By Chris Fletcher - Marketing & Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
Don't bother trying to find any reference to this. There’s not even a hashtag - yet.
It doesn't actually exist.
But it should.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked for comments on the current state and plans for HS2; we’ve had the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership chaired by former Chancellor George Osborne and finally seen the PM acknowledge that the Powerhouse is still alive and has a future beyond the Olympic homecoming.
The Northern Powerhouse has been linked to many things since it was first mentioned in public in June 2014 by Mr Osborne. Many of these could be classed as people jumping on the bandwagon. At its heart it was, is and will be about better connectivity - connecting both physically and digitally the major economic areas across the north of England. Whilst the focus falls on Manchester and Leeds it isn't just about those two cities or indeed cities in general. I don’t live in a city. I live in what could be described as quite a rural area but my “productivity” lies squarely within Greater Manchester and specifically in the city centre. And I have to get there somehow. Yes there’s always Skype and remote working - I do all that but I still have to get into the city. Plus let’s be honest I’m not sure the digital infrastructure is properly up to it.
So, we need infrastructure - lots of it, proper broadband and roads, ports and air investment as well. However for now let’s just focus on rail. We hear a lot about HS2 - and just to re-affirm it’s about capacity not speed and we also hear increasingly about the east-west rail link, or HS3 as it was for a time; now it’s called Northern Powerhouse Rail. But do people understand this, know what it’s for and do they know why it's needed? Not just here in the north but across the country?
Here’s a thought - how about we call it Crossrail North?
That’s what we are looking at both in size, scale and purpose - it is a crossrail project for the north. The same needs that brought about that project exist here and now where we live and work.
Let’s start being clear about what we want, put it in terms people understand and so we can spend less time explaining what it is and why we need it and focus on getting it planned, built and delivered.
If London needed it - and Crossrail 2 is being planned with Crossrail not finished yet - then I’m absolutely sure we need it too.
Far from the focus being solely of the day(s) of the event, conferences, exhibitions and larger scale, external events now benefit from extensive pre and post event activity and communication. Treat an event as a campaign, not a single standalone event that begins when the delegates arrive and finishes when they leave. Pre and post event activity can be just as important as the event itself and could make or break your event, even extending its life well past the doors being closed.
Traditionally, an invitation of some sort, followed by a welcome pack after sign-up was common place, and shockingly afterwards, little to no follow up. Now delegates can expect a number of different invites or incentives, from traditional mail or personalised direct mail to a general online campaign or as a series of emails and e-shots. This online activity continues throughout the run-up to the event, during the event itself and afterwards.
Interaction before, during and after an event will almost certainly now include a social media presence. The influence of social media on the events industry cannot be overstated. The chance to interact and influence delegates before they have even arrived at an event is momentous. The use of a hashtag (#) campaign for every event is highly recommended as it brings a sense of community to an event, both unique and timely. To bring together delegates prior to an event brings with it a rare opportunity to set the scene or tone of the event itself, allowing early discussion amongst attendees as well as further, second-hand promotion via the event following or community. As organisers we also have the chance to answer any questions from (would be) delegates and start to excite and prepare the audience for what is to come.
Live tweeting during an event encourages delegates to RT or reply and interact with you, taking the event outside the confines of the venue. This maximises exposure and will create interest in the event and generate possible new delegates for any related or subsequent events. Live streaming an event online allows those unable to attend to still be involved in the event and benefit from its content. Part of this could be streamed free of charge and other content for a fee, thus generating more revenue and raising the events every important ROI.
Post event interaction is possibly the most important of all. Gaining feedback is invaluable. To gauge opinion, keep the key messages from your event alive and address any criticism that may occur is imperative to a lasting positive impression of your event. If some part of the event experience has received some negativity, knowing this will help you to do things a little differently next time. Post event interaction will allow you to capitalise on the immediate post event ‘buzz’ to capture re-bookings for the next event, usually with a discount and/or incentive. By extending the life of an event in this way you are ensuring it, and your brand, receives maximum exposure. In this vein it goes without saying that interaction is not measured on the physical number of delegates at your event, but on how much interaction the event generates. Whether it be social media and use of the aforementioned hashtag, online reviews, re-bookings, email sign-ups etc, the interaction is just as valuable, if not more so, than the content of the event itself.
Managing this interaction, as well as planning the event; its structure, content, guest list and the like can be a complicated task for the novice event planner. By instructing a professional and experienced event management team such as Right Events, you will ensure all elements of your event are taken care of. From venue and supplier sourcing, speakers, catering and audio/visual equipment to delegate management and a seamless online campaign before, during and after your event, come to Right Events.