By: Caitlin Ramsey
It has only been a year since I graduated from the University of Georgia with a public relations degree but I’ve been able to pack what feels like years of experience since joining the team at TRIO. I feel blessed to work at a marketing agency where I get to wear so many hats. It’s not common to have the chance to work so closely with a group of seven women, all with different job titles and areas of specialty. The vast experience I’ve gained so far at TRIO is invaluable and has allowed me to find my niche in the creative marketing mecca. I’ve always been on the fence about what aspect of the field interested me the most. So, I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I enjoy event planning and the entire process behind executing a successful event.
After having the opportunity to help plan a variety of events at TRIO, I’ve learned four key lessons that are engrained in my brain. I’m certain I’ll remember these throughout my future event planning endeavors. Although I may not have years of experience in this field, I think remembering these four lessons will help make any event a success.
1. Know Your Audience.
Knowing your audience may be the most important thing to keep in mind when planning any event. Identify your target audience in the most thorough way possible. Find out what they like, what they don’t like, where they live, what they do and how you can most effectively reach them. Decide if you are narrowing your target group to a niche market or if you’re going more for mass reach. Once you identified your ideal attendee, it’s vital to keep them in mind throughout EVERY future decision you make when planning the event. This will greatly influence the promotional aspect of your event. For example, when TRIO worked with East Cooper Medical Center on a joint pain event, we narrowed our target market to men and women ages 55 and up with an active lifestyle and household income of approximately $75,000. We decided a viable way to reach that market would be through direct mail, talk radio and newspaper ads. Our approach would have been very different if we were trying to reach young adults. With that audience, it would be more likely to reach them via mediums such as social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, rather than newspaper ads or direct mail.
TAKEAWAYS: Always be aware of who exactly you are pitching your event to. As technology continues to rapidly evolve, so will our methods in which we try to reach our target markets for events. It’s also important to remember to differentiate your audience and build the event atmosphere specifically around them.
2. Develop Your Event Around Timeliness
Some may feel a little overwhelmed when given the task to plan an entire event from start to finish. You might ask yourself, “Where do I even begin?” A general rule of thumb I’ve learned is to first choose the event date and work your way back. Depending on the size of the event, planning can begin anywhere from 18 months to one or two months out. The amount of planning time you have will determine the scheduling and order in which you’ll complete each aspect of the event. I find it helpful to keep a very thorough and organized timeline that encompasses every event planning detail with a deadline. Deadlines are a must because they help guide you and keep you on track. Don’t be afraid to constantly update the timeline so it reflects new developments or changes throughout the event planning process. This will only keep you more organized. Also, remember to start promoting the event early on so potential guests can plan accordingly.
TAKEAWAY: Once you get closer to the event date, if you are planning an event open to the public, it’s important to promote the event using high reach and high frequency. Reach and frequency is the key to success. One without the other is a waste of money.
3. Collaboration is Key
Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate!!! When planning an event on a budget you’re always looking for ways to save to ensure you come in or under budget. Partnering with local organizations is a great way to promote your event without having to dig deep into your budget. There are endless opportunities to work with other groups in your community whether it’s advertising in a publication or sharing information with local nonprofits and businesses. It’s common to leverage partners or sponsors to help promote your event in exchange for mentioning them in event promotional materials and/or having a presence the day of the event.
I also learned you can’t underestimate how valuable input from other teammates can be. Working with your coworkers to bounce ideas off one another can lead to innovative designs and a fresh perspective.
TAKEAWAY: With the overwhelming amount of events always going on (especially in a city like Charleston) think of out-of-the-box, cost-effective ways to differentiate your event and keep people coming back!
4. Measure Your Success
In order to learn from each event, measuring techniques must be used so you determine how to improve future events. Feedback is crucial in event planning because your main goal is to create an overall memorable experience for your guests, and the only way you’ll know what to change is if you ASK. There are so many ways to measure the success of an event other than just analyzing attendance numbers (although this is also a must). You can measure your event’s success through ways such as the amount of press, web impressions, surveys and social media mentions.
Surveys are a great way to gather in-depth knowledge of your attendees’ overall event experience. Each survey should be tailored specifically to whoever it is intended for. For example, you would craft a different survey for the guests vs. the vendors vs. the sponsors. This way you can gather definite feedback from each and every person involved in the event. Also, the social media world has opened the opportunity for immediate online conversations and led to attendees having higher expectations. The sense of immediacy guests expect for a response is crucial and you must be aware of the online conversations people are having about your event and the variety of experiences they had.
Even though event planning has its stressful moments, the reward of watching your event unfold and making people happy is incredible. I’ve learned that I enjoy working in the fast pace, detail-oriented, ever-changing event planning world and no matter what happens I must remember to, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”