Top 10 Things to Do in Chicago in the Spring

Well Chicago, it may only be February, but we’re already starting to see sunny skies with temperatures reaching as high as 70 degrees. With weather this beautiful, we’re all thinking the same thing: Spring is just around the corner. Overwhelmed by all the possibilities? Fear not! We’ve got the top 10 things to do in […]

Integrated Tech for Event Success

Today we’re very excited to share a guest post from Brian Kolb of Wright’s Media. We’ve collaborated with Brian on the event app for Content Marketing World over the past few years and it gets better every time! We always walk away with a new insight or idea after talking to Brian (and usually a few laughs too!) Today on the FLIRT blog Brian is sharing his tips on how to successfully integrate technology into your events. Take it away Brian!

Integrate Tech for Event Success

You can have a jaw-dropping splash page, seamless registration system, brilliant email campaign and every early bird discount gimmick known to the civilized world, but filling the seats at your event is only half the battle.

Let’s face it – anyone with a checkbook can throw a party. Yours has to pay off for your company.

So how do you assure that your event generates the desired return on investment? You’ve got to integrate technology throughout the experience, and that includes before, during and after the event.


First Things First

But before you hook up the espresso IVs for the creative team, determine what you want from the event. What specific results will be your definition of success? Here are a few likely measures:

Total Attendees from Each Target Industry

Number of Contacts Acquired

Number of Registered Booth Visitors

Total Appointments Held/Scheduled

Total of Sales Contracts Signed

Establish your goals and then focus on deploying tech. For 2017, there are several trends that, when integrated effectively, promise to fully engage and enthrall any group.


Augmented/Virtual Reality

These devices are now available at all price points ranging from $10 to the thousands, and everywhere in between. Of course, the real value with AR/VR is the ability to immerse anyone in any experience at any time without the dreaded airport or bus station shuffle. Product demonstrations, exotic travel destinations, extreme sports immersions – these can obviously have a huge impact on potential customers.

However, don’t limit AR/VR to just demos – think bigger. Before the show, how about getting some industry personalities to experience some alternate reality? If it’s great (and it will be, right?), they will be sure to blog, tweet, snap and more. Their followers will pay attention and share, creating awareness, excitement, and perhaps most important, credibility for your product. And all along the way, you will happily collect the contact information of new potential customers, increase your social media following, and generate earned media to be used across all marketing channels. Continue using AR/VR during the show to engage those who couldn’t make the event – it’s a natural for many products and services, and the company bean counters will be surprised to see that in most cases, AR/VR is less expensive to develop than transporting and setting up your actual equipment.

Mobile Possibilities

Remember the old days when you received multiple on-site reminders to turn your phones off? Not anymore! Now marketers want you “distracted” as long as they are providing the distractions. Get your audience involved – preferably long before the event even starts. Six or more months before, poll your audience on where they might like to see the next conference held. It is said that scheduling and location won’t make a winner out of a bad conference, but bad scheduling can kill a good one (for example, try not to compete with that big football game held in early February every year.)

How about an event app? You’ll have to be careful with these because many people won’t want an app to be used only with a single event, but again, use your imagination. These apps can remind attendees of special offers, networking opportunities, special guests, impromptu gatherings that weren’t on the program – you name it. These can also push polls to users that will obtain their opinions on any topic you want. How about letting your guests choose the last presentation topic of each day? That’s good service, people, and it will generate huge social buzz and shares.

Events Can Be Smart

Event apps can also deliver scads of data to you (be sure to get permission at download). Want to know where people are lingering? Interested in how the traffic is flowing? Curious why the same group of people seems to be walking by your booth? You will know. With real-time data you will be able to make all sorts of adjustments on the fly that will be immediately noticeable to your attendees. This ability to adapt will pay huge dividends on your post-conference surveys, and will boost your repeat business.

Make It Click

In today’s digital landscape, event planning isn’t complete without the integration of technology. From social media to mobile apps, from AR/VR to interactive technology – sponsors need to weave technology into every corner of their event. The result will be increased booth traffic, better networking opportunities, more lead generation and ultimately, a return on investment to make an accountant proud.

How do you plan to utilize tech at your events in 2017? What advancements are you the most excited about? What’s missing? Let us know what’s on your mind in the comments!



Super Bowl LI

So why are you watching Super Bowl LI? The game? The commercials? Lady Gaga? Just want to fit in? Well you’re in luck.  2017 has already been full of surprises and with Super Bowl LI just around the corner here are some things we can expect. The Super Bowl has evolved from a championship game between the two best teams in the league into one of the world’s largest marketing events. Not only have prices increased exponentially to air advertisement, but the types of ads are also ever evolving. We currently live in a world where if something is not talked about or posted on social media, it might as well have never happened. With a constantly changing world it’s hard to know what to expect, so here is your guide to everything you need to know about Super Bowl LI with the exception of the actual game.

  1. Cost and who is airing the ads?

As one would expect, prices have increased from $4.8 million to $5 million for a “30 second ad” from 2016. On top of the initial price companies can plan to pay at least a million or more to market the ad effectively. With “80 national commercial slots” available, we can expect to see a lot of familiar companies as well as some new faces. Companies such as KFC are airing their first ever commercial during the Super Bowl. Other companies such as Doritos, a long time Super Bowl contributor, is not airing an ad for the first time in ten years. We can assume to see many familiar faces such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Audi, GoDaddy, Intel, P&G, and others big name companies.

  1. The future of ads?

Super Bowl ads are notorious for taking the next step in creativity and thinking outside the box, just think about last years “Puppy Monkey Baby” ad by Mountain Dew. This year Snickers is not only taking their ad to the next level, they are bringing it to you live. Snickers will be airing the “first ever live TV ad” during Super Bowl LI. The ad will be performed and broadcasted during the first commercial in the third quarter. If live ads are not enough, what about virtual reality? Super Bowl organizers have partnered with NASA in creating a VR experience unique to the event. Individuals taking part in the activities surrounding Super Bowl Sunday have the opportunity to “visit Mars via VR“.

  1. Toilet Bowl? Social Media?

Super Bowl LI is already being referred to by some as the “Toilet Bowl“, and no it’s not because the teams are garbage. When thinking about Super Bowl ads most think of cars, beers, food, and more cars. 2017 took a different approach. This year is the first year ever that four household brands will be airing during the Super Bowl, reinforcing how surprising 2017 has already been. A not so surprising fact about Super Bowl LI is the “effect social media will have on the event“. Airing the actual commercial is only part of the marketing. The impressions, posts, conversations via Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, Youtube are what marketers are really looking for to create long term connections with the potential customers.

With that being said, we hope you have a splendid Sunday and let us know how you feel about the game in the comments below!


Photo Credit:

Super Bowl LI Photo via Wikipedia

Puppy Monkey Baby Photo via Ron White Design

Toilet Bowl Photo via The Malcolm Auld Blog

Social Media Trends

by in Best of the Web, Big Ideas, Event Design, News 

Digital marketers and #eventprofs alike can agree that our native langue is technology and we are fluent in social media. It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader that today’s consumers drive brand image – they are empowered to speak up and take part in the shared revolution that shapes and constructs product fandom, brand trust, and business success. In order to appropriately guide our clients, we must be well-versed in online communication because we are the connectors to the other side, between the corporation and coveted current and potential consumers. So please sit back, relax, and learn with us in our mission to unveil how to use social media trends to engage with your audiences.

  1. Live Streaming 

Human attention is a privilege because it requests your audience to allot special time for your message. With that being said, gathering the right event attendance in one, key location can be a little tricky. For some, flying to a sales conference hosted in San Francisco when you live and work in Chicago may not be the most convenient or realistic. What better way to engage remote audiences than through live streaming? Live broadcast videos allow coordinators to create an immersive and authentic story-telling experience with a personalized message. Think about it, it is the best way to amplify your event and content because you are reaching a target market of customers and employees who already “like” and trust the brand. It’s a great way to be all-inclusive and demonstrate that you care for the entire company, not just the selection of people who attend the event in person.

  1. Lenses and Filters

There’s a lot of interest surrounding the photo-sharing experience at events and conferences. Mobile apps like the renowned Snapchat and EventsTag help brands create 3D facial tracking lenses and filters that move and adjust to facial movements. It’s a modernized photo booth and Step and Repeat banner all in one without the set-up hassle, photographer, and plethora of props. Best of all, this trend is customizable. You can work one-on-one with designers who can help incorporate your logos and themes into one or multiple filter artworks. It’s an easy and engaging activity that can be made, printed, and shared by anyone on all social media outlets.

  1. Brand Influencers

Let’s switch gears a little bit here to exit the events and focus on brands physically on social media. We’re starting to see more and more “digital influencers” on outlets like YouTube and Instagram. You might be asking yourself, who or what is a digital influencer? Imagine the typical consumer, now picture that same consumer with an accumulation of mass followings across multiple social media networks. Much like a blogger, digital influencers build their following by focusing on a single expertise or niche like fashion, food, beauty and gaming. The influencer and his or her followers share a unified appreciation for said activities and build a fandom based on trust and amusement. Digital influencers drive real-time brand engagement and marketing initiatives because they are in front of the target audience. So, if you are hoping your brand obtains social media attention and presence, maybe consider contracting a digital influencer.

  1. Mobile Shopping

Multiple established brands like Kate Spade, JackThreads, and Macy’s are exploring Instagram’s recent mobile shopping update, which features taggable products that bring users to direct retail links for purchasing. It’s online shopping made easy, mobile users simply tap on the post to reveal products and their prices and then make the decision to act by utilizing the “touch to purchase” button. We’ve become so accustomed to wanting more products, information, and options in the moment, and this taggable little feature delivers desirable simplicity and immediacy. Furthermore, debuting this feature specifically on Instagram adds to the social shopping experience. Users can still comment and tag others like before, but now brands have the opportunity to use the platform to give product recommendations and take on global expansion.

This comprehensive list of notable social media trends is sure to grow as 2017 progresses. So, keep an eye out for new innovations that will help shape and mold the events and digital marketing industry, and if you discover something cool, send it our way. We’d love to hear from you!

FLIRT Stories: Part 3

by in Big Ideas, FLIRT Goings On, What We're Thinking About 

The end of 2016 is quickly approaching, but don’t go anywhere just yet because we still have five notable FLIRTies to introduce to you. We continued the interview process to discover motivation, career juncture, and ultimately, why FLIRT? Last, but certainly not least, we bring you FLIRT Stories Part 3:

norma-275Where in the world is Norma? New York, Starbucks, Orlando, a Cubs game, Cape Cod or is she out saving a squirrel as it desperately hangs onto a pink noodle in a pool? Known as wonder woman, not only for her ability to save animals in need, but also for her remarkable knack for seamlessly juggling roughly 700 projects while delivering superior customer service. Norma is responsible for producing events for multiple Fortune 500 clients all around the world, many of whom quickly become her personal friends. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Norma also doubles as an adjunct college professor and charitable animal rescuer. Her desire to assist those who are less fortunate is among Norma’s most endearing qualities. Well, that and her quirky puns and intelligent wit (*wink*). This experienced leader has a no-fear approach and air of humble confidence, both of which consistently earn her notable recognition from her clients, students, and fellow FLIRTies.

  1. Finding FLIRT: How did you become a FLIRTie?

“I was introduced to FLIRT by Paul Petan. We talked about technology, the industry, and I fell in love with his vision. Then of course when I met the team, I fell in love with them too.”

  1. What advice do you have for an aspiring event professional?

“Don’t do it,” she laughs. Norma continues, “I would actually say, don’t take things so seriously or personally. Events are meant to be fun, educational, and an experience for the attendees, so enjoy the creative. Learn all you can, have fun, and be graceful when things do not go your way.” She smirks, “It’s not brain surgery.”

  1. What’s the best memory you’ve had at FLIRT?

“The best memory, ooh that’s a tough one, there are SO many. I traveled with Pete and Paul to Atlanta to visit one of my clients. I was very new to the team and I was very new to traveling with Pete and Paul.” Norma continues, “The entire trip we laughed and had a great time. I would share more but, what happens in Atlanta, stays in Atlanta.”

  1. What was your favorite toy growing up?

She questions, “My favorite toy? I don’t think I really had a favorite toy.” (An intern reminds Norma that she gave the FLIRT staff tiny toys for the office Halloween party.) Norma continues, “It’s one of those things where I think kid toys should always be given as gifts, even as adults to stay youthful. As a kid I played with Barbies, Atari, Nintendo, kick ball…we used our imaginations and always had fun. It is always a reminder when I give fun gifts away that as we get older, we are still young at heart and we should never forget to have fun.”

kari_new_275In two words: Kari rocks! As manager and leader of production, she crafts creative teams and initiatives that meet clients’ needs each and every time. Kari is that really cool friend you’ve always admired, but are scared to be. She is a beautiful writer with a gracious soul and insane taste in music both new and old. We’re almost positive if Kari were given the chance to go on tour with Cheap Trick, she’d pick up and leave the office today. She is our fashionista, styling anything from a cool pair of Chuck Taylor’s to a thrift-store carrot-orange trench coat. She’s a foodie, groupie, and expressive leader—It’s just who she is and we adore her for it!

  1. How did you become a FLIRTie?

“I had been working with Paul and Pete Burns for 15 years. We decided to form FLIRT because we had a vision to start a company that had more strategic relationships with clients. We wanted to revamp the way we priced our services and also wanted to use some digital and experiential consumer marketing tactics with our corporate clients.”

  1. What advice do you have for an aspiring event professional?

“Find another career,” she jokes. “You have to really love working—It can be very demanding, but also very rewarding. Probably the biggest piece of advice is to be a good listener and a good writer [because] every aspect of the job involves writing.”

  1. What’s the best memory you’ve had at FLIRT?

“Oh my gosh. It’s hard to say,” she laughs. “We’ve had some great parties with friends, vendors, and clients. Certainly the Halloween Gathering where so many of the FLIRTies participate, and we’ve been to Sox games.” Kari paused and added, “The Creative Inspiration Lunches are really inspiring too and invite everyone to share creative inspiration and get to know each other.”

  1. If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?

“I would say my superpower is to find humor in everything, even if it’s not funny.”

michael-p-275If you hear a splash in the background of Monday morning’s conference call, it’s probably Michael fishing from his kayak (AKA “Lobster Dock”) in Maine. Michael is the creative engine at FLIRT, responsible for conceiving campaigns and experiences that excite and inspire audiences. Besides for being an expert designer whose digital graphics breathe life into ideas, this art junkie excels at large scale paintings that showcase the peculiarities in the wilderness, landscapes, and people of Maine. In our most poetic terms, Michael is an artist of the written words and painted canvas – a heroic combatant who is always up for challenging and leveraging traditional and nontraditional corporate communication.

  1. Finding FLIRT: How did you become a FLIRTie?

“My little brother, Paul Petan, asked me to join Kari, Pete and himself to launch FLIRT years ago. I had moved to Maine many years before for a novel full of reasons. Working ‘remotely’ back in Chicago and seeing my family is important, so I quit my job and jumped ship to give it a go. I had worked with Paul on and off for 25 years and as his older brother his job path followed mine, so I sort of opened doors, introduced, blocked and he ran with it. At the time of starting FLIRT, I was coming off 10 years in a very intense ‘consumer experiential agency’ as a Chief Creative Officer with clients like Nike, Sony and jetBlue who sort of demand better than good work. My goal was and is to bring that creativity, inspiration and intensity of great work to the somewhat safe and predictable world of ‘corporate communications.’ I fight this battle everyday, but it’s a fun fight.”

  1. What advice do you have for an aspiring event professional?

“Events and the expectation of ‘corporate events’ is shifting as technology, lifestyle, culture and the workforce shifts. An event can happen on Snapchat in your underwear or in a crowded big ass Hotel ballroom with lights, stage, sound, projectors and a bunch of people forced to sit in often uncomfortable chairs, but the common core is to make the event an experience that’s human, fun, personal, relaxed and comfortable. Removing roadblocks and all the stress and keeping the experience flowing with the ‘guest’ (attendee) at the center of it all. When do they feel rushed? When do they feel overwhelmed and when do they get it and when they do not get it! Plus, we need to ensure the Rally Cry is embraced and the key messages are in the language, image and tone of voice that the audience will rally around and support. If you’re aspiring you might have a degree in anthropology and psychology. That is what I tell people (who listen,) it is about orchestrating an inspiring human experience, but understanding what that means. Sadly, we often get blinded by ‘over listening’ to our clients, those few at the top with the corner office. Listening too hard to the obvious or as I call it the ‘laundry list’ often leads to an average experience—they tell you what to do, you write it down, you produce it, so do you want to be a waiter or the chef? We sometimes forget the guest in order to ensure the guy paying us, the ‘big-shot,’ is happy—That is the business, but you must also pay attention to the humble attendee, the WORKER BEE. The real skill is being able to ensure the C level clients’ ‘list,’ fits our guest mindset, the timing is right, and that the guest is open minded and willing to listen to the ‘message’—That is not easy. It is often about creating the right environment, the right attitude and the right tone of voice.”

  1. What’s the best memory you’ve had at FLIRT?

“I loved the Happy Birthday Video sent from FLIRT this year, loved it, it meant a lot to me. I work remotely so it is not easy to build memories over the phone or Skype. I spent the first 13 years of my early career (punk kid) as a Creative Director for corporate communications doing what FLIRT does now and always on the road on show site, but now I do not go on the road at all, Thank God. BUT, it’s the road trips and being with the team on show site where the lasting fun memories really happen, when things go wrong and when things go right.”

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

“Ernest Hemingway & William Faulkner.”

“Both men are giants in the literary world. Hemingway is a man I have patterned my ‘life around’—I need to be outdoors, hiking, on the water, in the woods, lying in the grass, fishing, writing and painting, or I turn into Charles Manson with a migraine headache. I’m a painter, but I also love writing and a few great writers—The art of the word on the page, the story, still blows my mind when done at this level. Both men drank, where ruff, where extraordinary individuals misunderstood. You meet them when you read their work, you can hear them think, drink and laugh inside the borders of a simple sentence.”

“Second runner up for meeting in history if it’s PARTY would be Picasso and Andy Warhol! I would love to be in Picasso’s studio on a good day in Spain, and he would not need to talk. Andy is my hero. Both men knew how to use ‘media’ and craft an ‘image.’ Picasso did it first, but Andy created a brand out of tin cans and cardboard boxes. Love it …”  

jamie-275It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s Fake Clark! Much like the real Clark (the loveable Cubs Mascot) Fake Clark is a superhero that can dance like no other and has the ability to incite joy and happiness in all Chicago 2016 World Series fans, even appearing on TV! Fake Clark also has a secret identity—Jamie Proctor. As our videographer extraordinaire, Photoshop wizard, and FLIRT Ambassador of Fun, every project that crosses Jamie’s desk it met with precision, speed and a bit of humor mixed in. When Jamie isn’t turning meeting and event videos into highly effective communication tools or whipping up corporate awards at the blink of an eye, she’s beating everyone at a game of Euchre or pranking her fellow FLIRTies.  

  1. Finding FLIRT: How did you become a FLIRTie?

“Craigslist.” (Blunt and honest, we like it, Jamie!) “Well it’s funny, I found it on Craigslist one afternoon, I applied, and then the next day the ad was gone. Later, I found it again linked from a temp agency.” She chuckles, “I guess FLIRT was told the temp agency had worked with me before, but really I just met them.” What drew her in was the way the ad was written, “It was so witty, funny, and creative—just in that I knew it was a company I would fit in with.”  

  1. What advice do you have for an aspiring event professional?

“I would say learning is the best thing—Learn as much as you can by experience and from your surroundings. When you guys (interns) come, listen, get in on meetings, understand what people want from you and figure out how to work with each other. Listen, learn, and uhh…love. Listen to your coworkers, learn from them, and love everything you do. You’ll never work a day in your life if you love it.”

  1. What’s the best memory you’ve had at FLIRT?

“I think my favorite memories involve creating fun videos with the FLIRTies. We’ve done a Cheap Trick performance, a Halloween film, our Happy video –  I love sending the videos out to everyone and making them laugh, especially the other FLIRTies who are out on the road at shows.”

  1. If you could change a movie’s ending, which movie would it be, and how would you change it?

“Noah would ditch Allie from The Notebook (2004) to pick me up in Chicago. We’d fly back to Seabrook Island, South Carolina on his private jet and be seen enjoying a bottle of wine and assortment of cheeses in his canoe on the lake as the screen fades to black.”

lyndaLynda is our newest FLIRTie – full of energy, confidence, and spunk! This competitive Latina is always down for game of cards and is eager to knock out weaker, less-skilled opponents (AKA Paige) to take her card-gaming skills to the next level. Don’t be intimidated though! Lynda is an absolute sweetheart, always willing to lend a listening ear or run a quick errand to CVS in Chiberian snow or unseasonably 60-degree sunshine. When she’s not answering the phones or befriending building, catering, and FedEx staff, Lynda is an elated newlywed at home with her two (soon to be three!) beautiful children. We’re so happy Lynda joined our staff and hope you enjoy learning about her as much as we have!

  1. Why did you want to become a FLIRTie? What do you think so far?

Lynda smirks, “I was voted Senior Class Flirt in high school so this union was truly meant to be!” She continues, “To be honest, I came across the opportunity by chance. To prepare for my interview, I read through FLIRT’s website and Paul’s Think Positive mantra had me at hello, and then when I got to reading individual FLIRTies’ bios, I felt an instant connection to the team. I fell in love with every character/person online before I actually met them, which is odd for me to say since I’m the only FLIRTie that doesn’t engage online with any kind of social media.

“I adore these folks and I think they like me too,” she smiles. “There are a lot of different personalities here; a lot of people from different backgrounds. I’m excited to see what I can learn from these guys for years to come.”

  1. What advice do you have for an aspiring event professional?

“Gosh, after being in this industry for nearly 15 years, there’s so much I’d love to say—Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, share your ideas no matter how big or small and always pay attention to details. Details are important and really matter in this industry whether you’re servicing clients or dealing with each other internally in the office. Details are always key.

  1. What’s the best memory you’ve had at FLIRT so far?

“Oh my gosh,” Lynda laughs. “A week before I started the job, I was invited to the Halloween Gathering and I got to see the FLIRTies display a fun side of themselves. Afterwards, I was invited back to the office for a beer, which was awesome.”

  1. What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

Lynda thinks while putting her hands together mischievously. “I’d probably go into the supply room and drink as much wine as I can until pass out.” One intern jokes, “Where’d all the wine go?

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from all of our brilliant FLIRTies—Thanks for reading along!