Events are a common part of most companies’ marketing and communications mix, but how often can any of us say that an event we planned or attended was anything more than ordinary? Sure, it may have been good, maybe even great. But did the event surprise and delight the people attending? If you’re one of the fortunate few who has hosted or attended a killer event, good for you. Now tell me… how exactly did the firm hosting the event benefit?
Right off the bat, events are expensive. Whether you’re paying for transportation and lodging or just presentations, some meals and a few social or networking gatherings, you will be spending a lot of money. You need to know how that investment has performed. With careful planning and a deliberate focus on your audience, you can establish benchmarks for success that justify the expense and set the stage for consistently superior performance.
There are a lot of good reasons for hosting events…
Internal events for employees only:
• Good news about acquisitions, business results
• Bad news of any kind affecting multiple employees
• Company Honors/ Employee recognition
• Policy change announcements
• Leadership changes
External events – for clients, prospects, friends & neighbors:
• Introduce new leaders or client facing associates
• Introduce and educate about new products or services
• Entertain and engage (should always apply to the above)
• Attract referrals
• Thank vendors and friends
• Build community and share best practices with fellow professionals, centers of influence and friendly competitors
All of these occasions present the event planner with an opportunity to build affinity and engagement with the event’s guests. If the attendee is an employee, success can be measured by employee retention, recruitment referral rates and their willingness to act as an ambassador for the firm. If a client or a prospect; then in assets gained, accounts opened, referrals and (again) ambassadorship. Here are five tips for making your event all it ought to be…
Honor the brand
If a senior exec will not be actively engaged in planning the event, use or hire an experienced event planner with a personal style that reflects the company’s brand and sensibility. Even if you have decided on an event that will be a little out of the box, the person who is making choices and directing providers will need to see the world the same way your company and its leaders do.
Really know your audience
Depending on your guests’ relationship with the firm, understand why they are there. Put yourself in their shoes and talk about ways to provide an experience that they might choose for themselves, whether it’s entertainment, education (a wine tasting or cooking class), or has a decidedly corporate agenda, look for ways to make your audience happier or smarter.
Don’t assume expensive means excellent
In season one of NetFlix’ excellent House of Cards, a formal fundraising dinner hosted by Claire (protagonist Frank’s wife) is unexpectedly displaced, pushing the elite audience of Washington dignitaries to an outdoor venue with last-minute catering provided by Frank’s favorite barbecue rib joint. The event is a smash. Of course, surprise was the key in this scenario. Whenever you can, look for ways to surprise your guests and don’t assume another expensive meal and open bar will do the trick.
Make your event providers your partners
Throughout my career, I have gone out of my way to know and connect with the people who will be bringing my event to life. It doesn’t matter how meticulously I have planned if the execution is flawed. Get to know the names and responsibilities of everyone who will affect your guests’ experience. Make sure they know you and give them the information they will need so you’re all in it together to knock your guests’ socks off.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Understanding that you have set expectations for the event (new assets, better employee engagement) all the event’s programming and presentations need to serve that objective. I recommend establishing a theme for the event that leadership and speakers understand and embrace. They should then organize their comments and visuals around that theme and make sure all presentations are polished and transitions are seamless. At this stage, you’ll be glad your “partners”, the Audio-Visual technicians, are standing by to make sure technology is not the problem it often seems to be.
Follow these tips and your next event will be the best you have ever hosted. More importantly, you’ll have more than anecdotal information to help measure the effectiveness of the event. With this in hand, you can confidently commence with the process of making each subsequent event better than the last.
By Michael Morrison
Michael is a Portland, Oregon-based CMO with Chief Outsiders, serving B2B, B2B2C and B2C companies across the U.S. with branding and marketing strategies to accelerate growth. Email or phone Michael at 406-868-9179, or connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.