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What’s in a metric?

12 November 2012 No Comment

energyWe love to measure things: impressions, registrations, ratings, leads, you name it. In the days of Return On Whatever calculators and RFID, the one thing that we can’t measure is the energy, engagement and excitement that takes place at many (but not all) face to face events. This is not E=MC2 energy, but something more intrinsic that takes place between attendees. You can’t gauge it on a meter and you can sometimes see it, but you can definitely feel it when it’s there. This year, PMA shortened our show floor hours from two and a half days to two days. We were not completely sure how this would be received, despite doing all our homework before making that crucial decision. In the end, we set both an attendance (21,104) and exhibitor (1,020) record, creating quite a bit of excitement for us and those with us in Anaheim.

This single change caused what I felt to be a monumental shift in the energy surrounding the event. There was an increased sense of urgency to get through the show floor more quickly, even though one of the main reasons for the change was that many buyers were heading home on Sunday night anyway. Did we set that in motion? Of course we did, but the resulting buildup of energy was something totally out of our control. The perceived reality of having to do more in less time definitely worked in our favor, but the attendees and exhibitors were the real winners.

I get to be part of this energy every time I come home to Convening Leaders. As an attendee, I get to be part of the buzz, long before I arrive in the host city. On site this mystical human interaction continues while re-connecting with friends that I may not have seen since the last annual; I also try to pass that spark on to people I am meeting for the first time. I really get a thrill out of meeting someone new early in the program, particularly if they are new to PCMA. They talk about being new, not really knowing anyone, and their expectations. When I see them later in the program, they tell me about how great everything has been and what they have experienced – they are always with a group of new friends.

As a show organizer, I get to see it happen from the outside looking in. We get to see it build as the larger exhibitors arrive for early move-in and start to connect with each other very informally. It continues through the week as exhibitors set up, meetings start, and attendees begin to arrive. By the time the Welcoming Reception takes place we have a full scale party on our hands! On show days we watch it build each day, the sound of forklifts in the dark seems a natural companion to my second coffee and signals the start of what promises to be a long and eventful day.

But, what drives this energy?

Last month I wrote about getting ready for our event and the people that work on it. In those 785 words I made mention of the post-show blues. Those few words drew more comments from people than all the others combined. Is this phenomenon the result of the sudden end of the energy that has sustained us for several days? Is it an energy hangover or do we thrive on the excitement of being involved in something greater than ourselves? Despite the lack of sleep, poor diet, painful feet, and brain exhaustion the 5:00 AM crew call doesn’t seem as bad as it should.

Today, social media may be the best way to measure the energy taking place around you at any event. This can be good or bad, but, if you want to get an idea of your energy quotient, just spend a few minutes reading those all-important comments throughout the day. You will garner  much more insight about your event than a survey could ever tell you. As I watch the generational shift continue to drive demand, the digital components of events become an essential priority for organizers and marketers. This early digital activity gives the first spark of power to meetings that take advantage of it, channeling that energy to work for them, driving the desire to attend in person.

These high energy events seem to take on a life of their own and, like a train barreling down the tracks, it is going to happen with or without you, so get on board and help conduct that power!

Because in the end, when the carpet comes up and the banners come down, it’s the stuff that you can’t measure that determines the unwritten success or failure of a F2F event. I believe that if you can foster that energy and encourage it to grow, many of the tangible aspects will keep falling into place.

Do the F2F meetings and events that you work on have that energy? How do you know? What do you do to encourage and harness that energy to your advantage?

Kent E. Allaway, CEM, CMP, Chairman of the Board
Vice President, Meetings and Trade Shows
Produce Marketing Association
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