Organising an event takes time, money and lots of hard work, so if you don’t achieve the results you hoped for it can be very disappointing.
There are a number of reasons why events don’t quite hit the mark, but we’ve compiled a list of the 5 most common. Make sure none of these apply to your event and you’ll be more likely to meet your objectives and delight your guests.
1. Adopt a one-size-fits-all approach
Taking a homogenous approach to event planning is one of the main reasons events fail. All events will be different in their goals, so you can’t simply take a box labelled ‘conference’ or ‘product launch’ off the shelf. Establishing an event’s objectives should be the very first thing you do, then bespoke-build the programme around those goals.
Likewise, attendees themselves come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Yet many events deliver the same experience to all. You should aim to create multiple event experiences that meet the needs of each attendee type.
For example, if you will have a range of seniority levels (or ages) in attendance make sure there is enough to appeal to, and be useful to, each demographic. You should highlight each tailored offering in advance, with different sections on your website and event guide. Advertising, too, can be targeted at different groups.
You could also consider allowing the attendees to shape the programme of your event by voting for speakers, session topics or features – this will give you a good idea of the relevance of your chosen content to your audience, before it’s too late to change it.
2. Don’t provide enough opportunities for networking
People don’t just come to your event to consume your content – they also want to mix and mingle with other attendees, whether that be to make new business contacts or simply new friends.
Don’t underestimate the importance of scheduling networking opportunities into your programme. Some people attend events purely for this reason! You should also take a proactive role in helping people make useful connections. Help them connect pre-event by creating an online community, run a speed networking session, giving delegates 2-minutes to meet and greet at the start of the event, and utilise technology like Spot Me to enable them to pinpoint specific targets onsite.
If your event has an exhibition element, it is even more important to facilitate meetings to provide value to your exhibitors. You should make it easy for attendees to find exhibitors of relevance to them and set up meetings in advance.
3. Choose an unsuitable venue
There are many things that must be taken into consideration when selecting the venue for your event and it requires an amount of visualisation to foresee how it will work on the day.
However, one of the main mistakes planners make is overestimating or underestimating the amount of attendees and the space required. A way to mitigate this is choosing a flexible venue, with a range of spaces or with space that can be augmented to suit.
Let’s say you’re putting on a musical performance and only half the tickets get sold. A half empty room can be demoralising for the band, and lead to a lack of atmosphere for the attendees. If your venue can offer a ‘Plan B’ smaller space, this provides you with more options.
On the other hand, if your venue has capacity for 200 people, do not sell more tickets than this. As tempting as it might be if there’s high demand, overcrowding is unpleasant for everybody, as well as being a health and safety hazard.
Other factors to consider when choosing a venue are transportation, disabled access, nearby accommodation and technical capabilities, which leads us to the next common event stumbling block…
4. Not ensuring adequate Wi-Fi coverage
These days, delegates consider Wi-Fi a non-negotiable must-have – particularly is they are from overseas and will be charged a ransom to switch on 3G.
If you don’t ensure your venue’s Wi-Fi capabilities and that everyone can enjoy free access, you will not only cheese off your attendees, you will jeopardise the reach and impact of your event.
The modern event attendee is an interactive one, sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences as they happen. If you want them to be able to Facebook check-in at your event, post a picture of the cool champagne fountain to Pinterest and share a pearl of wisdom from a speaker on Twitter, you need to give them internet to do so!
And it’s especially important if any of your event features rely on guests being able to use their devices. If you’re encouraging them to respond to polls, submit questions or use interactive floor plans, patchy coverage is a major boo boo!
5. Do the same thing year after year
If your event last year was a success, you just need to do exactly the same thing again, right? Wrong! If you do not continue to innovate, delegates will not return.
Who wants to see the same old speakers, talking about the same old things year after year? It’s vital to keep it fresh and relevant. Allowing attendees to have an input in the programme, as we discussed in point 1, is a good way to ensure this happens. But be sure you are offering them enough choice from which to make their selections.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your industry or area of specialism so you know ‘what’s hot’ and encourage previous attendees to make their own suggestions as to what they would like to see.
However, that’s not to say you should throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you held a session that was particularly popular last year, run it again for first time attendees but also add a second ‘Part 2/advanced’ session for those people who are returning.
With enough pre-planning and forethought you can minimise the likelihood of your event failing. However, if something doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped, don’t beat yourself up, as long as you can identify where you went wrong and learn from it, it’s been a valuable experience.
What other common mistakes do people make when organising events? What are the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?