As Our Events Pivot, So Do Their Names; Give It a Little 'Process'

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
—William Shakespeare

Unlike Juliet’s rose, names do matter in marketing, especially in today’s new normal. We know that everyone is pivoting their events to virtual but they’re also renaming them.
 
So InfoComm became InfoComm 2020 Connected. VentureBeat’s GamesBeat Summit 2020 took on a subtitle: Dawn of a New Generation. Farm Progress, an Informa division, just pivoted their big event to Farm Progress Virtual Experience or FPVX. Meister Media just concluded their BioSolutions Africa VIRTUAL—it had the subtitle: Timely Transformation for a Changing World. And for their 23rd Annual EMACS - The Customer Experience Conference in October, Chartwell added this tagline: “Same conference. Same content. Same dates. New virtual home!”
 
Of course, new events with new names are also being developed. Access Intelligence’s Cablefax has one coming up next month titled Telehealth in the Virtual Age. No doubt where that tree is firmly planted. The same goes for BVR’s Fair Value Measurements Amid the COVID-19 Crisis. I believe their recent Divorce Conference is so popular that they only had to put “Virtual” in front of it. I'm sure you could guess that it was supposed to be in Las Vegas.
 
Here in Washington, D.C., the NFL football team has a decision to make about a new name, and by the time they're taking, you would think the planet depends on it. Names like the Red Hawks, Warriors, Hogs, Sentinels, Justice and Red Wolves have been bandied about with no quick conclusion in sight. (Admission – I worked for them for six years many moons ago, and the name was an issue then.)
 
One of the country’s leading minds, Stephen L. Carter—a Yale law professor and author of several novels including The Emperor of Ocean Park—wrote a recent column for Bloomberg about Washington’s name change that is well worth reading. He concludes that “naming is not a choice but a process, and in that process power relations are constantly shifting.” 
 
That may be a bit high-minded for this discussion, but it does provide a valid point. It’s important that your decision is treated as a process and not just a quick choice. In most cases, these pivots are being made months in advance so the new name will be around for a while. Should it be tied into other things that you’re doing? Should it be something that can stick in a future hybrid event?
 
Coming up with catchy names can be tough but also rewarding. Speaking about events a couple years ago, Dorothy Jones, CEO of J Star Marketing and former CMO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, said one of the biggest challenges that meeting designers face is that there are currently four different generations in the workforce. (Are there five now?) "This will require you talk to these four groups of guests in four very different ways based on their preferences," she said.
 
The same can be said for names. What's clever and engaging for one audience group might be less so for another—which I’m sure is what the Washington football team is finding out now. But when a catchy name works, it can add a lot of value. I’ve written before about Informa’s Esca Bona conference which means good food in Latin. They’ve even used it as an adjective—"Esca Bonacentric education (i.e. food accessibility, urban farming, and food tech).”
 
Learnapalooza, an event staged here by long-time SIPA member Columbia Books & Information Services through their Association TRENDS label, focuses on training and education for association employees. When I once complimented CBIS's president, Brittany Carter, on the name, she laughed and humbly said, "[That] was my only contribution. I love names—you'll never get the marketer out of me.”
 
I just got off the phone with Chuck Buck, a publisher at MedLearn Media. I’ll be writing more very soon about some great things they are doing in these tough times, but I was immediately impressed by some of the names he has given to their features: Monitor Mondays is a podcast that just celebrated its 10th anniversary; Frontline Friday has given voices to doctors at the heart of the pandemic; Stay at Home Kids has given others an important voice; his latest is The Saturday Post, taking us back to another era.
 
These names matter.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…