by Eric Alzuhn
In a post earlier this week, Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, hit the nail on the head when he wrote, "if you’re going to do something, do it first class." It was clearly evident, as I worked with Matt and his team on the IN Conference for email reputation, that his staff embraced this philosophy at every turn. They understood the difference between hosting an event and creating an experience – a critical element in marketing your company and your event and having them stand out from the all the competition.
Through the years, I’ve worked with many companies to make their events First Class. It’s not all about big shrimp and big name entertainment, it’s the total experience you create for your attendees from the time they receive the "save-the-date" email until they board their flight to return home. It may require a shift in thinking and execution because getting your executive team on board isn’t always easy – after all, doing it the same way you did it last year (and the year before that) is much easier then thinking outside the box and taking a risk. But you don’t have flip your entire event program on its head to make measurable progress - start slowly if you have to and your audience will thank you.
a few things I've learned over the years and try to share with our clients:
- Know your audience and what they expect to get out of attending your event. If you don’t know, ask them.
- Have a plan with carefully thought-out goals and objectives that can be tracked and measured.
- Support your plan with attention-getting messaging and presentations.
- Develop visual aids with PowerPoint (or Keynote) for supporting talking points and key ideas, but be careful to not create an event that’s "Death by Slideshow." You know what I’m talking about - we’ve all been to one!
- ENGAGE and INTERACT with your audience making them part of the presentations. Ask them if what’s being discussed is relevant to them, ensure that the information presented is being retained and have some fun! Don’t simply talk at your audience and lost their attention to PDAs and the free Wi-Fi. The Perception Analyzer is a great tool to help accomplish this.
- Tell stories (either personal or business related) that support your topics and/or helps the audience to understand new and complex ideas. Show passion about the topics you’re presenting and don’t read directly from your slides or a prepared script. You’ll build credibility and connect with your audience.
- Measure your results - this often begins with online registration, and may not be complete until your attendees have the opportunity to implement what they learned. Using the Perception Analyzer as a paperless survey tool delivers instant results and helps the environment. And don’t tell yourself, "Now I have 11 months before I have to start thinking about next year’s event." Plan early because there is much to do in order to make your event great.
Congratulations Return Path on a well executed event. You’ve raised the bar!