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Time is Running Out for Your 2012 Event!

No, that’s not a typo in the headline. If your company is like most, you just held your annual event in August or July.  The memories are still fresh, but won’t be for much longer.  Which means now is the time to actively collect the quotes, impressions and testimonials from your 2011 attendees that will help you sell next year’s event. Here’s how:

ASK– Reach out to attendees via whatever channels you can… email, Facebook, newsletters, conference calls and whatever else will effectively reach those who attended. Tell them the truth—you want to hear, in their own words, what they liked best about this year’s event.

HELP THEM RESPOND—Remind them of key announcements, guest speakers, training topics. Then ask them to write down what they liked and why.  How they’ve put what they learned to use since returning home.  And what kinds of positive results they’ve observed.

GO FOR SPECIFICS— Comments like “Best conference ever!” or “I had fun” are nice… and totally useless promotionally.  Ask for focused comments about specific topics or events.  Examples:

“After seeing Mary Smith train on recruiting, I had got a new attitude.  I also got 2 new recruits in my first month following conference.”

“I made at least 6 new friends at the first evening reception, and learned some great sales tips at the same time. You can’t do that on a webinar!”

“Hearing Leslie Stone’s testimonial moved me to tears.  I was not only moved, I was motivated to action.  I’ll promote out to Leader next month.”

Ask attendees to reply back via email by a specific date within the next couple of weeks. I suggest you also ask responders to include subject lines that will help you organize the responses, such as “2011 Conference Feedback-Training”.

Building attendance at conferences is likely to remain a challenge for many companies in 2012 and beyond.  The most powerful tools you have to accomplish that goal are positive and enthusiastic comments from this year’s attendees.  Get ‘em while they’re hot!

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been managing budget events, schedules and themes– plus all the other elements of direct sales conventions, for over 20 years. Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/02_About-Dick.php

 

How to Create an Event Schedule, Part 1

Back in January I wrote about your “The Big 3,” the trio of basic commitments that are the starting points for virtually all of your conference planning.  The Big 3 are your theme, budget and schedule.  And of those 3, your schedule is the one component that will require the most ongoing time and attention.

Event schedules will be updated and revised constantly, circulated widely and universally depended on as projects move forward and your event unfolds.  Since this is the time of year when most direct sales companies are planning their national conventions in earnest, I’d like to delve a little more deeply into the process of creating and maintaining a good workable schedule. It’s not as easy as you might think!

For starters, I’d like to focus on 3 general practices pertaining to schedule creation.  In subsequent blogs we’ll get more detailed about the actual physical process of putting together a schedule.  Note–by “schedule” I’m referring to the internal document that will be used by people involved in putting on the event, not the general outline attendees might receive.

My first recommendation is be very critical of what makes it into your schedule.  The biggest mistake I see most often is trying to make a schedule do too much.  A good schedule should be a very narrowly focused list of activities, presentations and timings. What it shouldn’t be is an all-encompassing document that answers all possible questions and lists every possible event, regardless of their importance. Keep the contents of your schedule simple, focused and limited.

In my opinion, the only things that should make it into a general schedule are actual presentations, activities and events that lots of people need to be aware of.  For example, “Opening Presentation” is a pretty important occurrence; everyone needs to know when that’s going to happen.  Events like “Flower Committee Meets” or “Announce program will begin in 10 minutes” are really of interest to a very few people, and don’t deserve to be separate line items on your general schedule.

My second recommendation is to create your schedule in a spreadsheet program like Excel, not a word processing program like Word.  That’s because Excel can calculate time.  So as event timings or sequences change, updating
your schedule is quick and easy. Change one timing and all other timings change automatically! I’ll talk about how this is done in an upcoming post.

My third recommendation is to designate one person and one person only to be the official “keeper of the schedule.” Pursuant to recommendation #2 above, your “keeper” should be at least an intermediate level Excel user.  Just as important, he/she should be the only person who changes the schedule and circulates revisions, preferably in a non-editable (.pdf) format. If the schedule is editable and available on a common drive for anyone to change, you will almost certainly encounter problems with version control.

Everyone involved in an event- company staff, vendors, production people, hotel and audio visual people—will live by your schedule.  How you create your schedule can have a big impact on how smoothly the planning & production process goes!

 

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been managing budget events, schedules and themes– plus all the other elements of direct sales conventions– for over 20 years. Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

 

In my last blog we explored the reasons for considering an outside a/v company vs. an in-house supplier.  Now it’s time to deal with the RFP (Request for Proposal) document itself.

 BEGIN WITH A BRIEF OVERVIEW

I like to begin with a very brief overview of the event, its “who, what, where & when.”  Be specific as to dates, location and attendance.  Here’s a typical overview:

  • Typical Home Parties, the direct sales division of Typical International, is having its 2011 “Believe It” National Convention at the Mammoth Hotel, in Mammoth, New Jersey, July 22-24, 2011. The event will be held in the Bodacious Ballroom, which has approximately 12,500 square feet of space.  The program will consist of equal parts promotional announcements, recognition and training for a largely female audience of approximately 500. Seating will be at rounds. 

I usually end the paragraph with a link to the room diagram of the space, which most hotels and convention centers are likely to have on their websites.  It’s also helpful to include a link to your own company’s website.  Other than that, you don’t need to go into detail about your company.

SCHEDULE

Next, I’m likely to include a brief schedule that shows what will be going on and when.  Don’t bother with a detailed presentation by presentation schedule.  Instead, offer a “glance-able” calendar-type schedule, something like this:

 

 

 

STATE YOUR NEEDS

Don’t try to get technical, just describe what you need equipment to do from your perspective. If you can be more specific, that’s great.  Definitely include basic dimensions, such as the approximate size of your stage and the number and size of your projection screens.  Here are some examples:

  • Lighting package & crew:
    • Stage will often be full of people for recognition, so we need enough general stage lighting to fully illuminate the stage. Most other presentations will simply be an MC speaking from the lectern. No spotlights needed, just general stage lighting.
    • Appropriate crew for install, show, and strike.  
  • Sound package & crew:
    • Sound system to fill room.  Music is a big part of our meeting, so we need speakers with good bass qualities.
    • One lectern microphone plus 2 wireless hand-helds or lavalieres. 
    • Onstage and backstage audio monitors.  
    • Audio mixing board with 6-8 inputs, including one dedicated to laptop for music playback.  We will supply laptop and operator.
    • Appropriate crew for install, show, and strike.  
  • Projection package & crew:
    • Two off-the-stage side screens, 10 ½ x 14’ or possibly 9 x 12. 
    • Projection equipment for Mac supported visuals (Keynote with embedded videos).   Client will provide laptops and operator
    • Appropriate crew for install, show, and strike.  
  • Staging:
    •  Hotel risers to create stage area approximately 40’ wide, 20’ deep, and 24” -32” high (depending on height of hotel risers). 
    • Pipe and drape to cover back of stage, and create wings and close in area between screens and upstage drape.
    • One lectern at stage right or stage left.  
    • Appropriate crew for install, show, and strike.  

Most important, tell them what total a/v your budget is, labor, gear, everything.  In short, what do you have to spend?  A/V companies are accustomed to working with all ranges of needs, but they have to have that dollar figure to give you an informed bid.  And often, they can be pretty flexible when it comes to gear, even if your budget falls short of what that gear might actually cost. 

INCLUDE PHOTOS & DIAGRAMS

If you have stage photos or room/stage diagrams from past events, include them.  Wide stage shots showing the entire stage and screen area are best.  These will go a long way in helping the a/v company understand how best to fill your needs.

YOUR CLOSING

Be sure to give the name and contact information for the person who should receive the bid.  And ask for a bid that spells out the details, otherwise you may get a bunch of lump sums like “Lighting Package- $3,500.”  I usually end my RFP’s with a paragraph like this one:

  • Please submit proposals by email (Word, Excel or PDF files only) by Monday, May 9, 2011 to (your email).  Questions may be directed to this email, or phone number ________. Also, please show us how you arrived at your pricing, i.e., daily rental times so many days, labor hourly rate times so many hours, etc.

Creating a good Request for Proposal is a big part of the convention production process.  It’s also your introduction to the people who will be partnering with you create a successful event.  Make sure the RPF you send makes it easy for a/v companies to understand and respond to your needs.

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has worked on meetings as small as 50 and as large as 7,500.  He’s learned that dealing with an event’s audio/visual needs can be demanding regardless of the size of the audience.  Learn more about what Dick can do for you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Let Word do Your Work

We spend literally hundreds of hours a year sitting in front of our computers. And for many if not most, much of that time is spent writing, reading or reviewing Word documents. So this week I’d like to explore the 3 features of Microsoft Word that I think you’ll find most useful in the weeks and months leading up to your national event.  These features are page numbering, line numbering and macros.  Let’s briefly examine each in ascending order of complexity.

Page Numbering:  I would guess most users know this feature is there.  But I’m amazed how many multi-page documents I see that have no page numbers.  Fortunately, the procedure for adding automatic page numbering is simple and hasn’t changed significantly over the past few years.  In Word 2003, 2007 and 2010 simply choose “Insert” and then “Page Number” (“Page Numbers” in Word 2003).

Line Numbering:  This feature is indispensable if a number of people need to collaborate on or review a document before it’s finalized.  With line numbering turned on, there’s no more having to describe where a certain sentence is (“Page 4, second paragraph, about halfway down…”).   Instead, Word automatically adds a number in front of each sentence so you can identify which sentence you’re talking about instantly (“Let’s go to line 342…”).  In Word 2003, click File/Page Setup/Layout/Line Numbers and check “add line numbering.”  For Word 2007 and 2010, click Page Layout/Line Numbers, then chose from the options shown.  I prefer continuous line numbers.  Once you no longer need the line numbers, repeat the process and uncheck the line numbering box or choose “none.”

Macros:  This one scares people because it sounds technical, but Word makes it a fairly easy process.  The ability to record macros has been part of Microsoft Word for a long time, and is now included in the latest version of Word for Mac as well. 

Basically, a macro turns a lot of keystrokes into just 2 or 3 keystrokes.  Macros are great time savers, which is why I turn any word or phrase I need to type repeatedly into a macro.  I mean, why type “2011 Imagine Excellence National Sales Conference” over and over again, when you can reduce it to “Control + N” or whatever keystroke combination you choose?  Macros are especially handy when writing scripts in which company & product names, technical cues and other words are used over and over again.  They also capture formatting commands like center, bold, underline, etc.

Creating a macro does require several keystrokes, and those keystrokes vary among the 3 current versions of Word that are most commonly in use.  So to find the steps that work for your version of Word, hit the F1 Help key and type “record macro” into the window that appears.  Also, there are excellent tutorials available on YouTube and elsewhere online.  Here are a few I found:

Word 2003: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C75HdmpvkI&feature=related

Word 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5hIu9lBjWg&feature=related

Word 2010: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-make-a-macro-in-word-2010.html

Learning to record a macro may take a few minutes the first time you do it.  But believe me, once you know how, you’ll love how quickly you can accomplish those formerly repetitive typing tasks!

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has used Word to create thousands of scripts, speeches and other event and promotional documents over the past 20+ years.  In the process he’s learned many shortcuts that save time and work.  Dick invites you to learn more about what he can do for you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

There are an infinite number of ways to create an invitation.  But regardless of what format, size, approach or mode of delivery you use, your national conference invitation should contain these basic elements. 

1-    An attention-grabbing opening, headline or front cover. The best headline is one that promises or refers to a benefit of attending.  The creative approaches you can use are many, depending on what you have to work with.  For instance, you could build your cover/headline around:

  • A quote from a previous attendee, for instance, “I never had so much fun learning so much!” or “National Conference is where I learned how to double my income!” You could also use a group of quotes that reference different aspects of the event—the fun, the training, the new products.
  • One dynamic photo from your previous year’s event, something that shows fun, emotion and/or excitement.  The copy that accompanies the photo should tie into what’s pictured, but still bridge us to your upcoming event.  For example, let’s say you have a great photo of someone receiving onstage recognition.  Your headline could be something like “There’s no feeling better than on-stage recognition.  Come see for yourself at (company’s) 2011 National Conference.”
  • A picture that creates anticipation, with the payoff to come at the conference.  This works especially well if your conference will reveal a major announcement or new product introduction.  Let’s say you want to tease your big new product.  You could show a photo of a wrapped gift, with the headline “What’s in the box? Come to your 2011 National Conference and find out!”

 2-    Detailed information that offers attendees plenty of reasons to come. These are the “starring moments” of your convention mentioned in my previous blog.  Obviously, some things you can reveal and others you can’t.   So hint at the things you can’t reveal (“Discover our 2012 incentive trip location”, “Be there for the reveal of not one, not two, but FIVE exciting new products!”), and then promote the specifics of what you can talk about.  This is especially true when it comes to training.  “Great training for one and all” isn’t going to convince anyone to book their flight now. But “10 Can’t Fail Tips for Recruiting at Every Party from (#1 Leader)” very well might.

 3-    Don’t Forget the Basics.  In addition to giving information about the reasons to come, don’t forget to include the basics– where and when the event is happening, the cost of registration and hotel rooms, etc.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen invitations that omitted that sort of basic information. Include photos of the hotel or convention center, plus a shot of the city if it’s an attractive or interesting destination.  And be sure to include a basic schedule that shows start/end times for each day, and what meals will be included.

 4-    Invite a response.  Ask for action and make it easy for your sales people to take action—“Register today!  Here’s how!”  Give clear instructions for registering online and offer alternatives for those who don’t have convenient internet access.  And if you choose to offer reduced early bird registration (which you should) be sure to promote that as well.

More ideas to keep in mind:

  • Regardless of whether you chose to print it or send it via email, hire a professional graphic designer to create your invitation. 
  • When writing copy, keep the perspective of the attendee in mind.  “The biggest event in our company’s history” offers no benefit to an attendee.  “Over $100 in free product samples” does.
  • Remember to emphasize the benefits that can only be derived by attending in person—making new friends, walking across the stage for recognition, meeting the best sales leaders face-to-face.
  • If you chose to deliver your invitation by email, keep its design simple, almost stark, so it can be printed easily.  That means no shaded backgrounds or fancy borders that suck up ink.
  • If you’re planning on having giveaways of any sort, especially a grand prize drawing, announce it in your invitation, and keep promoting it.  A drawing that no one knows about until they arrive at your conference is throwing your money away.

A good invitation sets the tone for your national conference.  It not only conveys the pride you take in your event, it also reflects the respect and esteem you have for your sales force.  In short, it’s a powerful tool that’s yours to leverage.

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has created hundreds of events and event invitations.  Dick invites you to learn more about what he can do for you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Creating a good event invitation is not that easy.  So many companies treat their national conference invitation like a press release.  They put “who, when, where” out there and that’s it.  In truth, an invitation to a national conference, or any other important event for that matter, should be more like an advertisement.  It should attract our attention, present its benefits, and then ask us to take action.  

With that approach in mind, let’s begin construction on the invitation for your 2011 national conference.  The actual writing and design process comes later; first it’s time to do a little prep work.  

In previous posts I talked about the importance of harvesting quotes from national conference attendees, and taking lots of good pictures during the event.  Well now is when that preparation begins to pay off!

Quotes– Go through the quotes and testimonials you collected and choose the best ones, about 10 or 12 total.  Try to get comments on a variety of topics: the training, the excitement, the fun of the event.  What’s that?  You never got around to getting these quotes?  Contact attendees and get them now!

Photos— Review your event photos and pick out about a dozen of your favorites.  This is where it really pays to have had a good event photographer.  I personally recommend choosing shots that focus with just a few people, not large groups. In addition to a few stage presentation and training shots, you’ll want shots that show emotion—laughing, hugging, surprise, having fun, etc.  Avoid posed shots where people are simply staring into the camera.  And if you’re coming up short on good photos, again, reach out to attendees and see what photos they may have that you can use. 

Don’t forget to sell the convention site and the city.  The hotel or convention center should be able to supply you with photographs of their facility or property.  And if your event is taking place in a city with a convention/visitors bureau, contact people there for photos and any other promotional materials they can supply.  The goal is to get what you need to make your conference location look like a great place to visit.

Determine what the starring moments of your 2011 convention will be, or what you’d like them to be.  Got a great product coming out?  Have a super speaker on tap?  An exciting new promotion or incentive trip? Identify the biggest and best moments in your schedule, the things your sales force will most remember about your event. 

Now is also the time to decide what form your invitation will take.  Will it be a traditional printed & mailed invitation?  Perhaps you’re considering an email-based invitation of some sort?  Personally, I feel printed invitations are more special and make the recipient feel more special as well.  A printed invitation makes a statement about they esteem you hold for both your event and the people who will be coming.  My recommendation is print and mail the “real” invitation, and then use email or the internet to promote the event afterward.

Creating a good invitation takes a lot preparation and decision making.  But the result can be a key factor in building anticipation and ultimately, attendance at your event.  The steps we talked about today are your starting points.  Next time we’ll delve more into the actual writing and design process.  

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has created hundreds of events and event invitations.  Dick invites you to learn more about what he can do for you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

This month many direct sales companies are having leadership conferences.  And as soon as those events are complete, most of those companies will begin planning their national conferences in earnest.   But before you begin that process, you need to give serious consideration to the basic commitments that will frame almost every decision you make regarding your national conference, what I call “The Big 3.”

And The Big 3 are (drum roll please)… theme, budget and schedule!  I call them The Big 3 because they are your starting point.  You really can’t make much progress on any aspect of your national conference until you have total and complete commitment to each of these 3 factors.  That means thinking about them, then rethinking them and rethinking again.  

What’s that you say?  You already have those decisions made? Whether you do or not, now is the time to examine each of those elements one last time, before it becomes inconvenient, expensive or impossible to make changes you might wish you had thought of in time.

Let’s begin with your theme.  As I’ve mentioned before, your theme is not for your attendees, it’s for you.  A good theme makes your job easier.  So give your theme a “test drive” today. 

Ask yourself how you’ll relate your most important messages to your theme.  Think about your new product introductions, your incentive trip announcement, your keynote talk or your training breakouts. Does your theme work?  Does it make it easier to get into an out of those presentations?  Does it help you convey your message? If not, don’t be afraid to tweak your theme, or change it completely (assuming you don’t have a serious investment already made in print, video or other support materials).  Believe me, your attendees will never notice, and even if they do, they won’t care.  Themes aren’t what pull attendees to an event.

Next, take a look at your schedule. Are you starting late enough on Day #1 to allow most attendees to arrive that day, thereby avoiding a hotel room night? Are you ending early enough on your last day to let those same attendees get home that night? If you can answer “yes” to both of these questions, you have a highly promotable benefit that you should be leveraging to build attendance.  But if the answer is “no,” now is the time to correct that mistake if you can.

And finally, let’s talk about your budget. You’re probably well-aware of the bottom line figure that you know you need to hit. What you may not be ready for are the most likely causes of unexpected budget overruns in your event, which in my experience are:

Hotel & convention center fees: Usually called attrition fees, these are assessed for falling short of contracted room blocks or meal guarantees.  Make sure you know what clauses and key dates in your contract(s) allow you revise your guarantees.   Remember, we could be talking about thousands of dollars here.  It will pay to have an experienced meeting planner/hotel negotiator on your side. 

Labor overtime: This can vary widely by the individual rules governing your venue.  What doesn’t vary is the importance of understanding what labor you’ll need to hire to handle your incoming shipments, set up your stage, and rehearse & run your show.   Once the overtime starts, the dollars start adding up fast.  Having close and consistent contact with your venue and a/v or production company is the best way to avoid surprises.

The Big 3- your schedule, your budget and your theme– are the factors that set the course for your event.  Now is the time to make sure they’re working for you, not against you!

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been managing budget events, schedules and themes– plus all the other elements of direct sales conventions– for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

In my past three blog posts, I’ve focused on the planning and production of January Leadership Conferences.  Many of my suggestions concerned using your January Conference to gather what you need to promote your big event, your national conference, which most companies hold in the summer.   

 For the most part we’ve discussed what to do.  Today, I’d like to explore who will do these things, and how they’ll get them done.  But first, let’s take a quick look back at the key “what’s.” 

 WHAT:  At your January Leadership Conference, what you want to do is:

-         Collect  quotes about your 2010 event

-         Record leaders talking about your 2011 theme

-         Gather stories you can use at your 2011 event

WHO: Since we’re essentially talking about interviews, you need an interviewer. Make being that interviewer someone’s assigned job. Don’t let it be something someone will get to at some point. If your company has a relationship with a local videographer, consider bringing him or her with you to do it.  If not, designate someone on your January Conference team as the official interviewer.  This should be someone who can devote a couple of hours a day to the project and is comfortable working with the sales force.

HOW:

1.  First, invest in some kind of video camera if you don’t have one already.  Prices have dropped amazingly over the past few years, and the week after Christmas is a great time to find bargains.  A collapsible tripod is a good idea too.

2.  Set a time and place at your January Leadership conference for the interviewer to videotape Leaders.  A separate room is best.  How many Leaders you interview is up to you, but definitely set a schedule. 

3.  Create a list of interview questions. Then share those questions well ahead of time with the people you’re going to interview. You want them to already have their answers in mind when you meet with them.

4.  Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Some examples might be:

-         What is your fondest memory of our 2010 event?

-         What would you say to someone considering coming to their first national conference?

-         Describe what (2011 theme) means to you.

-         How would you relate (2011 theme) to our business?

-         What made you decide to become a Leader?

-         What person or event has most shaped you professionally?  Tell us about that.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, asking attendees to bring a personal photo they can tell a story about is a great way to get compelling stories. 

It may sound like work now, but it’s truly time well spent. Once you have these interviews done, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of rich, human-interest material you’ve accumulated. You’ll have everything you need to promote your national conference, and build great presentations for it as well.  

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

This is the time of year when many direct sales companies plan an event for leaders only.  Most often taking place in early/mid January, leadership conferences are a great way to move your sales force out of holiday mode and back into business mode.  But despite their limited attendance, planning a leadership conference requires just about as much thought and work as your national convention.  So here are a few thoughts you might want to keep in mind if a leadership conference is in your company’s plans.

It all comes down to one word: promote!  Treat your leadership conference with the same degree of enthusiasm, anticipation and “you gotta be there” as you’ll give to your national convention. For the most part, promotion=communication.  And the more frequent and specific that communication is the better.  For instance:

Invitations—Whether it’s printed or via email, extend an official invitation to your leaders.  Even if it’s only a “save the date” invitation, it’s important to let everyone know where & when  your leadership conference is happening, and why they’ll want to be there.  And if you’re going to a warm weather location, promote that too! Who won’t be ready for change in the cold weather by January?

Event Recognition—Now is the time most direct sales companies enjoy their best sales.  Leverage that fact by structuring your recognition so that it will include all levels, not just the heavy hitters.   

This also brings up the age-old question: Should we just recognize those in attendance, or include those who don’t come as well?  My personal feeling- event recognition is meant to draw people to your event, so recognition should be reserved for those attend. Nothing else falls flatter than announcing a name for recognition, only to follow it with “(name) couldn’t be with us today.” Non-attendance can turn recognition into a downer.  Instead, consider building promotions that help leaders earn their way to your leader conference through their holiday sales or recruits. 

Training—“Teach me how to make more money” is what gets people to events, and your leadership conference is no exception.  That means now is the time to decide what your training topics are, who’s going to be presenting those topics, and what the specific key points/actions/skills your workshops are going to focus on.  Make sure there is something for everybody, from the newest leader to the oldest old-timer.   Promote that training, including any special guest speakers, in every phone call, email, tweet or other communiqué that goes out to your leaders.

Perhaps most important, promote the exclusivity and prestige of being a leader and being eligible to attend leadership conference in the first place.  Remind your leaders they’re important to your company; their input counts big time.  Encourage senior leaders to carry this message to their downline leaders.  Your January leadership conference is a unique opportunity to foster a heightened sense of pride, professionalism and camaraderie.  Make it count for all you can!

Writer/Events Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

So many companies begin the event planning process by pulling out their last schedule and using it as a template for their next schedule- new products on the first night, awards on the second night, incentive trip on the last day and so on.  That approach certainly works.  And it’s certainly boring and predictable.

Of course there are often good reasons to do some presentations “the way we’ve always done them.”  But that doesn’t hold true for all presentations all the time, year in and year out.  Which is why now is a great to time to think about mixing things up at your 2011 event.

You still begin by looking at your 2010 schedule.  Identify the key events.  Assuming they were in the right place to begin with, ask yourself if they really need to be in same place next year, or if they need to even need to be at all.  For example, could the recognitions that made up your awards night be spread throughout the entire event?   Did having a guest speaker make that much of an impact on your sales force and how they approach their business?  How many keynote speeches were there, and how much value did they really add?  In other words, what would really be missed by your attendees if it weren’t there? 

Once you’ve determined what really needs to be part of the program, take a look where you placed it on the schedule.  Does it have to have the same time and place in your schedule again this year, or can it occur elsewhere?   For example, maybe this year your new product introductions needed to be followed by training, but that’s not going to be the case next year.  So maybe your new product introductions could wait until the last day instead of being earlier.

Or instead of waiting until the last day to kick your 2011 incentive trip, do it on the first night, then follow it up with intensive “How You’re Going to Qualify” training the next day.  Maybe you could even turn your incentive trip announcement into your opening presentation and accomplish two things at once.

There are many ways you can approach your schedule.  But the one approach you definitely want to avoid is making your 2011 schedule an exact copy of what you’ve done before.  That’s no treat for anyone.

Writer/Producer Dick Wilson has been adding creative touches to direct sales meetings for over 20 years.  Learn more how Dick can help you at http://luceandassociates.com/Dick-Wilson.html.

Pumpkin carving & photo: Dick Wilson