Expert advice from Patrick Riley, vice president/account director, Event 360. Patrick has more than 15 years of experience in event planning, operations, execution and project management. At Event 360, Patrick ensures high client satisfaction while implementing project management best practices to successfully produce events.
With so many events competing for people’s attention, how do I make my event stand out?
All marketing channels (radio, TV, print, online) have a place and need to be considered as you match your budget to your goals. However, online marketing is currently where you get your best (traceable) cost per acquisition and where the more interesting developments are happening. A few examples:
- Data matching on Facebook. Use your email houselist to target your constituents where they spend their time online.
- Data matching on Amazon. Provide prospects with an event registration add-on to their purchase when they already have their credit card in their hand.
- Social media takeovers are a quick way to gain a social presence from someone who already has a lot of Klout. Work with a celebrity, local media personality or a known social media photographer/blogger and have them curate your social media account for a day highlighting your mission and/or your event. Photographer Mario Testino did a takeover for Vogue at the Met Gala #metbytestino. Chef Tom Colicchio took over Food Republic’s twitter during South by Southwest in Austin.
Additionally, your participants are your best advertisers. Look for a post on the Event 360 blog from our MuckFest team that shows how we leverage the passion, on-event experience and relationships of our participants to make MuckFest stand out.
Read our blog post on the five W’s of event marketing for more on this topic.
What do you do when things don’t go as planned on an event?
To react to problems that emerge on event, you need to pull from many resources – talent, street smarts and persistence. My teammates have discussed at length in a post on our Event 360 blog.
- The most important step is to train your staff on analysis and critical thinking skills. This is a muscle that needs continual practice and development. Create an environment that allows for people to take different steps to arrive at a solution.
- Develop a process before the event about who, what, and when you need to adjust your operations. Time will always work against you when fixing issues, so set up your process before you get to the event. Make sure you write out the process and assign one person to ensure you follow it.
- Eliminate the Mighty Mouse mentality, i.e., “Here I come to save the day!” Events get exciting when you’re in the trenches, working side-by-side with a team, solving problems left and right. Sometimes people can allow this excitement to escalate so that they can swoop in as the hero. The best thing that can happen at your event is for your production staff to be bored and without drama.
- Leverage your local resources. Make sure you’re on the same page with your venue, EMS and police contacts and have walked through your response plan with all of them.
How do you deal with difficult participants?
When there are thousands of people on your event, one or a few of them are bound to be difficult, whether it’s the result of something that went wrong with your event, or just a participant who woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Read our blog post on how best to handle someone who needs a little extra attention.
What are the top five most useful event planning tools that every organization should be using?
- Basecamp is my preferred project planning tool because it is low cost, easy to set up, has collaborative features, integrates with any email system and is replicable. But there are many other tools out there. Choose one that is easy for everyone. Don’t get seduced by fancy bells and whistles that only one per on your team knows how to use. More important than which tool you choose is that you build a project plan and actually use it.
- The Thank You card. Strong relationships are the most important tool in your toolbox. Call your Department of Events contact on their birthday, drop a note in the mail thanking the Fire Chief for coming to your event, send a cookie to your site contact when he/she gets a promotion. Most importantly, do this when you don’t actually need something from them.
- Dynamic check-in with mobile credit card readers – Registration and Check-In are your first chance to make a positive customer service impression. Don’t make this process labor intensive for your participants. There are great technology systems that allow you to quickly register people, accurately collect their data, track and reward fundraising and assign bibs on the spot with a tablet or smartphone. We like ChronoTrack Live and Square but there are many options out there.
- Google Earth has fundamentally changed the way we work. You can virtually scout your site, measure distances, plan a course, draw up accurate and to scale site plans, and develop local resource lists including jurisdictions, vendors and site contacts.
- Smartphone. This one is almost too obvious to list, but your smartphone can do a lot these days. I sign contracts on the go with DocuSign, access my files in Dropbox, pull together a quick site plan in Skitch, check the radar with AccuWeather, get notified of local jurisdiction activity with Nixle, and most importantly take pictures of EVERYTHING (risk management evidence, keeping receipts, social media marketing and site maps) using my smartphone.