DIY Online Event Software Helps MBA Roundtable Market Its Program
- Annual event helps attract and promote membership
- Ennect gives attendees additional payment options
MBA Roundtable (www.mbaroundtable.org) Executive Director Carleen Kerttula had a dilemma on her hands when planning this year's annual event: how to go to market. It came down to "do it yourself" or "build it yourself."
The MBA Roundtable is a unique organization that brings together what some might consider to be competing organizations to openly discuss the design and delivery of graduate business programs. In the private sector this is called 'co-opetition.' In the higher education world, it's a way to advance the practice of management by delivering information and resources relating to graduate business program innovation to member schools worldwide.
Each year the organization draws together top MBA (masters of business administration) deans, assistant deans, and program directors to share their experiences and insights. The 2010 MBA Curricular Innovation Symposium, hosted this year by the University of Virginia's Darden School, will focus on curricular innovation as a strategic imperative for MBA education. The event will include case studies, networking opportunities, keynotes and panel discussions featuring speakers whose schools have gone through curricular innovation and the processes they followed. For the first time, attendees will be able to participate both in person and virtually. There's also a follow-on day of trips to nearby historic sites like Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Presenting this mix of event options to attendees created a challenge for Executive Director Kerttula. "We needed the flexibility to provide tiered pricing options for members and non-members who chose to attend either in-person or virtually, combined in-attendance and virtual package pricing, and follow-on programming. Plus, the Darden School needed to know about special needs like dietary restrictions," said Kerttula. "The MBA Roundtable's current website has an event registration feature built in, but it is difficult to fully customize. By the time we paid a programmer to redo it, it still wasn't going to give us the immediate flexibility that we needed to promote the fall symposium. And it was going to be costly and time consuming."
Instead Kerttula turned to Ennect. "I was already using Ennect Mail so I was familiar with the company's products, but I was still skeptical that Ennect Event was going to give me what I needed," she said. "I was concerned that I could give it the look and feel I wanted. It had to look professional and it had to mirror our colors. And I was concerned with the amount of time it would take me to get it done. I was cautious as it's sometimes hard to get the level of desired customization with these kinds of programs. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Ennect Event is very comprehensive. I love the product for that reason."
Ennect Event—A Comprehensive Solution
Kerttula, who created the MBA Roundtable event registration site herself using Ennect Event, says bluntly, "I'm not a programmer and I don't know HTML, but I know what I like. What's frustrated me in the past with these types of systems when I've experimented with them… and what I really liked about Ennect... is it all fell into place. It was easy for me to do. For example, I could easily find how to change the colors. The other thing I really liked was that it was easy to create your own registration fields. I looked at other systems where you could only collect certain kinds of information, but Ennect let us customize fields. So that was another benefit."
By using Ennect, Kerttula was able to offer attendees a one-stop registration process. "In the past we've used multiple systems to collect and disseminate all of the information we needed for event registration which wasn't particularly user-friendly. We don't have to do that now. It's all in one place on the Ennect registration site," Kerttula says.
Using Ennect also gave attendees an additional payment option. "We haven't traditionally accepted American Express payments. Using Ennect enables us to offer this as one of the payment options. This was an added benefit given that a number of our member universities use AmEx corporate cards," she explains.
Ennect's comprehensive reports also saved her a lot of time. "In our own system, when someone registered, I'd get the information in email format. Then I'd have to input that manually into Excel. Now I can just download the registration information directly from Ennect and I'm done," she says.
Branded Event Helps with Member Recruitment
One of the other reasons Kerttula was concerned with having a world class event registration site is that she uses the annual event as a way to attract and build membership.
"What's frustrated me in the past with these types of systems when I've experimented with them...and what I really liked about Ennect...is it all fell into place."
"There's quite a bit of interest in our organization because of the event. Attendees come because the topic is of interest in terms of planning for their own schools' futures and because it gives them an opportunity to network. With our tiered pricing, I can show that membership almost pays for itself. So we use the event to drive membership. Sometimes people will look at an organization like ours and say, 'Wow, that's great.' But they still may not join. The event is something that's tangible and that makes it easier for us to promote the organization. Our renewal rate is high, so this is a great hook for us to get and eventually retain new members," Kerttula comments.
Bottom line: Kerttula estimates it took her six-to-eight hours to set up her entire Event website including the home page, program highlights, speaker descriptions, special tour event, accommodations, and one-stop registration. "A lot of that was creating and writing the text," she says. "If I'd have had text to just cut and paste, it would have taken a lot less time. And the second time I do it, it will be a snap. For the amount of money and time I'm saving using Ennect, it's been well worth the investment."
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