How to Get the Most Out of Events

Some smart tips from our event planner as you approach event season.

As event season approaches and you begin to prep for Rezfest (including keynote speaker and President of Phocuswright, Simon Lehmann), we're sharing an article that originally appeared in VRM Intel magazine. This article was originally written by Alexandra Anwyl-Davies, the HomeAway Software Event Planner. If you've been to RezFest before, you may know her as Mary Poppins. 

Every year, I organize HomeAway Software’s annual conference, RezFest. It’s one of the largest events in the industry, bringing together property managers, suppliers, and thought leaders from all over the world to learn and network.

Over the years of organizing RezFest, I have discovered a group of attendees that we now call “power attendees.” They’re the ones who make seemingly hundreds of new connections, somehow manage to sit in on every session, and leave the conference with dozens of new ideas to incorporate into their business.

Why are they so successful at events? Because they know that events follow the adage “You get out what you put in.” Here are three ways you and your team can “put in” to get the most out of events:

1. Prioritize events.

Power attendees recognize that not all events are created equally. They know their limited time and budget should be used strategically to support their core business objectives, whether that’s new relationships, ideas, or solutions.

Is your team working with a new tool or technology? Product-specific training can help you more quickly realize the promised greater efficiency or lowered costs. Many of these training sessions are inexpensive one-day events with designated time for questions and individual guidance.

If you’re hoping for solutions to a specific local concern, regional events can be a great resource. Other VR managers operating in the same geographic area are most likely to encounter problems similar to yours, and the smaller environment gives you more opportunity to speak with your peers one-on-one.

National events are the best source of information that affects the industry as a whole, including changes in the legal landscape or new technologies that can improve operations. They also provide great opportunities to meet new vendors or maintain relationships with your existing suppliers.

2. Budget for the most opportunities.

Events often pay for themselves in new ideas that improve operations and boost the bottom line. Power attendees recognize this potential and maximize their time and money by budgeting for the most opportunities.

What does budgeting for the most opportunities mean? That you are prioritizing funds for team members who stand to benefit the most or events that will yield the most productive results.

Sending team members who can benefit most from the event may mean you send those who experience the business problem you’re trying to overcome firsthand. They’ll be able to clearly explain the problem to their peers and consider feedback to find the best possible solutions.

Bob Oakes, President of Village Realty and Management Services, budgets for the most opportunities by sending team members who can learn the most to events. This includes new hires, for whom a three-day conference is the best orientation he can provide, and team members who are working together for the first time and need to build a relationship.

Networking hours are invaluable. Receptions and happy hours, where you can share your experiences and listen to those of others, can be the most productive hours of an entire event. Food and drink costs for networking events are typically not included in registration, but one idea from an opening party can return significantly more bottom-line value than the price of two cocktails.

Karen Bobe, owner of Sunset Properties, says that speaking with peers who share similar challenges and victories can be priceless. Bob agrees, pointing out that events are a great place to find VR managers who have come up with creative solutions to the same problems you’re facing. 

3. Remember to recap.

Power attendees understand the importance of formally discussing new ideas with their entire team. After attendees return to the office, schedule time for a wrap-up meeting where teams share what new ideas can be applied to the business.

Karen’s team does this religiously, discussing everything from customer service standards to revenue-generating opportunities. She says that every event her team has attended has yielded an economic advantage or new way to handle customer service–and that the financial gain they see over time covers the cost of attendance.

What you “put in” to an event determines how much you (and your business) get out of it. Whether you’re planning your quarterly budget or hoping to pitch an event to your supervisor, stick to the three rules of power attendance to ensure you’re getting the most out of each event: prioritize events that support your core business needs, budget for the most opportunities, and remember to recap with your team.