“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” — Walt Disney”
Planning and executing a successful event is not as daunting as it may seem. Yes, there may be a thousand moving parts you need to coordinate, all while balancing a less-than-fabulous budget and meeting a tight deadline, but I can tell you from personal experience—including more than a decade of putting out fires and delivering countless successful events—that it CAN be done and it can be done WELL.
Over the years, I have discovered that there are three indicators of a successful client event, and they all center around one thing…the client. Simple, right? Here they are:
- The right people are in the room.
- Their experience before, during, and after the event is memorable and positive.
- They leave the event wanting to come back for more.
So how do we get all of these things to happen while delivering an event on time and under budget? There are five key elements behind the scenes to get extraordinary results. I could write a novel on each of these elements, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll just give you the summary:
1. The Why: The very first step in event planning, before discussing when, where, who, and even what, is to figure out WHY you want to host an event. What do you or your firm hope to gain? Here are some examples of the Why: new business development; strengthening existing client relationships; increasing brand awareness; internal staff/speaker development.
2. Audience Targeting / Content Curation: Next is the big question of WHO. Figure out who you want in the room and be specific! If you have a clear image of your ideal audience, you can design your event around their interests. Understand who your attendees are and what keeps them up at night. Warning: be careful not to lose sight of why you are hosting the event in the first place. Of course, you want to present yourself and your firm in its best light, but you also want to provide valuable information that your audience can use. It is a delicate balance that should not be taken lightly. If your Why is to increase brand awareness for your firm or to promote a specific service or product you provide, then, by all means, do not leave this out of your presentation, but be sure to present information that is useful to your audience, as opposed to a straight sales pitch. For example, by presenting a case study of a successful project where you solved a complex problem, not only are you educating potential clients on how to execute a project correctly, but you are also indirectly presenting yourself or your project team in a positive light, as problem-solvers and thought leaders. Not sure what to present? Do your research. Find out what your target audience wants to hear about. What other events are they attending? What are the hot topics that your industry is discussing today? Do you have the inside scoop on what’s coming next? Attendees love to be the first to know about new technology, new industry trends, market shifts, etc., so if you are the one providing that information, the odds are in your favor that you will fill the room.
3. Marketing Strategy/Event Promotion: Of course, it is difficult to fill a room if nobody knows about your event. This is where the marketing strategy comes in. There are countless tools and technologies to help you reach your targeted audience, so depending on your budget and resources, you can map out an appropriate event promotion strategy. No matter your budget, however, you should always follow this rule of thumb: do not fall victim to TMI (too much information). Be very strategic in deciding how many times and through which channels you plan to touch your potential audience. In an age of information overload, you need to stand out with concise, catchy messaging that appeals directly to a specific audience sector without bombarding them. Lay out a clear plan as to how and when you will reach your audience and what your messaging will be. Also, the more consistent your branding and messaging are, the more recognizable your events will be, especially if you plan to host more than one event.
4. Logistics: Here’s where the ‘thousand moving parts’ comes in. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a huge fan of color-coding. Bringing order to chaos gives me my greatest sense of fulfillment in my professional life. This is why logistics is so important to me. You cannot pull off a successful event without precise coordination and organization. The more organized you can be going into an event, the more likely you’ll be able to maintain control throughout the entire process. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using templates, checklists, and frequent reminders. These tools are essential to help you keep track of the large number of tasks involved in executing a successful event of any size. Be organized and consistent and use templates. Do this and you’ll find that you can repeat the process more easily for all your events.
5. Follow-Up / Knowledge Sharing: So you’ve pulled off an amazing event. Now what? What good is hosting a great event if the audience forgets about you two days later? It is so important to include a follow-up strategy in your initial event planning process. Establish a plan to reach out to your audience after your event with a call to action, be it asking for feedback about the event, offering more information on a topic that was presented, or even offering the opportunity to discuss a topic further by providing contact information. Ideally, you would not only get attendees’ feedback to help you improve future events, but you would also get them to engage with you, your team, or your firm. Speaking of follow-up, do not let your speakers’ hard work go to waste on just this one event. You can re-purpose and reconfigure the content of their presentations into several formats, including blog posts, white papers, marketing collateral, topic briefs, and even presentations at other conferences. This way, you ensure that you maximize the output and extend the life of the valuable information that was shared at your event.
In the end, if you establish a clear strategy and follow it, and if you are precise in your execution, you will find that extraordinary results are possible!