Tuesday March 25, 2014
Clients are increasingly looking for a sound return on investment, here's how you can help them get it.
There are a number of great ways that event planners can maximize ROI on their events, which is essential as your clients are increasingly looking for a sound return on investment. In a nutshell, you need to maximize their profit, and with budgets getting tighter this isn't always the easiest thing to achieve and measure. So how do you maximize ROI as an event planner? While your creative side might be all about the theme and concept, your business side should be thinking about the following things when it comes to ROI.
Objectives and Key Performance Indicators
You should always start out with a set of objectives that will show whether your event was a success, and by setting KPIs at the initial stages of planning, you'll be able to better measure just how successful it was. An essential objective is to provide value, and not only to your client; the event must have value for everyone involved, from attendees to stakeholders. Customer satisfaction is an important measurement, and the ways to satisfy range from the immediate environment (the venue, the food etc.) to the actual content of the event. Think about sponsors as well, were there any repeat sponsors who saw the value from being involved in one of your previous events, and did you attract any new sponsors?
High Quality Events
I'm sure you always strive to plan the highest quality events, but it's still worth reiterating here. The better quality your event, the higher the customer and client satisfaction will be, and this will go a long way towards giving you the biggest ROI. The event must have value to all involved, and you can achieve this by meeting the needs of the attendees, giving them scope for networking and getting the right balance between business and pleasure.
The use of technology at events is a must in this hi-tech day and age, but in order for event planners to maximize ROI it needs to be used wisely. Technology can often cut costs by streamlining tasks and reducing other costs, such as printing, but the important thing to consider is whether it gives attendees something beneficial. If you're just using a piece of technology for the sake of it, does it really benefit your event?
Learning and Takeaways
This goes back to my earlier comment about balancing business and pleasure. Yes, it's important that attendees are comfortable and enjoy your event, but if they don't learn anything, how can you quantify the value of the event? Relevant and engaging takeaways are a crucial part of any event, and are an essential way for event planners to maximize ROI.
Now you've learned more about the techniques used to maximize ROI at your event, but how do you measure your success? Two things that are measurable are behavior and impact - did the participants do something because of the event, and what was the impact of it? You can use online surveys and real time audience polling to measure these types of results, and a complete assessment after the event is also necessary. The basic calculation of ROI is the value of the event (in terms of impact and behavior), less the cost of the event. This will give you the overall profit, or ROI. One thing to keep in mind when you're looking at direct benefits is whether they were a direct result of the event, or if some came from another aspect of the project, such as advertising.
Maximizing ROI for your events isn't necessarily about spending as little as possible. Yes, over-spending on unnecessary areas that aren't value added is a waste, but spending too little can also have a negative impact on your ROI, as you run the risk of not having a high-quality event.
Tuesday March 25, 2014
What you should do if your event goes wrong, and how to avoid future problems
We all know that even the best laid plans can go wrong at times, so as an event planner, you should be fully aware of ways to handle your event going wrong. You'll be the first person that everyone will look to if disaster strikes, so whether it's an act of God or something you personally dropped the ball on, how do you make it through to the other side while still maintaining your professionalism?
Here are my 5 essential tips for managing the situation if your event goes wrong.
This is probably the most important factor, so I'll repeat it for you; whatever you do, stay calm! You're the person that your team, your client and the attendees are going to be looking to for guidance, so the last thing you want to do is panic. In fact, if you manage to stay totally calm and unflappable, people may not even notice that there's a problem in the first place.
Have a Contingency Plan
You did have a plan B in place, right? When you're planning an event you should always consider what might go wrong, how drastically it might go wrong, and how you can fix it if the worst happens. Keynote speaker doesn't show up? No problem, you have a reserve waiting in the wings. Technology fails? That's fine, you have an alternative solution that doesn't rely on an app or electricity. You can only successfully handle your event going wrong if you always have other options available to you. I once had an outdoor event planned on a day that was forecast to be glorious, but even so I'd investigated indoor possibilities 'just in case'. Which was lucky when the forecast changed the day before the event; as it meant I not only had umbrellas on hand, but also could swiftly organize moving into the stunning barn on the same land with minimum panic.
Get the Facts
When your event isn't going to plan, you'll need to find out everything there is to know about the problem, even if all you want to do is hide in the bathroom and pretend it's not happening. Asking questions is crucial: What has happened? Why has it happened? How can it be fixed? Unless you know what's caused the problem, and the impact it's going to have on the event, then you won't be able to come up with a solution.
Honesty is definitely the best policy in a situation like this, and the last thing you should do is try to cover up the problem. Your client and the attendees will appreciate honesty, even if they may be frustrated in the short term while you try to handle your event going wrong. The only thing I'd caution you about is being over honest, and telling anyone who'll listen exactly what's going wrong. If people aren't going to be affected by the issue, then there's really no need to tell them!
Learn From Your Mistakes
As essential in the event planning business as it is in life, learning from your mistakes is the only way to grow, both personally and professionally. If you miss something crucial, or make an error in judgment, then at least next time you'll know what not to do. You should always have a 'lessons learned' session after every event, where you note what was successful about the event, and what didn't work so well. This stands you in great stead for future events, and is a great way to give you that competitive edge.
Don't let the fear of things not going to plan stop you from taking risks and planning daring events. You're not only an event planning professional, you're also a creative professional, and sometimes the zaniest ideas can translate into the most successful events, even if you spend the whole time biting your nails in case the worst happens.
Tuesday March 25, 2014
A complete social media strategy is essential for professional event planners
Are you tapped into all of the creative ways to use social media for your events?
Your strategy should go beyond simply creating an event on Facebook, and range from creating a buzz when you promote your event to attendee interaction during the event itself.
If you're not sure where to start, here are 7 creative ways that event planners can use social media to create an outstanding events.
- Using Pinterest to plan your event is much more creative and visual than traditional methods. Creating a Pinterest board is perfect for brainstorming, and getting all of your creative vision in one place.
- Using Pinterest to promote your event also works really well. Pin inspiring photos of the location, guest speakers, sponsors' logos, and pictures that fit in well with your theme. Photos and videos of past events are another effective option, and are a great way of maximizing the hype for your upcoming event.
- Holding a Facebook contest linked to the event is a wonderful way to reward your Facebook followers and promote your event at the same time; just make sure you're aware of Facebook's rules surrounding contests! Asking entrants to share your post as a condition of entry may seem like great PR, but it's against Facebook's rules so could cause you problems.
- You probably already know that Twitter is fantastic for getting news of your event out there, but do you make full use of its functionality to really make the most of the exposure it can give? It's easy to set up tweet buttons on your website so visitors can click to tweet a customized message, let everyone know they're attending and promote the event at the same time.
- Having a real time Twitter wall displayed at your event isn't just great promotion; it also helps people at the event connect and network with each other. There are a number of options for Twitter walls, both free and paid, so do some research and decide what will work best for you.
- As we all know, YouTube is a great tool for procrastination, full of funny videos of cats and all the latest music videos (come on, that's not just me, surely?). If you create a YouTube channel for your event planning business, it becomes one of the wonderfully creative ways to use social media for your events. You can even share your video across your other social media platforms, and visitors to your channel can share it on their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- The mighty hashtag; used effectively it can maximize the visibility of your event, and it isn't exclusively used on Twitter anymore. Now other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram also make use of clickable hashtags to trend words and phrases - so make your hashtag count! Choose one hashtag that's memorable, and that relates to your event, as you don't want to dilute the effectiveness with a number of different hashtags. An example that I could use for an 'Event Planning Blueprint Week' would be #EventBlue2014. Make sure that you use your hashtag on everything to do with the event, your website, social media pages and any printed literature.
When I started my event business in 2004, social media was nowhere near as popular or prolific as it is today, so I've seen the numerous changes and benefits of a proper social media strategy in the event planning world. Facebook and Twitter are now the norm, but don't forget the countless other creative ways you can use social media for your events.
Tuesday March 25, 2014
The essentials of financial management for event planners
Following these finance and accounting tips for event planners is the smart way to take control of your business. Even if you have an accountant or bookkeeper to keep track of your finances, it's vital that you understand at least the basics of your business' financial affairs and responsibilities. After all, how will you know how well you're doing if you don't? If you're anything like me and gloss over at the words "loss statement or balance sheet" then this is a must read for you.
Know the Terminology
- Profit and loss statement: A profit and loss statement shows what money you're bringing in (revenue), as well as the costs of running your business, such as marketing, venue hire, employee salaries and catering. Taking your costs from your revenue gives you the actual profit or loss (hopefully profit!). You really need to understand how this works, so you don't make the rookie mistake that I did when I was first starting out, yep, that's right, I actually made a loss on one of my first events!
- Balance sheet: This is a higher level look at your business, and usually shows the most recent three years of trading. It includes assets, for example cash you have in the bank, cash that's due to be paid to you and business assets; and liabilities, for example any debt the business has.
- Accounts payable/accounts receivable: No set of finance and accounting tips for event planners would be complete without these necessary processes. Accounts payable is the amount of money that you owe, and accounts receivable the amount that's owed to you, and it's important to keep a handle on both of these aspects of cash flow. You may be proud of your efficiency in paying bills on time, but how are you at handling what's owed to you?
- Projected cash flow: This is crucial for predicting how your business will grow in the future, and you need an accurate cash flow prediction to make sure that you can meet all of your financial obligations. You don't want any nasty surprises when it comes to your finances!
As well as knowing what your overall numbers are, and what they mean, you need to have an individual budget in place for each event. You'll need to start with projected expenses, and remember that you'll never be able to predict the exact figure. Put in everything from the biggest and most obvious expenses to the tiniest details; as you advance in your event planning career you'll start finding it much easier to predict these things, I promise! It's also vital to add an emergency overflow figure to your expenses; I'm giving you these finance and accounting tips for event planners from my own experience, and trust me, you'll need an overflow fund! Add projected income to the budget, and then after the event you can substitute your actual expenses for the projected figures - this will let you see how well you achieved your budget.
Make the Most of Technology
You don't need to rely on a leather-bound ledger and a fountain pen (or even an excel spreadsheet!) to keep your books in order, as there are a whole range of applications and software available to make your life easier. From small business accounting software to billing and invoicing software, there's a wealth of technology out there that's perfect for small business owners and freelancers alike.
Know Your Obligations
So, your books are up to date, and you know everything there is to know about the financial health of your event planning business - but is there something you've forgotten? Do you have the relevant business insurance, such as professional liability insurance and general liability insurance, just in case the worst ever happens? If you employ anyone to be part of your team, do you realize you'll need to take out workers' compensation insurance? Think about certification; while it's not essential to be certified to become an event planner, consider whether it will help you to start or advance your career. Just like money matters, these are the things that you'll need to have a good business head about when it comes to professional event planning.