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  • Maggie Pearson

Successful Events

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

Each association is distinct, and all have different wants and needs. Most associations want to achieve growth in revenue and membership. Some associations want to be the go-to content provider for their industry. Others may want to be the best host for buyers and sellers in a particular market. Finding out what each association wants will help you determine how to make your association’s events flourish. Building successful events takes time, the power to partner, and the power to communicate effectively.


You have to put in the work to see your results. You need time to review your budget, listen to your stakeholders, and work with your team to get everyone on the same page.


Knowing your event goals clearly is important before you begin to work on your budget. In some circumstances, you need to spend money to make money. Knowing what is important will let you know where to invest your resources.


Asking your stakeholders what they want and working towards those goals will make your events more meaningful to them and keep participants coming back. Putting your resources towards their wants and needs will show them you have their interest in mind.


First, if you aren’t asking questions to your stakeholders, you need to start - ASAP. Having a robust survey for your events is key to finding out information that could be very helpful in making hard decisions. Having strong data can help you present your case to your leadership when needed. Data-backed decisions are easier to make.


Second, getting Sponsor and Exhibitor feedback is just as important as getting survey feedback from participants. These are your industry partners. They need a reason to spend their resources at your event. Find out what they need to meet their ROI and work with them to offer those options at your event. Working with your sponsors will benefit your organization and theirs and be an added benefit to your members. Meanwhile, it will bring in extra revenue to enhance your event.


Third, take the time to understand what your leadership wants from the event. Does your event need to make more revenue for the organization? Do you need to add more strategic partnerships or alliances? Does the board or council have goals that you can help meet? Is there a new target audience or a program internally that needs to grow? Taking all this into consideration again takes time, but getting input from multiple sources gives you multiple opportunities to improve your meeting and get your team heading in the same direction.


Once you know your event’s goals, you can set your budget. Allocate your budget so that the resources help you meet your needs first and then maximize your wants. You will always have basic needs that have to be met (contract minimums, basic AV, travel, supplies, etc.). Once you cover your needs, begin to allocate for your wants. Ranking your goals can help offset the stress of where to budget your expenses.


How you rank your goals is up to you. You could rank from most impact to least impact. Or you could rank them based on your survey results. You could also take your leadership team's goals and prioritize them. It could also be a mix of options. Knowing in advance that you may only be able to reasonably meet some of your goals every time is also part of the strategy here. Setting ways to grow your meetings should be the main point here. If you meet every goal, you should push yourself for loftier ones the next time!


Don’t forget to work with your partners during the budgeting process. Costs change all the time! Sharing your goals with your vendor partners allows them to help you brainstorm options for your event. Ask them about new trends and what other clients are doing. The more you work with your partners, the more they can learn about your meeting goals and help find ways to maximize your resources. Creating powerful partnerships is one of the most important things you can do as a planner.


When you write your budget, you need to account for all revenues and expenses impacted by your event. Find out who gets a cut or who can draw against your budget. No one likes surprises! Each association is different, and funds get allocated differently. You should always have an idea of what your income looks like and what your expenses are. That will help you make decisions more efficiently.


Once you have your goals and partners in place and have worked out the details of your budget, it is time to start planning and communicating with your whole team. Your team should be one unit working together towards the goals of your event. They can’t do that without knowing what to do and when to do it.


Meeting planners often get referred to as ducks on the water. We look nice and calm on the surface, but under the water, we never stop paddling. This is partially true, especially when we face bumps in the planning process, but the paddles we take can be made easier with communication.


Your timeline or project schedule will be changed or altered by something along the way. It is not immune from changes or disruption. It is how you communicate those changes that will make your event successful. When a change comes in, look at everything the change impacts, then alert those team members. Changes can have a domino effect and quickly cause things to spiral for your event. You can stay ahead by keeping your team members in the know. Getting feedback from your team on how the changes have impacted them is also important. Communication should flow in all directions on a team.


Several ways to help keep everyone informed are to take notes on a shared document, record team calls, and request group input on agendas before you meet. This will help make the most of your time and help you remember key details. These notes can also be referenced if someone is out or you need a refresh on a decision made. Consolidating your event details will help keep you organized and make your planning easier.


Communication is also important to your participants. Attendees invest more than money to attend meetings. They are spending their employers and possibly their own resources out of pocket to attend your event. They need to know everything to do or see to maximize and know what to expect for their time onsite. It is time away from their daily work duties and family commitments at home. Communication is key to their happiness if you want them to return to your meetings and tell others how great their time was with you.


Just like attendees, your other participants need to know what to expect as well. Speakers and exhibitors are also looking for ROI on their time spent with you. People will rarely complain about too much information. So, ensure your website is up to date and send out important information about your event to everyone involved. This includes building out your surveys for the event to send out immediately following your time onsite.


Ensure you reasonably list everything you would like to know in the survey. Make the survey format easy and consider possible prizes for completion. Once you have received the survey and reviewed the details with your stakeholders, plan your next great event!


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