Event planning is not easy– there are lots of tangible and intangible elements that have to fall into place for an event to be successful. The venue you choose, the catering you work with, the atmosphere you create, and the staff you bring onboard are a few of the many components that build up from your “why,” the reason why you come together. In the age of experience, it’s important to do things right.
Here are the top 4 foundations that will make or break your event:
1 – The venue you choose
After having defined the reason, also called “the purpose,” why you gather, the next step is choosing the venue. Your physical event starts here. Getting this right is important because the venue you choose will influence the perception of your brand, your organization, and the type of businesses and people you want to attract. Event planners and organizers have relied on hotels and conference centers for a long time, which for some might be the safest choice. However, there are tons of venues like outdoor spaces and historical buildings, to name a few, that could be far more interesting than the usual conference venue and help you position differently.
For example, Kultuurikatel, a former power plant, is an incredible event venue in Tallinn, Estonia, where I’ve created the food experience for two conferences– MELT and Design for Europe summit.
Whatever your choice, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the venue have a contracted caterer?
- How much freedom do you have to intervene in the space?
Knowing this in advance will help you make better decisions later on.
2 – The food you bring to the table
Have you ever been to an event at which you were served food that’s complicated to eat (hello, spaghetti with tomato sauce!) without making a mess on your white shirt while juggling a glass of sparkling wine and having a conversation with someone you’ve just met?
Or where the buffet offers the usual flavorless sandwiches and toasts?
Yup? I thought so.
The average catering companies serve flavorless and unhealthy food, rich in sugar but with zero nutrients. When people eat this kind of food, they get easily high on sugar and quickly low on energy.
For your event, opt for fresh, delicious, healthy, local, and seasonal food and drinks whenever possible. This is not only a way to show that you care about what your guests eat but you also make sure that they won’t incur into any post-lunch sluggishness. At WE Factory, we love to work with like-minded food businesses that care as we do about bringing the best products to the table.
If the venue you have chosen has an in-house catering company included in a package (see section 1), ask to collaborate to co-design the menu. However, if you have the freedom to choose, go for the caterer that suits the style and the purpose of your event.
Either way, remember that every meal offers the opportunity to engage the participants in games or activities. I can’t stress enough that food is not only a chance to fuel up but a great opportunity for people to mingle with fellow participants. It sets the mood for the whole event.
3 – Mastering the art of atmosphere
Recall the last conference you’ve been to; How did you feel as you walked in? How did you feel throughout the day? Would you describe your experience as cozy and energizing, or unfriendly?
Designing the atmosphere of an event is a complex task. Is it your task to design the atmosphere? Someone might object that people make the atmosphere. That’s partly true, but there are ways for you to orchestrate it. Your role is to be a music director and make sure there’s harmony. And so, even if mastering the art of atmosphere might sound like a daunting task, it should be on the top list of your priorities.
There are some helpful tools. One is the Delegate Journey Map, which helps you map both the physical and digital spaces that the delegates will use when they interact with your service. Put yourself in the shoes of your guests. If you do so, you realize that their experience starts before walking in on the first day, when they browse through your conference website for information or when they seek advice from people who joined in the previous years.
Another useful approach is to compare your event to a fiction story. In fiction, there’s usually a hero who faces some adventures and challenges. Most likely, their journey looks like the graph below, with peaks and lows. You should aim for a nice flow with repetitive and higher “wows.”
Since their journey includes both tangible and intangible elements, it’s your job to influence and design them with a purpose in mind.
4 – Your people, because it takes a village
Last but not least, there is the “human” aspect of your event. Your team members, your crew of volunteers, your staff will help you make your event a reality––and a success.
When you’re in the process of assessing your staff before your event, ask yourself these questions:
- Are they motivated and excited about the topic of my event?
- Is my staff identifiable by the audience? If not, how could they stand out?
- Have I hired enough people?
- Do they have enough experience or do they need support?
- Do they know what is expected of them?
- Are they aware of the atmosphere I want to create?
In-depth training and briefing about your event help your staff and volunteers make independent decisions anytime and go an extra mile if needed. Remember that your people are the best brand ambassadors, and with their enthusiasm or lack of it, they will either break or make the event.
Bonus tip #1: It does take a village to create an event. Events need sponsors but delegates don’t need to be overloaded with repetitive thanks to the organizations that funded the event. Get creative with ways you thank the sponsors and remember to thank all your staff for their effort during and after the event. The events that do so are usually the most memorable and authentic.
Bonus tip #2: More and more events are taking wisdom and best practices in the hospitality sector. For example, you could a “concierge” role and let your staff help your guests throughout the conference from suggesting shops to visit, to how to book an appointment at the hairdresser
Why do I care?
Gatherings are the best way to connect with your audience, build communities, and share your message. I care about the quality of events because they are powerful catalysts for change, and I’m passionate about helping ideas, individuals, and organizations grow.
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