“Good job I checked my emails before leaving,” said my partner Beth this morning as she prepared to set off for a conference about 100 miles away.
“Oh, why is that?” I asked.
“They’ve changed the venue,” came Beth’s response.
Yes, it was a good thing Beth checked her email before leaving but why did she need to? Not everyone has access to email 24/7, indeed not everybody wants access to email all day every day, and there will be those travelling to the same conference from further away who did not check their email before leaving and who are now obliviously on their way to the wrong place. The conference has not even started and already those attending are forming negative views of it.
A couple of years ago I was less fortunate than Beth. I was attending a conference in central London and set out early from my Nottingham home without first logging on. When I arrived at the venue I found myself among a group of about 30 disgruntled individuals all trying to find out why the venue was locked and what had happened to the conference.
Using my mobile, I eventually got through to the conference organiser who told me that they had emailed me the previous afternoon to let me know the change in location. The inference being that it was my fault I didn’t know the venue had changed at the last minute. I passed on the news to the rest of group and we headed off in search of cabs not without a few grumbles and moans.
The business community has become so reliant on email as a communication channel, it sometimes forgets that just because an email has been sent does not mean it has also been read.
What are the lessons for event organisers (and others in business) from the above examples?
Let’s start with a very simple (and hopefully obvious) one; ensure you have a contact mobile phone number for everyone attending. The mobile phone is the one business tool everyone attending your event will definitely bring with them and definitely check for messages on a regular basis. Even if the phone is switched off, you can still leave a message.
Of course, you can also still send the email but only as a back up to the phone call, and always request a read receipt so you have an idea who did not receive the message.
Also, why not place a member of staff or leave a notice at the (now wrong) venue apologising for the late change and giving directions to the new one?
The real mistake by the above two event organisers was not one of failing to communicate the change; it was one of assumption. Assumption that everyone checks emails when out of the office and assumption that no one had already left for the conference and could not check emails.
Then there was their assumption, probably unrealised because they had assumed an email was enough, that people would figure it out for themselves when they arrived at the, now wrong, venue. That’s a lot of assuming!
Yes, one email to a few hundred delegates is easier, more convenient than making several hundred phone calls to each delegate. Yes, not placing a member of staff (or a sign) to apologise to and redirect delegates from the wrong venue to the right one is less hassle.
But, and here’s the real lesson; if you organise events or operate in any other business it is not your convenience that is important. It is that of your customers. That is, if you want them to keep coming back.