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:
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