Friday, October 13, 2006

Tips for Great Sponsored Events

Over the years I've been fortunate to sponsor events (awards, dinners, conferences, etc) run by good crews. Along the way I've learned some great ways to help event stand out from the norm:
  • Start with a good event crew -- a professional crew. I recently sponsored an financial event run by the AeA's event crew. It sure helps that the people organizing an event have the experience and resources to make everything happen well and on time. If your event is with an organization that does not have in-house resources -- hire them.
  • Don't let sponsor representatives get near the podium. Nothing turns an audience off quicker than an emcee introducing a sponsor who then introduces the speaker, awardee, or panel. Of course sponsors always come with a self-serving commercial.
  • Use a professional emcee. At the last event (a finance conference) we used Samantha McDermott who volunteered her services. This was a networking opportunity for her as well so she jumped at the offer. Having one good person on the mic all day running things makes a huge difference to the audience. A good emcee engages the audience, sets a rhythm for activities, and creates a familiarity that nurtures the purpose of the event.
  • Treat the schedule as a suggestion of what will happen when -- not as rules written in stone. Somethings always runs long and somethings always run short. Be ready to adjust and know how you will make up time or fill in dead-space.
  • Create centers of activities that help to spread people out (vs. bottlenecks in bad locations). For instance, put bars in locations that pull people across a reception space so that people don't bottleneck near the entrance. Or, put your registration tables inside sponsor booth areas so that attendees are pulled into the event and not stacked at the entrance.
  • Encourage the audience to use the event program (where sponsors have exposure) by asking them to refer to it at different parts of the program. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you turn to page 14 of the program you'll find a complete bio on the panelists...."
  • Demand... Yes. Demand, that someone from the venue/hotel is present at all times. When things go wrong or need adjusting the venue MUST respond immediately.
  • Always set up audience spaces for panels, presentations, and meals with less seats than the registered count. First off, everyone never shows up all at once. Second, having to adjust on the fly to accommodate more people adds to the allure of an event. "Standing Room Only" is a GREAT thing. Third, a room with 500 people set up for 800 looks pretty pitiful.