Events are supposed to be enjoyable.
How do you ensure that everyone has a good time and money trickles in? Or that the right people show up?
If you want to stay on the success lane, here are five event planning mistakes to avoid.
1. Not knowing your audience
Not knowing your audience is like taking a shot in the dark.
Let us paint a scenario that can lead to a failed event. You have created a great business event to help launch your new project management platform.
On the big day, the conference hall is filled with business students and junior managers. There are only a handful of marketing managers: the big decision makers. You are not going to make much in sales. You are in trouble.
What went wrong?
You launched an event with no clear target audience in mind and marketed to the wrong people. You should start with a clear audience in mind to give your events a fair chance of success.
How do you identify your target audience?
Here are some quick pointers:
Create a customer persona
The creation of a vivid and detailed customer persona is widespread in marketing. A persona is a semi-fictional representation of the person you would expect at your event. Begin by identifying their:
Are they Gen Xers, millennials, or an older crowd?
Are your attendees most likely to be men or women?
- Level of income or job description
This will influence the level of exclusivity you should aim for, among other things.
Other vital variables may include location, hobbies, and interests.
Tip: To learn more on developing customer personas, have a look at this guide.
Learn more about the habits of your persona through research. You can do this through:
Send out surveys via web-based services like SurveyMonkey or paper questionnaires.
Find a high-traffic area where your persona is likely to be. Trade shows, for example, are reasonable grounds. Ask them a few questions about their expectations from your kind of event.
- Focus groups
Find a small group of people that fit your ideal persona. Engage them in group discussions and Q&A sessions.
- Studying past data
Tools like gov.uk can help identify key demographics or review past events clearance forms.
Tip: For more details, check out our guide on the 6 Best Ways to Identify the Target Audience for an Event.
2. Not knowing why they attend events
So you now have insights about your target audience insight. The next question is, “What value does your event add to their lives?” Do you know why they would want to attend your event?
As an event planner, this is the ultimate question. We are living in an age where people crave personalised experiences. They are also very selective of the events they want to spend their time on.
The “Decision to Attend Study” of 8,992 respondents indicates that:
- 92% attend events to learn
- 78% are looking for the right event location
- 76% want opportunities to network and connect
Weigh this information against your target attendees to craft your value proposition. Is their most significant need learning, travel, networking, or investment opportunities? Find ways you can meet their expectations.
Tip: Need more help in creating a fantastic value prop? Check out this guide.
3. Poorly thought-out social media marketing
Social media platforms are the ideal event promotion tools for event planners. Millennials are the age group most likely to attend an event. A massive 67% of millennials are very event optimistic (followed closely by 66% of Gen Xers).
The easiest way to target these two groups is via social media and online interactions. SproutSocial says that 75% of all people are likely to pay for that event ticket if they see it on social media.
Don’t underestimate the importance of event marketing.
Case in point: A Google for Entrepreneurs marketer at Campus London set up an event on hacking and cyber security. You would think that great content, a great brand name, and large corporate backing would be enough to bring in the numbers.
The event had only 18 attendees, watching fantastic presentations in a sea of empty seats. There was not much done to promote the event, and social media marketing would have made a difference.
Be careful, though. Poorly thought-out social media promotion can be the bane of your event.
Remember the Starbucks “Spread the Cheer” debacle?
An automated #spreadthecheer campaign streaming live to a large screen sounds cool. Leaving the feed unmanned was definitely a bad idea.
How about H&M’s cringeworthy “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” social media ad?
Tips for social media event marketing
Do not be too pushy
Pushing your event and not connecting with your audience will drive them away. Share, interact, and engage instead.
Understand how social media works
Hashtags, for example, can get easily hijacked. Tools like Everwall can give you moderation rights. Do not spam your audience. Ensure that you always post evergreen, engaging relevant content. Buffer can help you with social media scheduling.
Tip: Make sure you’re on top of your event marketing with these “11 Proven Steps to a Solid Event Marketing Strategy.”
4. Lack of originality
Original and creative ideas are hard to come by. But they are the key to success. Competition in the events field is intense. An original event can also be one that presents not-so-new ideas in a new way.
The uniqueness of your event should not be pegged to the idea itself. The planning and delivery matter, too.
An original event should impress and amaze your attendees. World’s Biggest Coffee Morning—a successful cancer fundraising initiative by Macmillan Cancer Support—puts a good twist to your everyday charity idea. They raise funds by asking and enabling people to host coffee mornings with friends, co-workers, or family.
On the other end of the spectrum lie endangered holiday camp music festivals such as Safe as Milk or Down to the Woods Festival. They’ve been cancelled due to low ticket sales. Their repetitive line-ups seem to capture the crowds no longer.
If you want to be more original…
…here are a few ways you can make your event truly unique:
Come up with an original theme
How about spicing up the ambience of the event? Give free rein to your imagination and fish for inspiration. Visit like-minded forums and blogs like the Event Manager Blog.
Tip: For help on coming up with an event theme, check out How To Choose an Event Theme (And What to Include)
Use technology to stimulate attendees on the day of event
Use virtual and augmented reality technology to keep attendees engaged and active during the event. Invite them to polls on their smartphones during the sessions. Display their results in real time on large screens using charts to spark more interest.
Tip: For inspiration on using VR technology for events, take a look at this article.
5. Ignoring Murphy’s law
The Fyre Festival is an excellent example of a well-funded event that failed, due in no small part to lack of good event planning skills.
Does this mean that all well-planned events go according to plan? No.
But good planners understand Murphy’s law. Odd hairy moments are very common in the world of event planning. Keeping the plates spinning is part of the job.
Always conduct a risk assessment and put all contingency plans down in writing.
Potential last-minute issues and how to fix them
Some of the most common event disasters include…
1. Inclement weather
Design a wet weather plan to be communicated to all attendees. If it is an indoor contingency, let them know. Share details on cancellations, refunds, and reschedules beforehand. You can always use an online ticketing platform. This can help you save face and process refunds caused by any last-minute disruptions.
2. Too great a crowd
Monitor your registrations keenly. Limit tickets and set a wait-list. Or consider moving to a larger venue.
3. No one turns up
This scenario is prevalent with poorly marketed and free-to-attend events. Engage real-time ticket sales monitoring platforms to stay on top of the numbers.
Tip: Check out our list of The Best Free Online Event Planning Tools to help you stay on top of things.
Make those events rock
It’s painful to watch an otherwise promising event fail due to the above mistakes.
Hopefully, you now know what to watch out for and how to avoid the biggest event fails.
Now go make some memorable events for your attendees!