Most associations and chambers of commerce host dozens - if not hundreds - of events each year. These range from committee and board meetings to monthly luncheons to huge annual dinners, banquets and conventions. Those big events - the ones that take the most planning and effort - can also be the ones that have the greatest impact on your organization's brand and on your relationships with your members.
There are three parts to successfully throwing the annual big event without a hitch. Sure, there will be minor problems, but as long as you handle the preparation, execution and follow-up carefully, the attendees will never know anything went wrong and they will rave about the event to their friends and colleagues.
Below are the keys to successful preparation. Part two of this post will handle the execution and follow-up aspects of the event.
Know Your Audience
Yes, you know many of your members, but do you really know what type of event or topics at an event they would like? The event that can draw the biggest crowd and deliver the most value for your members should be your goal. Use your membership management software to select certain members and ask them what topics are important to their business or what types of activities they would like to see at your large events. Involve them in the process; get them to buy in that the event is for them, based on their needs. Involve them in the planning and you'll gain great insight into how to drive success for your event.
Recruit Champions Early
Bring in the people you know will be helpful in getting the information out quickly and correctly. Get them involved early and give them all the tools they need to help recruit volunteers, attract sponsors or drive attendance. Talking points, presentations, brochures and calling lists can make your event champions' "job" much easier. Schedule regular check-ins to see what additional help they may need.
Plan For The Worst
Make the initial plan for the event and assign tasks. Then go through the plan, making a “What If?” scenario for people who can’t make it, supplies that get misplaced and accidents that are bound to happen. Add all your event registration details to your association management software and set up tasks and reminders to help you stay on course. Then, go through it all again to see if anything was missed. Planning for things to go wrong sometimes prevents that very occurrence. An event hardly ever goes off without a hitch, but your attendees don’t need to know. By planning for contingencies and adapting quickly, you’ll be able to keep the event moving smoothly.
Make things very clear for your attendees leading up the event. Clearly state what attendees will have to do before they get there, at least twice before the event occurs. Give them simple, bulleted lists rather than long narrative explanations. They'll arrive at your event feeling confident and be able to jump right into the activities without added confusion.
Venue for Announcements Mid-Event
Use a logical point during the event to catch everyone up on the event’s schedule, any changes, any information you think would be valuable to all and anything you need completed that hasn’t yet been accomplished. Your members will appreciate the added communications and know the event is running smoothly.
These plans and preparations get you to the day of the event, and hopefully all those involved are ready and able to handle things as planned. See part two of this post (coming soon) to determine the important tips on execution of the event and the way to pursue follow ups, collect feedback and gain momentum for the next big event.
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