Event planning: Two words that can put even the most seasoned marketers on edge. Planning events can be exhilarating, overwhelming, frustrating, and unbelievably satisfying. The mixed emotion stems from one single, unavoidable predicament — events occur at a singular point in time. We plan for months or even years to execute the perfect series of events at a specific point in time, and after all that time spent planning, we only get one chance to pull it off.
I know the feeling of butterflies in my stomach all too well, whether from working in the event space on a day-to-day basis with clients or hosting some of our own high-profile events. Whether it’s a monthly company town hall meeting, a customer appreciation event, a creative demonstration, or the continuous trade show circuit, I’m responsible for all of them. Fortunately, along the way, I’ve managed to distill some of the necessary ingredients that make the great events stand out. In planning your next event, make sure to include:
1. Content…so much content:
Content is the heart of every event. It’s a broad term that includes a few categories, such as story and messaging, communications, and the visual look and feel. Whether you’re putting on an event for entertainment or corporate communications, the point is to share some type of content and make connections. Ensuring you have a content strategy put together goes a long way toward perfecting an event. Not enough content will make the event seem too light, but too much and you risk losing the audience.
The look of the content also plays a pivotal role. We’ve all been through the thousand-words-per-slide PowerPoint presentation, and there’s nothing more boring than sitting through slide after slide as they’re read verbatim. For corporate or ballroom events, don’t overlook the moderator. Selecting an energetic and entertaining persona helps make for a memorable experience.
Content is probably the piece of event planning you’ll spend the most time and energy on, so to help it have the biggest impact, it often makes sense to hire experts. After drafting your written messaging, have a copywriter work through the details. Further, bringing in a graphic designer can really make your visuals come to life.
2. Sensory experiences
There’s nothing wrong with a meeting that focuses on a keynote presentation or a trade show booth with a simple pop-up backdrop, but you miss out by not having ancillary experiential elements to support your event. Details like an introductory video (think dimming lights and boosted audio) immerses the audience. Lighting can also be an inexpensive way to add sensory experience, such as subtle light cues that change through the program and keep the audience members interested in their environment instead of their smartphones.
3. Connection back to your brand
It may come as a surprise, but we see a disconnect between the event and the brand on a fairly regular basis. The root is generally a lack of branded content around the event space, but it’s especially noticeable in sensory experiences that don’t tie back to the brand. Often, people end up remembering the attraction instead of the story you’re attempting to tell.
When you do make the smart decision of including visual stimulation, make sure you put some thought into how these elements tie into your brand and the narrative you’re creating. Otherwise, in addition to requiring an extra investment, they’re doing more harm than good.
The perfect event requires frequent communication with your audience: Send messages promoting it in the weeks leading up; provide an event schedule while it’s ongoing; and continue the conversation after the event with the goal of capturing leads and new business. The entire purpose behind an event is sharing a message, so it’s crucial to ensure the channels are open for the distribution of these messages.
Plan out communications well ahead of time, including emails, on-site signage, or app information. Add to the list as it feels relevant, even if it’s during the event. If you think your audience members are missing information, they probably are.
Pulling off the perfect event usually offers immediate opportunities to address. After speaking, you might have a line of people waiting to ask questions or inquire about a project, or your trade show booth might bring in your target audience for a more in-depth conversation. It’s not always the case, however, so don’t be surprised if you need to nurture leads after the event to develop sales. As long as you have a successful event to break the ice and initiate a dialogue, you’ve done a good job using event marketing to further your business.