The question that we most often get asked first by new clients when a planning a business event is: where can we find a venue for X number of people? Swiftly followed by: what date is best, and how much will it cost?
Ask questions, just not the usual ones
However, to create a successful business event we first need to take a step back. There are two key questions that need to be answered. First: what is the event trying to achieve? And the second: what do we want the participants to DO differently as a result?
When asking ‘what is the event trying to achieve?’, we don’t just mean ‘to launch a product’, ‘engage with customers’, or ‘reward staff’. The objectives need to be a lot more focused and specific, since without a clear understanding of the expected business value, impacts and outcome, all the logistical planning in the world won’t produce an event that delivers a satisfactory return on investment (ROI) for your business.
Defining clear target outcomes for the event both focuses minds and ensures that every element of the event has a purpose that contributes to deliver the required result. It goes without saying, of course, that the objectives and outcome should be SMART ones.
Only when you know what business impact you want to deliver can you actually create an event which makes that possible. After all, an event designed to encourage your top ten customers to increase their spending with you by 5% in the next year is going to look very different to one that is designed to generate new sales leads for the pipeline.
Understanding and defining what the event needs to achieve is however only a part of successful event planning.
Albert Einstein claimed that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That brings us to the second question we should answer, ‘what exactly do we want our participants to DO differently?’ There is no point running an event that does not have a specific action defined as an outcome. If attendees do nothing differently as a result of joining the event, then how can you expect a different business outcome as a result?
At the heart of most events, lies a desire to influence and change behaviours in order to speed up the revenue cycle. And as we all know, if you want to change behaviours, you have to change beliefs.
If an event delivers the right audience, in a suitable location with great hospitality and content and the attendees go home with lots of new useful information, that is all very well, but it is not necessarily going to deliver a return on the financial investment. In order to create business value from the event it needs to influence participants to do something which adds commercial value to the business.
Only once we have answered these fundamental questions can we create an event that will make our participants think or act differently, and deliver a real ROI for the business. Until then, don’t even think about booking a venue.