In the first of his new series of monthly columns, Cvent’s senior marketing director David Chalmers says it’s important to break out of the comfort zone.
It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone.
The old adage ’if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ surely holds firm for the vast number of exhibitions and events organised in the UK each year? While it may not seem like your event is anywhere near being broke – the mind set of attendees is changing.
Attendees want far more when it comes to information and experience and crucially there’s an expectation it will be personal to them. Coupled with the fact that the event landscape is becoming increasingly more competitive and there is a need to deliver impressive experiences at affordable prices, the pressure is on. Those who choose to stand still and churn out ’same old same old’, could find that the numbers significantly dwindle and in the worst case scenario are forced cancel the event.
Find out what prospective attendees really want
As a marketer I know just how much time it takes to discover what makes different customer demographics tick. Yet too many organisers are still second guessing what they think attendees want at an event. I can’t stress enough how important and beneficial research can be in the early stages of planning. Invest time to find out what people really want – that goes for both the content and format. Gaining valuable insights doesn’t mean huge expense either - you can do this online surveys, crowdsourcing, social media and using mobile apps to collect data at events.
Location location location
Whether it’s apathy or fear of change, too few organisers are looking at changing the format and insist on holding their event at the same dull place year on year, with the same tired floorplan. Interesting and innovative venues can inspire those attending and the space can help to ensure they think and interact in a different way. Of course the venue has to have some synergy with your event’s brand – so film sets or art galleries may not necessary work. However don’t use the same venue simply because they have a good rate or you have known the events manager for ten years. Check out new and unusual venues which may offer something different in terms of space or design and are also prepared to be competitive with rates.
Cut time on speaking slots
With the availability of content online and via digital channels, attendees aren’t interested sitting through long (and often tedious) presentations. Fast moving speaker slots, say between 15 to 20 minutes maximum are definitely the way forward – think TED talks, if you know them. It’s also a good way of keeping the energy and participation high. Make sure the subject matter (again why research in the early stages is so important) will resonate with attendees. And don’t ever allow your speakers to commit the cardinal sin of long sales pitches!
Let attendees tell you what they like – not want you think they like
Get people to tell you what they like. Let’s say you are organising a car show. Why not offer all those coming along the opportunity to use a wristband app, which they can swipe each time they like a car. It’s easy and it’s fun, and it provides an automatic digital list of leads while removing the need to collect hard copy contact details and other information.
Make the experience fun
Finally if you really want to shake up the format – make the experience interactive and entertaining as well as personal: think fun and games. One cruise ship organiser I know regularly devises scavenger hunts when they promote a new ship to create a buzz. They post QR codes around different areas of the ship and create a scavenger hunt so that attendees can check-in to each area and win prizes. Get your exhibitors involved and join in with ideas and contributions to games and challenges.
Be imaginative and dare to shake up the old. Variations on a theme can be rolled out at different event and will ensure that live experiences not only have meaning but are a memorable for attendees long after the event finishes.