Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Renewable Events

I sit on the organizing committee for several different industry association events; And at every kick-off meeting and subsequent post-event meetings a single question always comes forward. “What are we going to do to make the event better this time/next time?”

I have one mantra with regard to producing good events that continually draws an enthusiastic audience; “Entertain!” If the priority of the organizers is to create an event that is first and foremost, entertaining, the question of better becomes less important.

A good example is a local chapter annual awards event that I’ve been a part of for several years. At one time it was a fairly predictable evening of sponsors coming and going from the stage reading commercials for themselves and award winners that went on too long and was as dry as desert sand.

One year we decided that “entertainment” would be the highest priority. Then looking at our own experiences with dead-slow events, we eliminated everything we disliked about those events from our own program. No more sponsor speeches or presentations, no more video loops on how bright the future looked, no more commercials about associations or our greater purpose in this world.
  • In place of what we eliminated we put professional emcee(s), some we paid (b-list comedians) and some we did not. The criteria was that the emcees had to be comfortable talking to and entertaining a crowd without having to rely on scripts and cue-cards.
  • We eliminated sponsors from the podium (though they still came up to hand the award to the recipient (but no speeches or comments allowed).
  • The award portion of the program could last NO LONGER than 40 minutes.
  • The reception and networking time was extended
  • Sponsors were given greater visibility in PR and pre-event activities with award winners.
  • Everything was measured against an entertainment barometer. If it didn’t sound fun, out it went.
The results have been remarkable. Attendance keeps going up each year. Sponsors are getting incredible feedback and exposure. People are calling to ask when the next event will be and want to be sure they’re on the “list”.

I know that over the long-haul even great things become stale. But, because we are focused on what the audience will enjoy, I imagine we won’t need to worry about “better” for a while yet.

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