Surveying The Crowd

Guest input can be crucial during event planning, execution and evaluation. Gathering information and feedback from your guests before, during and after an event ranges in complexity. Here are some options.

You can simply observe: how are guests reacting? What problems have cropped up? Do guests look hassled and frustrated? Are there lots of long lines, or is foot traffic moving freely? Are guests relaxed, visiting, smiling? Do you have a number where guests can reach customer service? What questions or observations is the guest services area receiving?

You can talk with guests, one-on-one. Imagine a manager at a restaurant moving from table to table during dinner. “How is everything?” Depending on the reach of your services ask a general question and then get more specific. Make notes after you speak with people so that you can remember the highlights.

You can ask specific questions via email, or on social media. If you have guest emails, or an event Facebook Page or hash tag, you could use this to send out a question or two. “Is the event meeting expectations?” “What would you like to see next year?”

Or you can create a survey. This is a more complex process, but you’ll get the best information from it. Survey Monkey is one of the leading services on the market. If your survey is ten questions or less, and sent to fewer than 100 users, you could work with the basic package, which is free. 100% of the Fortune 100 companies use Survey Monkey- you’ll be in good company! They have pre-written questions specifically for event planners, or you can create your own.

Getting input from your guests allows you to make informed decisions based on the specific group of people you are serving. Gathering reactions mid-event can help you make course corrections, changing anything from a playlist to a dinner menu to a course offering. It might also help you create a more appealing event next year.

Where do you struggle with decisions during an event? How might attendee feedback help you? How can you best gather and analyze information? Try one, or a combination of these strategies to take your event planning to the next level.

Getting Great Photos To Promote Your Event

Photos can communicate buckets of information to your potential attendees.  Plus, crisp, bright, engaging photos will appeal to your guests and help them imagine themselves attending your event.  So how do you get these incredible photos?

  1. Hire (or barter for) a professional.  A professional photographer will have the equipment and knowledge needed to get you the best shots.  Potential attendees generally want to see photos of: the main event hall, the facility, people attending and an approximation of the accommodations.  Ask the photographer to give you a list of shots they’ll be trying for and add anything you particularly desire. If you’re hosting an event that will include more than a handful of people, consider reaching out to those already enrolled to see if someone would like a free ticket in return for photography services.
  2. Enlist the crowd.  I recently attended a wedding where the bride and groom posted signs that said “mark your photos with #custerweddingbells.”  Browsing Instagram later that evening I typed “custerweddingbells” into the search bar, and up came all the photos that had been so marked.  The wedding from the perspective of many guests!  What if you harnessed your attendees’ photos?  You’ll need to create a unique hashtag and advertise it.  You could even have a feed set up onto several screens that showed those photos during your event.  Fun!
  3. Take ‘em yourself.  Honestly, this is the least desirable option. You have a zillion things to do.  But, sometimes it happens.  Find or purchase a very small, high quality pocket camera.  Take some photos, and don’t be afraid to stage a few shots of laughing/smiling attendees if you need to. (You may not have time to wait for the perfect shot). Some photos taken by you are much better than no photos at all.

Great photos are worth the trouble!  They’ll be an important part of your marketing next year, so err on the side of “too many” incredible shots.  You won’t be sorry you have them.  Find a professional, enlist the crowd and have a small camera available for the shots you spot- I recommend doing all three!

Creating An Effective Communications Strategy

My church, ClearView Baptist in Franklin, TN, is in the middle of writing a communications strategy for events from the different ministries in the church.  Our goal with this policy is to “balance the church’s need to speak with the audience’s ability to listen.”

We started by making a list of communication tools that our ministries are using to get the word out.  Those tools were divided into five categories:

  1. Worship Related Tools: Sunday Morning Paper, bulletin inserts, video annoucements.
  2. Campus-Wide Promotion: hallway TV slides, roadside banners, hallway posters.
  3. Off-Campus Promotions: news release, custom mailer.
  4. Website: front page feature, announcement, video story, video announcement.
  5. Email: church-wide eblast, ministry eblast, monthly ministry eblast.
  6. Social Networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

We added a timeline for ministries to use when planning their event.  This strategy was not designed to add stress to the different ministries, but to help them clearly assembly a plan for communicating their events.

Walking through this exercise has helped us identify what we’re doing correctly and what areas need improvement.

Communications and marketing go hand-in-hand.  Marketing is communicating your message.  In the case of the readers of this blog, your message is about your event.  Sitting down and spelling out your strategy for communicating your message before you start is the first step to having a successful marketing plan.  Now that you have this strategy down, add the timeline.  I’m always forgetting to put calendar dates down for this timeline, and then the event is a month away, and I’m scrambling to communicate that message.  Don’t forget to add the calendar dates!

The list of tools your event uses maybe different than what ClearView has.  You may also find different areas have better results, and therefore require time, energy and money spent on them.

What tools have been the most effective for communicating your message?

Christian Meeting Planning Resources – December Update

Here is what we’ve added in December by category

Marketing/Promotion

Site Selection

Retreats/Meetings

Meeting Planners

I hope you find these helpful and remember we have many more than might interest you  in the Meeting Planner Resources section of the blog.

 

Communicating With Your Attendees

Putting systems into place to communicate with your group during an event is wonderfully useful tool for leaders.  Don’t wait until you have an emergency or schedule change notification to set up a group communication system.  In today’s world, you have multiple options: email, texting, twitter, Facebook, even walkie talkies.  Think about your group, and decide what plan takes advantage of the “low hanging fruit.”  Meaning, what does most of your group already use to communicate?  Does everyone respond to your emails within minutes, or is it a group more comfortable with texting?  If you don’t know, ask- and if a clear winner emerges, choose that.  Notify your group how you plan to communicate with them and what method you will use.

Setting up a group within your email or cell phone contacts will save you lots of time.   Include everyone you would want to contact and title it something you can remember like “retreat 2012”.  Then, when you need to send a message, you can pull up the group and quickly send an update without wondering who you have forgotten!

What might you send out updates for?  Information about group-specific gatherings like meal times and meeting places, free time group activities, or even questions about what speakers people are particularly enjoying.  Unless you have a group that truly enjoy lots of updates, don’t pepper your group with messages every hour.

If you have a group that doesn’t use cell phones or you’re going to a location without cell service- consider walkie talkies.  These can also be useful between cars or vans while traveling.  Using walkie talkies means you will need to designate a user and know that the group will remain fairly close together so that the information can be disseminated.

If you have a large group, more than twenty people, it might benefit you to break your group into smaller subsets and assign a leader for each.  Then you can communicate with your leaders and have them pass the information to their group.

With your group communication plan in place you’ll be able to quickly and efficiently notify your circle during the ups and downs of your event experience.  Decide on a method of communication, create contact groups to make it fast and simple, and notify your group of the plan. Ready, set, go!

3 Questions to Guide Evaluation and Planning

As Seth Godin recently wrote, the sentiment  “You Can’t Argue With Success…” is a faulty one.  Our summer camp ministry is going very well and impacting many lives for God’s glory, and yet lately we’ve felt burdened that perhaps God is calling us to increase our impact in various ways.  As a result, we recently spent several days in evaluation and strategic planning for our summer camps.  We were blessed with a beautiful, relaxed off-site meeting location, and an effective outside consultant who guided the process before, during, and after the actual retreat.

Perhaps you don’t have the need or resources for such an extensive process (we’re certainly in that boat most of the time), but you can still use the following three simple questions to spur improvements for your event:

What should we KEEP doing?  Think about what your event does well.  Does it satisfy a significant need for your tribe (another Godin term)?  Are you doing/providing something of value that isn’t readily available elsewhere?  Does the format of your event encourage the primary goals for the event?  In what ways are you “wowing” attendees?  By all means, recognize what you’re doing well, and keep it up!

What should we STOP doing?  Think about what isn’t working.  Or, just as important, think about what works well but isn’t perhaps of significant value for attendees.  In order to have the resources and energy to implement your answers to the next question, you’ll likely need to identify some activities you’ll need to stop.  Call it “sacrificing the good for the best”, or “emphasizing effectiveness over efficiency”, but identify aspects of your event that need to go.

What should we START doing?  Often this is the most fun question to consider.  What have you always wanted to do with your event?  What can help your event be more effective due to the changes in your industry or attendees over the years?  While input from your attendees can be useful in answering all three questions, it can be especially helpful when exploring options to initiate.

Whether your event is flying high, battling with inconsistency from year to year, or in a steady decline you wish to reverse, careful reflection on these three questions can provide invaluable information that will improve your event and provide greater value for your attendees.

Christian Meeting Planning Resources – November Update

Here are some great articles we’ve read in November, I hope you find something useful as your making plans for your upcoming meetings and events.

I hope you find these helpful and remember we have many more that might interest you  in the Meeting Planner Resources section of the blog.

 

When The Bottom Line Is The Bottom Line

As discussed in another post, an event’s financial outcome is only one factor to consider when assessing an event.  Today’s post takes a closer look at how to use Profit and Loss (P & L) statements to measure an event’s financial health.

  • Tie expenses to each specific occurrence of an event, even if the expenses occur in a different fiscal year than the event itself.  This allows you to assess each event occurrence on its own financial merits.
  • Code expenses to different categories to provide a better look at how you’re spending our money.  Category examples should fit your event and organization, but could include:
    • Office/Printing/Postage
    • Advertising and Marketing
    • Travel
    • Honorarium
    • Supplies
    • Miscellaneous (a catch-all category…don’t use it for too many items, but it’s usually helpful to have it for one-off expenses, etc.)
  • Separate program fee revenue from other revenue.  This allows you to determine how the event would fare on program fee revenue alone as well as reflect on what other supplemental revenue streams (ex: merchandise sales) you might want to consider.  When considering  supplemental revenue streams, remember:
    • Providing value for attendees is important.
    • Fostering a perception among your attendees that you are providing value is vital.  Beware of creating a “nickel-and-dime” culture.
    • Merchandise with event information (ex: t-shirts, bags) can provide a financial benefit of advertising as well as strengthen a connection between the participant and the event.  Perhaps these benefits even justify providing some items free of charge rather than selling them.
    • Include attendance figures.
    • P & Ls show each event’s margin (bottom line divided by revenue).
    • Keep historical data so you can view an event’s financial outcome in the larger context of how it’s done in other years and explore reasons for significant differences.

Update the P & L monthly, to track an event’s financial health both before and after it occurs.  Also take a more in-depth look in an annual “fully allocated” P & L in which you include the program revenues and expenses as well as estimates of labor costs within your office (based on how much time each individual spent on that event).  This provides a more detailed analysis of an event’s financial impact to your company and your stewardship of the resources required to plan and hold it.

So, how do you measure an event’s financial health?  What ideas can you share?

Christian Meeting Planning Resources – October Update

Here is what we’ve added in October by category

Marketing/Promotion

Site Selection

Retreats/Meetings

Meeting Planners

I hope you find these helpful and remember we have many more than might interest you  in the Meeting Planner Resources section of the blog.