There are few sectors more competitive than the events industry. Managing the increasing expectations of clients (and delegates) in the lead up to the event, not to mention the hundreds of Murphy’s law moments that can be an unwelcome part of even the most meticulously planned conference, there has never been more pressure on conference organisers to up the ante and deliver a conference that was better than the year before.
So what does make a conference memorable? What is it about an event that keeps delegates talking about it for weeks afterwards and exceeds your client’s expectations so much they can’t wait to sit down with you and plan next year’s conference?
Planning a successful event relies heavily on collaborating with your client to bring their vision and brief to life in a way that wows both them and the audience. But in your planning phase, consider collaborating with the audience also.
When you’re organising an annual event, consider delving deeper into the audience feedback from last year. The feedback forms will only tell you so much so consider compiling an advisory board of 4-6 delegates who can provide feedback and input on conference theme, speaker and entertainment selections. This is obviously a strategy the client needs to approve, but if you can get them on board, it’s a great way to create a core group of ambassadors for the conference. When you make people advisors, you make them advocates. So not only are you ensuring that they will attend the conference (maybe with a small discount for their involvement if it’s a paid conference), but they will help spread the word and potentially be the best form of marketing.
Outside the conference itself, there are opportunities to increase engagement and extend the learning outcomes for delegates through video content. This can be delivered via the conference website (even better a dedicated app). Ask your speakers to all provide two 1-2 minute videos — one to go out before the conference and one after. Drip feeding content prior and then reinforcing the key messages is a great way to make the messages stick.
Short-form video is also a great antidote to some of the most frustrating pain points for a PCO. For example, I have inside information on how hard it can be to coordinate speakers (sometimes I’m sure it can make herding cats look easy). Speakers often don’t submit their materials and presentations on time, something I can say with certainty because I’m sometimes one of those speakers!
To help connect with speakers and sponsors in a way that’s more engaging than a blanket email, consider using short form video to send more personal requests for information. It’s a way to break through the email clutter and ensure your requests are given the priority they deserve!
In the throes of planning a conference, sometimes it’s easy to overlook opportunities to celebrate milestones with your client. Take a moment to acknowledge your client with a card or gift to say ‘only one week to go’. Sometimes a client thank-you gift prior to the conference can be more impactful than afterwards.
Similarly, ensure delegates have moments of celebration throughout the conference, not just on the awards night. Talk to your client about mini, fun awards and prizes throughout the conference for delegates. Most speakers are happy to provide a few books for prizes.
Ensure there is a clearly communicated hashtag for the event and reward speakers for posting about the conference — perhaps a twice daily prize for the best post.
This is one area where PCO’s have a unique opportunity to add value and create a competitive advantage. Beyond the organisation of the event itself, consider how you might add value to your service by providing additional extras to your client that have high perceived value, low real cost. Services such as graphic design, graphics animation and professional music stings for guest speakers are all impressive touches that distinguish you from the next PCO who will be vying for next year’s conference.
Consider how you might leverage joint ventures to add value to the conference also. Services such as photography, caricature artistry and additional entertainment during breaks can potentially be negotiated at a minimal or zero cost for the opportunity for exposure. You could even package a post conference video for your client using a low cost offshore provider. Low cost, high perceived value.
What may have impressed audiences five years ago is now the norm. Keeping abreast of tools and techniques to wow your client and their audience means knowing what’s new and exciting and being the first to introduce it to a conference. Ensure you’re subscribed to what’s happening in the US and how the top players in the meeting and events industry over there are leveraging new and emerging technologies to create unique moments for audiences and turn their clients into advocates.
With a new book hot off the press; Turning Customers into Advocates, Amanda Stevens knows what it takes to create a brand, experience and event that people will rave about. Click here to download 5 free chapters of her book!