How to create direct selling event experiences that boost engagement and make memories.
Direct selling distributors don’t just go to industry conventions. They experience them. Our conventions feel more like rock concerts—roaring crowds packing stadiums, lights and video flooding the floor, music and motivational messages pumping through towering speakers.
Ninety percent of companies that responded to a 2017 Direct Selling Association poll said they host an annual convention, and half said they host more than five salesforce or customer events each year. These events are our most powerful tool for connecting with and building belief among our sales teams—and staying connected is critical in a channel sustained by volunteer sales armies. It’s easy for them to drop us for another opportunity, whether it be a direct sales company that does a better job of engaging them or one of the gig economy hustles that have become stiff competition for us.
So, just like you need to keep your training fresh to keep recruits on board, you have to make sure your events are strategic and on-trend and that they follow industry best practices. Whether they’re casual local meetups or major national conventions, the most successful direct selling events in 2020 will be distinct from anything an attendee has experienced before. They will be well-planned, compliant, strategic experiences that immerse distributors in a company’s brand and create engaged, raving fans.
Local Events First
To generate the energy that makes an annual event buzz, hold a series of local and regional events that educate distributors about your products, connect them with other distributors in their geographic area and inspire them with messages from company leaders and experiences of those who have risen in the ranks.
Florida-based health and beauty company MONAT holds “Meet MONAT” events all over the United States and in the United Kingdom that provide information on the science behind and the ingredients in the products as well as the company’s culture and business building opportunities. At Nu Skin’s upcoming regional event in Sydney, Australia, attendees will hear from the company’s regional president and Nu Skin’s Chief Scientific Officer/Executive Vice President of Product Development.
Local and regional meetings also should give distributors the steps and motivation they need to meet business building goals that will earn them recognition at the next national or international convention. The prospect of receiving public praise from top brass can be a huge incentive for highly motivated distributors. “We try to incorporate as much recognition as possible on stage at our events,” says Stephen Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at Kannaway. “Giving away rewards and acknowledging achievement is just more fun with a crowd of peers cheering you on. It builds community and helps every rank feel appreciated.”
The Big Show
All roads from local and regional gatherings should lead to the annual convention, where direct selling companies should literally and figuratively shine the brightest. With savvy branding and high-end production, companies can reap the rewards from their event investment long after the stage lights go out.
The convention experience begins the moment an attendee buys a convention ticket. That’s when they should be downloading your event app, says Erik Johnson, president of Orlando-based KATAPULT Events, a direct selling event production and management company. Event planners have been thinking about the convention for months, but attendees haven’t. “They booked their flight a month ago and haven’t looked at the agenda until they’ve given the kids to the babysitter and are on their way to your show,” Johnson says. “The more people you can get engaged to download your event app, the easier it is to do push notifications about the event.”
“Giving away rewards and acknowledging achievement is just more fun with a crowd of peers cheering you on. It builds community and helps every rank feel appreciated.” —Stephen Jones, Chief Marketing Officer, Kannaway
As soon as distributors arrive in the event city, they should be surrounded by reminders of why they’re there. For some companies, this means buying billboards and other signage outside the hotel and convention space, even putting chalk art on the sidewalks. “We are always thinking about the distributor’s experience,” Johnson says. “We never want them to leave the brand.”
The latest trends inside event venues are all about smart technology and social media sharing, experts say.
Data collection is more critical than ever for measuring an event’s success while managing attendees’ experiences. “Event stakeholders will expect event planners to use event data and attendee feedback to improve their return on investment and reach event objectives,” says a recent Event Manager Blog (EMB) report.
RFID wristbands are a great data gathering tool, Johnson says. They can provide the precise number of people who were in a room when a particular announcement was made, for example, and they can be programmed to allow an attendee last-minute access to an after-party or other experience, he adds. Also, while people are mingling and moving in between sessions, videographers and interviewers can be capturing attendees’ thoughts and feelings about the event for clips that make great social media fodder during and after the convention.
Speaking of social media, the more Instagrammable your event is the better. KATAPULT-produced conventions are filled with “photo booths on steroids,” as Johnson calls them. In these high-concept spaces, distributors can take selfies with colorful, oversized company-branded props and set pieces. At a recent convention for MONAT, KATAPULT built a 10-by-20-foot area with a slew of empty MONAT hair care product bottles made to look like a rain shower.
The general session arena is where the magic really amps up, planners say. High-tech elements such as interactive social walls that display attendees’ hash tagged social posts in real time and centrally programmable light-up wristbands adds excitement and emotional energy to the convention.
The next big event tech things will be virtual and augmented reality, and some companies are already using it. For example, Canadian company ARHT Media provides hologram technology that can digitally place a speaker or performer on a stage on the other side of the planet. Tony Robbins used this technology in front of an audience in Australia a few years ago.
“The more people you can get engaged to download your event app, the easier it is to do push notifications about the event.”—Erik Johnson, President, KATAPULT Events
But don’t do AR just because all of the cool kids are doing it, cautions trade magazine Event Marketer. “Consumers can see right through gimmicks these days, and if there’s no real strategy behind your use of the tech, it’s not going to resonate.”
Make it Matter
Strategy and substance have to permeate the event for it to make the difference you want it to make. So experts advise companies to blend celebration and education, leveraging attendees’ excitement and attention to deliver critical business information.
“The biggest mistake most companies make at events is that they think they are just there to have fun,” says an ItWorks! executive. In fact, making friends and having fun is only part of the equation. “When people leave our events, they don’t just leave with a good feeling that they had a good time. They leave with a specific goal, a specific path, and a very simple system for how to achieve that.”
At MONAT, “training and events go together,” says President Stuart MacMillan. The Florida-based health and beauty company always incorporates product and compliance training into its convention schedules, as well as a full day of personal development sessions with A-list motivational speakers such as former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, storytelling expert Kendra Hall and leadership guru John Maxwell.
Compliance is top of mind at BELLAME Beauty conventions, too. Every Partner who is going to present on stage receives a “Cheat Sheet of Phrases to Delete,” says CEO & Founder Melissa Thompson. “We also ask speakers to prepare and review their comments with us weeks in advance, so that rehearsals are not the first time we are hearing what they intend to share.”
Proof of Purchase
Lots of workplaces have quarterly staff parties, employee of the year award dinners, maybe an occasional sales training meeting at a fancy hotel. But few industries combine all of these things as often and on the same scale as the direct selling industry does. We roll out the red carpet like it’s our job—which it is. We need to recognize the work our teams have done in ways that let them know their hard work has been worth it.
That means earmarking a smart but ample amount of money for all of your events and incentives (about three percent of annual revenue for all of them each year, Johnson says) so that you can incorporate the high-level features that will make the event memorable and make distributors proud to be aligned with your company.
If you’ve scaffolded, strategized and funded your events well all year, by the time you fling open the doors to your national gathering, you should have a crowd of consultants who are totally captive and ready to see and hear proof that what they’ve bought into is real.
Earth Friendly Events
By Heather Martin
As events go greener every year, things like printing less and reusing and recycling more have become standard practice.
To reduce your carbon footprint even further, consider expanding your event attendance without requiring everyone to hop on the highway or a plane in the first place. Platforms like Facebook Live put people in virtual, earth-friendly seats and extend the reach of your convention message.
“Every BELLAME event will be live-streamed,” says company Founder and CEO Melissa Thompson. “Not only is this the best way for our Partners who could not attend to participate, this is the best way to showcase the energy and culture of BELLAME for potential prospects.”
Eliminating meat from the menu is another increasingly popular move to make events easier on the environment, according to Event Manager Blog, as are sustainable materials such as recyclable or digital signage, water stations and recyclable silverware.