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Archive for the ‘Conferences and Presentations’ Category

The Washington Credit Union League’s Annual Convention will take place next month.  And it looks like the league has found at least one way to bring the theme of this year’s conference, Evolve & Emerge, to life.  Rather than distributing stacks of paper handouts, presentation slides, program books and conference agendas to every attendee, WCUL has developed a convention app for iPhone and Blackberry.  The app eliminates the need for all the unnecessary paper (at least for those with smartphones).  Perhaps more importantly, the app also allows attendees to receive the latest updates from the league via Twitter, create their own customized schedules, and collect contact info from other attendees they meet at the convention.

This is the first time I’ve seen a state association develop a conference application like this for an iPhone or Blackberry (if anyone has other examples, please let me know).  While I’m not planning to attend the convention, I did download the free app for iPhone to see what it’s all about.

Here’s a screenshot of the app’s homepage.  Aside from the smart and easy navigation menu, I was most impressed with the integration of the league’s latest Twitter updates to the homepage.  I can see this being a great way to share the latest updates and announcements with conference attendees.  Beyond the league’s Twitter updates, the app also lets attendees post Twitter updates directly from the application – each of which automatically includes the hashtag established for the conference: #WaCon (bravo to WCUL for establishing a conference hashtag – it’s still something I wish all banking conferences would adopt and encourage).

The app also gives users quick access to maps of the exhibit hall and breakout session rooms, the conference schedule, and a list of exhibitors – complete with descriptions and contact information.

See more info about the iPhone app, including additional screenshots here.

The simple design and smart features of this app will certainly allow it to enhance the conference experience for attendees who use it.  I’m interested to know what percentage of attendees will use the app.  And, I’d like to know how the WCUL will encourage people to use it (one idea: make people pay for printed materials because the app is free).  Now, if we could only get more conference organizers to offer relevant and useful tools like this.

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Last week I attended the American Bankers Association‘s National Conference for Community Bankers.  I had missed the opening reception due to fight delays, but thought I would check to see what I was missing via Twitter.  While I was stuck in the airport in Atlanta, I searched for mentions of ABA and NCCB on Twitter in hopes of finding the conference hashtag, but my searches returned nothing.  In doing some additional searching, I came to the conclusion that there was no Twitter hashtag for the conference and I decided to start using #abanccb to start some conversation.

After attending the ABA Marketing Conference in September, where the tag #abamc was established (and a live Twitter feed for the tag was placed on the conference’s webpage), I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a tag for the National Conference for Community Bankers.  Several people used the tag during the Marketing Conference, which promoted a good deal of conversation before, during, and after the conference among both attendees and people following along from home.   The absence of a tag for the NCCB was a missed opportunity for these online conversations.

In looking online, I found a good article on Mashable.com called  How to get the most out of Twitter hashtags.  In discussion about conferences and events, Ben Parr, the author tells us that “It’s become standard to track the conversation regarding speakers and afterparties via a hashtag.”  I agree, and think that the conversation using hashtags enhances the conference experience.  Parr offers three simple, but practical points of advice for organizing hashtags for an event or conference:

  • Choose a single hashtag early
  • Remind attendees of the hashtag constantly
  • Provide a website widget

While not everyone in attendance at a banking conference will use Twitter (or have an account), here are five reasons banking conference organizers should use Twitter hashtags:

1.  Generate Awareness about an Event

Establishing and using an appropriate hashtag in advance of a conference can help generate awareness about an event.  This might help an organizer distribute news, session topics, and important dates about the event.  It could help them reach a different audience than they may reach through other outreach; and it allows others to easily promote the event through online conversations using the same hashtag.

2.  Networking

Networking is one of the primary reasons people attend conferences.  And while conferences are a great place to participate in traditional social networking, encouraging online social networking can greatly enhance the networking experience.  This allows attendees to engage with one another, and with the conference organizers differently than they have in the past (which for many, has been limited to face to face conversations).  As a result, people are able to make meaningful connections with more people during the event – whether through online, offline, or a combination of both interactions.

3.  Promote Discussion About Session Topics

Conference organizers work hard to pack as much good content into their conference sessions as possible.  In many cases, this means that attendees need to pick between certain concurrent sessions.  And often times, speakers are working with limited timeframes allowing little time for questions and discussion after the session content is covered.  Opening the conversation to Twitter allows attendees to share real-time information from various sessions, ask questions, and continue the conversation long after the session has ended.

4.  Engage Non-Attendees

While Twitter hashtags work to engage conference attendees, they also create an avenue for non-attendees to join the conversation.  Tags allow information about the conference happenings and sessions to be broadcast to a much larger audience.  As a result, non-attendees can follow along and contribute to the conversation, and in some cases be made aware of an event they may have otherwise not known about.

5.  Extend the Life of an Event

Most conferences last a few days.  With all the work that goes into planning the event, using online social media like Twitter or blogs can work to extend the life of an event well-beyond the few organized formal conference days.  Using a Twitter hashtag before a conference can help get people engaged early; using the hashtag afterwards can allow the conversations to continue for weeks after the conference concludes.  These continued conversations could help remind attendees of key conference takeaways.  For the event organizers, it keeps the event top of mind for a longer period of time.

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As a conference attendee, I’m starting to expect that conference organizers establish a hashtag for their events.  For the reasons I’ve discussed above, I’m hoping to see more organizers using tags for future events.  And as we’ve seen attendance at many conferences decline in recent months, this is one important way associations can keep people engaged and bring value to members who may not be able to travel for an event. 

While the Twitter conversation may have been limited at this year’s ABA National Conference for Community Bankers, it was encouraging to see that people did participate in the conversation once it was started.  And, it was great to be at the ABA conference in Hollywood, FL and follow the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference happening at the same time in Washington, DC via that conference’s Twitter tag.  I’m looking forward to Twitter gaining traction among banking conference attendees, as it opens doors to conversations and introductions that may otherwise never happen.

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Last week I attended the New England Financial Marketing Association’s Fall Conference Creating Great Opportunities in a Bad EconomyI noticed many of the participants were patting themselves on the back. It seems that their institutions have been the beneficiaries, in the form of a surge in new deposits, of the ‘flight to quality’ from large banks and other financial depositories. Seemingly, these institutions are already enjoying some of the opportunities presented by a economy (even if by default!) But when asked what they done to attract such a windfall, to a person the response was some variation of ‘nothing.’ It appears that the old adage ” 90% of success is simply showing up” applies to many in this case.

However, when asked what plans and strategies the institutions were developing to leverage and maintain these new depositis, the answer was a combination of a thoughtful expression and “we’re working on that.” We’ve heard similar stories in markets around the country.

For the sake of the banks and credit unions that are in fact “working on that,” I hope they can work quickly, as the deposits could go as quickly as they came.

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After spending the last two days at the Partnership Symposium, I’m convinced that this conference is one of the best in the financial services industry. Here’s ten reasons why:10. Many of the attendees wore jeans.

9. After seeing that many of the attendees wore jeans on the first day, more people wore jeans on the second day.

8. Admission to the conference was only $125.

7. The dinner reception managed to combine Oktoberfest and Rock Band.

6. Smart use of technology. The presentations were broadcast live over the Internet, and twitter was used to allow audience members to pose questions throughout.

5. There was definitely a sense of community among the attendees. The conference served as an extension of an online community in some respects – giving people like me the opportunity to meet people face-to-fact that I’ve only talked with online – and it managed to bring other attendees into the mix.

4. The Q & A session with presenters was the best I’ve seen at a conference. Rather than opening the floor to audience questions after the presentations, each presenter was asked some really challenging questions from Ron Shevlin – and these points spurred additional conversation and really enriched the conversation.

3. Instead of handing attendees a binder with session handouts at the registration table, conference organizers gave each attendee a small piece of paper with the wifi access code.

2. I’ve never seen so many macbooks and iPhones in the same room at the same time.

1. The speakers were really smart – they are among some of the most innovative and involved people in the industry. And the respect among the speakers really showed – especially as some of them prefaced their presentations with how nervous they were about talking such a highly acclaimed group.

If you have the opportunity to attend the Partnership Symposium next year, I highly recommend it. Besides, aren’t we all looking for an excuse to travel to Fishers, IN?

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Earlier this week at the ABA Marketing Conference, I had the opportunity to join Jeff Stephens from Creative Brand Communications in an episode of his bi-weekly Banktastic podcast Blow Up Your Marketing. Take a look at what conference attendees had to say about the conference.

Blow Up Your Marketing episodes can be seen on the Banktastic blog. Check them out, and watch for future episodes.

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On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the round table discussion “Going Green” at the ABA Marketing Conference. And, having seen a number of institutions jump on the green bandwagon over the last year – I think the conversation missed some important points.First of all, the complete name of the session was: “Going Green: It’s the right thing to do – so how do we do it right?” While many consider adopting green practices to be the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint, the session focused instead on it being the right thing to do so institutions don’t get “left behind.” As we’ve talked about before, making choices so you don’t get left behind only contributes to the commoditization and sameness we’re seeing throughout the industry. And, these kinds of efforts, especially when tied to “going green” (with the increasing awareness and sensitivity to greenwashing), can really do more harm to your institution than good – a point that was never made during the session.

During the conversation, the point was made that going green can be used as a competitive differentiator – in large part because most institutions aren’t pursuing such efforts. But, this conversation quickly shifted to emphasize the fact that institutions that don’t pursue green initiatives will be at a competitive disadvantage. Once again, rather than encouraging institutions to determine on an individual level whether green initiatives makes sense at their institutions – within the context of their markets and their brand positions, attendees were encouraged to pursue these initiatives as means to stay on a level playing field. This was a big red flag for me.

The most important takeaway from the session was: take incremental steps, and be honest and transparent.

I’d qualify this suggestion though – first, determine if becoming a green business makes sense for your institution. And second, recognize the important differences and implications associated with being a green business versus those associated with an institution working to become more environmentally friendly or sustainable.

While allowing customers to sign up for paperless statements certainly reduces paper and the environmental impact of shipping them (not to mention the cost of postage), it’s simply not enough to promote an institution as green. Take a look at institutions like New Resource Bank, Green Bank, and Alpine Bank (the featured bank during this session) as examples of those that have taken significant steps to become more environmentally sustainable – and they did so before promoting it in their marketing materials and campaigns.

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Over the past few days at the ABA Bank Marketing Conference in Denver, we’ve heard quite a few ideas and concepts being talked about repeatedly. Some of what we’re hearing includes:

  • Experience – a concept that we heard a lot about at last year’s conference is still on many attendees’ minds. Joseph Pine’s opening keynote discussed the progression from businesses selling commodities to goods; goods to services; services to experiences; and experiences to transformations. While some institutions certainly pay attention to the complete customer experience, many are stuck simply selling services or goods – which raises concerns regarding commoditization.
  • Transformation – as I mentioned above, Joe Pine emphasized the importance of transformation in today’s competitive environment; the idea was mentioned in many of the presentations. As Pine described it, beyond creating a customer experience, successful companies will be those that are transformational – those that are able to transform their customers’ lives in some respect. The emphasis here raises concerns for me, as many institutions havn’t fully grasped the concept of creating and managing the customer experience – which needs to happen before trying to become transformational.
  • Differentiation – we’ve heard much more discussion around the issue of differentiation than we did at last year’s conference – which is encouraging. While the marketers here seem to understand the importance, we are hearing a lot of frustration around how to convince senior management and boards that differentiation needs to be part of the overall marketing strategy.
  • Segmentation – a topic we didn’t hear much about last year, segmentation has certainly become a much more well-known concept, and one that seems to be working its way into many institutions’ strategies. I’m impressed with the level that people are talking about the topic. As an example, people were talking about the many segments that make up Generation Y – where last year, the broad group of Generation Y was talked about very generally.

As attendees return home from the conference, I hope that these concepts can make their way into next year’s marketing strategies. It’s a departure from years past – as none of these concepts offer a turn-key solution – they will vary from market to market, and from one institution to the next.

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