Creating Sustainable Events - Leave The Best Footprint
It’s been 12 years since I went to a women-only conference which was held in Philadelphia, PA. I was told that there would be 10,000 women at the same time in the same convention center with me. Since I had never seen such a huge crowd before, I didn’t know what to expect, except a little chaos. I thought it would be impossible to organize such a number of women (!) and have a wonderful time. Well, as you may guess, I was wrong. All 10,000 were moving around the hotel grounds and convention center without any problems, and, most importantly, I, being a foreigner, somehow also knew when, where and what I was supposed to do. Now the question remains, how on earth did they do it and why has it gone to the nice-time-department of my brain?
I also remember one particular day in my life when I and a group of other students were left behind in an unheated warehouse in January in the middle of nowhere, without any food or drink, and the only heat we had for a few hours was a small fire we built ourselves from some wooden broken pallets. The organizers of that event simply weren’t planning to send another bus to get the last group out of the place. And there were no mobile phones…They finally counted the ranks and figured they must have lost a few along the way…
You see, events that go smoothly are best remembered and cherished by the ones who attend them. Unfortunately, those that don’t go smoothly are well remembered as well. My memories of the food in the hotel or the location of that warehouse are very dim at this point, but I remember the facts that my needs were or were not met by the event organizing company, that I received answers to all my questions immediately or didn’t receive them at all, that I was accurately informed of all the activities and kept on a time schedule or was misinformed of the actions of the organizers and got stuck in a very pitiful situation.
Event-making is an art. There are a few companies out there who know it. I could maybe think of a few. But not all of them, or should I better say, us, understand the full implication of the event-making industry.
When you take up a job of making a memorable event for your client, you must realize that it’s now your responsibility to help your client feel a certain way about that event. The overall rule is easy – rejoice with those who are rejoicing, mourn with those who are mourning. But the most difficult part is to sound natural and sincere, lest your client gets an aftertaste. We all know people whom we want to share our joys with, or whom we’d rather keep out of our private lives. We all want to mingle with those who can express true joy or true sympathy, when we need it.
So, let’s focus on the top 5 things that are a must-have whenever we talk about leaving the best impression of your company and making sure that you and your colleagues are invited again.
- Sincerity. You (if it’s just you) or your company should have/find people that can sincerely become part of this or that type of program/activity. Some people were born to entertain, others – to make public speeches, still others – to find a way-out of any complicated situation. And you should know when to involve who. Your choice will secure an impression that people in the event will feel that they are well taken care of and the organizers seem to ‘have known’ them for ages, like good ol’ friends. When I had a chance to work with a big group of teenagers, the feeling that never left was this – I was being constantly probed for my sincere interest and belief in what I was doing. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth dealing, because once your clients see the fire in your employees’ eyes, half of the success is achieved. Beware though, of giving false promises or raising expectations too much. Both will probably shred your business.
- Post-production. What happens when you’ve arranged all the rentals, found all the characters you need, wrote the entire script of speeches and movements? You gather it all nicely as a puzzle to form your masterpiece. See, the key here is to find the absolute perfect fitting of every little piece into a big picture. When you look at a puzzle, you may not notice a misplaced piece right away, but eventually the error will stick out to even an untrained eye. It’s the same with events – one thing goes wrong and the impression is, unfortunately, spoiled. So, make sure you’ve got enough time before the curtain call and make all the finishing touches with great care, because memory is a funny thing – it retains bummers, too. If again it’s just you and no friends or colleagues are there to help you with organizing an event, call the professionals to do the work for you (one can find them easily at eventcv.com)!
- Feedback. In order to improve your organizing skills do not be afraid to receive feedback from your clients. It should be made in a very simple, accessible-for-all form (leaflets with short questionnaires, carefree small talk with the participants, an internet extensive survey which will add, say, some bonus for those who fill it out, etc.). If the feedback was received during a conversation or you have overheard a comment, take it down first thing when you get the chance and ponder over it later. If the situation allows, invite people to give their feedback, if not (if everybody’s way too busy or agitated), remind them to fill out a form on your website while the memories are still fresh. Feedback can be frustrating, but in the long run it always helps.
- Follow-up. After you’ve seen that your clients for the most part are satisfied with your version of their important life event, make sure you don’t forget about them. They might forget your or your company’s name in a week or two, but you should never let them! Think of a few options to follow up. It could be anything – a workshop for their kids, a picnic on the company’s birthday, a seminar on a related topic, I mean, really, anything. Make a list of possible follow-up events and make sure to send invitations and reminders. (Look at ‘S…s’ – man, I quit drinking coffee a year ago, but their e-mails with colorful ads test me every time, ‘cause I am too lazy to switch them off. I will end up having coffee one of these days. Gut feeling.) Follow up will do two major things for you – first, there will be a steady number of clients who would want to do business only with you (people grow on people with time, even if it wasn’t a love-at-first-sight occasion), and they will recommend you to others simply because they hear from you from time to time and it refreshes their fond memories of you. Point being – always stay in touch with your former clients, show them you have a connection, and a special one.
- Plan ahead. Have a year-round plan of related or similar events. That will probably work for bigger companies on both sides, but I think even a small event agency could provide this type of service. Help people choose you by offering a wide range of possibilities. When the initial success is made, introduce your long-term plan. Even if it was a birthday party, which obviously is a once-a-year thing, try to get the client to commit to you. Ask specific questions as part of the feedback about how they would like to improve or change the event for next time/year. Help your clients feel that they are in good hands when it comes to organizing important events.
If you stick to these 5, your event-planning career is bound to be a success! As in every art there are laws of harmony, which will keep you on the right track.
And last, but not least, enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Good luck!