They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I haven't written in years. When I launched my website, I thought writing a blog would be another task I'd have to do to keep up with the Joneses. I knew it would be an important place for me to showcase my writing skills and increase my site's SEO.
What I didn't realize was how much I would absolutely fall in love with writing all over again. It's been the outlet I've been craving all these years. A tiny hole in my heart that I didn't know needed to be filled. They say the best way to keep your intentions is to make them public and, thus, hold you accountable.
So here's what I'm saying now - this is the year I will FINALLY write that book I've dreamed about. I've found a subject I'm passionate about and I'm aching to write that story. I can't give away the details yet because I need her permission to write her story. But it's coming and I'm excited.
Have any of you written a book? How did you get started? What's your preferred methodology? I'm all ears for your tips and tricks!
This week is a big week for me professionally. It's Speed Week 2017 which means I am hosting a large number of VIP customers at the Daytona 500. My entire team has been manic for the last two weeks going over every detail and ensuring our guests will have the perfect weekend. Here are my five things I always do during incentive trips to make my life easier.
1. Make a Binder
Like most of us, I have a meticulously organized inbox which works well 90% of the time. But when you're on-site, you want access to everything at a moment's notice. For each major event, I create a binder. In it, there's copies of every contract, confirmation numbers and travel info, and even a dossier on each guest that includes his/her phone number (you'll need it, trust me), special dietary needs, etc. Take the time to make a binder and your life will be made much easier on-site.
2. Over-Communicate with Attendees
Typically, I leave the communication with our customers up to their sales reps. However, leading into these kind of events, I've found you can never send too much information. While, personally, I'd be fine with just knowing when and where to show up, most people on these trips wants to know every detail and want to be reminded constantly.
3. Network, Network, Network
Many years of hosting incentive trips has led me to realize that attendees get a huge value out of networking with each other. Whether they're forming a genuine friendship, getting business tips or creating new partnerships, meeting other guests is a large part of these trips. Do whatever you can to help them. This year, I decided to try something new and created a 2017 VIP Weekend Group on LinkedIn. I invited each attendee to the group and I post relevant information about the weekend. They're getting valuable tips (see point #2 on over-communication) and they can easily get in touch with each other after the event.
4. Be Prepared for a Few Speed Bumps
No matter how much planning you do, they'll always be something that goes wrong, doesn't work out or needs tending. Go in with the mindset that whatever happens, happens. You've already prepared yourself to create the ultimate VIP experience and nobody (but you) will ever know there were a few kinks. Keep the mindset that you've done your best and there will undoubtedly be something that needs your magic. Deep breaths. Be the rock star that you are and get everything worked out.
5. Enjoy Yourself
You've worked freaking hard to get this trip planned. You've done everything you possibly could do to ensure your attendees will be impressed with your company AND your excellent event-planning skills. Now take the time to have fun with them! In their mind, you're the star of the weekend. They know you made this happen and they want to see you relaxed. Take it all in - you deserve it.
Did I miss anything? What are your keys to success for incentive trips?
Who's excited for Valentine's Day? Nobody? It's just me? Alllllllrighty then...
In honor of the day of love, I thought I'd tell you what I LOVE about marketing. I'll keep it short so you can get back to throwing around hearts and painting everything red (wait, still just me?).
I love that marketing has the duality of being both analytical and creative at the same time. I'm using my brain, reviewing statistics, trying to decide on which message will resonate with which audience. But, at the same time, I'm drawing all over a board throwing out ideas hoping that our collective brainpower will result in one killer campaign.
Being able to put those two hugely different tasks together makes the perfect storm for me. I'm able to bring out that nerdy analytical side in the same day I'm coming up with wacky ideas that just might work.
Enough about me - what do you love about your job?
In case you haven't heard...I'm kind of a big deal. I've been appointed Chair of the InfoComm 2017 Steering Committee! #notsohumblebrag
But in all seriousness, this is a huge privilege and I'm honored to be working with InfoComm to create a great show experience. InfoComm is one of my favorite tradeshows every year (yes, even with the hot June weather in Orlando and Vegas). The people who run the show truly care about every attendee and exhibitor's experience. They care so much that they want to hear what you have to say - all exhibitors are invited and encouraged to attend the 2017 Exhibitor Committee Meeting.
We're going to kick things off with a breakfast so you can get to know other exhibitors. At previous meetings, I've found networking is one of the most valuable aspects of the meeting. You'll get to know other exhibitors and bounce ideas off each other. Bonus: if you're in a pinch on the show floor, you can turn to all the new friends you've made for help!
After breakfast, we'll review some show logistics and stats. Sounds boring? WRONG! It's actually really interesting. You'll get the nitty gritty on attendees and hear all the marketing plans for the show. After these meetings, you can take all these new fun facts back to your team and work in-tandem with the InfoComm team on marketing messages.
This meeting is the one time before the show that you get to meet all of the show vendors (I'm talking Freeman, FedEx, etc). I know you've probably met these people via e-mail but seeing their shining faces in person will make a big difference. You can form a personal relationship with them (aka they're totally going to be more willing to help you out in a pinch) and ask them allllllll the questions your little heart desires. Want to know if catering can get you hundreds of In-N-Out burgers? Well, they can't but I did ask this in Vegas last year. Good to know, good to know.
The next part of the meeting is going to be the most exciting for me. This year, we're going to do breakout sessions. This is your chance to get your viewpoint heard! The InfoComm team is STOKED to listen to all of your ideas and have one giant brainstorming session. We're going to chat about all kinds of exhibit-related topics and I, for one, am very much looking forward to this brain dump.
Finally, you get to tour the OCCC. Immensely helpful if you haven't done a show here yet. Helpful even if you have. They're going to review the exhibit hall, meeting spaces and where all those fancy marketing banners you bought will be placed. Wait, you didn't buy a banner yet? Get on it!
We'll end the day with a cocktail reception where you'll get to learn more about other exhibitors (remember, these people are the ones who are going to be your new BFFs come showtime).
For those of you who have been before and thought, eh, this isn't for me, I promise this year is going to be different! And for those of you who have never attended - what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to get involved!
P.S. I forgot to say you get to meet the AWESOME InfoComm team in person. They're beyond helpful and fun be around. And you'll get to meet me...which I already told you is kind of a big deal. :)
So you've assembled your marketing dream team. They're working out fabulously and getting shit done. Ready to pat yourself on the back? DON'T. Even if you have the world's best marketing team (like I do!), you aren't done yet. You've got to invest in their success - here are five reasons why training your team is mission critical.
1. It Grows Their Skill Set
Okay, this one's pretty obvious but sometimes we all forget about it. My team is great at what they do, they're getting things done and we're all hunky-dory. Then I asked myself "Could we be doing this better, more efficiently, etc?" Sending the team to workshops, even if they're the best in the business, sparks new ideologies and methods that can greatly benefit us.
2. It Makes Your Staff Happy
When's the last time you asked your team what they WANT to do? Asking around has led me to discover our assistant has a strong interest in graphic design and she's pretty darn good at it! When budget time came around, I let her choose several graphic design classes to take in 2017. She's pleased because she's learning a new skill that she chose to develop. A happy employee is a productive employee.
3. It Bonds Employees to Your Company
Employees who are free to attend training sessions and learn new skills develop an affliction for their companies. They know the company is investing in their progress and wants them to advance. They begin to see a future with the company and start planning their long-term career path with you.
4. It Boosts Your Reputation
Want to impress customers, potential employees AND worry your competitors? Than double-down on that training budget. When you continually invest in your personnel, it shows. Your team comes out on top as the best and brightest...and people tend to take notice of it.
5. It Helps with Succession Planning
Let's face it - you're not going to be in your current position forever. One day, you're going to move onward and upward. That's going to leave a big vacancy on your team. Are you preparing your team to fill that spot? Offering on-going training increases the number of experienced employees in your department. When you're ready to move, there should be someone right behind you with the right skills to take your place. And, hey, selfishly, it's going to make you look even better!
Remember, your people are your greatest asset and if you don't invest in them, somebody else will.
Megan A. Dutta