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Making Events Eventful

There Are Two Criteria For Evaluating An Event: Did It Come Off Smoothly And Was It Eventful?

By Thomas J. Roach

There are two criteria for evaluating an event: did it come off smoothly and was it eventful? Employee recognition dinners, groundbreaking ceremonies, and annual shareholders meetings all require planning competence and can all benefit from creative themes.

Timing and location are the most important concerns. Events that are centrally located and at convenient times draw the most people. Consider your event like you were planning a flash mob.

Another requirement is an attractive and comfortable facility. Comfort means a space with enough room for people to move around freely but not too freely. A dinner with 200 attendees can seem poorly attended in a room that seats 400.

Because large events are typically scheduled offsite, things that might be taken for granted become unpredictable. Everything needs to be tested.

Even in a professional setting like a hotel ballroom, the wise event planner shows up early to verify that the podium is set up, adjust the volume on the public address system, and make sure the laptop with the PowerPoint presentation can be plugged into a projector that brightly illuminates a screen in full view of the audience.

If the basic requirements are met, then think about what can go wrong. An ounce of prevention is worth an evening of disappointments and apologies. Have a backup plan in case the photographer quits, the person bringing the awards gets stuck in traffic, or it rains.

Creating a Theme

When planning an event, look for a theme. Focus on what is unique to your organization or industry. For instance a marathon race fundraiser sponsored by a quarry might start and end at the quarry site. And the trophy could incorporate a stone carving.

Even better is incorporating a theme that sends a message to key publics. A trade show theme could be chosen to get the news media to report technological changes in the aggregate industry or identify with public concerns like safety.

Be careful picking a theme. One company was planning a gala fundraising dinner in honor of their retiring CEO. The theme was “A Night to Remember.” They were about to print invitations when they discovered it was the title of a movie about the sinking of the Titanic.

A timeline for a small local event would start with booking speakers six weeks in advance, a signup campaign three weeks in advance, and a phone call push three days in advance. It is best to print programs and agendas as late as possible so that last minute changes can be incorporated.

On the day of the event, disperse a hospitality committee to meet and greet guests and troubleshoot unforeseen problems. When the event is over, solicit feedback in the form of a short email survey, and meet with the event team for a debriefing and a review of the feedback. And find a meaningful way to thank those who helped.

Reputation Builders

Public events are reputation builders. Well-planned and executed events speak for the competence and quality of the organization. Professional business communicators in public relations, marketing, or investor relations should be able to do all this and more.

More means going beyond tactics and achieving a goal in a unique and memorable way. All shareholder meetings must meet legal requirements and common expectations, but they can also help to define the business culture, communicate inclusiveness, or demonstrate thought leadership. A good fundraising dinner sends everyone away well fed, but a great dinner sends out an audience of ambassadors talking about an extraordinary evening.

If all else runs smoothly, the presentation becomes the focal point of the day. The best presenters capture the attention of their hearers. A good informative speech tells people something they don’t already know, a better one tells people what they want to know, and a great one tells them something they will want to tell others when they leave.