Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Visit The New & Improved Blog at http://thechicagoeventplanner.com

Dear appreciated reader,

I have moved!  Please continue to read my blog posts at http://thechicagoeventplanner.com

You can still reach out to me with any questions, concerns or interests for guest posts at thechicagoeventplanner@gmail.com

Happy Planning!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ask The Right Questions - An Article from FastCompany

When I find a great article it seems rude not to share.  "The One Conversation Tool That Will Make You Better at Absolutely Everything"  may or may not make you better at everything, but it's certainly worth a read! http://www.fastcompany.com/3003945/one-conversational-tool-will-make-you-better-absolutely-everything

Monday, January 7, 2013

Building Powerful Relationships with Content Marketing

Steven H. Klinghoffer, President of  WPI Communications, Inc. is sharing his wisdom as a guest blogger of The Chicago Event Planner. 

Regardless of the nature of your business, you may have heard the words “content marketing” or “relationship-based marketing” in recent years. They have become buzzwords lately.  For 28 years I have helped businesses market themselves with editorial content and I know the method to be tried and truenot a fad. Back then we called it newsletter marketing, today we might also call it Internet, e-mail or social media marketing. Regardless of what you label it, today’s marketing comes down to the idea that content is king.

Marketing has always been about relationships and for today’s marketers, the single best way to maintain relationships with clients and prospects is with content marketing. The rules of traditional advertising have changed. The people you work with and want to work with are skeptical of most marketingthey’re not looking to be sold. They’re looking for practical solutions to their problems.

By providing valuable content, you can be there to meet their needs and build relationships. Whether it’s a blog, eNewsletter, printed newsletter or social media, a content marketing strategy can build powerful relationships and generate results.

Here are four tips to make your content marketing work for you:

1. It’s about them, NOT you.
The focus of traditional advertising is often “me, me, me,” but the truth is that your clients care much less about you than they do about what you can do for them. That’s what makes content marketing so powerful. An accountant, for example, can blog about new changes to tax laws or focus a newsletter on end-of-year tax planning. A dentist can develop content related to the latest breakthroughs in treatment options and provide links to this with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.

By informing your audience, you’ll demonstrate that you are the expert they should trust, not the one simply trying to sell them.

2. Lead with value.
Remember that it’s about them and your content marketing will best meet the needs of your readers. Ask yourself, will my clients, patients or partners care about this? Why will this matter to them? These questions will help you keep the focus on information they will value. And they’ll remember you for it.

3. Keep at it.
Sometimes if they don’t see instant results, businesses can become discouraged with their content marketing strategy. While you often won’t know the full long-range impact of your blogs, newsletters or social media posts, remember that quality content is doing something very powerful: It consistently reinforces the idea that you’re the expert. It also keeps you top of mind with your audience.

Be consistent and you will see results.

4. Measure results.
Although you won’t know the full impact of your content marketing strategy, you must still monitor and measure results.

If you’re blogging, your blog will need to be monitored to ensure that comments and questions are addressed. You should also track subscribers to RSS feeds, if you provide them. Analytics into the types of articles people are reading on your blog will be especially helpful for you when determining future content. (Remember, it’s about them!)

Newsletters, especially eNewsletters, are very easy to monitor and often come with comprehensive reader reports, such as articles clicked, articles forwarded, the names of subscribers who open newsletters, and other useful data. You’ll know the topics of greatest interest to your readers, and you’ll know how many readers are clicking back to your Website.

Social media, of course, is quite measurable, because you can see the shares, comments and new followers. Comments and feedback received through these tools can be very telling.

Beyond these, measure the impact of your content marketing strategy for other positive“bumps.” If a newsletter includes a special offer, note the number of people who opt in. If the blog announces a new service, track the inbound inquiries you receive. By measuring these activities, you’ll have an even better understanding of your content marketing success.

Your clients and prospects represent a relationship gold mineThe best way to mine those treasures is to provide them with meaningful content that demonstrates that you’re the expert they should trust.
Steve Klinghoffer, with his wife, Lori, founded WPI Communications, Inc., in 1984. He helps professionals market their practices through a wide range of editorial-based toolsuch as client and patient newsletters, referral-generating newslettersand Web site content. Over the past 28 years, Steve has worked with thousands of physicians, dentists, physical therapists, accountants, attorneys, financial planners and other professionals to help them build their practices.

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 2013 Conventions

Be sure to stay on top of this month's conventions!  While January tends to be slow, the Chicago Boat  Show is expected to bring in nearly 75,000 attendees.  The Chicago Tourism & Convention Bureau helpfully provides a list of Chicago Conventions so be sure to check it out here!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to be a Creative Event Planner

The word "Creative" gets thrown around a lot in the event planning industry.  So how do you define what it means to be creative and better yet, how do you BECOME creative?  It's really quite easy: switch the word creativity with resourcefulnes.  Creativity is a pretty open-ended term for being able to think outside the box and on your feet, putting things together and having a successful event.  While creativity suggests that you are able to just pull things out of thin air, to really be the kind of event planner that gets labeled as creative, you need to expand your resource pool. Part of what I love about writing this blog is the fact that it requires me to do research, meet other people and learn new ideas.  When you take the time to learn about the people you work with and how they operate (i.e. vendors), you can foresee some of the challenges that may or may not work in your situation.  Then instead of trying 10 different options to see what works you can jump ahead and operate more efficiently.  So here are 4 tips to help you become more creative (aka resourceful) and a successful event planner.

1. Be Talkative
In events, hospitality and entertainment personality is key.  Event Planners tend to be outgoing and friendly individuals.  Use those qualities you already have to get to know your clients, vendors and people you interact with.  Apply it to something valuable to your own career.  Rather than just remembering the names of their kids or a birthday (not that that isn't important), take an extra 5 minutes to learn about that person's trade or line of work. ASK questions. "Can you accommodate this?"  "What would you do for a situation like..."  You don't need to have a list of scenarios on you at all times, but make the effort to know as much as you can.  If you do this for most of your encounters on a daily basis you'll be surprised how much you can learn.

2. Really Learn Your Own Industry
There are so many aspects of event planning and it all varies.  Even if you've been working in the same field for 20 years things change.  Don't assume you know everything about it just because you've been doing it awhile.  Clients are always impressed by the latest and the greatest.  (Why do you think Apple has  new products all the time?) Make the effort to learn about the trends for the year and what is happening in your industry NOW.  If you can combine the knowledge you gain from being talkative with the most recent trends of your industry you will be on top of things and ahead of the game!

3.Try to Learn Other Industries
In Events, things tend to overlap.  While your primary focus should be learning about your own area, where you can really push into your resourcefulness is by learning how it works in other industries.  You may be a great meeting planner, but you could be better by incorporating new or creative ideas from a technical trade show for example.  There are innovative people in every industry and if you can creatively replicate those ideas into your own field of work, you're proving that you can spice things up and add something fresh and new to the usual -- something creative.

4. Volunteer
While all of us are undoubtedly busy, for most people there is some down time - even if it's short and sweet.  The main component for building your creative skills is knowledge. Take your skill set and offer to volunteer for a local non-profit.  Whether it's fundraising or putting together a small event or just participating in something, this will give you an opportunity to learn about a completely new area depending on the organization you choose.  (www.chicagononprofit.org is great resource for find a non-profit organization to work with in the Chicago area.)
Go outside your comfort zone and pick a non-profit that is different than your usual interests (if you are normally a women's shelter kind of person, choose something with Vets or medical).  Not only will you be a helpful member of society and give something to those who need it, but you will have another outlet for creativity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Organizational Tips to Prepare for the Holidays

For most people involved in the event planning & hospitality world this is a busy time of year (and to be fair, anyone in retail too).  So how do you prepare for the holiday rush?   By being really super organized.  It's obvious but it's true.  I've noticed the difference in the workload of my daily routine between this year and the last simply by developing little techniques specific to my work that help me keep track of everything.  Not everyone works the same way, but here are 5 tips that have helped me and will hopefully help you too this holiday season.

1. Create Deadlines
Whether for yourself or a client, make sure you have deadlines for everything.  In my case this is usually related to menus/food choices.  Because I work on multiple dinners/events at once, I recently got into the habit of saying events from this date to that date must have all information to me by xx--xx date.  This allows me to carve out a specific day a week for maybe 10-30 minutes that I can review upcoming events and follow up with everyone rather than have separate dates for every single event that are due every day.  Condensing follow up dates makes it easy to remain consistent and also account for the fact that you can't do everything every day.  Since I've done this, I've found that my workload has been simplified ten fold.  I still have to do the work, but I'm on top of it!

2. Use your calendar.
Outlook, google calendar, whatever.  Use it!  For the above deadlines I put whatever date I use as the due date in my calendar as a reminder that I am responsible for following up with clients.  Most people know to use their calendars for client appointments, meetings, etc. I think it's equally important to use it as a tool to maintain your tasks & responsibilities.  I'm a big fan of google calendar because of how easily it can sync to all of your devices so reminders pop up all the time and are unavoidable.
If you already are a solid calendar user, think about how you're using it.  I try to use it as a way to be productive, not just remember things.   I create weekly reminders in addition to specific events/meetings, etc. because no matter how routine you are, there's a chance you'll forget something.  This is especially great if you need to double check delivery arrivals or any time-sensitive item that is out of the ordinary.

3. Create Checklists
You know what you're working on.  You know there's always that question that you sometimes miss when talking to a client or vendor.  So create a list.  Even if it's a Sunday morning you have free, get your coffee and get to work.  If you have a handy checklist covering every topic you need then you can be sure it's done.  Have a print out if needed when reviewing final details.  Then you can date when you covered these details and make sure you covered your bases.  Maybe section an hour or 2 after you've created deadlines and put it in your calendar that you need to go through all your upcoming events and comb through these little details with your clients.  It will keep you efficient and hopefully from losing your head amongst the holiday madness when you're sure your brain just wants to quit.

4. Delegate
It's great to be organized, have patterns, deadlines and checklists, but depending on where you work and what you do sometimes the best thing to be able to do is delegate the work and projects.  Make a note in your calendar "follow up with Sandy on wrap ups," but let Sandy do it.  Even the most organized people in the world can't do everything his or herself.  When busy, well-orchestrated delegation may be the best way to make sure you get through everything successfully.

5. Keep Important Things Within Sight
When you get busy, like really super crazy busy, you need to keep the most important things in your line of vision.  On more than one occasion I've had a stack of "need attention files" that at some point I go "holy crap, this is in 2 days and I don't have [item]!"  That's because when I get swamped I sort of shove those things to the side, assuming it's not the most imperative thing because, didn't I just check that stack yesterday?  Everyday I make a list for things I need to do the night before.  This list I write in my notebook which sits out in my line of vision so I can review it every day first thing when I get into work.  Most of it is the same stuff I do everyday but the point is that I need to do it everyday.  I try to include little projects or details that maybe I didn't finish the day before.  While my calendar notes are helpful I am a person who learns and remembers by writing things down.  Maybe for you keeping things in sight is when the reminder pops up on your screen.  I also just put post-its on my desk.  Point blank, color-coded, crazy-librarian post-it notes.  No matter how you do it, it's hard to forget something that's in your face.  That can be a life saver when you're trying to prioritize a giganta-stack of work.  Trust me.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheChicagoEventPlan
For questions, business inquiries, comments, etc. send an email to thechicagoeventplanner@gmail.com

Thursday, November 15, 2012