Since I have been involved in the event planning, conference/ convention organizing, and negotiation specialties for over thirty years, I have developed strong beliefs as to what is necessary to optimize one’s opportunity for a successful events. While this is being written as it relates to not- for- profit organizations, the concepts and ideas relate directly also to business organizations. These six steps are: 1) Budgeting; 2) Professional negotiations of all details; 3) Flow sheet development and theme; 4) Creating committees and recruiting volunteers; 5) Plan, back-ups and details; 6) Marketing the event (attracting attendees and sponsors).
1) Before anything else can be properly done, an organization must develop a detailed budget for its event. This must include both anticipated revenues and expenses. Revenues must always be calculated on a conservative (worst case scenario) basis, while expenses must also be calculated based on the worst case possibilities (and without assuming hoped- for cost savings. In addition, the expense side of the budget should be done in two stages, one representing those things that are the highest priorities, and the second stage being the wish list. If revenues end up being higher than forecast, some or all of the wish list items can be incorporated into the event.
2) Once the budget is agreed upon, professional negotiators should negotiate every item that is both needed and/ or perceived of. This may include items such as complimentary items, food and beverage, decorations, audio- visual, transportation, etc. Unfortunately, I have too often observe organizations that have had great values negotiated for them professionally, that then lose many of these values because as the event nears, untrained and unqualified, usually well- intentioned individuals seem to decide they “know better” and make changes, often not realizing that once a change is made, many of the items previously negotiated for, may also be lost.
3) A flow sheet must be expertly crafted. This flow sheet must have dual purposes of both optimally serving the needs of attendees (within budgetary limitations), while also showing perceived value to potential attendees.
4) At this stage, organizers must make an all- out effort to recruit and secure volunteers, to assist in the detail planning, as well as the on- premises reception, meeting and greeting, and numerous necessary and needed tasks during the event. The event organizer must spend considerable time analyzing all the needs, and utilizing volunteers optimally.
5) Every part of an event must be carefully and thoroughly planned, and details must be spelled out, etc. Their must always be back- up or contingency plans, because invariably something needs to be tweaked.
6) Marketing the event must be a priority. There is little as discouraging as spending countless hours meticulously planning and arranging what should be a great event, conference or convention, and then not having sufficient attendance. Attendance is essential to the success of an event for numerous reasons, including economies of scale, morale, conducting essential business, etc. In addition, the greater the amount of sponsorship an event attracts, the more can be offered to attendees and/ or the more can be donated (if the event is a fundraiser). Even if an event is a fundraiser, attendees should be shown a good time and feel they derived value as well as donating. Marketing of an event includes; a) using the flow sheet to indicate value (perceived value); b) face- to- face invitations; c) telephone calls; d) digital communications including texts, emails, E-Blasts, etc.; e) Some direct mailing (postcard mailings are quite effective and cost effective); and every other method that is affordable. The further in advance marketing begins, as well as the frequency of marketing are important factors to consider. Event organizer should remember that surveys show that most individuals need duplication to remember something (that is why, for example, television ads are repeated so often).
Event organizers should understand that the success or failure of an event is often dependent on adherence to these six steps. While there are many other specific details that are needed, if these six areas are not prioritized and addressed in a logical and comprehensive manner, chances for success are severely limited.