7 point checklist for running successful events

LP2101 conference registration smiles

Siobhan, Trish, Breda, Michelle

At Learning Pool we run a lot of events, from regular workshops, regional networking events and Steering Groups to our Annual Conference and Summer Party.

Hands up, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes in our time.  Trouble is, they can be high profile and expensive ones which is why I always like to read other people’s top tips for event management.

This week I read a post from The Marketing Blog by Michael Fleischner titled “What you can learn from Managing an Event.” 

It’s a good post – worth a read – and I shall summarise Michael’s tips here as:

  1. Begin with a theme
  2. Carefully evaluate and prepare your speakers
  3. Think about branding
  4. Make the next steps clear

So here’s my own seven point checklist for running successful events:

1.  Choose a great venue

At Learning Pool we like to use venues that say something about us and our brand.  We tend to use public sector venues (libraries, council meeting rooms, civic buildings) because they are generally well equipped, fit for purpose and accessible.  And cost effective. 

That said, we’ve also used HMS President, the Eden Centre and Dexter House for when we’ve wanted the venue to be part of the experience.

2.   Get the best speakers

You can’t start communicating about your event until you know what you’re going to speak about (Michael’s first point – have a theme).  However, sometimes your theme is dictated by your speaker, not vice versa.

We were lucky enough to secure Rob Whiteman, MD of LGID (Local Government Improvement and Development) for our Annual Conference in the first week he took up his role at LGID.  We didn’t know it at the time but we were his very first speaking engagement.  Being able to publicise him as our keynote speaker early on helped us get the attendance numbers high quickly, allowing us to concentrate on more fun stuff.

But our best speakers have always been our own customers.  We have some brilliant ambassadors who will go out of their way to tell others why they should buy our services.  We don’t pay them but we do say thank you.  Repeatedly.

3.  Hold it on the right date

School holidays, all of August, most of December – forget it.  In our sector it is so difficult to get hold of anyone during these times that it’s not really worth trying to hold an event then – we just avoid these dates.

4.  Create a strong team

Before, during and afterwards.  It’s critical that everyone knows who’s responsible for what and, even if your team is tiny, there are some roles that are essential to divvy out (overall project leader, venue and logistics leader, marketing leader and someone to keep an eye on the finances). 

On the day make sure everyone has a job and invest time in briefing them exhaustively.  And make sure they look and act like they are a team member.

5.  Pay attention to detail

We don’t spend a lot on promotional items – more on this in another post – but we do rate their importance.  We created our own Peggy Pig – a pink stress pig who has since been photographed in various places througout the UK by those who have attended one of our events. 

I can’t emphasise enough how essential attention to detail is.  As a delegate you can tell when all the thousands of details have been thought through and tended to.  That’s often the difference between a good and a great event.

6.  Be memorable (for the right reasons)

One of the workshops we held in an untried venue was remembered by delegates only because it served powered milk instead of the real thing.  We never (knowingly) scrimp on refreshments (getting the quantity balance is a trick in itself) – it’s a hygiene factor. 

Networking is such a key part of our events that if all a delegate got out of attending was a natter over a good cuppa with a like minded other then our job would have been done.

7.  Make you pre and post communications work hard

My favourite!  We use social media like mad things to create the buzz before our events and we actively encourage people to tweet and live blog during events too. 

Admittedly this can be distracting for some but we like it – wifi is as essential for delegates as it is for speakers and organisers and we provide power sockets for hungry iPhones and laptops too.  Engagment is the name of the game here.

Looks like Michael and I have some thinking in common!

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About Janet Harkin

A freelance marketing consultant currently working on some interesting projects. From Cumbria but live in Donegal, NW Ireland - both equally beautiful parts of the world. I love being busy, my boys, fresh air and Led Zeppelin. I also like marketing - the strategic challenges as well as the of-the-moment campaigns.
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