All events, regardless of size, should create a memorable experience for everyone involved. Larger events with more moving parts can be daunting. Below is a quick overview of some things your organization should consider when deciding to invest time and money into hosting an event.
Step 1: Develop Goals With Care and Collaboration
Bring together your key stakeholders to clearly define goals for the event. Aligning goals early in the process is critical, as the desired outcome will shape the entire event strategy from venue selection to content and sponsorship opportunities.
Goals should consider: budget, revenue generated, and the effect on the organization’s other programs.
Step 2: Hire an Event Planner
Event planners are not created equal. Do your homework when hiring one under any capacity, whether the person be an in-house employee, a contractor, or hired from an event planning agency. A good event planner should save your organization money, protect your organization from costly errors, and enable your organization to build on the event(s) they are responsible for. Many organizations incorporate conference planning as one of many duties required of an employee. While this approach can work, more often it will cost the organization more money than it will save.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur” Red Adair
Step 3: Venue Selection
The venue selection process is one of the most critical elements of event planning that often doesn’t receive the consideration it should. This can become costly for the organization if things should go awry. The most important factor when deciding on a venue is the ability to truly partner with the venue.
Three elements to consider:
Is the venue being flexible with the contract negotiations? The contract needs to be a beneficial agreement for both parties. A one-sided contract is a huge red flag.
Establish expectations – This should be outlined and agreed upon, prior to the start of the conference.
Contract breaches – Time, money, and stress are often the biggest consequences of a contract breach. The most critical factor when thinking about contract breaches is to understand how the venue views them and how they have been solved in the past.
Step 4: Provide Real Benefits to Sponsors
Across industries, conference sponsorships often follow the same format: tiered levels with ad hoc or al la carte options. Ad hoc items typically include break sponsorships, tangible giveaways, etc. Ad hoc items should be unique and memorable, resulting in a sponsor being able to differentiate from the other sponsors.
Ideas for ad hoc sponsorships:
The sponsor prospectus should be available a year before the conference’s start date. This gives your potential sponsors the opportunity to secure a sponsorship with the current and upcoming year’s budget.
Lastly, when sponsors feel they are getting the ROI, they are more likely to invest in future events and other initiatives the organization has to offer.
Step 5: Secure the Right Attendees
Attendees are the heart of a well-established event and can make or break future programs. Attendees should be able to easily identify the value proposition of the event based on the marketing they receive.
If the targeted attendee needs to maintain continuing education for their job or a certification, gain the appropriate authorization to provide credit.
Compelling session content. Is the content relevant? What are the key learning objectives?
If you have multiple demographics attending the conference, consider multiple education tracks.
Networking opportunities should be varied and easy to attend. This should go beyond 15-minute networking breaks.
They should be free of outside distractions. Ensure the venue doesn’t have any other activities planned that will impede on your attendee’s experience.
Help attendees justify the funds their companies spend: Outline why they should attend and don’t forget to include attendee extras like flight discounts, attendee sponsorship programs, etc.
A well-planned conference will yield a much better ROI, avoid pitfalls, and allow for all of those involved to focus on the experience. Using the steps outlined above will result in a conference with a strong foundation that can grow and make an impact on those involved.