For a Reinvented Meeting Industry...
Think Inside The Box 12/14/2020 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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Just like the promo industry, the meeting industry and event planning has taken a pivot or two over the last several months. With the holidays now in full swing, meeting planners are doing exactly what you’re doing: Planning for the new year. Just because large in-person events are not likely to resume in the foreseeable future, there’s no reason the meeting planners on your prospect list shouldn’t hear from you. In fact, it’s probably more important than ever that you reach out to those meeting planners. After all, for a reinvented meeting industry characterized (today anyway) by virtual meetings, when you think inside the box, it’s possible to score some big wins.

Let’s talk about some big wins, shall we? The folks at Bishop-McCann in Kansas City are absolutely embracing the reinvented meeting industry and getting innovative in the process. The founder and CEO have complimented the Bishop-McCann event planning business by launching Eventure, an online platform designed to create and deliver gift ideas to virtual meeting attendees. "Even though face-to-face meetings were not happening, the need was still there for people to be able to connect — no matter what seat they're in, whether they're sitting in a ballroom or at home," Bishop-McCann CEO Rob Adams told the Kansas City Business Journal.

Think about this for a minute, and consider that you can do this very thing — or something similar. Client needs haven’t changed. You’ve sourced items for room drops, gifts, and identity merchandise for in-person events, and the product thinking shouldn’t change now. Your clients wanted an emotional connection to the event back then, and with virtual attention spans shorter than ever now, that magic is even more important. Just how big is your clients’ Zoom mindshare fade? Chances are good that it’s gigantic. In fact, according to recent research from Civicom on what else meeting attendees admitted doing while meetings are going on include:

  • Daydreaming (91%)
  • Doing other tasks (65%)
  • Checking social media or sending emails (63%)
  • Eating or making food while on the call (55%)
  • Playing video games and shopping online (25% and 21%, respectively)

And that’s where you and that inside the box thinking can come in. The magic you can bring is adding the integration of active promo items into the meeting. I like that Eventure’s tagline is “think inside the box.”  That really captures the idea of what they’re doing. Eventure's “Applause Box” has custom flick sticks with water-soluble confetti, wine tumblers, and Tost branded cranberry- and ginger-flavored sparkling non-alcoholic drinks. They also include a recipe card for making cocktails yourself later. This kind of promo item is perfect for Appreciation Season and but one example of how creative thinking can help make even virtual meetings or events interesting and exciting.

What’s important not to miss here: Bishop-McCann’s Adams said that they are purposely keeping Eventure as a separate entity so that they can approach third-party meeting planners. If they can convince those third-party folks that they aren’t actually looking to compete with them, that means they’re coming after your lunch, promo distributors, and it’s time to get serious about thinking inside the box your own selves.

Talking about the launch of Eventure, co-founder Dan Nilsen said, “Meeting planners have worked tirelessly to reinvent the industry and continue providing effective meetings and events on a virtual platform. Our easy-to-use eCommerce system, combined with our exceptional customer service, takes the work out of gift giving. It creates a seamless, customized experience while delivering a flawless, customized product to delight meeting attendees.”

But how can you compete if you don’t have a sophisticated website? I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t suggest you think about fixing that outdated website and thinking about pivoting more to ecommerce offerings, of course. In the interim, you can still offer a menu of event boxes you’ve already curated right now. You already know where to find the facemasks, hand sanitizer, and basic snacks to fill a box, and adding a whiteboard with markers would be no sweat for you. You did custom branded notebooks for meetings before I’m sure, and maybe there’s a fidget spinner or stress ball still hanging around just waiting for good use. Having clients make suggestions for their own box is not much more trouble.

So, what are you waiting for? You developed products to move attendees to action at your clients’ in-person events, now it’s time to truly embrace a reinvented meeting industry and think about how you can use inside the box thinking to deliver innovative solutions to your customers. Move that promo connection out of the conference center and into the box you’re packing up for them and don’t let a competitor get there first!  Even as we begin to move from virtual, to hybrid events, and on to in-person events someday, the need for this kind of curated boxes is never going away. Just as you’ve seen with the Bishop-McCann example, the folks in the industry who understand how to pivot and embrace a new way of thinking are today’s innovating winners.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on TwitterLinkedInInstagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.
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