Event planners manage a deep checklist of things to do, many of which their attendees will likely never notice, much less appreciate. In fact, you can almost count on one hand the aspects of events that leave a lasting impression on participants.
If you want to wow your audience, work your checklist but also strive to go above and beyond in the six components that can elevate events from the mundane to the memorable. These core elements of events stimulate the brain, senses or emotions – or all – to impress attendees and likely win their repeat business.
1. Content is king
You know the essential value of content, but we don’t want to look stupid leaving it off a list like this. Plus, maybe some of our elaboration will tickle your fancy.
What happens at the event – what is shared, what is taught, what is presented – answers the question “why” people are there in the first place. If your content answers that “why” in a manner that inspires, informs, motivates and moves, you’re cruising the fast lane to Wowsville.
Something a judge once famously said about a different type of content applies to what constitutes good event content: “You will know it when you see it.”
What content appeals to you? And how is it best presented (click for ideas)? We don’t all respond alike to various forms of content, but certain aspects – such as content that is informative, entertaining, anecdotal, research-based, presented by storytelling, etc. – strike a chord with most of us.
It’s your program – review the content and see if it moves you. If it doesn’t, what might make it more compelling?
2. Venue is queen
When a pro athlete is traded, the inevitable cliché soon to follow is that “the change of address” might be just what the player needed to again excel. A “fresh” site can have the same impact on events.
Regardless of whether you are switching or choosing for the first time, the venue ranks up at the top of the list with content when it comes to elements that impact events. Attendees bring a baseline expectation of the meeting space, though it certainly varies by type of event (e.g., workshop versus an annual conference). Exceeding that expectation creates a positive visual and physical reference forever linked with your function.
So, how do you score with the venue? Pick something new or unique or non-traditional. Rent a suite at a sports facility in the off-season. Find space at a local museum or art center. Set up in a parking garage or airport hangar. Schedule your late October program at a location rumored to be haunted.
Upgrading or being creative with the venue might prove challenging due to budget constraints, technology needs, and even accessibility, but finding hip or interesting or stimulating or unusual environs is a tried and true method of elevating an event’s impact.
3. Technology is a dual-edged sword
Technology often creates the most memorable aspect of events, just not always in the fashion intended (e.g., those pesky audio-visual hiccups). When done correctly, technology can be an event highlight.
Sometimes the lighting or visuals or audio or special effects outshine the content and venue, and often they create a positive physical experience associated with the event. Work with a good AV team and you might realize the latter. AV pros are always seeking the next best thing, and always looking for an event where they can showcase it.
AV isn’t the only technology that can lift events. A complete registration software solution can market the event online, seamlessly sign up participants and send confirmations and reminders, track participants and payments, and facilitate evaluations of the event. That level of professionalism in just the registration process can improve your event.
In addition, mobile sites tied to the events build interest, allow for pre-event preparation, supplement event content and basically help attendees get the most out of the program. Some offer engaging features like social media and gamification to further enhance the event experience. And some of the tools used to create these mobile sites (e.g., MeetingZilla) are free!
4. Food&Beverage adds spice
In querying friends about an event, think about how early in their response they mention the quality of the food, good or bad. The food and beverage component of an event may constitute just a fraction of the itinerary, but our taste buds and stomachs carry disproportionate sway in our assessment of the function.
This is a challenge probably better left in the hands of the caterers or on-site professionals. Rely on their expertise to determine things like buffet, box or plated; portion size; balance; healthiness; and special dietary requirements. Your due diligence might involve making sure their food looks and tastes good.
Your goal first and foremost is to deliver quality food and beverage. The “above and beyond” might be in the presentation (e.g., live “chef stations” or even celebrity chefs), unique or “themed” food items (e.g., ethnic, organic, street foods), or even the cool arrangement lined up with a local food bank to make use of any extra f&b. A comprehensive guide on the topic can be found at meetingsnet.com (free registration required).
5. Activities engage
Events with exhibitors will often arrange “scavenger hunts” that encourage attendees to visit the exhibit space. It’s a simple activity that provides exhibitors with the face time they seek, but it probably won’t create any buzz from attendees.
Activities that immerse participants deeper into the content of the event engage attendees and often produce a more favorable imprint. Table activities spark group interaction and even competition. Crowd polling elicits further interaction. Graffiti boards allow for thought-provoking posts. And hands-on activities – such as building something – might reinforce the content or promote team-building
Resources abound for event planners interested in making their events more interesting with activities. You’ll find several books and articles on the subject online.
6. Customer service ices the cake
Your program or event, at its core, is a service being provided to customers. The care, convenience and comfort in the delivery of that service are typically the first and last impression your event will make.
Extraordinary customer service can push an ordinary event into a more exalted status. Make registration as convenient and effortless as possible. Keep attendees informed, and always be responsive and accessible from sign up to sign out.
At the event itself, attend the details, from aligning name tags to directing participants to their destination, break rooms, bathrooms and so on. Anticipate the unexpected (pack an event supply kit). Look for opportunities to assist. Be as enthusiastic with your thanks as you are with your welcome.
And once the event ends, pour over the feedback you’ve received and respond accordingly. If you implement some sort of change based on attendee input, let folks know. You’ll impress them even more with your desire to continually improve your offering.
The great thing about the list above is that you don’t have to absolutely ace all six to “wow” your attendees. Do several well and hit one out of the park and you’ll win a few hearts and minds.
As you plan your event and consider tactics to go the extra mile, keep in mind some very simple concepts – such as fun, surprise and spontaneity – that can serve as an undercurrent to the content, venue, technology and so on. Cleverly incorporate those concepts into the key event elements and you’ll produce events that wow – and have long wait lists.
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