One of the reasons our clients tell us 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 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 any other type of event!
Whether it's a small executive breakfast or a conference for hundreds, there are some essentials that apply to all events. Long before we discuss logistics, there are three key areas of any event we start with: Objectives, Audience and Timescales. It is often the assumptions made at this stage that affect the whole event going forward.
Objectives, Audience and Timescales
These three are much more closely related than people allow for and it is an iterative process to align these often competing foundations. For example, every client has a number of objectives their event needs to achieve – lead generation, customer awareness, relationship building and so on - however your audience don't know this. When thinking of your target audience, ask yourself how they might respond to your objectives.
And while timescales naturally include the time we need to plan and execute your event - although sometimes we make miracles happen - they also refer to how long you need to effectively deliver your message AND whether you have enough time to really communicate to your ideal audience. For example, executive diaries are often filled up months in advance so short-notice events for executives can be difficult.
Put yourself in your delegates' shoes
And then 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 sales and communications strategy?
AUDIENCE - WHAT VALUE DO WE REALLY OFFER THEM?
- 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/month/year to do this?
- 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?
- Do I really have time to get my target audience? Can I send out a diary placeholder?
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.
The best lessons from the best events
Having asked and answered these questions many times over, we have certainly learned some interesting lessons:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.