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Ready to Jump on the Customer Grenade?

I recently came across an article about a long-time exhibitor, Mile High Comics, and their decision to drop out of the San Diego Comic-Con event, ending a 44-year run as a customer. I mention the situation, not necessarily to beat up on San Diego Comic-Con, but rather to ask a question of all my readers. Do you run from customer disasters? Or, like first responders, do you head toward the problems and at least attempt to fix a potential disaster?

 

In terms of the Comic-Con organizers, I found no articles that addressed the issue from their perspective, nor did I attempt to contact them to get their perspective . But the withdrawal did generate a lot of publicity(and all one-sided):

http://www.cbr.com/mile-high-comics-no-san-diego-comic-con-exhibit/

https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/07/06/mile-high-comics-breaks-san-diego-comic-con/

http://www.comicsbeat.com/sdcc-17-shocker-mile-high-comics-pulls-out-of-san-diego-comic-con-2017/

 

On a more personal note, I remember a situation   twenty years ago involving an event in Rosemont that competed with one that I managed. Together with two of my sales team, I attended the event, seeking to talk to the 50 or so companies who were exhibiting. Unfortunately for the show organizer, there was no floor traffic during the actual conference sessions, leaving the exhibit hall empty for 90% of the time the expo was open.

 

And where was the event’s sales staff? They were hiding in the show office with the doors locked. At least, they were in hiding until the exhibitors ganged up on the organizers and forced them to adjust the conference/exhibit hall schedule to try to stir up some floor traffic…Chalk another one up for the “Ostrich Gang”.

The results? My team was able to generate more than $300K of sponsorship/exhibit revenue for our show, while the competitive show, with its cowering sales staff, never took place again.

 

No one likes having to deal with customer problems at their show. But are you the type who hides and hopes the problems go away or do you do everything possible to help resolve the issues, even if it means getting yelled at when you do? I have to admit that I probably started off as the former. But I now take the bull by the horns as much as possible, even though having to do so still makes me shudder in extreme circumstances.

 

When you run a massive, world-renowned event like a Comic-Con (or Macworld, as another example) you can absorb the loss of an exhibitor like Mile High Comics. One of the linked stories indicates that there was a waiting list of potential exhibitors, suggesting that space was probably filled quickly. It also sounds like Comic-Con is making a lot of money. So, who cares if someone is upset?

 

Someone should care. Each issue, resolved positively or otherwise, contributes to a reputation, and if these sorts of situations keep happening, who knows what the impact will be? There have been bigger shows than Comic-Con that have been cancelled, when enough sponsors abandoned a previously successful event because their concerns were not addressed.

 

Are you going to be next? Or will you steady your nerve, steel your resolve, and run toward the challenge when others are running away? Your event’s future may depend on what you decide…..


Copying Your Competition − The First Step on the Road to Event Failure

An interesting column in last month’s Convene advocated working with your competition or co-opting them as competitors so that everyone can benefit. The piece included a link to a Harvard Business Review article that has a great quote:

‘It’s not who your competition is, but what it is.’

This means that you need to consider your competition as encompassing any alternative ways your prospect might follow to solve their problems instead of attending your event. If those competitors can succeed in persuading your prospects that they are indeed a better alternative to you, then they will persist as a threat and your event may suffer.

 

What is Competition?

This led me to think about the meaning of “competition” in terms of an event. In my mind, competition validates the presence of demand for events in a particular market segment and such demand represents an opportunity to make money. However, there are many events (including some big industry ones) that merely convey the idea that they are valuable (like an Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome) than actually are delivering. Eventually their customers wise up and we’ve all seen examples of this if we’ve been around.

If you are spending considerable time focused on your competition, consider that as time that you are not spending trying to figure out the needs of your customers. And without a focus on your customers, you are unlikely to anticipate the future needs of the market or the competitors that await you in that future.  Without a forward-looking perspective, even if you are a dynamite promoter, your time will eventually come. Or perhaps better said, the end of your time will eventually come.

 

Do you know what influences your Customers? 

I believe that few event owners truly know what drives their customers, often because it’s both difficult and time consuming to find out. Chasing the competition is far easier than charting your own course. But it risks leaving the fate of these events at the mercy of decisions that competitors make, rather than pursuing a path of their own choosing.The quest for value an how to spend your limited time continues and the bar is higher than ever, given the demands of everyone’s time.

 

Be Proactive with Building Customer Relationships

My simple prescription to combating [what I call] a “me, too” event is:

  1. Care about meeting the demands of the attendees, visitors, exhibitors and partners of your events;
  2. Come to know people in each category. And know them in person, not just as a voice on the telephone or a digital message on a computer screen;
  3. Get creative about new ways to meet the demands of your customers and don’t be afraid to try those new approaches;
  4. Build a community of people outside of your company who can help you achieve the above tasks.

 

Follow these steps and, rather than following your competition, you’ll be able to see everyone else in your rear-view mirror, struggling to keep up….

 

 


Launch, Acquire – Or Die….

Before I started The Event Mechanic! there were two types of companies for which I worked: 1) an event generator and 2) an event buyer. In both situations, the owners of those companies realized that revenue growth and profitability required a pipeline of new products. Such offerings could be added to the ‘cash cow’ events upon which they relied, as well as stem the revenue loss from those events that showed signs of declining.

 

My experience in this business has found that event generators are rare and far more valuable over the long term. The assessment of value is attributable to the fact that these generators are in complete control of the events they choose to launch, rather than having to wait for a property owned by someone else to become available to purchase. Of course I certainly acknowledge that an event buyer has some options available to them to initiate events: they can choose to clone existing events and execute them in new markets or do niche events that are marginally different from those that they already operate.

 

I believe the failure to frequently launch or acquire events is a recipe for failure for event companies.

 

For those interested in avoiding that failure, you should attempt to invest in a number of creative people who can conceptualize new events and help build the business case needed to support their launches as part of your organization’s strategic plan. In a recent article, Eventbrite provided guidance on the way to correctly launch an event. Their instructions include advice on how to:

  1. Find your audience,
  2. Develop a unique and effective value proposition,
  3. Get your pricing right,
  4. Set a realistic budget,
  5. Build momentum by creating an early support network,
  6. Set up your web page for success,
  7. Promote your event with great online marketing,
  8. Deliver a world-class onsite experience for your attendees,
  9. Go from strength to strength after your first event.

 

Obviously, the toughest steps are the first two. For further insight about the need for creativity in the process, check out some of my previous postings, including one about the “3 Guys” needed for events and another on the importance of the “creative” role.

 

The challenge you’ll face is the scarcity of creative types (which is why you should cultivate your own). If only 5% within the event industry qualify as ‘creative’ and that person is not on your current staff and you can’t seem to hire any, what can you do?

 

I’d suggest:

  1. Look at your current event portfolio and investigating whether you can hire or contract with someone who can conceive a new event.
  2. Challenge someone on your current staff (likely someone younger whose experience will not hinder their creativity) to develop your next concept.
  3. Continually network outside your comfort zone to meet and engage people who may have a new twist on an idea that can be developed into something that could make you money and hire or engage them.

 

Pick one of the above, or find your own way. But remember “failure to launch” is an assurance that your company’s final days will be sooner, rather than later.

 

 


How Not to Engage Your Attendees

Many years ago, I was hired as a ‘secret shopper’ by a large conference company that did not feel it was ‘gelling’ with its audience at a particular event and sought help in figuring out why. What I discovered during that experience was a set of behaviors that showed me what not to do if you want to engage your audience for the long term. I’ll recount some of what I found, though I’ve omitted the names to protect the guilty.

 

What I found was:

  • The event team spent little time speaking with attendees and more time either ‘running the show’ or holed up in the show office during the event;
  • The team spent little time at conference sessions listening to the speakers, hearing their ideas, gauging either the reaction of the audience or the richness of their questions. Though they had spent twelve months crafting the content of the event, the staff spent little on-site time monitoring the results of those efforts or appreciating their own work;
  • During the different event receptions, the team spent more time with other team members, leaving the attendees to interact with each other;
  • The staff knew few of the speakers nor most of the attendees by name other than to eyeball their badges if necessary;
  • When I asked attendees about their experience at the event, they indicated that they felt somewhat rootless, walking from one session to another to the exhibit hall with little sense that the staff cared whether they attended the event or not.

 

Now an admission of my own. My first ten years in the business proved to be fun times, going to new cities, experiencing the exhilaration of being on site at six in the morning for five days in succession, working 12-15 hours each day. But over time the repetition, together with additional responsibilities, began to transform my experience. The events became more of a grind, as I perhaps lost sight of their purpose: to generate revenue by bringing people of like interests together so that they could learn and do business with each other.

 

That mission is a magical thing. It’s easy to become jaded when you do this kind of work, because it’s hard and stressful and there are no “do overs” available to you the week after everything is done. I rediscovered the magic once I realized that to be energized by these things we call events requires that we are connected to them. That means being part of each one in a way that delivers an enjoyment and value even if we, as the event managers, are not the main players.

 

The problem with the client who sought my secret shopper insights, and indeed the problem with my own experience years ago, was the lack of energized awareness which only comes from being truly connected with your own event. Considering the many man-hours spent and the money risked as part of launching and maintaining an event, such ambivalence is a shame and especially dumb if you are trying to build a valuable asset. Can you expect your attendees to be engaged with you when it’s time to register if you are not engaged with them at your own event?

 

If you have an engagement problem with your event, is your detachment due to having forgotten the magic you originally saw, or is it truly gone forever and you are trying to fake it, hoping that no one figures it out?

 

I hope it’s the former rather than the latter because your attendees will always figure it out. And sooner or later, if it is latter, they’ll abandon you. If it’s the former, I challenge you to re-discover the magic of why you do what you do. The tactics on how to re-engage will soon become obvious to you if you truly seek them.

 

Enjoy your re-discovery or suffer the consequences…


The Traits of an Indispensable Event Person

There’s been considerable discussion in recent years regarding the imminent replacement of many elements of the labor force with robots. The proposition got me thinking about times in the past when I managed a staff of seventeen people who executed four reasonably-sized events in a year. Now, I would have to do the same number of events with just half that size staff.

 

Phil Fersht, in this recent blog posting on Horses for Sources, writes about the trend of businesses within the IT market to proactively downsize – with no urgent, imminent need. Automation is conspiring to make people less and less necessary. It’s a trend that used to be concentrated in manufacturing and other “blue collar” industries, but now is making inroads within the service sector.

 

Given the threat of this new paradigm, what attributes are needed to become indispensable at work? Or, should things happen and you were to end up out on the street, what’s needed to get back into the game?

 

Here are my thoughts:

 

  1. Project the right attitude. In my mind, this is the number one asset any person can have. What’s the personality and style that will convey that you can get things done: Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) or John McLane (from Die Hard)?

 

  1. Have an eye for the numbers. Do you know what it takes to make a profit? Can you create revenue? Can you build something from scratch? Do you know how to spend just enough to make something great while not wasting money?

 

  1. Be someone who listens. Do you have your head down, oblivious to what’s happening, or are you alert so that you can pivot in response to outside feedback or changes in the market?

 

  1. Persist – and adjust – in the face of difficult circumstances. Can you change direction midstream? When things are going badly, can you positively influence others and alter the dynamic? Are you aware enough to know what must be changed – or stopped altogether – when the numbers are bad and flexible enough to take the requisite action?

 

  1. Be attuned to the inevitable politics. Can you avoid the pitfalls, while dealing with the inevitable challenges that are found in every company? Or do you risk being the fall guy because your focus is exclusively on the work and not other influences?

 

  1. Act with a sense of urgency. Can you accelerate the pace of activity and deliver results more quickly, as needed? Can you close a sale today, thus freeing up tomorrow to sell to someone new? Can you get the ‘meat and potatoes’ stuff done early, so you can develop something new?

 

  1. Have the network. Have you mustered the resources to ‘break your fall’ if such a fall looms ahead of you? Could you secure another position, one with comparable compensation, were you to be let go today?

 

  1. Know the value you deliver. Do you know the financial value of your contribution to the company? This should be easy for sales people. Are your calculations based upon past success or do they reflect what you are delivering today? Can you make your case clearly and confidently?

 

I’m sure that all of us can find something in the above list deserves attention. I know I can. If you want to stem the tide of obsolescence and ensure you do not become dispensable, consider focusing on the areas where you are weak.

 

Or await your fate.


Six Factors That Will Kill Your Event

During my time in the events business I’ve seen a fair number of successful events, as well as witnessed some failures. In my experience, there are some key factors that, in some combination, will guarantee the failure of your event. Here’s what I believe are the critical mistakes that event organizers make.

 

1) Taking attendees for granted

This can mean that you don’t seek their feedback or, even worse, if you do solicit it, you fail to take any action in response. If you are not paying attention to your customers you are also not likely to be paying close attention to the direction your market is heading in either. You are likely not that attentive to the attendees’ onsite experience as long as you succeed in getting them onto the exhibit floor. And you have probably never picked up the phone and spoken to an attendee with the intent of engaging with them vs. responding to a problem that they bring to your attention.

This is the ‘build it and they will come’ factor.

 

2) Taking exhibitors for granted

You fail to go the extra mile for exhibitors when something is needed onsite or you ignore them until it’s time to rebook. You raise prices without good supporting reasons. You have no idea what creates the ROI that will attract exhibitors to return to your event. You don’t have personal connections with any of CMO’s or VP’s of Marketing that make the decisions about coming to your event.

This is the ‘my show is more important than you’ factor.

 

3) Hiring the wrong people

I’ve hired many people and the best were those with a “can do”, rather than “9-5” attitude – regardless of their skill or experience level. These are the staff members who will dig in when things are hard and will find the answer when it’s not obvious. The good ones are those who allow you to sleep at night because you know they have your back. In contrast, the wrong people are ‘the throw you under the bus’, the ‘it’s not my job’, or ‘it’s not possible’ people. They will fold under pressure and disappear when their effort is needed.

This is the ‘not my problem’ factor.

 

4) Not doing your homework

When doing your annual forecasts, do you understand the market conditions or the state of the competition? Are you able to react when something changes or are you unaware of what is really going on?  Do you know the strengths and weakness of your show and are you in a position to do anything about them?

This is the ‘what me, worry?’ factor

 

5) Not building and tapping into your network

Most people only tap into their network when they need something, often then finding that the network is not extensive enough to address what’s needed. There is enough expertise in this business such that you should be able to find expertise within or outside of your network and gain assistance quickly. If this is not the case, get out of the office and meet some people not just sit behind the computer.

This is the ’Me Myself and I’ factor

 

6) Not taking care of your database

Do you know what the bounce rate of your attendee base is? The opt out rate? Have you segmented your database so that you can easily send out targeted messaging to your top personas? If the answer to any one of these questions is “no”, then you have some back office work to do. If you don’t understand the numbers, or the content of one of your prized assets, your event will suffer.

This is the ‘my tools don’t need cleaning’ factor.

 

Having any one of these factors will damage your event, but two or more in combination will eventually kill it. Beware and act so that your event does not become one of the victims….


The Four “Forks in the Road” of an Event

Recently a client asked how I would describe the lifecycle of an event. The question prompted me to ruminate that an event involves decisions that must be made at various stages, with its ongoing viability governed by those decisions.
What are those stages?

 

1) Do you launch the event?

You’ve got an idea and think it could make a good event, one that can make money. Do you move forward?

 

Yes, if you have the right database, the financial viability in terms of prospective exhibitors/sponsors, content that can fill an agenda, and support from experts whose knowledge can help ensure that your event’s theme and messaging provide the right – as in audience attracting – perspective on the topic. Additionally, you’ve done the due diligence of testing your proposition with an ‘event resume’ to determine whether attendees/visitors will come. Lastly, you’re able to assign execution to someone who can manage the many challenges involved with launching an event. You are aiming high but could afford to break even financially.

No, if you have not done your homework. It may be that you’ve skimped on the requisite testing and are unable to capture the essence of the event – and who will benefit – on a single sheet of paper. Or you have not analyzed your database such that you can distinguish the ‘buyers’ from the ‘sellers.’ In fact, you may not have figured out the buy-sell relationship of the event which means you could lose a lot of money

For more reference on launching an event, check out this past article: Launching New Events Without Losing Your Shirt

 

 

2) Do you continue the event?

You’ve launched the event and it went reasonably well. At least, you didn’t lose your shirt. Do you continue on?

 

Yes, if you know how to identify and repeat what went well and eliminate/improve what didn’t. You can see areas where you could expand your offering (and perhaps charging more) and improve the bottom line. You have people who’ve expressed interest in future participation and exhibitors who are enthused to sign up.

No,  if the opportunity cost (relative to other things in which you could invest your time) proved to be negative and you don’t see that changing. Or if you anticipate continued or even greater struggles, perhaps from competitors who are introducing alternatives that would threaten your event. Another signal is wavering commitment from your Top 5 sponsors/exhibitors. Lastly, if the profits weren’t there and you cannot forecast that the situation will improve so that it matches the original three-year projection that prompted you to pursue the event.

An article on competitors moving in on your space: Stop New Agile Competitors From ‘Eating Your Lunch’

 

 

 

3) Do you enhance it?

At this point your event has been around for some years and is earning nicely, no longer a fledgling novice in the market. Perhaps, it’s not the top show, but it’s doing well.  Should you “double down” and commit more effort or be content to let it cruise on as it has?

 

Yes, make the commitment if you can see the potential for the event to become the industry leader, were it supported with investments in cutting edge content or an evolution/expansion into a new area. You may find validation of that decision in expanded commitments from existing sponsors that could put you over the top.

No, if your sense is that the event is “good enough” – perhaps as good as it will be. You may choose to treat it as a ‘cash cow’ until the market changes, at which point you will likely need to start from scratch. Or your competition is upping their efforts and you lack the will or the capital to do battle. Or perhaps you believe that your will and capital are best committed to other events with better returns on your investment. This might well be the point at which a sale of the event is a wise decision, particularly if the financials are solid and the forecast is good.

 

Some past article with perspective on enhancing your event:

How To Make Event Profits When Creativity Is Hard To Find- The Blue Ocean Way,

How To Create Profit in Tired Events

 

 

4) Do you kill it?

It’s a hard thing to do, particularly when your event has been around awhile. But sometimes the old must make way for the new. Do you end the show?

 

Yes, if you’ve lost momentum and, though different tactics have been tried, your event’s excitement and profitability are declining. It’s become harder to run the show every year and your important customers are moving on to other things.

No, if something or someone can refresh your event in ways that bring you renewed optimism with new topics, sponsors, or a twist on running the event(see item 3 above)

 

These ‘forks in the road’ represent the four most important decisions you will have to make during the life of your events. Make the right decisions, and profitability and success are yours. But choose otherwise and misery and lost opportunities could be your fate.

 

Past articles on killing your event: To Cancel Or Not Cancel Your Struggling Event: That is the Question

 

Choose wisely…


No One Wants to Exhibit at Your Event


No one cares what you have to say

It’s funny that in my 25+ years of working in this industry, I’ve come to anticipate that frequent demand that “you’ve got to get [fill in the blank exhibitor] to sign up. They must be there.” And for many years my quest was to find the perfect email to write or the phone script to recite that would get these targets to buy. Was there some word or phrase that could make it happen?

 

The internet changes everything

Over time, it became apparent that on the other side of the computer screen or phone, out of my sight, something had happened. While I focused on my message, my prospect was making evaluations of me based on different factors whether I knew it or not.. Through the Internet, the prospect now had access to all the information they needed to make their own buying decisions and could do it without my assistance.

 

Listen and qualify your prospect

Given that situation, my challenge was not to push my message, but rather to gain my prospect’s attention and then listen carefully, asking the right questions such that I might elicit enough information to continue the conversation. I learned that what I was selling wasn’t as important as understanding what motivated my prospect. This was a conversation with someone who didn’t know me, nor didn’t care about the event I was selling. And unless I could make the connection between their needs and my offer, they would never care(or pick up my phone call again).

 

A light shines on Expo! Expo!

Given my understanding of this new reality, I was thrilled to attend Rick Farrell’s session at “Expo! Expo!” this past December. His session, “Selling Has Nothing to Do With Selling,” was easily the best one I attended.. Rick’s presentation reminded me that rather than focus on what I was selling, the important thing was that I understand the fears and drivers of my prospect. That meant understanding my prospects’ concerns about “how am I going to pull in my lead numbers for the quarter,” or “how am I going to get all my work done so I can go on vacation,” or “how am I going to look good in front of my boss so I can get a raise.” Before, such questions were not part of my thinking; yet if I am going to understand my prospect’s side of the interaction, they are crucial to know.

 

No one cares what you have to say

A traditional selling situation often forces the customer to knit together all the pieces of what you are saying in a way that makes sense to address their needs. But they may not be interested or willing to make that effort. That’s why many ‘deals’ fall through; the burden is placed on the prospect and they are not willing to assume that burden.

 

Can you pick out the buyer?

But if you listen closely to the prospect, you may find out what they need and then determine whether what you offer is a match. Also, whether they are in a position to buy. After all, there is no assurance that the person with whom you are speaking is either a recommender or a decision maker. Or the dynamics might be such that that they will never buy from you. Separating out those who might buy from those who never will is crucial to not spinning your wheels

 

Unfortunately, the truth is that no one wants to buy what you are selling, unless you can serve it up for them in the right way, at the right time, to the right person, and for the right reasons.
Do you have the discipline to change your approach?

 

Here’s more about Rick’s philosophy: http://www.tangentknowledge.com/philosophy.html

 


Is Your Show Remarkable?

Unfortunately, the answer for most shows is ‘no’, which is not unlike the chicken or beef entrées served at the last ten wedding receptions you’ve attended. They’re entirely forgettable as soon as you leave the reception/event.

 

Here is how it is from an event attendee’s perspective:

You’ve certainly spent enough money to attend the event. Is it part of the circuit where one show is as good as another? Or maybe it’s a top industry show? Or perhaps it’s a new show with potential – a shiny new object – that is prone to disappoint. Too often the events fall short of expectations and you wish you’d never left the office given it’s going to take two weeks to catch up on the work that you missed. And that’s not to mention that terrible hotel mattress or the delayed flight or the lost bag, etc.

For too many events, a bad night’s sleep leads to the 8:30AM keynote, followed by a walk to a session at which you learn nothing.  Then there’s a trek down the hallway and up the stairs to another session at which you again are told nothing new. So, you get up, stand in line, grab a bun, and get coffee. And then the day continues – rinse and repeat.

When the exhibit floor is open, you walk the show floor with hundreds of others. Untrained vendor staff try to cajole you into their booth or take the opposite posture, one of disdain that makes clear their disinterest. It’s not clear who has the products and services you want. And despite the lanyard with your name and company, no-one seems to know anything about you.

The late afternoon/evening reception is full of cliques, where people who are from the same company or who have history from past events seem content to speak to each other. If you are not part of a clique you grab a beer and end up speaking with someone who’s trying quite hard to sell you something. The beer is free, but your time?

Then you leave, with expectations that the same sequence of events will be repeated the next day.
Why is it like this? Because organizer profits are good and an event can’t possibly cater to every attendee and their unique needs. Your job as an event organizer is to create the same comprehensive experience for everyone – since you know better than they do. But still, unremarkable.
So, what makes an event remarkable?
I experienced one a few weeks ago. Was it the best content? No. Were the exhibitors offering products or services that I needed? Not really. But was the event remarkable? Indeed, it was.

 

The reason had little to do with the content, the food, or the venue(although the fact that it was only a two hour flight for me was appreciated).  It was attributable to the intentional structure of the event, a dynamic that I would distill to two key elements:

 

1) Its structure compelled people to engage with each other;

 

2) Attendees were encouraged to craft their own experience rather than adhere to a rigid conference schedule that offered little time to breathe.

 

Some examples of how this was done:

1) Speed networking-sessions where everyone sat on one of two sides of an enormous table and had five minutes to speak to the person opposite them. Upon conclusion of the five minutes, each side of the table moved in opposite direction – and the networking started again. You concluded having met 12 new people, none of whom you likely would have otherwise met.

 

2) Roundtable sessions at which tent cards were set up at approximately 12 tables, covering a range of different topics. When the sessions started, the moderator polled the table for questions, all of which were addressed during the roundtable. For many participants, this alone made the conference valuable. These were followed up with theme-oriented receptions and longer break times (and shorter session times) so that people could spend time with new friends and continue to craft their own custom experiences.

 

These were just some of the tactics used, and I am sure I unknowingly missed others.
The event was valuable, memorable, and thus remarkable.
The organizer crafted the event with this intention, one which had the attendee as their own experience creator, together with the structure to make it possible.
Have you crafted your event with your attendee’s experience in mind or have you defaulted to what is the easiest to plan? I challenge you to make your event remarkable. Your attendees will thank you by returning year after year.

 


Five Elements of a Successful Event

I have been thinking about the elements that would, if all were present, make up a perfect event. Such speculation recognizes that only 5% of all events would ever fit within this category. So perhaps these events are more elusive ghosts than reality for most of us.

Here are what come to mind:

 

1) The amount of money you make is far greater than your opportunity cost
Your return far surpasses what you could attain by pursuing other projects. Thus, you’re glad to put in the effort (regardless of the amount) for this event, because it is profitable and successful enough to want to do it again.

 

2) It’s not hard to attract attendees
Examples are TED, SXSW, perhaps CES or NAB. Despite the many hassles (hotels, travel, crowds, and costs), registrations pour in as soon as these events are announced. For me, Macworld fit this model. Regardless of obstacles, everyone wants to be at these events because they are magical.

 

3)People line up to speak
When you issue the call for presentations, you receive proposals that overwhelm the available slots, perhaps by many multiples. Your event has a ‘Good Housekeeping Sign of Approval’ and a spot at the podium is recognized as delivering business to the speaker.

 

4) Your exhibit sales staff operate as order takers
Perhaps controversially, in a talk once given to folks in the industry, I said that only one of every ten members of a sales staff was truly a sales person, with the rest serving as order takers and account service reps. I think my comment even prompted boos from the audience. But I stand by my estimate. The good news for these events is that the orders roll in and your numbers can be achieved, regardless of the composition of your sales staff.

 

5) You can run the event in another region and not detract from the original
You can clone the event and not affect the original event’s attendee, delegate, or sales numbers. This sounds easy, but many a clone has damaged the primary event. Have you done your homework on this one?

 

You might consider other attributes that I’ve not mentioned as key to a successful event. So, let me know if you think I’ve missed anything important. But if you have all five of the above, I salute you!