Thursday, January 11, 2007

Why Some Luncheons Don't Draw Quality Attendees

I have attended several luncheons and breakfasts lately that drew miserable audiences. I say that with regard to why I want to be at an event. 1. I want to learn what I do not know, and, 2. I want to be in a balanced audience of people that are my peers, people I look up to professionally, people that I'd like to get to know (whether for business or professional development), and people I might be able to help. Many events do not accomplish this instead drawing a weak audience that does not build any momentum for future events.

So how can an event draw a more balanced guest list? Here are my thoughts.
  • Start by focusing on the most desirable attendee. Most events have a speaker discussing a topic. Find speakers that talk about subjects that are REALLY relevant and interesting for your desired attendee. The most common mistake is to have a speaker talking about what every other event is talking about -- or talking on a topic that has been covered sixteen ways to Sunday year after year.
  • Select a speaker that is absolutely credible as the best person to speak on the topic. I attended a luncheon on advertising where all of the panelists, though each in the advertising industry, had no credible experience or success within the topic of the meeting (do you smell favoritism here?). Anyone can have an opinion, but opinions do not make for learned discussions. Give me real world, been there, done that!
  • Make the effort to ask your desired audience what they want. End of luncheon questionnaires only gather the opinions of who showed up. Pick up the phone (use committees to do this) and ask your desired attendees what THEY would want.
  • Promote your sponsors, but keep them off the stage. Period.
  • When all else fails, if you have an event committee, replace all of them. Many organizations suffer by allowing committees to remain intact for year after year. Beyond a few hurt feelings the changing of the "blood" often produce revitalizing results.
I went to an great event this evening hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth in Orange County. The quality of attendees was A+ and then some. Overall the ACG of Orange County has been incredibly consistent about hosting vital events because they are constantly testing their volunteers (committee members) and never settle for lackluster results. When a luncheon or evening activity starts falling short they make changes, being in new blood, and strive to be exceptional. They don't desire to sell tickets -- they want to make a difference.

Follow these simple rules, add some passion, and your events will create the buzz you're looking for.