Events are quite possibly one of the most time-consuming activities a business – big or small – can run and so often result in an almost black or white result of “hit or miss”.
Regardless of whether the event is a small local fair, an intimate dinner for key prospects, a conference for a few hundred people or a tradeshow for thousands of delegates, there’s a number of golden rules to getting an event right.
These rules are surprisingly simple to follow, yet failing to take appropriate consideration can result in a seriously disappointing result.
If you’re looking to run an event yourself, one of the hardest tasks you’re faced with is the “recruitment” of attendees e.g. getting people to attend it. No matter how well defined your event maybe, you still need to ensure that you get the right people there to give yourself the best chance of hitting your goals.
Likewise, if you’re attending or supporting an event run by someone else, then your goals will likely be around sales or lead generation – very much linked to attendee engagement again – and the results of this will absolutely define whether you come away with success or not.
An event of any kind does take a significant amount of time and resource (and often money) invested into it and whilst events can offer a business a fantastic platform for face to face engagement, they can often be an expensive disappointment.
So what are the key rules or principles behind making an event really work?
- Set goals and objectives before you do anything. Now I’ve personally been in a number of situations where the suggestion of running an event to try and help boost sales has been put forward. Quite often though, that suggestion hasn’t been based on a clear understanding of the targets, audience and the market and a determination as to whether an event is the right activity in the first place. It might be that actually when you really drill down to setting goals, that maybe something else is a better fit. Maybe a social media campaign, a digital programme, a promotional campaign or something else – regardless it’s important to determine your goals well before you choose your activity type. You can read more about this in The Entrepreneurs Marketing Manual to learn more.
- Think from the perspective of your attendee. It might seem obvious but if you don’t focus clearly on what value the attendees to the event will get from it, the chances are you’re setting yourself up for failure. It doesn’t matter if it’s your event or a 3rd party’s; the most important factor in any event is the attendee and ensuring they get the maximum amount of value from their engagement. If you’re thinking of running an event of any size for your business, the first thing to think about is always “what will the attendees get from it?”. Ensuring you focus on this at all times helps you to not just deliver a great event, but also ensures your attendee felt it was worth their time (and/ or money). Similarly if you’re supporting/ sponsoring a 3rd party event like a fair, tradeshow or conference, then attending with a delegate orientated mindset is key. Thinking “how can I get the most sales from this” is going to stifle your ability to really connect with the attendees, whereas factoring in why a delegate might attend, what value you can offer and what you want them to come away feeling or thinking, will make a much bigger impression.
- Plan, plan, plan. It might also seem like an obvious part, but creating a plan for how you’re going to approach any event is absolutely essential to it running smoothly and achieving its objectives. If you’re running an event yourself, then ensuring you’ve got the maximum amount of time to deliver is the first thing that’s key – you’ll be surprised, particularly if you’re relatively inexperienced with events how much time they take up – to success. Figure out how long the tasks you need to achieve for the event might take, add 20%, and then build out a calendar. This doesn’t have to be complex and could just be a simple document that details key activities to do, the time they take and then a simple map of execution up to and after, the event. Keep referring back to and updating this plan regularly as you go and you’ll find that not only do you maximise the impact of your event, but you’ll discover more opportunities to add value – and limit problems – as you go.
- An event isn’t just a single moment in time. Let’s say that you’re considering exhibiting your products at a local fair or exhibition. In that instance you’d think that the only thing to think about is just what your event presence or “stand” will look like, what you’re going to put on it and how you can draw people in. Wrong. By thinking this way and only focusing on the event day(s) itself you miss a really big opportunity. What can you do to engage with attendees to the event before the day? Can you promote and talk about things on social media, by email or in other methods? How can you ensure that people not only know you’re going to be there, but encourage them to come and see you when they get there and create some positive desire to do so? If the event is your own, then think about the attendee experience before the event itself and how will it impact things. Look at the communications and promotion before the event and explore ways to add more value and maximise the positive experience they’ll get. What can you do to ensure that their journey to the event runs smoothly, that they come with clear expectations and help build a relationship between your company and them?
- The show isn’t over just yet. Hopefully your event goes smoothly and you can look back, delighted with its performance and the results it created… but that doesn’t mean that it’s time to stop! The post-event activity can be one of the most important aspects that can truly make or break events of all kinds. If you promised to send an attendee some information afterwards, ensure you do it promptly and effectively – connecting a month or two after the event do nothing good and only lead to a lot of wasted effort; ensure you follow up promptly. Look at other ways to continue the dialogue and the relationship with the attendees or contacts you made from the event. Whether it’s finding ways to capture contact information for follow up calls or email communications, using social media or anything else, don’t stop the dialogue! The more you can do to have a clear “next step” after the event, the better it’ll return for you. Better still, if you can define another activity in advance – maybe another event, a promotion, a meeting or whatever is appropriate – and proactively use that during the event AND after the event to communicate, the more easily you can create a great customer journey.
Now these aren’t the only factors that make a great event, but if you can keep these 5 principles in mind, you’ll find that any event you do can return much more for you. Events can take a lot of time and effort and without planning and preparation, can sadly lead to disappointment and wasted investment. However, if you keep these rules in mind with any event, you can create a fantastic platform to get in front of key customers and prospects and build an environment that delivers great returns!