Events and how to make them sizzle!

We've all been to professional events that fall short of our expectations. 



I've found myself battling the urge to wriggle and yawn more times than I care to remember and then the feedback form comes round and I'm struggling to say something nice.  Oh there's nothing worse than feeling you've wasted your precious time. A bad event reflects terribly on the organiser and everyone involved. 



On the other hand, the impact a really good event can have is often far reaching. There's nothing better than realising the time has flown by and you've had a great time, achieved what you wanted to and more and are leaving an event brimful of ideas and enthusiasm and singing the praises of the people who just gave you a really worthwhile experience.  

When you're planning an event and responsible for delivering it how do you make sure it will do what you want it to do? I've been thinking about this recently, I've organised a few events that have had particularly good feedback from attendees and colleagues.


This post shares a few thoughts that might be helpful if you have an event to plan. 


Know clearly what you are trying to achieve and ensure everyone involved in helping make it happen knows what they're aiming for.  If you're doing an event just for the sake of it, (people do this sometimes) stop, rethink and set yourself a meaningful goal.  You might even decide an event isn't what you need at all!


Understand your audience. What are they looking for? What do they expect? What will they compare your event to? What do they value? How can you be sure to over deliver and not underwhelm them when they're being so good as to give up some of their valuable time to be there? What tone of voice is going to work best?


Get the venue right. the environment will make all the difference to how people feel at your event. Find somewhere that matches your objective, whether you're out to inspire, refresh, inform, entertain or sell to your audience, pick a place that will help set the right tone.  Will you dress the space? Think about your options... If a room is dreary or too formal you can expect that to have an impact on the atmosphere of your event. There are lots of great spaces in the world, pick one that works for you, not against you!


Work out your timings for every stage of what you want to do, both for organisation in advance and for the event programme itself. Allow breathing space in your plan, be prepared to be flexible. 


Know who will do what and ensure everyone knows what they're responsible for.  If you need extra resource in your team, whether it's to help plan or deliver the day the way you need it to be, line it up early!


Accompanying documentation is often required. That may include invitations, publicity, staff and speaker briefings, pre-reading material, delegate packs.... think through what you need to produce to support your event and make sure it's done and gets to the people who need to see it in good time. If you're making up packs, or employing an agency to, include production and assembly time in your project plan.  


Catering might be called for - don't just do the obvious, how can the refreshments you offer reflect what you want your event to communicate? Offering healthy fruit rather than biscuits at a business meeting for example can say a lot. Consider different options and if you're going "off piste" in any way shape of form with your catering, make sure you've seen and tasted in advance whatever you're going to give your guests. 


Think about how to thank people afterwards, for attending, for helping make it happen, for any contribution they may make. Timely and personalised thank yous mean a lot to people. Often you can plan a photo to take at the event that can be used for a thank you card (or thank you email if you prefer). Some friends of ours created a great image on their wedding day, (I'm going to ask them if I can share it here, so watch this space) which delighted everyone afterwards and would have been so simple to do! 


Maybe all of this sounds obvious. Quite often being successful in life is essentially down to exercising common sense. But will you do it? Are you clear in your mind about what you're trying to achieve? Have you got the time? Could you do with some support to get it right and make sure the event you want to run turns out to be an event people will feel was worth their while being at? An event that delivers what you need it to?  Let me know if you need some help with the planning side of things, professional facilitation or even overall event delivery.  I like a good event and I've done a few in my time. 


What do you? think are the critical success factors for a great event? What elements in events you've been to that you've really enjoyed, have stuck in your mind. It would be great to hear what you think. 


Thanks for reading

Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    David Shaw (Saturday, 22 February 2014 23:13)

    Hey Lorraine, this is a great post and so so true. I have myself struggled with events in the past. Its very easy to underestimate what it takes for people to take physical action and attend an event

    I find that the best events are the ones where the agenda is focused on delivering value to audience and not selling to to them. Thanks for sharing :-)

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