Successful Events Are About More Than Flawless Execution
The Minnesota Chapter ofMeeting Professionals International hosted a full day of learning called iConnect. I had the honor of being the kick-off keynote and the "Conference Catalyst", but also was able to sit in on several educational breakout sessions.
Doug Chorpenningfrom the Wet Paint Group hosted an interesting discussion called “Don't Put Your Event Before Your Brand.”
His talk was thought provoking, as it pointed out that logistics are not enough for planners. Below is a mix of his shared ideas combined with my own two cents:
Event participants expect more for the conferences they attend than just flawless execution. They want an experience.
Logistics are a commodity, but we had to do everything we can to de-commoditize events. Everyone involved in the creation and delivery of events needs to be part of creating the story, long before they show up on site. Everything from the venue to the design of the invitation to the online registration system is part of the ambiance. (This couples with my belief that speakers are more than vendors hired to fill a slot, but instead partners in all aspects of the event!).
Those who are truly creative create things out of nothing, and planners need to always be thinking creatively, not simply building upon the same old / same old template. Listening to clients and being willing to invest in the right people, vendors, and materials is paramount to success. Yes, it can cost more money, but you cannot "Free" yourself into "Amazing". To create a "happening" you have to do things the audience does not expect.
Take a look at what people and companies in other industries are doing and seek ways to bring their use of creative technology into your event. Only looking at other conferences for inspiration brings about more of the "Cookie Cutter" events.
Social Media no longer seems "new", but the truth is that it is less than 10 years old. Discovering new ways to use these tools is still possible. The key is to remember that the most successful social media platforms are all visually based: Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc... Be sure you materials are appealing to look at, and create compelling content that goes beyond the verbal and written if you want to reach the heart of your audience.
Be willing to try new things, and understand that it is okay if not everything works. Without risk, there is little reward. People are forgiving when they know you are blazing new trails with their best interests as your motivation. You must be willing to experiment.
Tie your blog and other social media tools to the posts of your speakers, vendors, attendees, etc. Make it a community, not simply a way of you to push your message. Encourage all those who are partners to promote your event before, during and after the actual dates.
Remembering to put the experience of attendees at the forefront of all that you do in planning events is the way to getting out of the logistics mode and breaking out into the creative vista that we all crave to be a part.
The best planners I know have the right mix of detail orientation and big picture dreaming (you cannot be a successful event planner without an eye for detail!), but if you only cared about the logistics, your event might be blah (and nobody is seeking to attend blah!).