The Event Group Milestones
The Event Group, Incorporated celebrated its 20th anniversary on April 7, 2017. To celebrate, each month on the 7th we are looking back at some of the milestones that brought us to today. New entries will be added throughout 2017.
As we've detailed in past milestone updates, The Event Group, Incorporated, has produced events throughout the U.S. and in multiple international destinations. However, as a company based in the Twin Cities, we take special pride in our home state and have frequently championed events that highlight what Minnesota has to offer.
A great example of that is the annual Cyber Security Summit, which began as an idea at the University of Minnesota in 2011. Before "cybersecurity" had become a household word and was featured daily in the news, not many people or businesses were aware of the problem. Minnesota, however, had a robust private sector that needed to secure its assets, major technology companies with security expertise, and a research university that wanted to engage future leaders in the topic. The Event Group began by producing a half-day event at the University in 2011. Today, the Summit is a three-day event at the Minneapolis Convention Center that hosts attendees from 30 states and 9 countries and regularly draws praise from Washington, DC-based leaders for its focus on building public-private partnerships.
Another great event in a totally different field is the Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care Annual Conference. While this conference is nominally a "Minnesota" event, it has grown into the largest regional conference on the important topics of serious illness and end-of-life care, serving the entire Midwest and beyond. The Event Group has been proud to partner with MNHPC to help grow the event and bring its educational content to a wider audience.
Two other "Alley" events have also helped showcase Minnesota's strong medical device and technology industries. For many years, The Event Group managed Medical Alley, a globally recognized conference that showcased Minnesota's more than 500 medical companies and health care organizations. Likewise, The Event Group produced five years of the Robotics Alley Conference & Expo, which highlighted the latest in innovative autonomous and robotic technology.
What all these events have in common is that they were designed to benefit both the people who attend them as well as the community where they were produced. We are proud to say that many lasting partnerships and initiatives have grown out of these events, which we believe have gone on to strengthen Minnesota's economy and benefit people far beyond its borders.
Prior to founding The Event Group, Incorporated, Eileen Manning began her career as a photographer/video producer. Before she was 20, she was working for a top national ad agency on photo shoots in New York and commercials in Hollywood. After being recruited away from the ad world, Eileen moved to a Fortune 500 company, where she began to produce a series of meetings and videos designed to motivate the company’s large salesforce. Those experiences were foundational to her view of event production, and that history is one reason TEG takes special pride in the design and execution of all our events!
In the early days, Eileen often needed a semi truck to transport her production gear. She was involved in all aspects of the productions, including shooting, writing scripts, recording sound, editing, and working with speakers and executives. She and her team were tasked with producing content that was both educational and actionable – not unlike the events TEG produces today.
Eileen found that the creative staff and the logistics staff were frequently fighting over budgets: one team wanted the room to be grander, the other thought more money should go toward the entertainment, etc. Her view was that everyone was on the same team and it was important not to lose sight of the original goals of the event and make decisions to support that. In the end, she successfully lobbied to have the groups integrated into a single department. That philosophy helped inform the structure of The Event Group, where Eileen again put marketing and logistics on the same team since they need to work hand-in-hand to execute a successful event.
At The Event Group, we strongly believe that the visual aspect of an event can help complement and reinforce the message being delivered. Since not everyone is an auditory learner, having the right visual cues to guide the attendees can help them retain the important information and get more out of the event.
Additionally, many of our events are recorded or televised, which provides the added challenge of having to stage both for the in-person audience as well as the cameras. Whatever your particular needs, our goal is to produce an event that looks and feels fantastic. Based on our experience, we know what’s needed to make it work – and just as importantly for our clients, we speak A/V lingo and know how to work efficiently to keep your budgets looking good as well.
With a name like The Event Group, Incorporated, everyone knows that we produce events, but not everyone realizes that our company also includes a full-service marketing department. When the company began, it was important to our CEO and founder to make The Event Group a place where logistics and marketing could work hand-in-hand to help tell a company's story.
Of course, the most important way a company tells its story is through its brand, and helping companies ensure that their brand accurately represents who they are has led to some of the most rewarding projects we've partnered on during the past 20 years.
One recent example is our work with Wenck Associates. Wenck was founded in 1985 as a small engineering firm in Minnesota, but as it approached its 30th anniversary, it had grown to include four operating companies, a dozen offices, hundreds of employees, and thousands of clients nationally and internationally. To properly reflect the growth of the enterprise, it was in need of a new brand image that communicated the company's professionalism and values.
The Event Group team spent months working with the company, meeting with stakeholders, gathering information from a cross-section of employees, and researching the history of the company. Working closely with company leadership, TEG developed an enterprise brand strategy that incorporated consistent visual cues and messaging that communicated the look and feel of a large enterprise versus a small business. Wenck's CEO unveiled the new brand to the company during a retreat presentation that TEG helped produce. In the end, the response both internally and externally to the brand update was phenomenal, and Wenck’s image now better communicates everything the company has to offer.
Similarly, we worked with Hansen Engine Corporation to modernize the look of a company that was originally founded in 1977. Hansen works on the cutting edge of automotive technology, so it needed a look that didn't feel dated. Again, we worked closely with the CEO of the company to make sure that the essence of what we created maintained the integrity and message behind the original logo art in a more contemporary manner.
A third and final example is our work with medical device company Electromed, which needed to create a strong, sustainable brand identity as it transitioned from startup to a multimillion dollar IPO. During that time, we handled every aspect of their marketing, advertising and branding to ensure that they were perceived as being in the same league as the huge medical device companies they needed to compete against.
When we produce events, we don't see much value in putting together infomercials. In other words, we don't believe people come to our events to hear a product pitch. Instead, we work hard to put the right experts in front of the right audiences to create an opportunity for everyone to benefit.
As an example, we worked with a medical device company to create seminar series that offered continuing education credits and focused on using technology to solve a particular health problem. The company's product was discussed, but so were alternative methods. Some in the company were skeptical that this educational approach, rather than a hard sell, would produce results, so the ROI was closely tracked. In the end, the events proved so successful that they were increased from quarterly to monthly, and the company's sales went from about $3 million to $20 million in a few short years.
Another client in the manufacturing space worked with us to produce a multiple city seminar tour. They wanted to pay for the entire production, but we encouraged them to bring on additional experts to make the event more valuable for attendees. They ended up bringing on partners who helped split the costs of the series while also adding value and attracting a wider audience. Again, the focus was on getting the right experts to answer questions rather than promoting a specfic product.
Finally, we worked with a client in the financial industry that wanted to get in front of women who hadn't traditionally felt comfortable with financial planning. We helped them develop an event that also brought in a major health organization and fashion-related groups to create a finance, fitness and fun theme. Ultimately, we received feedback that people who would never have attended a straight financial event came and afterward took action to work with a financial planner.
What all three of these examples have in common is strategically planned events that provide valuable information to the audience and showcase our clients' expertise - rather than pitching their products. A lot of event management companies can take a client's order and execute it. What we think sets us apart is our ability to work with a client to take their idea to the next level. That's why our motto is: "We don't just plan events ... We plan to astound!"
After 20 years of producing events, we’ve had our fair share of experience with Murphy’s Law. We know that every show we host will include something unexpected. That’s why we go into every event as prepared as possible - so that when we are thrown a curveball, we can react and ensure a seamless experience for our attendees.
One of the most serious issues that can happen at an event is a medical emergency. Several years ago during a large financial conference for more than 2,000 people, our executive producer received word in her earpiece that two medical emergencies were happening simultaneously.
The first emergency was a heart attack onsite, which made our first priority getting the EMTs the information they needed to get to the right spot in a large convention center as quickly as possible. We stationed staff along the route to help guide the paramedics to the patient.
At the same time, we received word that another attendee’s parent had just had a stroke and been taken to a nearby hospital. In this case, our focus was on finding the attendee and immediately scheduling a car to bring them to the hospital so that they would not need to drive in distress.
And incidentally while these two emergencies were happening, we were also on stage stalling for a keynote presenter who had mixed up the time of their presentation and had yet to leave the hotel.
Unfortunately, this was not the only time we have dealt with a medical issue at a large event. At another large conference, an attendee suffered a heart attack away from her home city, so we made arrangements to get her to the hospital, got her things transferred from her hotel, communicated with her family, and helped arrange their transportation. It’s not something most people think of when they picture the role of an event producer, but part of the job description is being prepared to act when there is an emergency.
Our own staff has been affected as well. A few years ago, our director of events suffered a death in the family and had to leave in the middle of a major event. Fortunately, we create detailed master documents, which allowed other members of the team to step in and pick up her duties.
Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11, and for The Event Group it was no different. On that day, we had a conference opening in Nashville with attendees from around the world. When air travel was shut down, we had exhibitors onsite and about 30 percent of the attendees had arrived. Other attendees were stuck at various locations around the globe. In the midst of all the confusion, we had to make a decision about whether to move forward with the event. Our client’s initial reaction was to cancel it. However, there were a large number of people who had already arrived and couldn’t leave. Additionally, the client had opted not to take the insurance we recommended, and thus exhibitor and sponsor money would have been refunded, literally bankrupting the client.
Instead of cancelling, we counseled them to go forward with the event, which involved an emergency phone call with the board. We set up a command center to provide hourly updates on what was happening. Behind the scenes, our staff in Minneapolis began securing alternative methods of transportation for people to get out of Nashville.
After the event, attendees provided feedback that they felt connected and care for because of the way the event was handled.
In these situations, our goal is to remain calm and create the best possible experience for the audience while getting people the help they need. In each of these cases, our client was glad to have a professional event company onsite who was able to address the emergency without derailing the event.
As events grow larger, they inevitably grow more complex. Fortunately, after 20 years we’ve been through it all.
Take the 3M Global Symposium on Digital Dentistry. For that event, we had to produce a four-day symposium made up of meetings, tours, VIP receptions and dinners. The registration process included building out a custom registration database, extending electronic VIP invitations and coordinating travel from 42 countries. Logistics included hotel rooming lists, audio-visual needs, coordinating food and beverages, busing, and speaker rehearsals.
All that is hard enough, but another thing that can add a layer of complexity to an event is hosting it Internationally. At The Event Group, we’ve dealt with this challenge numerous times. One example was the International MedTech Symposium at the University of Hertfordshire, which was designed to spotlight the University’s Medical Technology Innovation Centre and the opportunity for industry and academia to work together on new business concepts. The event was hosted in London but drew attendees from seven different countries. That involved a lot of planning to provide the attendees with a smooth experience and coordinate tours of the new facility, but in the end it provided great exposure for the university to a large audience.
On the flip side, The Event Group also produced the MedEdge Conference, which was hosted in the U.S. but drew 127 speakers from 20 countries. Similarly, that event involved coordinating tours to accommodate a diverse audience and ensuring that it all went flawlessly.
Another production that required major planning skills was the American Bonanza Society conference. This four-day event brought together 1,000 attendees and a couple of hundred aircraft, all of which were landing within hours of one another. It required continuous transportation from the airport to the event for attendees arriving on both private and commercial aircraft, and then transportation back to the field to allow attendees to check out the planes throughout the event. Whew!
If you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to get tripped up on these kinds of logistics, and a failure in any one area can lead to a less-than-successful experience for attendees. As your events grow more complex, our team can help things run smoothly for you and your audience.
After 20 years in the event business, we know it takes a lot of passion to get an event off the ground. Sometimes that passion comes from volunteers, who devote the time and energy to bring their vision to life.
If they're successful, they often encounter another challenge. As an event increases in scale, they no longer have the time or resources to manage the added size and complexity while maintaining the event’s quality.
As an event management company, we’re here to help. Sometimes volunteer organizers are initially reluctant to hire outside assistance. However, by doing so they get access to professionals who are able to focus fully on making the event a success. For volunteers, life or work can intervene and put everything else on the back burner. For us, your event is our 9-5 job, and we have backup when team members are out. We are also well positioned to negotiate costs based on the buying power of producing multiple events. Those factors result in increased growth as well as savings of both time and money that typically more than offset the investment.
A good example of this occurred early in The Event Group's history. On Dec. 8, 1997, we were hired to help produce the 1998 WomenVenture Conference. Up until then, the event had been run by volunteers from WomenVenture and a small internal staff.
When TEG signed on, no venue had been contracted, no keynote was secured, and it was scheduled to take place on May 8, 1998 ... leaving just six month to put everything in place. In that time, TEG was able to find and lock in a venue, secure keynote speaker Dr. Maya Angelou, and bring in nearly 2,500 attendees for an event that had previously attracted 700 people.
It was also the first year the event featured an expo, and TEG recruited 90 sponsors and exhibitors for a record-breaking fundraiser. What had been a good event became a great event, and everyone who partnered on it, including lead sponsor American Express, was happy with the results.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) produced their annual conference, Remodelers Edge, for five years using volunteers and in-house staff. To take it to the next level, TEG was brought in to handle all aspects of the event: marketing, sponsorship, registration, and all event management and logistics.
TEG's goal was to grow the event in attendance, sponsorship sales, exposure, and profitability, allowing NARI staff to focus on their job requirements while utilizing volunteers for their connections. During our time working with the event, we were successful. TEG doubled attendance numbers, increased attendance revenue by more than 250 percent, and sponsorship and advertising revenue grew from $6,000 to more than $115,000 in three years.
The Event Group not only grew the event in numbers, but also initiated additional value-added events, such as a series of smaller VIP receptions, dinners, and entertainment along with numerous seminars and an exhibit hall. Over a three-year span, the event grew so significantly that it was bought by its competition, JBL Live.
In the beginning
The opening line of The Event Group’s first press release read: "Our Mission is to creatively design and promote professional, top-quality events that provide the ultimate in satisfaction and add business and personal value to attendees at a reasonable cost."
At the time, our CEO Eileen Manning had spent 16 years working with meeting and conference management, planning, design and production for a Fortune 50 company. Striking out on her own, Eileen believed she could use her experience and network of professional consultants in the field to drive results for her clients.
The Computech! Computer Expo
The Event Group's first event was ambitious: a five-city computer expo designed for small businesses and individual users. It brought together hardware and software makers, Internet providers, Web designers, and others to discuss Internet use, marketing a business online, building a business network, buying a computer, computer security, and other of-the-moment technology issues. This first event foreshadowed TEG’s continued involvement with technology events, which continues today with the Cyber Security Summit, Robotics Alley, and others. We are proud to say that at that time, when few businesses had websites, we had already launched plantoastound.com.