The purpose of an ‘event’ is to market or communicate something. Often, the event is part of a company or organisation’s plan for marketing itself, and the parts of the event are carefully thought out so that the company’s ideas and values can gain their fullest expression.
As a marketing activity, the ‘event’ is a fairly new phenomenon. It is said to have had its breakthrough during the Summer Olympics of 1984 in Los Angeles, where the organisers allowed the sponsors to give their brand names exposure not only during the Games themselves but also in the rest of the marketing. The impact was so great, and the effects became evident so quickly, that the sponsoring of relatively small events, too, increased dramatically following this. Quite simply, events became indispensable ingredients of the communication plans of most major companies. A report by the IRM Institute for Advertising and Media Statistics showed that sponsoring and events accounted for 13.2 per cent of media offerings in 2009.
What can the reason be for this? A feasible explanation can be found in today’s ever more detailed picture of the media. The choice of channels on TV increases year after year. Interactive solutions and the social media are gaining ever more space in people’s lives. The Internet, where a plethora of marketers compete for our attention, has become mobile.
Yet we can ignore all these elements if we so choose. Nowadays, we can pick and choose from the information on offer and select the parts we find most entertaining. This means that we need to find something extra to capture people’s attention, and an event needs to be an experience that is clearly something extra. The idea is to offer the target group something rather special: they need to feel as if they have been chosen specially. If you can succeed with this, you can retain the customer’s undivided attention for the entire event. You see, you have a good opportunity to build up relationships by allowing customers to experience your message using all of their senses.
A newspaper advertisement appeals to only one of our senses – our sight. Radio advertisements appeal to our hearing. TV advertising is said to be more effective than either of these, because it appeals to two senses simultaneously. The event is not limited to just a couple of our senses; it takes into account all of them – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.
However, the most successful element of the event remains the most basic for human communication – the meeting. And by this we mean real meetings. Nowadays, we have the opportunity to have a meeting with anyone we wish to over the Internet; however, the meetings we remember, and the ones where we establish the most lasting relationships, are still (and will probably always remain) the real life ones.
In the parts below you will find out what the most important ingredients are for success with the event and for obtaining the best results when creating relationships.
Purpose, planning and foresight
What is the purpose of your event?
In the previous part of the Event training course, we described the concept of the ‘event’ and explained how it has come to be an ever more important form of communication for large and small companies alike. In this part, we will look at some specific advice and tips for organising your event.
The first thing you need to have clear in your mind is why you wish to organise an event. What is the purpose of it? Which target group are you interested in reaching, and how do you want the target group to act, react or be influenced?
Naturally, the purpose of the event could simply be to provide a party for your enjoyment and that of your employees, customers, suppliers – and even your competitors. It is perfectly fine to stage an event with the sole aim of ‘having a good time’. Yet, if you are going to spend a lot of money on a party, why not turn it into something that may also have an effect on your profit? The event does not just provide an opportunity for you and others to have a good time; it also gives you the opportunity to contribute to the company’s development.
There is also a great deal of risk associated with arranging an event without any plan or aim. One undesirable effect may be that one of the target groups feels ignored or sidelined. The event may also give a confused impression, and in the worst case may end up being a poor event that may have a negative effect on your brand name.
In other words, everything is a lot simpler and more effective if instead you set aside a little time to draw up a proper plan and to aim at one of the target groups instead of ‘shooting from the hip’. This allows you to plan your event more clearly and guide it in the desired direction, thereby achieving the long-term effects you are looking for. And good planning is vital to every event.
You need to begin planning early if you wish to succeed
Do not rely on the colleague who says, ‘It will sort itself out – it always does’. Not in the context of events, in any case. Events that end in disarray can lead to very unpleasant long-term effects. How does it feel to be responsible for an event where the food runs out before half the gathering has had anything to eat? Or when you realise that the speaker you promised them was never booked and will not be turning up? All the talk about your company that can so easily be generated by a poor event can be very difficult to erase, particularly these days when talk spreads faster than ever via the social media.
How soon in advance do you think you need to notify participants of your forthcoming event? Do you think that a month is enough? Surely three months would be more than enough?
No – you need longer than this if you are to feel confident and safe in arranging your event. You should be sending out invitations six months before the event. Even if you do not need to send anything formal at that stage, you should at least make your target group aware of the event. This gives them the chance to write it in their diary and book the date, although forward planning is mainly for your own sake.
Early planning gives you a good opportunity to consider the purpose and objective of your event. You will have enough time to give thought to what you wish to say and what messages you wish to communicate. This thought process may need time, and presumably you will not be the only one on the project who needs time for their thoughts to grow.
If all employees are given the chance to give their opinion, get involved and have an influence on the event, there is a greater chance of getting everyone on board. This will improve the process and lead to everyone feeling involved.
These are not the only benefits of foresight. Making a start six months in advance means that you can be sure of being able to book any hotel rooms, premises, food or travel that may be required. You will have more options and a better choice. Not only that, does anyone really enjoy having their heart in their mouth just before the guests arrive, whatever type of party it is?
Timing is important – does it clash with anything else?
Consider the ‘event year’ where your company operates. When do your competitors tend to hold their events? Is there any point holding it at the same time as theirs? Or might it be better to hold your event a week before theirs? Is it really necessary to run an event just before Christmas, when everyone else is also having Christmas parties? Why do we need to hold the kick-off right after the summer holidays?
Consider also whether the event may benefit from being held at other times of the year. There may be some point in combining the event with something else that affects your company – the launch of your new product, or the start of the new working year, perhaps?
In other words, there are many factors to consider if you wish to avoid the risk of the event being a failure. The event may clash with others that interest your customers. If you have a furniture company, for example, perhaps you should avoid arranging your event during the same week as the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair. Or perhaps that is exactly what you should do?
By all means think outside the box when planning your event, and take all bizarre ideas seriously – both your own and those of your colleagues. It is a good idea to keep notes or some form of log to write down everything that happens when you are planning your event. This could be anything from impromptu thoughts to important dates. These notes and ideas can come in very useful when you get bogged down with the work.
Working with the concept
What do you wish to communicate through your event? When all is said and done, the event is about you communicating something. In order to communicate effectively, the message needs to be clear and unequivocal. Communication will be best if this message pervades every detail of your event. You have the best possible chance of success if you can give your event a specific theme or concept.
But what is the difference between a theme and a concept? In the book ‘Events – how hard can it be?’ by the Inspiration event agency, this is described roughly as follows: The theme is the event’s outward appearance – white, New York, cowboy or Seventies. The concept, on the other hand, is built around the company’s strategies: the vision, mission and values. The concept should last over time and work in all types of communication.
Meanwhile, the theme may be something adopted purely for entertainment purposes or fun. In other words, the concept is a more long-term way of working. The theme requires no great thought or planning. The concept, however, does. For this reason, we will be concentrating here on the latter. The concept needs to reflect what you are and to express your company’s values and judgements. The concept should be something that makes your company unique compared with your competitors.
Be careful to take your time when considering the concept for your event. The three points below can be worth taking into account during your planning.
What do we stand for?
What is the overall message that represents what your company stands for? What does your brand name promise? What sort of feeling should it give? What type of address is typical of your company in particular?
What do we need to communicate right now?
What specific message does your company need to communicate at the moment? Is there anything that is particularly current? Is it about communicating the content of your graphical profile? Or celebrating the latest interim report? Or is a new product being launched on the market?
Who is your target group?
What type of customer/employee/stakeholder do you have? Are they conservative? Are they inquisitive? What type of approach does this target group feel comfortable with?
By keeping these three questions in mind during all your planning and during your meetings, you will find it easier to keep on track with your planning.
Practise what you preach
Be careful, too, to ensure that everyone is on board when you are planning. This cannot be emphasised enough. For your own work morale and for long-term success, it is important for the company to live and breathe its brand name. Unless you get your colleagues on board in thought and deed when planning your concept, there is a high risk of the project degenerating at some point. This is best avoided by always getting support for all the work from those involved with your running of the event. This really applies to everyone…from the restaurant manager to the kitchen hand, from the hotel manager to the porter, from the general to the humblest conscript, and so on.
The general points first – then get down to the detail
Once you and your working group have identified and answered the points above, it is time to begin planning the event in more detail. The planning process can, by all means, be similar to the one used in a regular communication plan. Divide the plan into an overall strategic part and an operational part. In the strategic plan, you should establish guidelines for what the event should lead to – what the overall aims are and how to achieve them. Then, in the operational part, you should describe in detail how everything will be handled, at what time, and by whom. The operational part must be a living document, one that may need to be reworked and amended all the time during the course of the journey. And here – as everywhere else – it is important to communicate all changes to everyone involved. Support is the key word.
Everyone on the project needs to pull in the same direction
Give some thought to all parts of the event and how they are to be communicated on each given occasion. Who will say what, and what will be said? How will people be invited? How will the event be advertised? Will a newsletter or weekly bulletin be produced? Who will greet people as they arrive? Will there be any speeches? Note all this down and hand out the tasks at an early stage. The people involved need to be given time to plan their contributions early so that these will as far as possible fit in with your concept. Gather the group together at regular intervals for feedback and to coordinate everyone’s efforts. Listen carefully to everyone – do their plans fit in with the joint concept?
Events for your business relationships
Business to Business (often abbreviated to B2B) is a marketing strategy that involves the exchange of goods and services between companies. The relationship between a company and its sub-suppliers is generally referred to as a B2B relationship. This can be compared with other business relationships, for example that between the company and the end consumer.
This relationship is called Business to Consumer (B2C). These are the two most common relationships in the commercial world. As the employer brand name becomes ever more important in recruiting the right staff, people have also started talking about Business to Employee (B2E) – in other words, the relationship between a company and its employees.
In the last few years, the age of the social media, people have begun to notice yet another important relationship in the business world: Consumer to Business, or the relationship between consumers and the company. This is about the capacity of individual consumers to create value for the company. It is achieved by consumers writing reviews on products, or speaking well of the company via the social media, etc. It has become more and more important for companies to have a strategy for how consumers will feel about the company.
Events for customers, company clients or suppliers
This dogma has no doubt been hammered into every company manager a thousand times in this situation: It is much easier, cheaper and more profitable to keep a customer than to try to win a new one. This bears repeating, and should be posted on a sign at every staff entrance so that no-one – and I mean no-one – at the company forgets it. Worry about your existing customers, however small and insignificant they appear to be.
The most common reason for losing a customer is showing them too little attention. Organising events at regular intervals can be a way of maintaining the good relationships and showing your appreciation. And when you put on a party, make sure that you invite some potential customers. You will see how well they were welcomed when in time they become your customers. Events for these people may include, for example, trips, trade fairs, product launches or humble social gatherings where customers can mingle.
Below are some tips for preparing for your event with B2B people.
How do I know how many will turn up?
You don’t know. Perhaps you sent out the invitations to your business partners via a digital newsletter. For the sake of simplicity, let us say this was 100 people. You notice that 45 per cent of these have accepted. Does that mean that 45 people will turn up? No – it is very rare for the figure to be right.
When an event is free of charge (which, of course, an event of this kind has to be), those invited do not take the invitation as seriously as they would if it had cost them money. Some will accept but not turn up, while others will turn up despite the fact that they either failed to accept the invitation or even expressly declined. Yet more may bring along friends who have not been invited.
So, the point is that only you can decide how flexible to be with your invitations, but remember not to be too off-hand with the uninvited guests standing at the door.
How long should the event last?
By all means attach a programme to the invitation, showing the main focal points and times. You should then be careful to keep to the timetable, particularly with regard to the main points. And – perhaps even more importantly – with regard to the food. More about this later.
Remember one important thing. You may think that you are doing something for your customers that they should find fun and exciting, and regard as pure recreation. But most people who register for an event do not perhaps see things that way. For many people, visiting an event is part of work. Many of your partners or customers perhaps visit several events a month, not for enjoyment but because they have to. They would perhaps far rather spend their time at home with their family, for example. So have a humble attitude to your guests, and respect their unspoken demands to keep them fed and to keep to the timetable.
Food and drink – are they important?
For some guests, the food is the most important part of an event. It can even be that some people have registered for the event only because there is free food and drink on offer – perhaps even more so if alcoholic drinks are available. When you think about it, you may have friends or acquaintances who think this way. And – hand on heart – have you ever thought that way yourself?
This cannot be emphasised enough: If you have promised your guests food and drink, do not make them wait too long. A fed customer is a happy customer. A customer with a glass or two of wine inside them is an even happier customer. On the other hand, a totally drunk customer can be a disaster.
Be careful to ensure, therefore, that the food is served at the designated time and that you keep track of how the drinks are served. Of course, alcohol-free alternatives must always be on offer, preferably not just normal tap water. Offer lavish, tasty alcohol-free drinks, as many people travel to corporate events by car.
Be adaptable to change
We described earlier how you can never be entirely sure how many people will turn up at your event. Perhaps only a fraction of those invited will come; or, conversely, perhaps twice as many will come as you invited.
In all circumstances, you need to be prepared for the worst. For instance, if you are giving a speech to your guests then the actual tone of the speech may vary, depending on how many people are listening. If only five people come to your event, it is perhaps not necessary to stand on a podium or connect the microphone to the loudspeaker system. In a case like that, it would perhaps be better if everyone sat around a table and you stood at the side. Or, perhaps, everyone could remain standing during the speech.
On the other hand, if many more people turn up than you expected, it may be useful to have planned for a bigger auditorium. If there is the option to do so, you could book a large room at your own place of work. Otherwise, you can ring up in advance and find out which premises can be booked at short notice if required.
The speech itself may also need to be rewritten. A speech given to five people can seem pompous if it has been written to be delivered to an entire nation. (OK, we are talking extremes here, but the principle remains the same.)
For this reason, by all means prepare a couple of different speeches depending on what the mood feels like and how many people come.
The same applies to the food and drink. You should always order more food than you think you will need. This is to avoid the vexing situation of the food running out. However, you should at least give some thought to how you would handle the situation if a shockingly large number of people turned up. Is there a pizzeria nearby where you could quickly grab some food for the uninvited guests, too? An emergency solution, perhaps, but nonetheless one that shows off your goodwill.
Let your customers feel confident in their choices
It is not always that easy for invitees to decide themselves whether or not they should go to the event. This can sometimes be limited by what others think and decide. The invitee may perhaps be obliged to ask their manager for permission to attend the event? Or perhaps the invitee may have to ask their ‘other half’ for permission?
You will simplify this decision significantly if you also invite the manager or the invitee’s ‘other half’. The invitee then avoids having to make this decision themselves. It also increases your chances of influencing the one who really makes the decision in the end.
Pay attention to all your visitors
It must be admitted, this is not easy. Particularly in the situation in which you find yourself. You are presumably stressed and nervous, and you are very much focused on ensuring that everything goes smoothly at your event. It is easy to develop tunnel vision in a situation like this. When you are stressed, it is easy to appear arrogant or inattentive, and you need to try to do everything to avoid this. **SRC ERROR
Even so, try to slow down a little when you are hosting an event. Be calm. Take a breath. Try to talk calmly and in a dignified manner with all your visitors. Look them in the eye. Let them feel noticed and welcome. Try to give them all a little bit of attention.
Visit other events to learn more
As we have already said, it is not always that easy to run a successful event when you are not used to it. The actual social interplay during the event is the most difficult aspect to get right one hundred per cent. Yet, every time that you arrange an event, you learn from your mistakes.
In fact, one very good way to learn how to behave at an event is to visit other events. Take every opportunity to book yourself in for any events to which you are invited. This is an extraordinarily good opportunity for you to study all the secrets of the perfect event.
Which part of the event felt particularly ‘magical’? What made the speech so good? Did the décor create a special ambience? How did the hosts treat their visitors? If you wish, write all of this down in a notebook.
And the more you learn, the more you realise that no event is perfect. All the time you will discover things that could be improved or done differently, and you will take this knowledge with you when the time comes to arrange your event.
Measuring the effectiveness of the event
The event is over. Perhaps you feel it went well and are happy with the entire affair. Or perhaps you feel that most of it went wrong and are regretting ever arranging it? We all know the feeling of having succeeded with a party – and of having failed.
But now is the time to reap the fruits of your event, and now is the time that the most important work begins. Even if you feel that you have succeeded, you may not be sure that you succeeded in the right way. And even if you believe that your event was a failure, you may, in fact, have gained from it in the end.
You can only discover this by measuring the results of your efforts. Ideally, this should be done on several different occasions. The more measurement results you have from your event, the more tools will be at your disposal for tailoring your marketing in the future – with, therefore, greater opportunities to get things right.
So how, and when, do you measure the results of your event? Do you think it seems a bit intrusive to ask your visitors for feedback? Do not feel this way. You have offered your customers food, drink and entertainment. Now it is their turn to offer you something in return, and they can do this through their thoughts, knowledge and opinions.
‘Need to know’ or ‘nice to know’?
Before you start considering measuring the response to your event, you should first know what your approach will be to the results. Of course, it is great to hear words of praise and flattering comments. But if you carry out measurements merely to obtain confirmation that everyone was happy, you will not gain much from the results. If, on the other hand, you carry out the survey in order to find out more about your target group and about what you need to do better, then you will have taken a big step along the road.
Most important of all is to know what you wish to achieve as the end result, whether that means selling more products, increasing people’s knowledge about your company or expanding your network of contacts. Will the results of your efforts be measured by the quantity of goods sold? Or will your efforts lead to more people wanting to apply to work for you? As you can see, it is not always inevitably about money.
The more measurements, the better – but avoid being repetitive
As we mentioned before, having numerous measurement results is a good thing. Try to measure at different times, both before and after the event. Prior to the event, it can be interesting to find out via a questionnaire what the attendees are expecting from the event and what they believe they will find useful.
During the event, it may be of interest to carry out small surveys using mentometer buttons, small discreet interviews, or whatever else fits in with the situation.
The most important survey comes after the event. This is when you ask the questions that you would like answers to for future reference, and about the things you need to do better. Carrying out this survey via a digital newsletter works extremely well, and it would be appropriate to use the same type of newsletter as the one used to invite your guests.
In our marketing survey training course, you can find out more about how to conduct a survey correctly.
But there is always a limit beyond which it all becomes too much. Too many surveys and questionnaires can feel a little repetitive. You know best yourself when the time has come to set a limit. It is also good to check through your questions and to delete those that do not feel relevant, or those that feel like repetitions of previous questions.
What is important for you?
Once you have collated all your measurement data, the time has come to analyse the responses. Focus mainly on the answers that are important for your commercial development. Is it important to know whether the lunch that you served tasted good? If so, then you should concentrate on those answers. Perhaps it is more important to know whether your visitors got the information that they required and whether the event met their expectations.
Dare to lay yourself bare
When you ask questions, you lay yourself somewhat bare. You are admitting to the other person that you are lacking in some knowledge and need help to remedy this. Do not be afraid of this. The braver and more open you are when asking questions, the better the answers you will receive.
Ask your event visitors for help, purely and simply. Ask them whether they can help to develop you and your company in some way. Let them be creative with their answers, and be clear about the intent behind your questions. Let them know that you are asking for help so that you can offer them even better products or services. Let them make their contribution to your company – after all, you have just invited them to an event!