September 02, 2014
3 Keys to a Powerful Event Experience
by John Killacky
Another year, another convention. How will this year’s event be different? What can you do to bring fresh excitement and new energy? It’s not as daunting as it may seem. Take a deep breath. You got this.
When you focus on three important elements of your event, you can provide your guests (and even those who can’t come) an impactful, meaningful—and fun—event experience. Let’s start by identifying your event’s stakeholders and what’s important to each of them.
Your guests: Each consultant who registers for, travels to, and attends your event comes in search of something. Information, celebration, fun—whatever it is, they’ll take it back home with them, and it will affect their business. So it’d better be good.
Your organization: You have important messaging to deliver. That means what’s said, how it’s said, how it looks and how it feels to the audience.
Your boss: C-suite execs want to see that the number of attendees is robust, their enjoyment is obvious, the event is polished and effective, and the budget remains intact. No pressure.
Can all those objectives be met? Absolutely, when you focus on three simple elements: pre-event prep, fabulous recognition and social media.
The importance of thorough pre-event preparation can’t be overstated. Once you’ve determined the “skeleton” of your event—who, what, when, where—you can begin talking with production companies. You know what’s most important to your company and this specific event; ask the questions that matter most, and listen carefully when they talk about their experience. Have they worked with companies in your industry? What do they bring to the table that others don’t? What kind of people are they; what’s their corporate culture? How do they handle changes in direction, and onsite challenges?
Ask for samples of their work and references from other clients—and then take a few minutes to call those clients. And, do a gut-check: Would you enjoy working with them? This is a big decision; you’re entrusting the success of your event in large part to this company. Again, no pressure.
Let’s assume now that you’ve chosen an event partner that fits. Congratulations! Now, make full use of the partnership—that’s why you have them. Give them full access to your team and execs; being fully invested in the partnership will make your event even stronger. Ensure that they know your company, your mission and your execs (and what’s important to each of them). Collaborate with your production partner to create meaningful content. In your event “skeleton,” you’ve determined the direction, the tone and the look you want. Work with your event team to bring those concepts to life in onstage content, video and graphic support. Push them to make it everything you’ve envisioned. That’s their job.
One of the most important parts of an annual convention or an incentive trip is recognition—the sweet sound of applause (and their own name) as honorees take their walk of fame. What could be better?
Doing recognition right is so important! It’s exciting for the individuals being recognized, it’s aspirational for the guests watching the awards ceremony, and it’s a chance for your company to truly thank and honor those individuals who make you shine. Your top achievers are the face of your company to their customers; you want those faces to be smiling and happy.
Your production company should know how important recognition is to your audience and honorees, and make it a priority in pre-event planning. Creating a memorable experience start-to-finish for each honoree is important. It can—and should—be awesome from backstage to onstage. There are very real and very important reasons that they’re onstage. They’ve racked up incredible sales or sponsoring numbers. They’ve met goals, they’ve made new commitments or they’ve partnered with your organization’s charitable efforts to change the world. Whatever it is, they’ve excelled. And their moment in the spotlight should be all excitement, and zero stress.
Make sure your event partner takes care with each honoree so that they’re comfortable and know what’s going to happen. Where they’ll wait backstage, how they’ll know it’s time to walk out, who will escort them, where they should stand. The more they know, the more they can relax and enjoy the experience. And the harder they’ll work to get back onstage next year!
Also there’s this: Check, double-check, and triple-check that names are spelled and pronounced correctly. Amazingly, this doesn’t always get checked, and it’s a real downer for the honoree when that happens. Do whatever it takes to make them feel like the rock stars they are!
Pin, Post, Tweet, Share
Social media: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. You’ve used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your company’s website to drive attendance to your event. Now you’re done, right? Actually, you’re just getting started.
Social media can be a living, evolving, exciting part of your event, throughout the entire event experience. It seems appropriate to use a statistic now, so here it is: Nearly 75 percent of all Americans are actively engaged in social media, including your guests. Don’t tell them to turn off their phones—engage them!
There are many different social media platforms, and you should know those that your consultants use the most. Just think: Each platform is a new way to directly reach consumers, consultants and event attendees. You’re nodding your head. Yes, that makes sense. But few organizations use social media to its maximum advantage at their events.
Just about everything you do for event guests can also be accessed and enjoyed by those who couldn’t come. They’ll stay connected to the event and to your organization, and—fingers crossed—they’ll make sure they attend the event next year.
Post (and tag!) photos of new products, displays, field presenters and crowd excitement on Facebook. Keep your YouTube channel up-to-the-minute current with videos of the CEO’s speech, an amazing recognition segment, new product reveals and all of the excitement in the convention center hallways. You may want to consider creating an app specific to your event—for instance, the event agenda. It’s hip, happenin’ and green. All the cool kids are doing it.
Create a fun, interactive digital scavenger hunt in which attendees earn points throughout the event by “checking in” at different displays or sessions, or taking a selfie with a sales field leader, or scanning a product display. Draw for prizes on Twitter rather than on the stage. Have the CEO or other execs answer questions via live tweets throughout the event. Create an event-specific hashtag.
Sometimes social media is considered “anti-social” because we’re all looking down at our phones, clicking and scrolling. Done the right way, it can actually create a more communal experience at your event—and well beyond.
It’s a Wrap
So there you go. The three ways you can ensure a great event experience for your guests and a solid return on the investment you’ve made.
- Solid pre-event prep
- Rock-star recognition
- Effective use of social media
Do your homework, trust your event partner and enjoy building an event that’ll leave them more excited—and more productive—than ever.
John Killacky is Managing Director, National Sales & Marketing at Bartha. Bartha is a leading provider of high-quality events, production and staging for the direct selling industry.