At Maribeth Smith & Associates, Inc., we have a fairly systematic approach to event planning. Every detail needs to be analyzed and accounted for. Your reputation as an event planner is at stake from the time an invitation enters your inbox until your final expenses have been paid. Here are a few keys to a successful event, regardless of whether you are hosting a fundraising gala, a rodeo, a business meeting or a birthday bash.
- Be Punctual — Do you know why people wear radios at events? It’s so they can make on-the-spot adjustments. Event 101, which many fail, is that you MUST start and end your program on time. This includes advance planning meetings. If you are hosting an annual event or even a monthly meeting, your attendance will suffer if you cannot stick to this fundamental rule. Punctuality is respectful to your guests and your presenters. If needed, be prepared to make last minute adjustments to ensure this happens. It’s your long term reputation at stake. Your guests will appreciate it.
- Be Brief — Find a way to tell your story in the shortest way possible. People appreciate brevity. Minimize the number of speeches and don’t allow for redundancy at the podium. Use video where possible; it is amazing what you can share in a few brilliantly edited minutes of video. Even when it comes to a keynote speaker, there can be too much of a good thing – especially if it is keeping your guests from getting back to work or eating their dessert. Remember, people don’t complain when conferences or events end early.
- Be Unique — Challenge your team to think outside of the box and to incorporate ‘moments of impact’ throughout the event. Everyone has received a traditional welcome bag at registration full of sponsor collateral and had the chicken and mashed potatoes for lunch. Incorporate a WOW factor into the normal anticipated elements of the event or add a surprise entertainment or interactive component. Create a ‘buzz’ about the event.
- Be Hospitable — After hosting a series of international sporting events and large conventions, we heard a similar theme about what makes Indiana so great…the people! Have an army of smiling staff support. Use people to greet and provide directions. Overstaff your registration areas and your catering “team.” Train your staff with event information and make sure they are easily identifiable in uniforms or name tags. Great service with a smile lays the groundwork for a positive impression of an event. Don’t forget to say goodbye to your guests and thank them for coming as they leave.
- Be Responsible — Make sure your revenue and expenses are in line with your financial goals. Have a clear, attainable plan to reach your revenue goals. Structure sponsorships in a way that builds exposure for sponsors without significantly costing you to execute. Pursue sponsors at levels that cover your anticipated expenses. Remember, your reputation is at stake and if you start cutting expenses, you may be sacrificing your ‘first class’ event status. Your event leaves a lasting impression and should be considered an investment in your image for the long term.Even if you cannot implement all of these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you are delivering to your members.