Making events purposeful

Event - from wikimediaI attended a promotional event last week for a major technology brand, where a couple of Australian business leaders stood along side a US celebrity to talk about the progress of technology and their business experiences.

At least I think that’s what it was for.

Actually I have very little understanding what the event was about, why I received an invitation (other than as a technology influencer) and what the return on investment must have been for the tech brand running the event.  There were some great moments in the 2 hour event, and it was very well-attended (around 500 people were there).  But as for direct influence over the buying habits of the attendees, or their advocacy in the market, I suspect the event had next to zero impact.  And it all comes down to purpose.

I’m often amazed that business events don’t seem to have a purpose.  While there may be some great draw-cards that attract bottoms on seats, unless there is an explicit purpose that is clear in all messaging, in the structure and engagement with the event, and in the outputs from the event, it’s often extremely difficult to gauge success. In most cases, the problem of communicating event purpose comes down to the reason why an event is held in the first place.

Is it a launch?  Then the company/product needs to be the focus of the event, and messaging should talk about the company and its products.
Is it an industry discussion?  Then the messaging should be about educating the industry, and providing a platform for debate on issues arising.

Is it an event to support the development of up-and-coming businesses? Then the messaging should be around fostering future talent or celebrating new successes.

Is it a networking event?  Then the messaging should emphasise the opportunities to be derived from meeting people at the event, and profiling a few invited participants and acknowledging their expertise.

It’s not rocket science.  Tell your potential and invited attendees what to expect, and give them an idea of what’s expected from them.  And it’s not enough for event organisers to tell attendees that they want them to tweet and blog about their events.  They should instead be clear about what they are going to do with information shared about any specific event.  How will that feedback help support the future of the business?  Why do they want to read posts about the event?  How will they engage with that content over time? What kind of relationship will be forged from participation with the firm?

Stop measuring the number of posts you received, or the number of instagram pictures (100 pictures of the same view of a stage provides precisely zero value).  Instead measure what you are trying to achieve, and engage your audience in collaborative development of outcomes and outputs from your events.

Events can be powerful vehicles for engaging audiences, but running events is a skill.  You need time management, guest management and you need to look after your attendees before, during and after the event.  But most importantly, people need to know why they are there, and what value their presence contributes.  Only then will organisations truly understand the success of their events.

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About Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs is an award-winning digital strategist and company director. She is working with Business Connector to help with marketing of events, and she is involved with three other businesses, associated with digital change management and social data analysis. Click to view Joanne Jacobs' full profile

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