The CSE Experience

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Last week, I wrote about the importance of selecting the marketing mediums that are most effective for you and your business.  The overall message communicated that marketing a small business requires the proactive efforts of the advertiser along-side your chosen marketing partner(s) (publisher, blogger, producer, etc.).

At PARAS Events, the Canadian Special Events Expo (CSE) has been integral to the growth of our business and demonstrates the importance of collaborating with your marketing and advertising partners.  Inspired by the words of Benjamin Franklin above, being involved is the key to success in any strategy.

Today, I would like to share why the Canadian Special Events Expo has been beneficial to our business and why our firms proactive marketing efforts in tandem with the show producers fueled the growth of our company and my own personal growth as an event professional.

1) Platform to demonstrate your potential.  CSE is one of the first trade shows I ever exhibited in back when I was 23 years old.  I was the ‘newbie’ in a sea of seasoned professionals.  I was very intimidated by this as I felt it was important that I held my own amongst all of my peers.  I worked very hard on my design work but feared that I would not be able to ‘compete’ on the same level as the other participating designers.  Personally, I had a lot to prove.  I had just left school and this was my ’first’ opportunity to make my mark.  CSE allowed me to demonstrate my potential as a designer and introduce my design aesthetic to the industry.  It allowed me to develop my signature as a designer and figure out where I ‘fit in’ (or as I learned a few years later, how I would ‘stand out’).

2) Propelled my event business.  I originally participated in CSE with the intent to generate sales, but I quickly learned that CSE was going to be a marketing medium that would allow me to increase awareness of our business through strategic industry partnerships.  CSE is where I learned about ‘co-opetion’ from my colleague, Ken Kristoffersen of POP Kollaborative.  Part of my growth in this industry has come from the understanding that you cannot merely ‘compete’ with your peers -you must collaborate to collectively elevate our profession through increased value, depth of creative thought, and higher standards of production.  CSE allows you to learn from top wedding professionals and thought-leaders from around the world and forces you to evaluate your own business, its operations, and strategies.

3)  Friendship.  I have made so many of my long-standing friendships with those I met at CSE over the years.  Not only do I work with them on a continual basis, but they now represent my close inner circle of individuals that ‘lift me higher’ with their positivity, collaborative nature, and support.  We work on events together, support each other in the ‘ups and downs’ of being an event professional and navigating the work/life balance that so many of us strive for.  Many of us have ‘grown-up’ in the industry and it has been a privilege to be apart of so many amazing journey’s.

4) Networking.  This is perhaps the greatest benefit of being involved with the Canadian Special Events Expo.  CSE is an opportunity to learn from other event professionals and ignite a dialogue with many of your mentors.  There is no other Special Events conference in Canada that provides the same access to the diverse group of event professionals in attendance at CSE and all of its social events, educational seminars, and the trade show floor.  This is a great opportunity to learn from the best.  My business has been shaped by the many insights shared at CSE over the years.

5)  Star Awards.  Our firm was nominated for our first Star Award in 2004.  I was 23 years old and was beyond thrilled to hear of the great news.  The nomination gave me confidence, validated my swift career change, and positioned me as a serious design professional.  More importantly, the nomination gave me a sense of belonging to the industry I was growing into.  My parents came with me to my first gala and we sat with the ISES Toronto team.  That night, upon hearing we had won, I was overjoyed, but equally nervous.  I completely froze (and was somewhat star-struck by Jocelyn Flanagan of E=MC2 Events who presented the award to me) during my acceptance speech and don’t even remember what I said.  That night, I became one of the youngest recipients of a Star Award.  The Star Awards gala is an opportunity to celebrate with those who do the same, but also an night to celebrate the accomplishments of so many leading event professionals who are committed to their craft and elevating the profession.

The Canadian Special Events Expo continues to be a highlight for the Canadian Special Events Industry annually.  PARAS Events has been continually involved in different capacities throughout the years and the show has personally been an influential part of the event professional I have become today.  I am feeling a little nostalgic as I write this post today.  So many friendships made, so many lessons learned, numerous design challenges and exhibit designs, and lot’s of fun parties over the last eight years.  I cannot forget to send a big thank you to Mark and Stacy for their continued support and helping my inner light to shine.

I am looking forward to another amazing week at Canadian Special Events Expo 2014!  See you there!

Paras

PS -I will be speaking at the conference this year on ‘Igniting the Creative Process’.

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Interactive Marketing

As entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to determine the marketing methods that will be most successful for our business.  I have taken the approach of ‘trial & error’ for most of my career and tried my best to remain as diverse as possible in the marketing mediums we choose.  Over the years, it has become very obvious which methods have been most successful AND more importantly, proven successful for our business.

Thousands of dollars are spent on marketing our event businesses each year. Like many of you, I have exhibited at bridal shows, advertised in magazines and blogs, accepted invitations to join exclusive communities, and participated in editorial shoots.  I have learned that it is not enough to rely solely on the marketing methods above to achieve substantial return.  It is essential when purchasing advertising for your business that you support and market your involvement in these publications, websites, blogs, and wedding shows.

As I reflect back on all of my experiences, I can begin to articulate the approach that has worked best for us and elaborate further on the importance of ‘interacting’ with your own marketing and promotions.

1) Distinguish the difference.  When purchasing a marketing opportunity, distinguish whether it will be for the purpose of generating awareness for your business and your brand or to generate sales.  Sometimes, we confuse that one singular marketing method will achieve both with the same strength.  Allot your marketing dollars to strategically maximize your presence in the industry and to potential clients by making this distinction and reviewing it on a yearly basis.

2) Support your own marketing initiatives.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to advertise in magazines and blogs or exhibit at wedding shows solely.  You must actively promote your participation in these marketing methods to maximize your return on investment.  This means using social media, monthly newsletters, and your company blog(s) to generate awareness of your involvement in a magazine editorial, blog style shoot, and/or wedding show (for example) to draw potential clients to your business and strengthen your brands effectiveness.

3) Take ownership of your own success when advertising.  It is easy for us to say that a particular marketing medium has ‘not worked’.  I will be the first to say that there are specific mediums that I will probably not entertain any further.  That is not because I don’t believe in their ability to work or have anything against them.  They simply just did not work for me and my business.  Taking ownership of your own success in marketing means having copies on hand of magazines you are featured in to review with clients or share with colleagues, sharing your blog features on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at three strategic times during the week), and/or blogging about the design/planning process you are undertaking when designing your exhibit at a wedding show.  Create excitement around your brand and the marketing methods you choose.  All of the examples above, extend the life of your marketing.

4) Take advantage of the ‘free’ marketing mediums that are now available to all of us.  As we all know, social media has an immense effect on the success of a business today.  If you are not active on social media, you are missing out on huge opportunities to solicit leads and build awareness for your business and building a strong brand presence.  To this day, I continue to participate in webinars and attend workshops on how I can increase my footprint (as an event professional) in the social media-sphere.  I am currently working on developing my SEO as that is still something I must improve upon.

5) Establish how you will position your brand in all of your advertising mediums and be consistent!  Your business will feel the affects if your branding and presence do not remain consistent.  That means a streamlined graphic identity, consistent voice on social media, your newsletters, and blogs, office space that is aligned with your design aesthetic and corporate identity, dynamic marketing material, and finally an IMPACTFUL website that ties it all together.  One of the best decisions I ever made for my business was to work with a professional branding expert.

6) Attend networking events to build your businesses presence.  There is definitely an art to networking and depending upon the industry you come from, your approach will be different.  I don’t have any formal training in networking and for those of you who know me well, you are aware of how shy and introverted I can be.  What I have learned over the years is that networking events are not solely an opportunity to ‘sell’, but rather an opportunity to establish a human connection and build friendships of trust and support amongst your peers in the industry.  If you are personally not attending industry events and conferences, how are you communicating your brand message on a more human level?  It’s the human connection that makes the difference.  

7) Collaborate with those whom you advertise with.  I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing publishers, bloggers, and show producers throughout the years and their support has been immeasurable.  One of the most important things I have learned from them is that so often we see advertising as a ‘transaction’.  In the case of magazines, we receive a contract, arrange payment, and submit artwork -and it ends there (or so it seems).  Instead, take the time to communicate with those you are advertising with and ask how you can be more involved or increase your visibility within their medium.  Most advertisers are willing to customize a solution that best fits your marketing objectives and sales goals.  Remember that advertising is not a ‘one-way-street’.  As mentioned before, you must actively promote your involvement within each marketing medium you choose in tandem with the publisher/blogger/producer, etc.  It is then easier to make an informed assessment on whether or not a particular marketing medium works (or will work) for you and your business.

8) Marketing your products and/or services is about building your business, your brand, your presence, and to increase sales.  Unfortunately, I used to participate in marketing mediums that were based on healing my insecurities and what I thought ‘everyone was doing’.  I was afraid of ‘missing out’, so I spent marketing dollars on mediums that I knew for a few years had not been successful or proven successful for me, but continually participated because I thought I would be ‘left out’.  Looking back, I know better now.

Ultimately, over time, you will be able to measure the success each of the advertising mediums you partake in. Some will be very successful, others may not. Fortunately, you will be able to determine the best method for you and fuel it as much as possible to optimize your results and its return.  Often a few, very strong, impactful marketing mediums will allow your business and brand to soar.

Happy Spring!

Paras

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