Sept. 5, 2013, Vol. 11, Issue 18
For lots of people, September means back to school. For me, it means back to meeting season — all of the speakers booked months or even a year ago, will be heading for their appointed destinations. In each event, both the meeting planner and the speaker have spent months creating, scheduling and arranging all of the intricate parts that make up the experience of a special event — from the venue, to the food, to the decor, to the speakers, exhibitors, give-aways, etc., etc., etc.
And for me, that brings to mind the question of attracting people to your special events. How do we lure them away from their families, obligations, and boxes of pre-conceived notions, to have a day, a night, or a few hours of “Me” and girlfriend time to devote to themselves. In three previous issues, we explored the generational issues for attracting Millennials, Generation X’ers, and Baby Boomers to your women’s health events. In this issue, I was going to wrap that up by looking at the common denominators for all three, but when I looked at the research, I decided to bag that approach. The core question is, “Why do women gather together?”
And the answer comes from a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, in North Dakota. Mary Ann Foss, RN, is a pioneer member of the advisory committee, North Dakotans Partnering For Women’s Health. We’ve been recommending speakers for this group for almost the entire 15 years that they’ve been holding women’s health conferences in Bismarck and Fargo.
M.A. (short for Mary Ann) says, “Women learn from each other, they boost each others’ motivation. We inhale inspiration from stories of challenge and expert advice, then exhale the motivation to make healthy lifestyle changes.”
It’s not rocket science. It’s not about the medium — direct mail, advertising, texting, facebook, twitter, etc. It’s about the why. Women have gathered together since the beginning of time — to share, support each other, fortify, or re-build — in sickness and in health. Build it and they will come.
Ahhh, learning from a wise woman . . . and I bet she texts with those grandchildren, too.
3 Tips for Drawing a Crowd
So, from my 15 years in the business of women’s health events, here are three thoughts that rise to the top.
1. MAKE IT FUN — And Let Them Know It
I love the way Coliseum Health in Macon, GA, took our speaker (and comedian) Kelly Swanson’s photo and made it clear that this women’s heart health event was all about “Laughing and Dancing Your Heart Out.” It’s a Day of Women’s Wellness, but that’s the secondary headline. The photo says it all — this is a real woman telling it all. The copy covers all the other attractions for the day.
I think that sometimes event planners know it’s going to be a fun event, but they forget to use the concept in their promotion? Hire a fun speaker and promote the heck out of it, that’s my advice. With the advance of easy video production and online access, many of our speakers will do a promotional video for you that you can put on your website and YouTube channel, at no extra charge.
P.S. Fun does not mean empty. Fun means delivering powerful messages so that women can hear the importance of taking care of themselves, and follow their dreams for their own health and the health of their families and the ones they love. Fun means they remember what they learn and take it home with them.
2. MAKE IT SHINE — Women Love Bling
Bright, shiny objects . . . what woman doesn’t love bling? Several years ago, breast cancer survivor speaker Heidi Marble came up with the idea of collecting discarded jewelry, baubles and beads and creating new art from them. I know you know what we’re talking about here — all those single earrings and stuff cluttering up your drawers and jewelry box that you never touch, let alone wear, anymore. You can read the story behind the idea that inspired Heidi here. Using the collected pieces, she creates a beautiful mirror for the client that can be auctioned off, or hung in the breast or cancer center. One piece at a time, it’s the art of taking broken and making it into beautiful. On every item she makes, she includes a watch and an angel. The watch is for more time, and the angel is for blessings.
Marcia Anderson, Cancer Resource Specialist, at George Bray Cancer Center in New Britain, CT, took this idea to heart and created huge excitement in her community about her upcoming breast cancer event with Heidi.
She personally made these gorgeous collection jars for 10 locations. Their project is inclusive of all cancers, so collection points included two Radiology locations, all the community oncology practice offices, the cancer library, the in-patient floor, and their E-1 out patient area. And the jars will be recycled as raffle prizes and used to decorate the registration table at the event. Guests can put a raffle ticket(s) in the one(s) they want to win.
Marcia said that the best response by far, was at the Front Information Desk where people could drive into the drop-off circle, run in and drop off their jewelry. “The funny thing was that people wanted to buy the collection jar!” Marcia told me. “The key to this was getting a good press release out in the community. Once we got that, the donations poured in.”
The results are in. Excitement is in the air! What a haul! These castaways will be transformed into an amazing decorated mirror that will be a gentle reminder that life is a mosaic of experiences and brokenness can be turned into something beautiful.
This is just one way to bring some bling (as well as create participation and excitement about your event in your community). Just think bright and shiny when you’re creating your promotional materials and event decor. Another of our clients used the jewelry idea brilliantly in their promotional pieces — I’ll share that with you next time. Think bright, shiny, and fun . . .
3. DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE
Ever since the first time I heard it, I’ve adopted the Disney philosophy: “You do what you do so well that people will want to come back and bring their friends.”
. . . and their girlfriends, and mothers, and grandmothers, and daughters, and granddaughters. . .
This is a philosophy that works. I’d been working with the Office of the First Lady of North Dakota for several years, planning their Bismarck and Fargo women’s health summits, until 2010, when First Lady Mikey Hoeven’s husband, was elected to the U.S. Senate.
When she was no longer First Lady of ND, the conferences were discontinued – temporarily. Faced with the adversity of devastating flooding in Bismarck in 2011, though, Mikey was urged to re-start the summits in fall 2011. It was felt that the women needed an inspirational event, now more than ever, and so Mikey took on the responsibility for the event herself. When Mikey’s priorities shifted once again, Anita Hoffarth, who had been involved since the first Fargo conference, and had become owner of Reach Partners, a meeting planning company, took over — with the help and support of women like M.A., who have worked on the advisory committee all these years
Through all these changes, these women believed in what they were delivering for their communities and committed to continuing. Why? Because the women kept coming — to be supported, inspired, educated, motivated, appreciated. This year, they will assemble in Bismarck Sept. 30 for the annual 23rd Women’s Health Conference. With keynote speakers Colette Carlson and Polly Pitchford on the agenda, I know they’ll fulfill their promise, and I’m betting there will be plenty of women there who first came with friends, and are now bringing friends, and daughters, and grandmothers. You get the picture: delivering on their promise year after year has earned them a following.
ISLAND WEDDING FESTIVITIES
Phew! For me, all of our big summer activities happened in August, which made it a very fun, and different kind of month — having to plan and make accommodations for being away a lot of time. But my having to plan for that was nothing compared to what I experienced at a wedding on an island off the Coast of Oregon last week. It was a three-day weekday wedding retreat for a friend and business associate (the bride) of my husband, at a camp called Westwind. Now, lest you think we were out in the Pacific somewhere, I need you to know that the island was a mere — I’d guess it was about the length of a football field across the water — but the ferry can only cross at high tide, so we had to be on time.
Anyhow, as we dis-embarked (in the rain) from our pontoon ferry boat, we were greeted by the bride and groom, who embraced us and draped us with colorful leis – in keeping with the island theme – and after trudging uphill on a road of deep sand, we arrived at a camp lodge that had been festooned with colorful bunting and magically transformed into a wedding venue. And that was just the beginning.
There were little things, like each cabin adorned inside with an herbal bouquet and a couple of festive Chinese lanterns. There were fun things — art supplies with which to decorate prayer flags that were then hung in the trees on the way to the beach ceremony. And there were big things. One would be the dance floor on the beach. Seriously these guys built a dance floor and hauled it onto the beach! And a sound system . . . and we were drawn fully into the spirit of it, dancing up a storm.
It was apparent from so many things I observed that this couple was totally about the pleasure and experience of their guests — in addition to the celebration of their wedding vows. With so many logistical aspects over 3 days with 60 people, it was not a surprise that there was more than one slightly major snafu (like the rain! — at least it let up for the beach ceremony). What was surprising was how they (and the guests) handled it all with such grace. Remember, we were on an island with land access only at high tide once a day!
By the last morning, the guests were so happy that we were all glad to pitch in and clean cabins, kitchen, and lodge — sweeping, mopping, scrubbing stove tops, etc., to leave the camp the way we had found it, minus the bunting.
The wedding had all three elements – it was fun, it had the shine and bling, and they delivered on their promises. I’d go again in a heartbeat. Now, that’s how to set up an event.
What a great beginning . .
As we move into the beginnings of a new season, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!
The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.
Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me great joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.