Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Its good to be an outsider at events. We get to notice a lot. And contrary to what we may think, an outsider can focus on the big picture and see what’s missing. Sometimes it stares us so much in the face that its natural to wonder how this could have been missed – like the proverbial elephant in the room.
The majority of event managers like us, spend a lot of time on details. Great. Commendable. But its amazing that the focus sometimes seems to be on what we can safely call “relatively insignificant points”. These include the placement of standees, color matching, ambient lighting, table set ups and so on. Don’t work yourself up to call and tell me off just yet and don’t get me wrong either. I’m not saying these are insignificant details. I’m saying that they are “relatively” insignificant when it comes to a conference. There’s a difference (yup, I slipped that word in)
A conference and its success is purely dependent on what the audience experiences. Period.
We can have the best set up, the largest LED wall or 270 projection, “in your face” standees and a beautiful table. But if we don’t focus on the content, the design has no meaning.
The content and the delivery of the content, is and should be our first priority. Its a story and we need to learn to tell it well. Our clients may not not how, but then isn’t that where we come in? Isn’t that why we get repeat business – because we know better.
Recently, I attended an event in Goa. The customer is one of India’s best know companies and they had invited their dealers to a two-day conference.
At the airport, there were four people from the events’ team to direct the delegates to the vehicles.
It was extremely difficult to find them in the crowd and they all looked sleep deprived and haggard from their hours at the set-up or at the airport.
What I remember from this small experience was only how difficult it was to find them and how pooped they looked. Disinterested even. Crumpled tees and floaters would have completed the picture and yes, it did.
The ride to the hotel was average. Nothing anyone could do about it.
But then someone got on to the bus to hand out bottles of water. Zero engagement, even though the opportunity was there. Just passing bottles of water. No interaction.
At the hotel lobby, it was a mess. About 55 people crowded near a make shift desk awaiting their turn to collect an envelope with their key card, and a – hold your breath for this – Goan Shirt. Yes, the ubiquitous Goan shirt and straw hat. As if most people didn’t already possess 10 of these from previous visits. I could hear voices all around me claiming the exact same thing. It took 25-30 minutes just to make it through the throng and collect the key cards and shirts. After hours of travel, this is possibly what everyone looks forward to. Or atleast, that’s what we tend to believe every time we do an event in Goa.
Delegates had to pick up a shirt at the desk after choosing color and size because am sure past experiences of placing these in rooms had resulted in people either wanting a different color or size the next day. Yes. That happens a lot too.
Lets take a breather. What we have looked at is interaction and touch points before the conference has even started. So technically, its not a focus area, right? Obviously, wrong.
The adage about first impressions always holds true. Once we make up our mind, its difficult to change. This is borne by years of research, statistics and our own experience, right?
So how much of an impression do you thing the “event” has created for your audience? We’ll look at the rest of the conference in subsequent blogs, but for now do you think we could do anything better about these three initial impressions?
Fresh, enthusiastic, smart, bubbly ushers to welcome you at the airport would have made a huge impact. Engage in conversation. Know more about the visitors. Make them feel welcome and important.
If the hotel is providing the coach, get them to provide some service too. Information about the hotel or its famous spa, or a “must try” in the town. Anything to build enthusiasm.
Importantly, you could use this time to hand out the key cards, location map, event agenda and even – gasp ! – the Goan Shirts.
Imagine if your audience enters the hotel and are ushered to their rooms or a location where they can network, if they would like – but still have the choice to just head to their rooms because they already have their key cards and the liberty.
As an event manager, these are the opportunities we shouldn’t be missing. We have the chance to make great first impressions, let’s not lose it. And let’s not wait to get them into the decked up conference room thinking that we can impress them with the set up then. The fact that nothing has wowed them until this point is unlikely to be in our favor. Ever wondered why the audience has a bored look rather than expectant?
Rather than worrying about matching the colors on your creatives – something that an audience rarely appreciates, perhaps we should consider each touch point and make it matter. Our customers will love us for it.
That’s why there are two terms – Event Coordinator and Event Manager. How our customers perceive us, is in our control.