The folks at Austin-based Darling Promo are fresh from a jaunt to Vegas, where they meandered amid hundreds of thousands of products tailor-made for swag bags. We were lucky enough to have Sales Executive Susan Greenberg, CMP, CASE, on hand to weed through the chaff and bring us her team’s golden harvest of favorites!
Love your phone accessories? “We all have one or two,” says Greenberg, who says it’s not about quantity, it’s about how to make the ones we like best suit our needs, “like making our phones stand alone or allowing us to grip them more easily.”
To that end, Greenberg recommends POP Sockets. These funky, little doodads have multiple uses, serving as everything from photo, texting and tablet grips to media stands and cord keepers. (TSAE even gave these out at Southwest Showcase, she says!)
Need a break from actual reality? Try virtual. Available now, says Greenberg, are VR glasses that can work in tandem with your smartphone. “They’re surprisingly affordable, too!”
For those who travel frequently, funky new luggage tags have tracker chips that allow you to locate your bags with ease as you navigate a crowded baggage carousel. “You can also attach it to the wrist of a small child,” notes Greenberg.
Vibrancy comes at a premium and, says Greenberg, “Color Brite is the next level of production technology, adding more vibrancy to the colors in your logo or full sublimation product.”
And finally, keeping Austin weird (and attendees’ thirst slaked), is metal drinkware. “These cool, smooth products are made from copper and aluminum and come in gorgeous colors—red, turquoise, copper—and a variety of items: cups, goblets, trays, bowls and more!”
All About Site Selection
Whether you’re navigating the vast 2,000,000 square feet of Dallas’ Kae Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center or Austin’s comparatively cozy 246,000 facility, finding the right space within these meeting halls can be as challenging as any other site selection process.
Convention centers are often a planner’s second choice, says Carla Pendergraft, director of marketing for the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau (“They tend to look for entirely self-contained venues first,” she says)—but they’re a close second.
That’s mostly due to what you’d imagine: location, location, location.
“Facilities like ours, where the hotels are literally right next door,” she notes, “are appealing.”
Beyond that, things like capacity and the room’s flow and layout are of typical concern. While the former is relatively static, the special needs of every meeting and event make the latter a high priority.
Is this more an educational event? Sightlines will be crucial. Is it a mixer? Open space for networking is a must—and enough of it for different seating and standing areas can help create diversity as attendees mix and mingle. The ability to breakout and reconfigure could come into play, as well.
Will there be a speaker, video or other AV needs? Then you’ll need to talk tech. The last thing you’ll want to have happen is a dead mic during a Q&A or a failed teleprompter during the COO’s rally cry.
Amid Waco’s intimate but well-appointed 144,000 square feet, where new video monitors on every door have allowed planners in attendance to leave the two-way tape and fluorescent Sharpies in their emergency kits, Pendergraft and her colleagues will go over each available area in detail. She recommends a site tour early in the process to give planners a feel for the space.
“There’s nothing automated about the site selection process, and I don’t think there ever will be,” she says. “You have to listen to each other and contemplate the quirks that will exist in every space you look at, in whatever venue, in any city.”
Each event has its quirks, as well, she notes. Things you can’t put in writing on an RFP.
“There are just a thousand different things that come up,” she says. “That’s just part of the conversation and usually with one good, solid site tour with the decision-makers and some pretty good meeting specs, convention center staffers can respond to the RFP and come up with the rooms and pricing that make the most sense.”
Find the Right Tech Consultant
Association planners have myriad concerns when pulling an event together—impressive attendance, bragworthy ROI, increased engagement, but what planners may not realize is that the right technology can help with all these concerns and more. Event tech is evolving at what sometimes feels like breakneck speed and if your demographic is made up, at least in part, of late-adopters, a quality tech consultant can bring the whole association up to speed (including your staff)! From mobile event apps to registration and planning software, CRM to event mapping—and of course, AV–the right professional can bring your meeting into the not-so-new millennium with ease.
Who to hire depends on your association’s needs. If you’re a staff of newbies looking to get up to speed, go with a general consultant, but if you’re looking to hone specifics, you may want to look for someone with a more focused expertise. Above all, ask other association pros for referrals. Hearing about a colleague’s experience–ask lots of questions!—can help you narrow the search by pointing out where a given consultant excelled or fell short. References also might help you secure a lower rate.
BONUS! Before you hire, do what you do best: meet! Scheduling some face time with your candidates can give you a sense of not only their skill sets, but ensure you’ll find someone who “speaks tech” in a language you can understand.
Author Amy Drew Thompson is a meetings and travel writer based in Florida.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Darling Promo