The event planning industry is becoming more diverse every day and the agenda of event planners is changing as well. The landscape of events is evolving faster than the latest smart phone (seems like something new comes out every 6 hours), with new trends and interactive engagement. However, in our experience of working with hundreds of event planners, a few things tend to remain constant for all events. We’ve put together a quick list of 6 key steps that all great event planners cover to ensure their events are a major success (highlighted by movie titles):
50 First Dates: Selecting a date (or dates) for your event is becoming more and more complex. In an effort to maximize attendance at your event, you need to consider a few different factors. Holidays – Make sure you don’t schedule your event around any major holidays that are taking place, also consider minor holidays that would have a direct effect on your target audience. Competition – Research what other conferences/events are taking place locally and nationally, especially those that are within your industry. Your event should be the best option for your audience to attend!
Road To Nowhere: Have you ever been to an event and thought, what am I doing here? We have. If your audience doesn’t have a clear understanding of why they are attending the event, it’s going to lead to mixed expectations and outcomes for everyone. You need to clearly define the purpose for attending the event, the value for your audience, and what they should expect to gain from attending. Whether you have a focus on education, entertainment, networking, meeting buyers/sellers, or whatever it may be, convey this in your marketing so that everyone is on the same page when coming to the event.
The Perfect Storm: Spring is right around the corner (hooray!) but we just completed the coldest February on record here in Chicago since 1875. Who in their right mind wants to come to Chicago in the winter?! Only kidding, it’s delightful here! However, when determining a location for your event, think about the outside factors of your conference, including weather patterns. If your conference takes place in the winter months, consider warmer locations that will draw a larger audience, as well as minimize travel burdens. A major factor for no-shows or cancellations is often due to the weather and while this is out of your control, the location of your event is well within your control. Snow, hurricanes, excessive temperatures, etc. should all be taken into consideration.
The Transporter: How are attendees going to get to and from your event? Is the nearest airport easily accessible? Is transportation within the city readily available? Do you have travel partners to transport attendees from major hotels throughout the city? If attending the conference becomes a burden for attendees, it is going to significantly hinder their overall experience for the event. Keep it simple for everyone!
Big(Fantastic movie!): There is no secret formula to determine the exact number of people that are going to attend your event but it’s imperative to get a close estimate. This is critical to planning out your event and selecting a venue that fits the size of your audience. You don’t want to end up in a 10,000-person conference hall with 3,000 people and you don’t want 10,000 people in a 3,000-person conference hall. Nothing says “this is a great event!” like having the authorities shut your event down due to capacity violations. Research similar events in your industry, as well as in the location that you’re hosting your event to get an idea of expected size of your audience. Look at past events within your organization and look at the content in your agenda to see how that has affected attendance at other events (i.e. – bringing in particular speakers, entertainment, etc.).
You’ve Got Mail: The ability to allow your audience to interact with you (the hosting organization) at the event and after the event is imperative to ensuring success moving forward. We strongly encourage you to put processes in place that enable you to collect feedback from attendees while they are at the event, as this is when they are most engaged and will provide the most quality feedback, be it good, bad, or otherwise. You can consider a customer service booth, an app, online/paper feedback form, or anything else that enables them to connect with you.
The follow-up methods should also be targeted to encourage feedback from your participants by making them feel that their input is valued, which it should be! If you have high-level sponsors, put together a different message than you would for other sponsors and inquire about different aspects of the event. In an effort to increase your response rates, customizing a follow-up message that draws directly on their experience with you and your event. If they feel their response will illicit change for future events, they are more likely to share that information with you.