Award-Winning Ideas for Your Next Event
Did you hear the News? On Sunday evening, I won a coveted Capital Award from the Greater Washington DC chapter of the International Special Event Society (ISES DC) for a fundraising gala I co-produced with 30 sponsors and a 14-person steering committee in March 2012. I’ve been told by many people that it was a fabulous event but why? More importantly, why was my event more award-winning than my competitors? Their events were produced by experienced planners, included generous sponsors and encountered many challenges just like mine. So what tipped my event in favor of an award? With one award under my belt, I’m hardly an authority but I have a few ideas, factors for you to consider as you begin planning your next award-winning event:
Planning Started Early
Planning began nearly a year out, which allowed sufficient time to think, act and even react. Event planners rarely have the luxury of time, especially in this new economy, but it really is a resource that can make or break an event.
We asked guests what they wanted (remember, it’s all about them!)
You may remember my ‘Survey Says’ blog article. I wrote how participation was declining for this annual fundraising event. So we surveyed members/potential guests to determine what they wanted. We added an incentive (a complimentary event ticket) to encourage responses. We analyzed the data and ultimately, produced an event that our guests wanted. In fact, each time was had to make a difficult decision, we referred to the survey responses for guidance.
Sponsors/Vendors Were Part of the Event Team
The event’s success, not to mention the guests’ experience, was dependent on my generous sponsors’ success. Rather than ask for a freebie in exchange for plastering the sponsors’ logo everywhere, we worked with each sponsor to give them what they needed for their investment (remember, the new sponsorship strategy is win-win-win). Further, we integrated them into planning stage by leveraging their expertise. For example, our lighting vendor was able to work with the venue’s electrical engineer to bring more power into the building in a safe, cost-effective manner – something I couldn’t have done on my own. Lastly, we invited them to walk-throughs, kept the lines of communication wide open and worked hand-in-hand during set up.
Marketing Activities were Diversified
We had no money but one line item we never considered eliminating was invitation printing and postage. Instead, we developed a broad marketing plan to include save the date and invitation mailings as well as dynamic web site, frequent email reminders, blog articles, social media updates, word of mouth (we actually had a committee person responsible for talking about the gala to all industry friends at each networking event he attended) and the best, a teaser video shot at the venue that showcased many sponsors. Our diversified marketing plan worked; we exceeded our registration goal!
Keep Calm and Carry On
Things come up, changes happen. It’s up to the event planner(s) to remain professional, flexible and solution-oriented. For instance, one of our top sponsors had to cancel a lot of in-kind inventory in favor of a paying client. This presented a seating as well as a decor problem but we understood. We were able to select some alternative furniture and bring furniture inside when Mother Nature gave us rain the night of the event. Though the problem was challenging in the moment, it all worked out – as it always does!
Plan your Event like it’s an Award-Winning Event (always)!
I truly believe that all events should be produced as if they are award-winning. Certainly, most movies are made this way; why not events? With this approach, you’re always on your A-Game – your process is strategic, your behavior is top-notch and success is achievable. I encourage you to give it a try!
What is your award-winning experience? What other factors would you contribute to your events’ success? Please leave a comment to let me know.
For more details and photos on my award-winning fundraising event, please check out the photo gallery (compliments of Focus Fine Photography), brief video (produced by Toy Box Productions) and BizBash article (includes list of all sponsors).