Updated: Oct 27, 2022
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 associations’ events flourish. Building successful events takes time, the power to partner, and the power to effectively communicate.
You have to put in the work in order to see your results. You need time to review your budget, time to listen to your stakeholders, and time to work with your team to get everyone on the same page.
It is important to know your events goals clearly 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, just as important as getting survey feedback from participants, is getting Sponsor and Exhibitor feedback. 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 for you to enhance your event.
Third, make sure you 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 in 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 make your meeting better and to 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. You may also find it could be a mix of options. Knowing in advance that you may not be able to reasonably meet all of your goals every time is part of the strategy here too. Setting ways to grow your meetings should be the main point here. If you find that you are meeting every goal, then 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 your meeting goals and help find ways to maximize your resources. Creating powerful partnerships is one of the single most important things you can do as a planner.
When you sit down to write your budget, you need to account for all revenues and expenses that are 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 to what your expenses are. That will help you make decisions more efficiently.
Once you have your goals and partners in place and you have worked out the details of your budget, it is time to start planning and communicating to 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, be sure to look at everything the change impacts, then alert those team members. Changes can have a domino effect and can quickly cause things to spiral for your event. You can stay ahead of this by keeping your team members in the know. It is also important to get feedback from your team with how the changes have impacted them. Communication should flow in all directions on a team.
Several ways to help keep everyone informed is 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 from forgetting key details. These notes can also be referenced if someone is out or if you need a refresh on a decision that was made. Keeping your event details in a consolidated location 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 resources and possibly their own resources out of pocket to come to your event. They need to know everything there is to do or see to make the most of their time onsite. It is time away from their daily duties at work and their family commitments at home. If you want them to return to your meetings and tell others how great their time was with you, communication is key to their happiness.
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, make sure your website is up to date and make sure you are sending 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.
Make sure you list everything you would like to reasonably 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, start planning your next great event!