Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Event Goals: Remember the Three S's

I was recently contacted about a series of public events to take place this fall. Thrilled about the opportunity, I dove into my list of questions and quickly learned that some serious gaps existed in the company's pre-planning. Estimated attendance was based off 10% of the population and prices for food and beverage were being discussed before an expense budget had been drafted.

This made me start think about setting goals. Getting caught up in the details of the event can, for some like me, be exciting and motivating. Who wants to spend time thinking about the implications of low attendance when invitations need to be designed and flowers need to be selected? Thinking about making, raising or spending large sums of money can be daunting. But guess what - goals actually help with that!

Setting goals can be motivating if you start out with a brainstorm session. What will make this event perfect in your eyes, the attendees' eyes, the executives' eyes, the donors' eyes? 400 people? a sunny day? spending $0 and raising $infinity? The sky's the limit.

Then, for your second exercise, think about minimums and worse-case scenarios. What if it rains? How many attendees will cover the event's costs?

Somewhere in the middle of these two scenarios are your event goals.

And here's the kicker. You and your team need to remember that goals are flexible. They are words on paper (hopefully - be sure to write them down!), but real life changes. Maybe that potential sponsor you thought perfectly aligned with your event is struggling to make ends meet. Or that ideal venue isn't available on the one day your company has available for the event.

That doesn't mean you give up trying. You go out and find another company or multiple companies to sponsor. You locate a venue that is one street or one town over and adjust your attendance estimates for it. And you make note of these obstacles so that you can prepare better next year.

So for the company planning to have 10,000-30,000 people at 10 first-time events this fall, I suggested we use that big idea brainstorming to their advantage and pair it with some worse-case scenarios to set realistic goals, budgets and timelines.

And to remember the three S's: Setting goals Secures Success.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kudos to Seth Godin

One of Seth Godin's blog posts last week was named "Spectacles" and he wasn't talking about glasses. He was talking about events. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/spectacles.html

Putting aside the negative connotation of the term, this statement struck me:

"People love them. We generally agree we don't have them often enough. What if you started one?"

My answer: If half of the people who read Seth Godin's blog got involved in one charitable fundraiser - say, volunteering at the event for four hours or donating two Yankees seats to the silent auction - they would raise over $1 million.

Thanks for the call to action, Seth!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Managing Underperformance

A good portion of what I do is managing vendor relations. Between the venue, audio-visual, travel agent, entertainment, transportation, etc., the communications can sometimes be overwhelming, expecially since they need to be continuous to make sure everything is on schedule.

During the proposal stage, service providers are typically communicative, thorough and enthusiastic, flush with the prospect of new business. There are times, however, when the rapid-fire communication will wane, post contract-signing.

As a vendor who handles a variety of events for multiple clients, I understand that project timelines often overlap. My rule is that no more than 24 hours can pass without acknowledging the request and confirming it is being handled.

When vendors underperform, it’s important to remain calm and not rush to any conclusions that can lead to unnecessarily broken contracts. Most of the time, it just takes an honest conversation to reach an understanding.

1. Schedule a meeting with the primary contact, in person if possible, to review the status of the project.
2. Begin on common ground, mentioning tasks that have been completed well or you know the vendor has underway.
3. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Respectful discussions breed compromise and understanding.
4. Explain that each question or request is part of a larger context and impacts numerous tasks down the line.
5. Reset expectations. Review the current situation and outline areas or steps that need to change.
6. Ask for suggestions on how to make improvements.
7. Review written timelines and have both parties sign the document as a sign of good faith.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

First Success from Networking

As a small business owner, I'm constantly fitting in marketing efforts between my client work. In order to have next events to plan, I have to think about what I'll be doing in 6-12 months and talk to my clients about what they will be doing in 6-12 months. Seems pretty simple, especially when my relationships with my clients seem like I'm another (cheaper!) employee to them. But this year I came across a dilemma. What do I do when clients aren't planning anything in 6-12 months? Time to find more clients.

I've never been a very good networker. I prefer my role as a behind-the-scenes person and wasn't planning to even name the business after myself until one of my mentors - a marketing guru - reminded me that I'm selling my skills, so using my name was absolutely necessary! I typically attend networking events with someone else I know, look for others I know and, only if I'm feeling extremely adventurous, exchange business cards with a few other people I will never contact. Not exactly a recipe for success.

The problem is, I'm a relationship person. Fleeting conversations with people I'll never see again is of no interest to me. I have realized that I need to have opportunities to see people repeatedly, really get to know them (aka care about them), and develop a reciprocal relationship with them in order to expand my network (and therefore my business).

This is why I'm starting a chapter of Business Networking International in my area. We've been meeting once a month to grow the group and little by little, we're all really getting to know each other. Next comes caring about each other, particularly, each other's businesses.

Already, someone interested in the group introduced me to her contact, who was looking for a local event planner. She passed along my information because "I was the only one she knew in the area." Now that isn't the greatest vote of confidence, but by handling the referral professionally and putting my best foot forward (always!), the next time she thinks of me will come with a better introduction.

Her contact took a chance on me and I was able to prove I was worthy of that referral, solidifying a new relationship with much potential. This is marketing I can get into. Now onto the next 6-12 months!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back from the Birthplace of American Democracy

I'm back from Public Interest Projects’ 2nd Annual Communities for Public Education Reform Convening in Philadelphia. Two hundred community, youth and parent organizers, as well as the foundations that support them, came together to share experiences and improve skills.

It was a busy three days including simultaneous dialogue sessions, site visits to local organizations and entertainment provided by the Kensington Creative and Performing Arts Drum Line and Familia Rojas, a local Puerto Rican Bomba group. Participants also had the opportunity to experience the variety of cuisine that Philadelphia has to offer through a diverse dine-around.

This year’s event was particularly successful due to continual follow-up to invitees until registration was confirmed or released, allowing additional, wait-listed guests the opportunity to attend. In addition, we were able to reduce the event’s budget by 20%. Time to start planning next year's convening!