Think about the best event you’ve ever been to— The marketing is fun and thought out, the design all in sync. The venue is in a great location, the entertainment is right on brand. Oh, and the food! How can we forget the carefully chosen, delectable food? Types of events like this where each detail is thought out leaves the audience feeling inspired, and this inspiration all starts with first impressions. This is the spirit of event planning.
Creativity & Brand
First impressions are made through marketing’s creative genius and design’s cohesiveness. It’s important to have a plan in place. Whether it’s social media, email, direct mail, or in-person marketing, it should contain innovative design and strong story-based copywriting as well as creative brand elements that will get your audience excited. That same design and branding should carry over into the event. And when I think of a brand, I think of every element an event should own and how it should match up. These elements include everything from gifts, staging, décor, and entertainment, to the speakers, activities, and venue. Everything should either highlight or be relevant to your brand, which will also help you create cohesiveness.
Recently I attended an event where all of the marketing and branding was cohesive. It was brilliant! However, when the dinner portion of the program started, everything became a jumbled pile. It was as if some outsider had planned this portion and this portion only without knowing anything about the company. While it’s good to be different, this event went from a company dinner whose colors were red, white, and black to a dinner where the décor was pink and feathery, resembling a peacock made of bubblegum. It was clear that people were confused. On top of that there wasn’t enough seating, leaving over 150 people standing to eat.
Incorporate Small Delights
I was very pleased with a conference I recently attended. They had all of the elements down— good food, great learning sessions, and fabulous entertainment. They even incorporated things most attendees wouldn’t expect.
Number one on my list, a cookie break. After the third breakout session of the day, a mental reset is necessary, so providing light snacks is always a step in the right direction. In this instance the simple delight of a cookie is just the thing I needed to hold me over.
Similarly, if you’re planning an outing for your guests, it may be nice to have some sunglasses available for those who forget to bring theirs, or some water bottles and snacks so they don’t get fatigued. Will every person in every group expect or even want to use these things? Probably not. But those that do will never forget it. It’s the little details that leave customers delighted.
Elements – Quality over quantity – Going against the grain
I’m not sure if we’ve gotten lazy and have started to follow the parable of the monkeys or if we all truly believe that providing our attendees with the same cheap, meaningless swag at every event is the best thing we can think of. Do we really think any of it is desirable? I’d love to see a study done on how much of this cheap stuff we give away ends up in the trash all but five minutes later. I understand that we all have budgets we need to stick to, but unless your cheap swag is provided by sponsors at a trade show, start thinking about quality over quantity. If your budget is $5, think about providing one high quality item versus four or five cheap $1 items. I don’t think attendees will miss it too much. For example, one event I went to provided me with a really nice journal book, which I use on a daily basis. Another conference vendor provided me with an incredibly high quality lip balm, and I used that lip balm until the very last bit.
Additionally, sometimes it’s worth forgoing certain elements of an event to magnify others. Always think audience first, what they would enjoy most, and what your end goals are. If you’re planning a party for a business group, it may be worth investing in better food and an elegant atmosphere and foregoing decorations and cheap prizes. However, if you’re throwing a party for residents of an apartment community, you may want to invest in a fun party and great prizes.
You want your event to feel cohesive, connect with people, and leave them feeling inspired. Think about what inspires you and show your audience a good time because there’s no reason that work shouldn’t also be fun.