Maximize Your Experiential Event Design Strategy

DESIGNING MEETING SUCCESS April 11, 2018

VDA’s Bob Russo, Executive Director, Strategy & Creative, joined a panel of fellow event professionals at the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) New England chapter meeting with a very specific task at hand… to provide their “Top 10 Tips” for meeting success in their respective areas of expertise. Topics ranged from transportation to event rentals, kosher catering, and everything in between. Bob worked his magic to bring to you the following tips on how to maximize your experiential event design strategy.

Tip One: Partners Over Vendors – Get More for Less

When selecting your resources for your next event – be it linens, lighting, or liquor – make sure you are working towards a partnership with the folks you choose to join forces with. A vendor will give you exactly what you’re asking for, but a partner will play an integral role in the success of your event, sharing their thoughts and subject matter expertise, improving overall event aesthetic and execution.

Tip Two: Staging a Room Can Increase Impact, Making Less Seem Like More

If you are working with a tight budget, carefully consider where you are applying your funds. Looking for high impact at low costs? make sure you are placing your money in a stage set or décor elements that will up the ante. Your menu can include the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon cut in the world, but if the space is not visually impactful, the memories of the event will fade before you get your keys from valet.

Tip Three: Sometimes Different is Just Different – Not Better

There’s a reason for the saying “tried and true,” and this extends to the event industry. Considering bringing in 500 yoga balls as seating for your next event general session? Unless your conference is for a room of fitness gurus, maybe skip the headaches and stick with standard soft seating or hotel chairs to keep your attendees comfortable and engaged… rather than rolling around the ballroom floor.

Tip Four: Technology isn’t Always the Answer

According to a recent survey by etouches, “almost one out of two planners today says that event technology is a primary pain point.”1 Within the event tech arena, there is a common complaint of lack of transparency and accuracy of pricing, along with slow response rates and lack of clarity.

In addition to these frustrations, there is always the possibility of the dreaded “tech fail” at your event: when your technology strategy fails to execute. There are any number of situations – attendees don’t respond well to your event tech, the technology doesn’t work the way it was intended to, or it simply fails to add to the event strategy. If the technology is not intuitive or easy enough to figure out, it will quickly turn attendees off. On the other hand, there is the risk your technology distracts from the event; in this scenario, your tech works so well that rather than support and enhance the event experience it distracts attendees from their event objectives.2

Event tech can be a great addition to your program, but it requires a close understanding of its impact on audiences to help you improve and craft your particular event strategy.

Tip Five: Identify the Event Goal – Why Are You Doing it?

Prior to planning, consider your event goals and objectives – why are you having the event? Who are your attendees for the event? Is it a social or educational event, and what means – speakers, entertainment, etc. – will you need to address this audience’s needs? Answering these questions will ensure your event has maximum impact. Once your goals are clearly outlined and articulated to all parties, create steps and strategy that will help you to achieve these goals. Define your goals from the very beginning of the planning process so that every decision made moving forward is tailored towards your specific event goals.

Tip Six: Clarify Success and Builds Towards It

There are numerous ways to measure event success – attendance, revenue, leads generated, increased brand awareness, etc. Going hand in hand with setting event goals, make sure you are defining what success means to your event. Consider metrics such as overall satisfaction, perceived value for the money, availability and effectiveness of event presentation material, and attendee intent to return to future conferences, as indicators of success.3 Once you’ve determined what success looks like for your event, builds towards it. For example, if your measurable is “x” social media impressions, make sure you are consistent in your efforts, promoting event hashtags, tweeting and posting across Facebook and Instagram, and encouraging attendee engagement on your preferred social media platform.

Which leads me to our next point…

Tip Seven: Social Media as an ROI Measurement Tool

When executing your event – from the pre to the post – be sure to use social media as an ROI measurement tool! Measurement is key to any event social media strategy, and ROI will likely be one of those metrics you choose. Measuring social media will allow you to see what content and tactics are working to capture your audience’s attention. The volume of positive tweets, Snapchat stories, and Instagram pictures, goes a long way to promote your event to any active, social media engaged audience.

Tip Eight: Consistency in Branding – Make the Event Your Own

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a, “name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers, and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”4

This definition speaks better to a cut and dried logo, placed statically on a sheet of paper or website, and at VDA Productions, we think brand is so much more than that. Your brand is an ephemeral feeling as perceived by your clients, customers, and employees, surrounding your company or product. Many people confuse brand with logo or consider them one and the same. In terms of experiential marketing, your brand should be a constantly evolving message of how you position yourself to consumers, to stay relevant and on track with the message you are trying to present, lest you go the way the dinosaur.

Perhaps the best example of a well-executed brand image is that of ride sharing apps such as Uber or Lyft vs. the traditional yellow taxi cab. At the root of it, both services are identical, right? They’re methods of transportation, outside of your own vehicle, that get you from point A to point B. Why then, do we equate Uber or Lyft with a smart and secure riding environment, while taxi cabs are considered dirty or unsafe? It is certainly not the logo – the Uber “U” or the universally known yellow and checkered coloring – but the brand image that these services represent to their patrons. The brand image of Uber as a reliable and cost-effective travel mode, has relegated taxi cabs as a thing of the past!

Tip Nine: Leverage Existing Stock – Custom Costs Money

When working with an event production company or a DMC, make sure you are asking about existing stock! If you are looking to do a Red Sox themed event in Boston, the home of the Boston Red Sox, there’s a chance another client has previously used that same concept. Who knows? There may be a Green Monster set build collecting dust somewhere in a warehouse? A fresh coat of paint and a quick touch up later, and you have yourself a key décor piece for half the cost of the original build. Make sure you are asking these questions!

Tip Ten: Process is as Important as Product

When executing a large event, it’s easy to get caught up in the final product – you get blinded by the big picture – but don’t forget the importance of the details along the way.

Make sure you are allocating the right resources with the right skills, properly staffing your event with individuals that can own their responsibilities and manage for success. Keep track of changes in plans and scope, budget, and timeline for execution.

In the events industry, Murphy’s Law tends to win out; changes happen, things go wrong at the last minute, and everyone goes into a panic trying to fix an unforeseen issue. Be armed with a contingency plan and carry out your planning process with an “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” mentality in the event your event enters “worst case scenario” territory.

And most importantly, and perhaps most overlooked, make sure you are following a standard and repeatable event management process. Lack of an agreed upon plan can increase the likelihood of obstacles to success.

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