One of the reasons our clients tell us that they like working with us is that we are very open with them. They include us as part of their team and we each share our experience and specialist knowledge. In this first of a series of articles I’d like to share some of our “secret sauce” – the things we focus on that make our events so successful. In reality, these are mostly common sense lessons that we bring to the party, or whatever other type of event we’re engaged in!
While every type of event has unique success criteria – something I will cover in future posts – there are some essentials that apply to all events, be it an executive breakfast or a conference for hundreds. There are three key areas before we discuss the Logistics of any particular event: Objective, Audience and Timescales.
Every client has a number of objectives their event needs to achieve – otherwise they wouldn’t be running it. Often it’s only the business objectives that are explicitly stated – lead generation, customer awareness and so on. We highly recommend getting everything on the table. When thinking of your audience, ask yourself how your objectives determine your target audience and how your audience might respond to your objectives. Timescales really refer to two separate timelines – how long do I have to plan and execute my event; and how long do I need to effectively deliver my message? Take some time to answer these questions!
Objective – What message do you really want to deliver?
- What do we want our audience to think/do/take away?
- How will we achieve this?
- How will our stakeholders judge our success?
- What are our KPI’s?
- How does this event fit into our overall strategy?
Audience- Who am I trying to influence and why?
- Do they have the influence or authority that I need (to achieve my objectives)?
- Do I (really!) have a relationship with them? At the right level?
- How might they view our relationship?
- Do they know us? Do they value us?
- How do we make contact with them?
- Do we have accurate data?
- How might they respond? (and if you think that means the RSVP mechanism then think again!)
Timescales- How long do I have?
- What’s the minimum time I need to achieve my objectives?
- How long can I keep their attention? How do I keep it longer?
- What’s the best time of day/week to do this?
- When is the right time to run this event?
- How does it fit in the business cycle? Ours and theirs!
- How does it fit with holidays and other events?
- How long do I really need to create and run this event?
- How long do I actually have to create and run this event?
The secret in all of these is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential audience and answer honestly from their point of view. Understanding the real answers provides the foundation of a great event; ignoring them can undermine the outcome of even the best run events. Having asked and answered these questions many times over, we have certainly learned some interesting lessons:
- 1. The lack of agreed KPI’s can bring into question even the most “successful” events. If sales were expecting “hot leads” and you over-achieve the objective of new enquiries then both groups are disappointed.
- 2. Audiences can leave the best events confused by the messaging. Sadly, they rarely tell you that no matter how assiduous we are in gathering feedback forms! Stick to one or two clear take-away messages and leave them with your call to action.
- 3. Audience numbers rarely makes up for quality of contacts. If you’re paying to seat, feed and water the wrong audience, we probably ran the wrong event. Perhaps a smaller, more targeted event would be more effective. That’s why we ask so many questions!
- 4. Contact information is always more out of date than you think, especially for executives. In fact, while we’re talking about executives, executive relationships take time, effort and pro-active planning by everybody, not just salespeople. Think carefully about the value of their time – it might put the cost of your event in context. I can feel a whole blog coming on about targeting execs!
- 5. An invitation should be only one small step in a structured contact plan. It shouldn’t be the first time your invitee has heard from you. They may still accept but see point 3 above.
- 6. It all takes time – much longer than you think and usually much longer than you’ve got. At Chill Out! we’re used to responding to tight deadlines and often pull off the seemingly impossible. But even for us, our best miracles may take a little longer.
All of which brings us to “Logistics” where we really start to consider the event proper. In future posts I’ll consider the planning and delivery questions crucial to different types of events. But by addressing the questions here honestly and carefully, you can at least be confident of the success of your current event, whether you ask your audience or your stakeholders.