This past November, I planned the ultimate Thanksgiving feast for my extended family.
I designed a seven-course menu that included an elaborate two-day turkey preparation (with an organic, local turkey raised just miles from my house, of course) and loads of dishes all featuring local flavors. We flew in my mom’s sister all the way from California, and my boyfriend’s family came up to Connecticut to join us as well.
This meal was my masterpiece.
Then, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I caught the stomach virus to end all stomach viruses. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say I spent more time on the floor of the bathroom than the kitchen. I could barely move, and everything hurt.
But there was no way I was going to let a lousy virus ruin the holiday. As any event planner will tell you—we’re nothing if not adaptable.
I devised a plan B and deployed my army. My brother came into town early to lend a hand. My mom and sister went to five different grocery stores to find the ingredients we needed. I simplified my menu so that other people could do the prep work and prepare them, and I selected some dishes that I could make just sitting down on the couch.
When life throws you a situation you couldn’t have predicted, you have to adapt, leverage your resources, and make the best of it.
It’s the same in the event industry. As event planners, we’ve all been in the situation where plans go out the window as chaos strikes. Adaptability is part of what we do every single day.
The landscape around us is constantly evolving. What was once old is new again. What was once new is now old. New trends, new tech, new markets—all happening under high expectations and increasing pressure to prove ROI.
In an industry with so much on the line, how can we manage change and remain relevant?
Think Outside the Box
Don’t be afraid to integrate new and unconventional event formats. In an era of disruption, attendees are accustomed to control in all aspects of life. Utilizing new event designs will enhance attendee experience and increase engagement.
Nicole Bernier from PCMA states, “Where past generations of meeting-goers might have been content as spectators, attendees today are looking for more active participation and experiential learning—starting with the fact that much of what they used to travel for is now available digitally.”
Hackathons, unconference conferences, PechaKucha, debates, spectrograms, world café, and fishbowls are just some of the unique formats being explored in 2018.
Liz Elam, Founder & Boss Lady of GCUC, utilizes the unconference format for six annual events internationally. “It’s about choice and about being flexible,” Elam explains. “It’s about people coming together… It also weeds out attendees that aren’t authentic and passionate about the subject.”
The way people work is changing. With remote and work-from-home employees across the globe, progressive event formats will allow planners to bring attendees together and create memorable experiences.
For more information on breaking the event mold, check out this helpful article from Eventbrite.
Get Outside the Box
Go beyond the ballroom and explore new types of versatile spaces. In 2017, over 8,000 hotel guest rooms became available with almost no new hotels offering meeting & event space. This presents planners with a tremendous challenge. Rigid guest room obligations often lead to financial implications for room blocks left unfilled.
A unique event space can help manage hotel costs and engage attendees.
“The size of a room block can be critical in earning those (hotel) concessions—and the size of a block never seems to match the actual size of an event,” laments Corin Hirsch from PCMA’s CMP Series.
Combat budget blowing attrition and performance charges through new and unique event spaces.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Bring content and experiences together. Well-attended events create an environment unavailable to attendees from the comfort of their own home.
Popularity of group volunteering, continuing education, team building, and gamification of events is on the rise. NYC & Company has seen nearly a 50% increase sourcing ‘unconventional’ off-site programming for clients in 2017–ranging from group cooking classes, wine tastings, coffee pairing, group volunteering, and puzzle/game activities.
Attendee experiences create value by fostering networking and allowing attendees to bond through learning a new skill.
Group volunteering is a great way to connect with the local community at events.
Creating a personalized program for attendees will make your event unforgettable. Incorporate the new necessities: social media, sustainability, and ease of booking.
Understanding attendees and their objectives (W.I.F.M.) will allow planners to create ‘mass personalization’ and engineer a program that speaks to their needs. Use social media to create customized outreach based on attendee goals.
Even something as simple as changing the sender name on event emails from an organization to an individual organizer’s name (wouldn’t you rather read an email from Phoenix Anna Porcelli rather than Convene?) can add a touch of personalization that makes a difference for attendees.
Technology and its relevance to successful events is certainly not a new trend. As event planners, we know the importance of technology’s implementation in creating successful programming. But with technology advancing seemingly hourly, how can we stay significant?
Integrating state of the art technology can shift passive attendees to active ones. Engaged attendees become loyalists and increase event success.
Tech is a great way to adapt to a changing landscape—just don’t let it distract from your ultimate goal.
Virtual Reality (VR) allows attendees to become a part of an environment. It’s relevance to the event industry cannot be ignored. Instead of exhibitors or facilitators describing an experience, VR brings the experience to its audience.
Event apps create an interactive environment through location services, allowing attendees to not only register, but provide feedback, engage with the community, and ask questions. Jeff Sinclair, cofounder and CEO of event-app platform company Eventbase states, “We’re seeing the rise of the intelligent app. With the combination of data and location-based technology, mobile apps are becoming smarter. They’re using data to help attendees make decisions about who to meet, where to go, and what to do.”
Making Technology talk for your event by creating custom experiences for each attendee is possible with the right tech.
Remember Why We Do This
At the end of the day, event planning is all about one thing: bringing people together. It’s easy to get caught up in VR apps and new formats—or in the case of my Thanksgiving dinner, the perfect locally-sourced turkey. But those things (while perfectly fine in their own right) can be distractions from the true goal of an event.
Managing the volatile events landscape along with business goals, attendee needs, and event KPIs isn’t easy (there’s a reason event planning is noted as one of the most stressful jobs) but being adaptable will serve you well as you progress through your event planning career.
Phoenix brings over a decade of meeting and event expertise in Boston, Paris, and NYC to the Convene Team. As a Certified Meeting Planner, she works collaboratively with other CMPs and Event Professionals to solve problems and achieve operational objectives through venue selection and planning efforts. Her role provides a unique perspective on industry trends.