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Don Shula – My Opportunity to Spend Time with a Legend

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Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.”

– Don Shula

 

Legendary Coach Don Shula passed away at 90 years old earlier this week. After a fine playing career in the 1950s, at 33 years old he was named head coach of the Baltimore Colts – the youngest in NFL history at the time. He went on to win more games than any coach in the league’s history – 347 victories in all over both regular season and playoffs – including six appearances and two Super Bowl championships. His storied 1972 Miami Dolphins championship squad is still the only team in NFL history to go undefeated through an entire season.

I once had the privilege and opportunity of spending about 90 minutes – mostly one on one, with the great man. He was the Keynote Speaker at an association annual conference in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay in 2008. The Coach was staying at the other tower (and my association client’s staff was almost all non-sports fans, as my luck would have it). That morning at their staff meeting, a scheduling challenge was announced, and they asked if anyone would volunteer to personally go to the Coach’s hotel room, and escort him from there, across the casino to the Convention area, and all the way to the green room. Not being officially on staff, I waited for a second or two.

Then I jumped up.

At his hotel room, he was deciding on a tie. He held two up to his shirt, but he had the look that said he did not want to wear one. He asked me if most of the men in the conference wore ties? Even though it was probably 70% yes, I told him it was “50/50”. He left both ties on his bed, going with just a sports jacket. I told the Coach what he wanted to hear.

Coach Shula was 78 and had a bad hip, so the walk took 30 minutes with two or three sit-down breaks. During the walk, he began to share stories with me. What struck me most along with his unpretentiousness was his humanity and grace.

We arrived at the greenroom and had plenty of time to kill, so I stayed with him. He continued sharing stories and let me ask him anything that came to mind about the NFL, Baltimore Colts (as a player and as the coach), the Dolphins, childhood idols Bob Griese and Larry Csonka, quarterbacks in general, the ’83 draft, Dan Marino-John Elway (he said Elway was the best ever, better even than Dan because of his legs…), Jimmy Johnson (his successor as Dolphins coach, he was candid but kind). He demonstrated great pride mixed with humility.

 

Coach Shula & Pat Wilson

 

With Coach Shula’s passing, it occurred to me how fortunate I was to be in the right place at the right time that day. An unmitigated honor and a great memory – the chance to spend time with a true legend, who also happened to be a very nice man.

 

You take on what’s right in front of you. You want to do the best you can with the opportunities that you have.”

–  Don Shula

Washington, D.C. Vintage Postcard

PAI Case Study: To Optimize Exhibitor Retention – Build a Program Early, Give Cards and Candy!

By Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

One of the keys for hosting a successful, growing annual conference is to keep your sponsors and exhibitors coming back year after year. After all, the cost for converting a new sponsor or exhibitor can be as high as five times that of retaining a current one.

That’s why at The Profitable Association (PAI), we’ve incorporated a comprehensive “Pre-Show Selection” initiative into events that we sell, including building a Priority-Points system for incumbents that includes an automated Space Draw program. And, we have “trained” our marketplace of customers that the process will begin early – with announcements and initial actions for Next Year beginning two months before This Year’s event.

By doing so, our best-supporting companies can be ensured they have the best opportunity to get the best space and the lowest rate. It is a win for the exhibitor/sponsors, and also a win for the association client who gains a much earlier picture of their following year’s financials. And, as the association’s Sales Partner, it enables us to maximize retention at their events, year after year.

Our “Pre-Show Selection” process works something like this:

  • We’ll start marketing the sales of sponsorships and exhibit booths for next year’s conference prior to the start of this year’s conference – all at discounted rates.
  • We build the next year’s show website, online floor plan, forms, rates, packages, priority order program, and automated Space Draw program – complete with assigned appointment algorithms and automated weekly and daily reminders.
  • We execute the Space Draw phase first.
  • We reached out personally to VIP exhibitors and sponsors to ensure they did not blink and miss the opportunity.
  • We sent out e-blasts featuring the special rates available to current exhibitors and sponsors who signed up before the start of the 2019 show.
  • Next, we continue the pre-show marketing and sales outreach – right up until the day before the show.

We recently used this process to great success on behalf of Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), where we were able to exceed $1 million in sales from sponsorships and exhibit sales for their 2019 event in Las Vegas. Serving as DBIA’s partner, as their staff focused on the final preparations for the 2019 conference, we were hard at work getting them a head start for their 2020 event in the Nation’s Capital.

The real fun got underway once we landed in Vegas. We set up a full-fledged sales operation on-site at this year’s conference, with a Sales Office where we hosted one-on-one meetings with vendors, distributing promotional materials, and more.

  • As exhibitors set up their booths, we greeted them with promotional materials for the 2020 show as well as special candy treats with an invitation to visit us.
  • Later, we left them personalized appointment cards reminding them of their onsite “Space Selection” time – cards that were printed on the back of a vintage Washington, D.C. postcard.
  • We double and tripled back throughout the show and engaged directly to ensure they were fully aware of their on-site discount and that the 2020 floor plan was filling up.
  • We also sent out daily e-reminders, reminding them of the special on-site discounts available in the Sales Office.

All of this hard work paid off. Company signups increased by 119% over the year before, while early exhibit and sponsorship revenue was up as well. And, most importantly, we were able to add a personal touch combined with an automated program, resulting in great sponsor and exhibitor retention, and a fast start for our association client’s 2020 event revenue.

Setting Goals for Event Revenue

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

Association professionals might have more challenges, in the beginning, to gain focus for long-range planning and shorter-term deliverables when it comes to executing a non-dues revenue-generating event. How can associations share in the excitement about continued growth?  PAI Sales provides guidance and expertise to association staff to deliver and sell events.

Keep it about the Goals

Whether the challenge is getting a new event off the ground, maintaining a growth trajectory, or getting key team members on the same page, we follow this blueprint to get everyone marching together. Here is an overview of the process with six simple steps:

  1. Create a shared Vision of what the event will look like in the future.
  2. From the vision, make a future Plan, and make the plan about Goals.
  3. Establish a Longer-range Focus on the event as an evolving business (key term is evolving business.)
  4. Establish, communicate and share the goals – for long-term and for each event – will the full team and key member committees.
  5. Plan together as a team, including Quantitative and Qualitative goals blended into one business plan that is flexible for adjustments.
  6. Look backward for Lessons Learned and to build on prior success, and look forward for Improvement and Growth.

Qualitative Goals

  • Develop and set goals for both attendee and sponsor/exhibitor satisfaction. Collect feedback and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Develop and set goals for Service Level, Responsiveness, and Business Practices.
  • Develop other goals for attendee Experience, program/content QualityEngagement, and other key items including the incorporation of any creative, memorable, or “wow” factors.

Quantitative Goals

For each event, set goals for:

  • Total Revenue
  • Attendee/registration Revenue
  • Sponsor/Exhibitor Revenue
  • Net Revenue
  • Number of total attendees
  • Number of paid attendees
  • Number of paid sponsors
  • Establish and share the goals by a specific date each year for the following year.

The quantitative goals will involve related “time and space” goals with hard calendar deadlines. Create a document so that everyone is sharing in the goal-driven deadlines with related steps and tasks.

Team Sharing, Communicating and Planning

  • Establish a monthly meeting to exchange updates and to track progress.
  • Set a twice-yearly meeting to revisit and make adjustments to the future plan.

 Just remember… Have fun as a team, root for and celebrate success!