A few years back I recall a print provider profited R3 million on printing for a large conference!

  • Gamification is not about turning your event into a competition or a video game. It’s a strategy that taps into some of the core drivers of our human behaviour that revolve around status, achievement, and rewards. It amplifies the experience whilst reinforcing what you're trying to achieve at your event in a fun and memorable way. As an event organizer you may have certain objectives and to help you measure those objectives, you can use the app to draw attention to certain sets of information or content. We create games and competitions based on the need of the particular client such as scavenger hunts, quizzes and networking activities which promote communication amongst delegates.

We use networking 'games' with live leader boards that can be published in and around the venue to create an experience that is much more exciting.

Download our Ultimate Guide to Gamification here

  • Communication across the entire platform means guests can use the app to connect with other delegates, join chat rooms to discuss topical issues and participate in live polls, ask speakers questions, answer surveys and read material ahead of time at their leisure. We use event alerts to notify all guests of any important information, or you can send specific messages to different groups of people. The event app even stores previous communication so delegates can revisit past messages at any time.

  • Your Digital Business Card

    From a delegate perspective, it becomes a digital business card for them and everybody else who's there, helping locate a profile (perfect when you can remember their face but not their name!), and help create a connection at the conference. After the event, you now own a phone book to come back to in order to continue the conversation, with the ability to direct message participants and speakers. Of course, they have the option to turn off their own networking, if they so choose to.

If you are in the business of planning events, there is no better assistant than a reliable piece of technology to keep track of all these moving parts. It becomes your one-stop-list where every single piece of the puzzle is collated and allows you to put together the memorable and flawless events your clients crave!

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