Managing a single event is difficult enough. It requires foresight, planning, and flawless execution.
Annual event management is an entirely different beast. You can take all the aspects of running a single, one-off event and multiply the effort you’ll need to ensure the success of a recurring one.
While growing and sustaining a year-on-year event isn’t simple or easy, it also offers some advantages. If you tap into some of the strategies listed below, it will help you build an annual event that thrives.
Develop a comprehensive approach to event management and planning
Before you begin the process, you need a roadmap for success. Establish an approach to event planning prior to the start so you can maintain consistency throughout the process.
Here’s an example of an approach you can use when tackling your event planning process:
- Understand your business and objectives. If you don’t know where you’re trying to go with your event, you’ll have no idea how to get there. Know exactly what you’d like to get out of the event, as well as what you’d like to see your stakeholders gain from participating.
- Evaluate your content. Ensure that every deliverable you’ve developed for the event is consistent with your mission.
- Revise. Once you’ve evaluated your content, update it accordingly if there are any inconsistencies.
- Plan your roadmap. This is your plan for success. This is where you lay out your strategy, identify possible risks, write a full event manual, and determine any financial management considerations.
- Implement your strategy. This is where the previous steps culminate in three phases: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-preproduction is the planning phase, production represents execution, and post-production involves post-event review.
- Measure your success. Once you’ve held your event, engage in feedback to determine how well you met the requirements for your event.
Keep detailed records from past events
You can’t grow if you don’t have a baseline understanding of where you started with your event management planning. Keep detailed records of your annual event so you’ll know what to compare in the coming years. You’ll use these records to establish what you’d like to measure in the future to help improve your event marketing.
What types of records should you keep as a marketing manager? Essentially, anything you’d like to track or improve on. Some potential examples include:
- Number of event attendees
- Increases in organizational membership as a result of the event
- The number of sales for your products/services
- A step-by-step guide on how you managed the event
What you track will vary depending on your goals for your event or the key performance indicators (KPI) you’ve identified. It may also vary depending on your location: measuring the success of an event in North America will be different from the success of an event held in Dubai. But if you want to grow, you’ll need to track something to gauge how effectively you’re managing your event.
Your past event records can also help serve as foundational guidance for how to run your events in the future. You can build playbooks and operational guides with detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to manage your event. If there is ever turnover in your organization and the need to train new staff on how to manage your year-on-year event arises, having these records as institutional knowledge will prove invaluable for event management.
Learn from your mistakes
Despite your best efforts, it’s inevitable that mistakes will occur from time to time.
Missteps are unavoidable. What will help you improve your event on a year-on-year basis, however, is how you view those missteps. Don’t look at them as mistakes. View them as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Document any event management errors that occur during your event planning or execution process. Also, document how you went about fixing them. By keeping track of these, you can avoid repeating them in the future.
Listen to attendee feedback
You can seek counsel from any number of sources: your internal team members, expert consultants with a proven track record of success, or even colleagues from other organizations who may plan events that are similar to yours.
You can find value in feedback from all of these. But there’s another group of individuals who can help you tailor your user experience: people who have attended your event in the past.
Look at your past attendees as your most valuable focus group. They can provide valuable insight into what aspects of your event were successful and which ones weren’t. They can help you examine weaknesses that need improvement, but can also show you the strengths you need to highlight in your event’s marketing. They can report on what they found most valuable so you can promote that in future events (more on that later).
Your past attendees should represent your target audience. There’s a good chance that they’ll be the ones you’re marketing your event to in the future as well. Who better to help you tweak your practices going forward?
Stay up to date on the latest industry and IT trends
15-20 years ago, using a website to register for a conference would have seemed out of the ordinary. Now? It’s a routine component of most events. To grow your event most effectively, you have to be cognizant of trends both within your industry and in how to best communicate with your audience.
For example, as smartphones and mobile applications have grown in popularity over the last decade, having an app for your event is a way for you to better cater to your attendees. This helps you communicate more effectively with your users. You can meet them on the platforms they use and find most effective. The end result is a better event experience for them.
Staying ahead of the curve – whether that means through IT innovations or developments within your field – is critical to optimizing the user experience from your event.
Always improve on your value proposition
Your event agency has to offer some sort of value to the attendee in order for them to participate in your event. The type of value will differ depending on the type of event you’re hosting, but the need for value remains. What you provide in exchange for attendance is what is known as your event’s value proposition. To grow your event, you must always evaluate and attempt to improve your value proposition on a year-to-year basis.
This could mean developing new content, resources, or reasons for individuals to want to attend. This is important when you have repeat attendees. It’s not enough to offer the same user experience every year – there has to be a new, innovative element to make your returning stakeholders feel as if they’re getting something different from last year.
It could also mean targeting new individuals or organizations to invite to your event. This could help increase the networking opportunities for your new attendees, enticing them to return for the following annual event.
It’s not enough to rest on your laurels. You must always maintain – and in some cases, enhance – the level of value you provide to maximise attendance.
To recap, there are five components of event management that will help grow and sustain your event on a year-to-year basis:
- Keeping detailed records to help you better measure your ability to hit all KPI
- Learning from any and all mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future
- Listening to attendee feedback so you can hear from the group that matters most
- Maintaining awareness of any industry and IT trends to help shape your attendees’ experience
- Consistently evaluating – and improving – the value you provide your stakeholders
Using those five best practices will help your event stave off complacency and improve your outcomes in quantifiable ways on an annual basis to help grow and sustain your event.
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