Have you defined what success would look like?

No, I am not talking about turnout rate and things going to plan. I am talking about how you will ensure that your event meets your strategic objective. People often see planning an event as no more than a logistical process while in fact events are about engaging an audience to achieve a certain communication objective. To fill a venue with people having a good time will not be a great outcome if you are not getting what you want from it.

What is your event about?

Clarity of purpose is crucial to every decision, as much in the planning stage as in execution. Think of your purpose in terms of your audience – what do you want to achieve with them? Rather than the turnout rate and how you think your event goes, it is the impact you leave in participants’ minds upon departing that will ultimately determine your success.

Knowing what’s most important about an event also means that you can more efficiently and effectively allocate resources. With your purpose in mind, you will find it easier to set priorities and stay focused, reducing the time and energy wasted on considering unsuitable options.

Once you are clear on your event’s objective, make sure you really know your audience before moving into the planning stage.

Who is your audience?

Think very specifically, what define this group of people in terms of demographics, interests, circumstances and particularly event booking habit? If you are planning a food festival, “25-35 Londoners” and “food lovers” are not specific enough. What other characteristics define these young Londoners that you want to attract? What kind of food lovers would be interested in the culinary experience you are offering? Will they likely book well ahead or at the last minute and how may this be affected by pricing?

 The clearer you are about your audience, the faster you will arrive at a compelling event concept and an appropriate marketing strategy.

Do you know what they want?

If you are launching something new, you inevitably have to deduce its demand from other similar events. Often this is not as straight forward as it seems.

If you have seen decent turnouts at some vegan food festivals, does it mean that your vegan food fair will do as well? Not necessarily. People may have been drawn to other aspects of these festivals rather than the food itself.

If you decide that your audience are vegans, what aspect of a food fair would be particularly interesting to them? What experience would they be looking for at such an event?

If you decide that you want to market to non-vegans as well, how would your plan have to change to create a wider appeal?

Giving people what they want in the way they want is key to engagement.

What experience do you want to give them?

What kind of atmosphere do you want to generate at your event? Are there thoughts you want to trigger in the participants or actions you want them to take? What event format would be most suitable as a result?

Sometimes people get carried away with event ideas that “would be great” without assessing if they actually serve their objectives. Events are one of the most intimate ways for someone to experience your brand; every detail matters. I once worked on a public event where the idea of having donation buckets was first welcomed for the much needed funds but subsequently vetoed because one of the organisers realised that such an activity could give the wrong impression of the brand. The event’s primary objective was to start people on a journey of cultivating simple happiness. We did not want people to feel that our invite came with a money ask, even if it was voluntary. The brand’s integrity at this event was so powerful that with less than a month of promotion and with a zero budget for advertising, the event attracted media attention and was multiple-time over-subscribed!

The more specific you are about the experience you want to create, the more likely you will achieve your event’s objective.