We are all aware that traditional, passive events are headed towards extinction. To ensure that your events remain relevant, you need to focus on creating experiences that attract the right attendees then leave them wanting more. Read on to learn how to approach event planning through an experiential-focused lens.
It’s not all about you. When planning any event – from a multi-day conference to a company milestone celebration, you need to put yourself in the mindset of your target guest.
- Why would they chose to attend?
- What are they looking to gain from attendance?
- What would surprise and delight them?
- How can I make it easy for them from registration to post-event communications?
A simplified way to approach creating memorable experiences for attendees is to break your event into three main phases: before, during and after. By taking a thoughtful approach to each phase, you can:
- achieve desired attendance numbers
- deliver an engaging experience
- create new fans while recharging current ones
Before the event:
While planning a worthwhile and memorable experience for your guest may play a key role in the success of your event, setting tangible goals for the event allows you to gauge its efficacy.
Sample event goals:
- Hit attendance goal of X.
- Connect with X attendees with potential to be future clients.
- Gain X% of new followers across all social channels.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
– Tony Robbins
Create a Theme
Each event needs an overall theme and a dedicated design. Once established, both need to run consistently throughout all event communications and interactions. This establishes your event as cohesive, organized and worth consideration.
Draw a Crowd
Anything you can do to get people jazzed about your event is incredibly important. You can put on the most amazing experiential event ever but if no one shows up, it will not be successful. Creating a strong communications plan that thoughtfully incorporates email, video, social and print ensures that you are reaching potential attendees by their preferred method – whichever that may be.
During the event:
The Rule of KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)
There is nothing worse than arriving at an event and not knowing where to park or how to find the actual event. If you followed the advice in phase one, you will have included these details in your beautiful, cohesive and thorough pre-event communications.
On site, there are a myriad of ways to make things as effortless as possible for attendees:
- way-finding signs and floor and wall decals are helpful guides (or even better, strategically placed friendly faces to point people in the right direction)
- a robust event app that provides information and fosters engagement and connections
- an event-specific hashtag to allow people to post photos of themselves at the event
- convenient charging stations
- accessible water stations
- clear signage throughout
Pepper in the Surprises
One thing that can make your event stand out from others is the unexpected. As you plan your event, find unique ways to delight attendees throughout. Identify potential issues like long lines at registration and turn them into a positive. Hand out fresh coffee to those waiting, or pass around puppies for them to hold. These unexpected touches have a cumulative effect so strive for as many as possible.
Create Opportunities to Connect
The one thing that will never change (although it sometimes feels like it in our technology-driven society), is the human craving for face-to-face connections. Nothing beats the chance to have one-on-one conversations and build relationships that can potentially create opportunities. Find fresh ways to bring people together and drive meaningful connections. This can be accomplished through things as simple as team scavenger hunts, or a silly as a corn hole tournament.
“It’s hard to say exactly what it is about face-to-face contact that makes deals happen, but whatever it is, it hasn’t yet been duplicated by technology.”
– Paul Graham
After the event:
Post-event communications offer great opportunities to connect with attendees once again and provide something of value to them. Whether it is a highlight video, links to event presentations or an infographic that includes fun and interesting stats from the event; this is your chance to make a lasting impression.
Set the Stage
Whatever form your post-event communications take, be sure to plant the seed for your next event. Leave them with something that will entice them to put it on their calendar now – greatly increasing their likelihood of attending. This is also an ideal time to ask them to follow you on social or opt-in to receive future communications.
Evaluate the Experience
Now is the time to pull out that list of goals you created when designing the event. Did you meet them all? If so, great! If not, why not? This post-event evaluation is invaluable in helping you craft effective future events.