By Alison Gaulden
Many companies and charitable organizations host events as a strategy for audience engagement.
There are a variety of events, from the awards event honoring people or recognizing skills to the networking mixer, from the professional development event such as conferences or speakers to the educational program, from the prospect building trade shows to the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for a new endeavor.
Hosting an event takes attention to detail, efficient logistics and realistic PURPOSE. Far too many organizations produce an event without strong expectations for the outcome. If a Truckee Meadows event garnered 3,000 people, we might say that was a success. But sheer numbers isn’t a good measure.
You can throw a fabulous party for 3,000 people, spending thousands on refreshments, entertainment and publicity, but if the attendees don’t know the organization or support the mission or don’t sign up for something, then all that’s been accomplished is throwing a party with nothing to show for it but tons of rotted tomatoes.
Before picking a theme, determine the purpose of an event. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies bring awareness. Trade shows generate interest in a product or service. Conferences can educate and inform.
Awards events provide member value, raise funds, increase awareness, often educate and recognize leadership or skills. If the plan is to raise funds be sure to project all costs-food to printing, decorations to entertainment, advertising to comps for volunteers and awardees. You also want to factor in the NET you want to make. If it’s $1000 or $100,000 know that going in and divide by attendees/revenue to set pricing. Project revenues based on REALISTIC attendance and sponsorships.
Sponsorships are hard to come by. Everyone wants dollars from the same seemingly handful of businesses. Make sure the business has a connection to your audience and gains value from the relationship. Look to organizations new to the area that may be looking for community engagement. In-kind is also an option; be sure they need your audience and are recognized for their contribution.
Now you’re ready to recruit volunteers to pull it off, choose a theme, pick a venue, determine the décor, build the guest list, persuade sponsors, specify the food, request the entertainment, order the materials, seek the award entries or nominations, develop the collaterals and orchestrate the proceedings.
If the event recognizes leadership or talent, determine the criteria and how the purpose fulfills the mission. If the event generates prospects, be sure to have a signup sheet or a prize mechanism. If the event is meant to raise awareness, leverage photos, publicity or other communications strategies such as social media promotion or advertising to enhance that awareness.
The challenges in hosting an event can undermine the event before it starts. Competing events may siphon off sponsors and/or attendees. Parking, location, budget issues (either for purchasing or pricing) and even weather can affect the event. Day of nightmares for event planners include horrible speakers, technical difficulties, more weather issues, food complaints. Yet if it’s well planned, those irritants will be handled and the audience little the wiser.
If you’re a communications professional or have a communications team on retainer, consider entering a submission for a PRSA Sierra Nevada Silver Spike award by October 8. Or join about 200 area professional recognizing communications talent and leadership November 16 at the Grove.
Alison Gaulden, APR, has thrown almost every kind of event from PRSA professional development workshops to regional and student conferences, from political and charitable fundraisers to her renowned birthday and garden parties. She’s also on the Spikes Sponsorship committee.