events

Tech Thursday: Sharing an Event Online

Every now and then, your business might host an event, or maybe participate in a larger event (i.e. Small Business Saturday). There are (at least) three things you should remember when you’re promoting an event using the internet, and that’s what this Tech Thursday is all about!

First, you should build excitement around the event. Give people some time to mentally prepare, and make it fun, exciting, and appealing to a crowd. The 100 Startup website has some great resources (that we reference in the video) for launching an event.

Second, get the word out on social media! Create a Facebook event, make some sort of graphic to share on Instagram, tweet about it, share with local online calendars, post in LinkedIn- anywhere that it would make sense for your event to be broadcast.

Third, make sure people know what they need to know. Where is the event? What time? Should they show up on time, or can they come and go over the span of a few hours? Is it black tie? Does it cost money? People don’t want to go to an event that makes them feel uncomfortable- so share what you can!

Also, we are going to do a musical number in the next week or so. Would you rather see us a) rap about OGP (Open Graph Protocol) or b) sing an original tune, with instruments, called “That’s Beyond the Scope of the Project”? Let us know!

Hosting A Better Event

No matter what kind of business your in, chances are you’ve had to host an event. Or will at some point.

Most of us like the actual event more than the stuff leading up to it, myself included. After hosting at least 20 workshops, here are some high and low tech ideas we’ve learned to make hosting your next event less painful.

Put event information everywhere.
For our last workshop, we created a Facebook event on our business Facebook page, put a snippet on the ‘Events’ page of our website, sent out a press release, emailed the local Chambers of Commerce to promote it, tweeted out the registration link a few times, and sent out notice of it in our last two email newsletters. (We still got messages about people not hearing about it, and you will too. You can’t win them all!) But put all the information for the event in every place you chose to advertise it you can so that people can note the day, time, location, etc. from wherever they first find the information. Because while it doesn’t make your life easy, it makes theirs easier.

Send an information email to who is going before the event.
People like having a lot of information, myself included. Sending an email (blind copy all the recipients) with directions, the internet password at the venue, etc. will save you at least a dozen emails or phone calls to answer. Bonus is the people in the know can forward it on or tell the people who don’t know, meaning you won’t have to have those conversations either.

If you want people to show up and pay, let them pay online.
You know what’s not fun? Managing 100 checks, trying to note who paid and who didn’t while you try to set up for your event. Having online payment/registration means less day of event headaches and gives you a fairly firm head count. We use Eventbrite and even though they take 3% of ticket sales, the lack of hassle is well worth it.

Create a hashtag for your event.
If you are at an event with social media types, at the beginning let everyone know they can use a specific hashtag so you can follow Twitter, Instagram, and other event related shares. For example, at the Joomla World Conference, we all used #jwc12 so we were able to follow what was going on with different speakers, when lunch was being served, and other important information. Even if the conference isn’t big, hashtags can let you follow the conversation and questions during the event.

If your event participants aren’t social media savvy, consider text messaging.
The makers of Mailchimp have a mass texting app called Gather. (Thanks to Matt at Svaha LLC for that find!) Attendees of your event can get text alerts related to your event (sudden location change or weather cancellations for example) at a very low cost to you.

Cohost the event.
Having an event cohost means you get double the exposure while doing the same amount of work. Find an event partner that makes sense. For the last workshop for example, we partnered with the Maine Crafts Guild who promoted the workshop to their email newsletter recipients and Facebook fans. We were then able to gear the workshop towards artists, so it was a win-win. We got a full room and they got a workshop specifically for them.

Don’t overlook the little things.
Nametags help shy people talk to each other. Coffee and treats make people happy. Good background music as people come in can set a tone. Comfy chairs mean people will sit a little happier for two hours. Think about the little things that don’t cost a lot that you can provide to make your attendees have a bit more fun.

So while we aren’t the perfect event hosts, a mixture of internet and in person efforts, you can fearlessly host your next event.

What are your favorite event hosting tricks?

New Website Launch: Ellsworth Public Library

We were very fortunate to be trusted with redesigning the Ellsworth Public Library’s website.

Like many of the libraries in Down East Maine, the Ellsworth Public Library (EPL) was still running a basic HTML site. When it was built years ago, it was top of the line.

Since the site was built, not only has the library changed, but its patrons have changed too. The typical library patron five years ago didn’t even have a home computer, and now the average visitor to the EPL not only has a computer, but a smartphone, tablet, and or eReader as well. Serving these customers with an old website platform was becoming increasingly difficult.

The library staff really wanted to be involved with their new site so they could easily add current information, and also they wanted their new website to represent the ever changing and growing community they serve.

The old website had about ten static pages, so in that way, it was fairly easy to navigate. But there were some limitations. For example, some pages didn’t provide navigation so you had to use your browser’s back button to find the menu again. Email addresses to library staff were visible on the staff page, inviting spam. And most importantly, it required a knowledge of HTML for any new information to be posted there. Despite these frustrations, the library staff felt that the overall look of the site well represented the library, and they wanted to stay close to the theme.

To stay with the same feel with the website update, a similar color palette was chosen to provide the consistent look:

The old and the new

Homepage 

While the old website was static, the home page of the new site offers four areas for the visitor to interact:

  • Slideshow of images helping users navigate to resources, see event information, and view important content that the library continually changes.
  • News- Updates of library news including upcoming events and new resources
  • Library Resources- Links to some of the library’s most popular offerings
  • Recent Events- Displaying participation and photographs from past events
The new logo that the library had decided on was also incorporated:

 Menus and Sidebars

While the main navigation menu stays regardless of location in site,  the sidebars reflect the area of the library the page represents. For example, if you are looking at the Kid’s page under Youth Resources, the sidebar offers up links that kids or parents will find helpful.

This plan for the sidebar grew as we got to know the Ellsworth Public Library better. With every conversation, we learned more about what information they wanted online, and they learned that there were possibilities that they hadn’t thought of to make their jobs easier. For example, twelve contact forms each get distributed to a different department or staff member, ensuring information gets to the right staff member quickly and efficiently and that they collect the information they need from patrons.

 

 

The primary goal of  the new website is to offer more information, resulting in more pages and in depth navigation.

  • A current events and news area, where the staff of the EPL can post.
  • Online services offered through the library, with links and  instruction pages are provided on how to use these resources.
  • Contact forms on the website, which connect users to the appropriate staff members at the library, streamlining the communication process between patrons and staff.
  • Links to other social media sites
  • Individual department pages
  • Visual elements like navigation buttons that make scanning a page for information easy
  • Current photographs of staff and the library itself

Because the site needed to be interactive, it was build the site in Wordpress, which has a very user friendly Dashboard set up. This makes training people (even the so-called non-technical ones) easy, allowing them to make new pages and update existing ones. Like most open sources CMS systems, Wordpress has a thriving community of people who are constantly improving the platform. Plugins which allow interaction with other technologies and sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, help keep the time spent on website maintenance down. The library already does a lot of work on these platforms so connecting them with the website cut down on time staff was spent posting information and allows them more time to do what they love: helping library patrons.

We’d like to thank Charlene and the rest of the staff for being a pleasure to work with. Nicole and I enjoyed learning more about the library’s resources, in particular the digital ones. Congratulations EPL on your new website!

Do you want to know more about your website options? Here’s our short guide on different kinds of websites. Want to support the great work of the Ellsworth Public Library? Like them on Facebook or join them on any of the other social media sites they are a part of.

Marketing Monday: 13 Ways To Promote An Event

I have three workshops coming up in the next three weeks. Add to that two speaking engagements and a regular workload and you’ll see why I’ve been forgetting to do my usual checklist of event promotions. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Have online registration. If people can order and pay for the tickets online, they are much more likely to register. I use Eventbrite for my stuff and I see that in using this software, I can take electronic payments as well as offer directions and get my event autoposted to multiple websites like whofish.org.

2. Create a Facebook event. You can invite people that are your friends on Facebook or you can invite people via email.

3. Use your press list. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of an old fashioned press release.

4. Tease your event on Twitter… and don’t forget to link to your registration page!

5. Partner with another business. Then you can take advantage of their email contacts, Facebook fans, etc.

6. Email your list. If you have an email newsletter, let people know about upcoming events. Make sure your email newsletter is CAN-SPAM compliant though!



7. Have a page on your website where people can learn about events. www.breakingeveninc.com/events for example has all my event information.

8. Post flyers at high traffic locations. In Maine, bulletin boards are alive and well. I once got a lead from posting something I posted at the Bar Harbor Launromat!

9. Give a bit of lip service to upcoming events at speaking engagements. The way I figure it, if I talk to your group for 30 minutes, I can spend 1 minute or so telling people what’s coming up as long as a) I have an otherwise great presentation and b) I am not rude/ridiculous about the promotion.

10. Use business organizations you are a part of. Chambers, Rotary Clubs, and other local groups you are a part of likely have websites, email lists, and more. They are also more than happy to promote your event.

11. Post your event on online community calendars, including news organizations and general community websites. They’re free and people clearly use them if these businesses and organizations have dedicated staff time to keep them up-to-date.

12. Take out a pay per click ad on Facebook or Google Adwords. By targeting your ideal customer, you’ll have more success.

13. Create a short video clip to ‘tease’ the event. It can be on Youtube (or other social media site) and/or on your website. People might not read a mound of text but most people I know will watch a short video about most anything.

In other words, I get most of the word out online but do a couple old school things too. The combination works well in Maine which is home to both internet cafes and rural general stores. But I could also use some new ideas!

How do you promote events, online and off?

Marketing Monday: QR Codes

First of all, I was MIA last week because I was sick in a way I still can’t quite believe. After sleeping 14 hours a day and being supermedicated the rest of the time, I’m finally feeling better. In other words, the blog is back on! Thanks for those of you who called or wrote to see where I was. Nice to know someone reads these!

Every Monday, Breaking Even talks about a business, website, or non-profit doing something cool to market themselves.

I first heard a lot about PR codes from this link from Hall Web shared by Marc Pitman.

I had seen one in a magazine a few months ago for a free music or short movie download but I didn’t know how it worked.



A QR (Quick Response) code is a sort of bar code that can hold information like a web address or contact information. It can be read with any smartphone (after downloading a QR reader application). It looks like this (scanning this will take you to the Downeast Learning website):

A QR Code I generated in about five seconds online. Have you seen one of these before?

A QR Code I generated in about five seconds online. Have you seen one of these before?

It has a lot of applications for print media/advertising. Many print companies like GreenerPrinter will generate them for you as part of their services but you can also find many free online QR  generators online. That’s how I made the one, stage left.

Some ideas I’ve read for QR codes are on temporary tattoos at an event, on business cards (holding the person’s contact information), and on flyers/ads to hold additional information that can’t fit on the printed page.

To read more articles about QR codes, check out any of the articles linked above, this Fast Company article, and this Mashable article.

Now if only I can get a client to try this out!

Marketing Monday: Meatless Monday

Every Monday, the Breaking Even blog takes on a business, non-profit, or website with a good marketing idea. Have one? Send it in!

This morning, I was listening to NPR (on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network) and heard about former marketer now turned non-profit marketer Sid Lerner talking about the Meatless Monday concept him and his firm started as a way to get people to eat healthier one day a week. According to the story, 20% of the American population was aware of the term. Personally, I’ve heard about it on a few blogs I read (I do like food) and I was surprised the recognition of the phrase was that low.

Not just a campaign but a website providing useful information and incentives to step out of their comfort zone one night a week.

Meanwhile, it turns out some college campuses have also bought in to the concept but most younger generation folks aren’t going meatless for cholesterol but for the environment. (Which is a big reason why I eat meat only a couple times a week myself. Holy grain acres, Batman!(As a complete aside, you can read a whole nerdy though somewhat slanted article about grain acres here with neato diagram if you are interested.)

+ Read More

1 2 3