Lessons Only Event Experience Can Teach You

By February 1, 2012Corporate Events

Over a pre-Christmas lunch with a client, the talk turned to event lessons learned over the past year.  Well, the dam burst and the stories prompted nods of agreement, rolling of the eyes, along with some good laughs over the story behind the stories.  The exchange incited us to canvas all our clients to share their learnings, the lessons only event experience can teach you. They are definitely worth passing on.  These are those ‘I’d better remember this for the next time’ type of moments.

For all you corporate event planners, perhaps you’ll find some tips here.  And for agencies – take note.  Here they are in no particular order.  And we should add (big disclaimer) these are not necessarily events we produced.  This is a complete cross section of our clients’ events, produced both in conjunction with agencies and managed on their own.

Quotes. When provided with a quote, don’t hesitate to ask your vendor to break the quote down by line items.  Yes, all you agencies, clients like to see exactly what they are being charged for.

Techy things….like electrical requirements.  Verify what you order is what you get.  Umm – ok – but this is the job of your technical director, a client should never have to worry about this.

Contingency, contingency…If something goes wrong, what are you going to do?  (curling into a ball isn’t the answer).  Speaker is sick or doesn’t show, power outage, mics out.  And what is the venue’s emergency access and protocol – take your pick – but what’s your plan?  There’s no need to say more.  If you don’t have a risk plan in place – now’s the time to start.

The beauty of social media, Twitter feeds and instant feedback.  While the original goal at an annual customer event for this client was to drive new followers and generate awareness, it became clear during the event, attendees were using it as an opportunity to provide real time feedback on what they wanted to hear, and even what they didn’t want to hear.  It allowed for the client to make instant updates to their presentations – advising speakers to ensure they covered points attendees were tweeting.

Meals.  Whatever your theme is, include those healthy options.  Provide staff with meals before the show floor opens in exhibits and tradeshows.  Make sure the venue understands your wishes.  Nothing looks worse  than staff eating while talking to customers.

Executive events.  Plan ahead in the event a customer arrives with an extra person in tow.  How will you handle this in a small intimate event setting when the person is not on the guest list, but arrive with an important customer?

Executive content.  Working with executives to shape their remarks is never easy, and presentations are often pushed to the back burner while things like end of quarter take precedence.  Ensure executives zero in on their key messages early and information is shared throughout the executive team to ensure all material is complementary and the audience has clear key takeaways.

This final sage advice from one client, sums it all up:

Build your team of experts.  Always work with trusted, experienced experts – have your own small team of ‘go to’ among those experts.  Only deal with what you can control. Things like SARS, if you’re not qualified on how to handle certain crisis, don’t think you can – ask the experts.

Here’s a few of our own anecdotal ones:

Outdoor permits and liquor licenses.  Be on a first name basis with the LCBO and become intimately familiar with fire codes, city permit requirements…never mind, just call us.

Union woes = overtime costs.  Just plan for them.

Tight budgets should never mean you eliminate a contingency amount in your budget.  There will always be unforeseen costs – keep that contingency, even if your client questions it – you will be thankful you did.

There are key themes surfacing from the collective experiences above:  transparency, flexibility, and surround yourself with an experienced, trusted team.  It’s really not surprising in the end, for these are themes applicable to all areas of business.