Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by Mark Norman
Event managers are often perfectionists who need to think on their feet when faced with all manner of challenges that come up during the event planning process. But what are the key ingredients to making your next event more successful? This post has 10 ways you can improve the chances of success:
1. Understand your target audience
Knowing who your target audience is one of the most important things for any event manager. Having a good understanding of what your ideal attendee looks like allows you to design an experience that matches their needs. This, in turn, will give you better feedback, make your event more valuable to the attendees, and allow you to develop a more efficient marketing plan.
You should start by considering where you can find information out about your target market. There are several ways to do this. For music and art events, you could use a fantastic free resource called Audience Finder which has pre-defined target audience segments for the UK. If you run a music festival, cultural or arts event this should help you to identify down to the nearest postcode the size of your potential audience.
2. Do your market research
On top of knowing who your target audience is you should do some wider market research into the local competitive environment and if your target audience will be motivated to attend your event. You need to understand if there is a demand for what you’re proposing. Doing good market research at this stage can prevent potential failure further down the line.
Look and see if there have been any other similar events recently which were successful, consider if there are any competitor events in the local area and use surveys with your target audience to gauge opinion on key elements such as artists, speakers, ticket price and food.
3. Create a project plan and stick to it
It’s very important at the start of any project, particularly an event to map out a road to completion. In the events industry, there are an increasing number of project management tools available to help you to do this. Some are free and some cost money, look at what you need in terms of functionality.
If you’re just getting started one of the easiest ways to do this is to create a timeline on Google Sheets. Google Sheets is a great free piece of spreadsheet software that allows you to share your project plan with the team who are working on it.
Work through all the key elements and phases of planning your event like preplanning, focus groups, research, marketing, on-site production, the event, take down and then evaluation. Give an appropriate amount of time for each stage, get feedback from suppliers and communicate this to your team. Ensure that you check this plan regularly to make sure that you are up to date and on track.
4. Make a budget and stick to it
Make sure that you set a budget at the start of the planning process to help prioritise your spending and to determine what can be realistically offered at the event. Doing this before setting your objectives means that they can be as effective as possible and you won’t risk setting unrealistic goals.
You should regularly review your budget and try to set it up in a way that allows you to monitor how much you’re spending either on a week-by-week basis or month-to-month. Keeping on top of the budget will help to ensure a more successful event.
5. Set some SMART objectives
Setting some clear objectives before you start even planning your event is key. A great way to do this is to set your event some SMART objectives. If you’re not sure what SMART objectives are they stand for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based. Let looks at these in a little more detail:
Make sure that you’re being specific about what it is you’re achieving with an objective. Try to avoid vague language that would be difficult to understand or to quantify. Think about what you specifically want to achieve in the context of the event.
Make sure that you give a measurable and quantifiable element to your objective. For example, this could mean saying that you want to reach 80% of your target audience with your marketing campaign.
Make sure that this objective is something that you can achieve within the time and resources that you have available to complete it. To follow up on the last example a step further, perhaps 80% of your target audience is too high and a more realistic attainable figure would be 50%.
Very much in common with the previous attainable elements you should ensure that your objective is a realistic challenge for the time frame of delivery.
Consider what time frame you’re looking to achieve this objective in. This could be a day, a week or longer.
Remember that all five of these elements come together in one objective.
6. Give enough time for marketing the event
It’s often the case with some events that event managers do not allow enough time to promote the event to an audience. The amount of time that needed to promote an event will vary depending on the size of the event and the difficulty in reaching out to the target audience.
Consider at least four to six weeks for local small or medium events like workshops. For music and arts events this may be several months. For bigger or annual events, then maybe anything up to six months or beyond.
For an event that you will organise regularly, you’ll get a better feel for how long this process should be. Remember, a new event may take longer to promote the first time than in subsequent deliveries.
You should consider creating a marketing communications plan which will outline what you will attempt to undertake each day or week in your marketing. This might include thinking across various marketing channels such as newspapers, social media or other and amongst different target audience groups that you have.
Some audience groups may be quicker to respond to certain types of marketing than others and to a large extent this can be trial and error and you should attempt to try and evaluate this with each event.
7. Let your attendees help co-create the event
Co-creation in events is a relatively new concept but one that is gaining popularity. By allowing your attendees to help co-create your events, not only do you achieve an event that is more valuable to your audience, but your audience feels part of and feel ownership of the event.
This process goes beyond just engaging your attendees and must truly encourage collaboration and co-creation. You should try to create a space where people can interact and collaborate by harnessing their skills to help generate value for themselves and the event.
8. Map out who your stakeholders are
Having a clear understanding of who your key stakeholders are is key. At the start of any event planning process put aside some time to map out a list of your stakeholders. Try to imagine anyone who has the power to help you deliver the event or who is influenced or impacted by the event. You should carefully work through this list of stakeholders and use a scoring system to evaluate who are the most important and can have the most influence on the successful delivery of your event.
9. Evaluate, evaluate and evaluate!
It is quite common when concluding an event to want to start the pack down and get out as quickly as possible. One of the key things that you can do at the end of your event is to evaluate how the event was received by the attendees. This can be done in several ways either in person using tablets or afterwards with email or social networks. There are several creative methods that events can evaluate in quite a simple way. One great method to use as a benchmark for every event that you run is the Net Promoter Score. This simply asks if the attendee would recommend the event to a friend.
10. Know what is going on!
This might sound like a fairly obvious suggestion, but you need to almost have a sixth sense as an event manager for what is happening in each area of your event at any given time.
Sufficient planning in advance will help this but you need to be able to check that you have everything in place before the event and that you will have a good event team around you who understand their roles and who will highlight to you when they find problems.
Another great tool for an event manager is having a backup plan. Consider in advance of the event what you would do if you didn’t sell enough tickets, if your headline artist didn’t arrive or if you had a safety emergency.