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360 Live Media is an event strategy and digital marketing agency in Washington, D.C. serving association, professional society, and not-for-profit conferences.
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Otter Talk begin again

Begin Again

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I’ve been planning events for twenty years, and one thing I know is registration. I’ve been working registration since we had to transpose paper forms that were sent in via fax. I helped to build new online registration systems. I’ve set pricing for new events. I can quote policy left, right, and sideways. I know the implications of GDPR, the applications of if/then logic, and how to create groups and paths and tickets. I’m very confident in my event registration knowledge.

 

So, when we started working with a client to help them set registration pricing for their new event I didn’t hesitate. As we divvied up work as a team, I took the lead from our side, and did a pretty good job. And as others from the team made suggestions and recommendations, I listened, but I was always ready with an answer for why things had to run a certain way. After all, no one else had the same level of experience that I did.

 

And then we had a meeting where our marketing team wanted to present some pricing strategy to the client. Honestly, I was doubtful about what we’d be able to do. But we have a very impressive team, so I decided to shut up and listen.

 

And y’all–I was blown away. Not only did she present some great suggestions, the logic and strategy behind her recommendations solidly aligned us with the client’s needs and helped us all to deliver a better product.

 

With all of my experience and policy and logic and paper cuts from name badge stuffing, I had never really looked at registration pricing through the lens of a marketing campaign. Sure, I’ve done discounts and tiered rates, but not with intention and research behind it. Quite frankly, I had been lucky with the success I had, and my instincts were good enough to deliver results. But I had not strategically thought about registration pricing as marketing.

 

Reflecting on the meeting I realized that I didn’t even see that I was struggling with something that we ask the organizations we work with to do all the time–look at their events through a new lens. To allow for new possibility in something that they are experts in.

 

This is similar to the concept of “beginner’s mind” in Zen Buddhism. When you cultivate beginner’s mind, you approach the world with an attitude of openness and eagerness, and no preconceptions. Even if you are an expert, you study with fresh eyes and no expectations. And this is how you uncover new things.

 

But it is really hard to realize when you are caught up in your own expertise. So, I’ve been thinking about how I can keep bringing a beginner’s mind to my work. Here are three tips that I have learned:

 

  • Breathe before you speak. I’ve been working on taking an intentional breath before I respond or comment. It’s both a way to slow myself down and also a way to create space for someone else to speak.
  • Expect others to bring great ideas. If you look at your team as the place where the next great thing is coming from then you approach their contributions more eagerly. You set yourself up for better collaboration because you are open to learning from your colleagues.
  • Ask yourself “what if…” The same person on the marketing team who impressed me with registration had taught me another tactic a few weeks earlier. We were trying to solve a communication problem and she said, “let’s approach this as if email didn’t exist.” It forced us to look at the whole situation in a new way, by removing something that we had been using as a crutch. If I had approached our registration conversation with the mindset of “what if we didn’t have to worry about policy,” I would have seen the options we had to create more compelling campaigns.

 

The whole experience was very valuable to me, both as a reminder for how we can continuously improve and also providing new ways to access my creativity. And now I know that when I think I’ve reached the end of my knowledge I should intentionally begin again.

 

P.S. That super smart marketing person, her name is Jaclyn Vann. She’s a great recent addition to the 360 Live Media team. Learn more about her here!

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As a Certified Association Executive (CAE) with 10+ years of experience in nonprofit and trade association marketing, Jaclyn has first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing associations. She’s led organization and product rebrands, certification and event launches, website redesigns, and AMS and marketing automation software selection and implementation.

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