One of the most valuable questions you can ask an experienced event professional if you are a young (or even not so young) event planner is: what's your single best piece of advice for event professionals?
We asked just that from 10 top event industry experts. Their responses were intriguing, and though each was unique, they reflected three overarching themes:
Step up your game: Christy Lamagna makes the point forcefully below, advising planners to approach their role seriously and professionally: "Understand the power of events and what it means to be a strategic planner (as well as) the role you can play in helping your organization achieve their goals and adding to their bottom line."
Dave Lutz advises being "obsessed" with understanding your attendees and delivering relevance. Adrian Segar recommends differentiating yourself by learning to design and facilitate better meetings.
And Corbin Ball makes the case for joining and becoming active in events industry associations: "If you get active in your association, you are working with the influencers (and movers)...It is one of the best way to make connections in this relationship-based industry."
Be a lifelong learner. That's actually exactly what David Adler recommends. Will Curran expands on this: "Take time to work on yourself, not just your business and your events...educate yourself through research...That will enable you to ask better questions and produce more amazing results."
Think outside the industry: When trying to come up with great ideas for your next event, it's all too easy to...look at great ideas other event planners have tried recently. That gets stale fast.
Instead, Jeff Hurt and Marissa Pick advise event planners to look outside the events space, to segments like retail, museums, theme parks, and other verticals for inspiration. Don't be afraid to creatively apply concepts or practices from elsewhere to event planning.
Here are the best pieces of advice from 10 top events industry influencers.
Be a lifelong learner. The purpose of going to conferences or even reading the trades (e.g., BizBash), is to build up your intellectual capital. Most of our days we are drinking from a fire hose and spending our intellectual capital. Invest in yourself. You are worth it.
The best professional decision I have made is to join (and become active in) professional associations (such as MPI, PCMA, IAEE, ICCA, and others). 80% of the volunteer work is usually done by 20% of the members. If you get active in your association, you are working with the influencers—the movers of that organization. It is one of the best way to make connections in this relationship-based industry.
They always say that event planning in particular is one of the most stressful jobs to have. I always say, live to the fullest and try not to lose any sleep over what we do ... !
Don’t be a copycat conference producer. Stop looking for the newest and greatest formats, shiny tech tools, or ideas from other conferences. Instead, get outside of the conference and meetings world and look at unique experiences.
How does Starbucks attract a devoted following and why do we want to go to their stores? How does Apple woo us into their stores and why do we enjoy that environment? How do today's successful art museums create unique experiences around exhibits? What to festivals have to teach us about the customer experience? How do amusement parks and traveling interactive immersive experiences like the Marvel Experience keep us engaged for three to eight hours and leave us wanting more?
Have no fear. Take chances, be creative and think outside of the box. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for developing a plan, and as our field evolves, there are new tactics to test at every step along the way. I’ve learned to take chances along the way, and having failures is part of recognizing what success truly looks like. If you’re going to fail, fail fast, and move on.
Many times I’ll check in with friends who work within similar roles across a variety of industries and float an idea and try to refine for success. I originally saw the Twitter vending machine at Twitter HQ in California and brought to my financial services event in Montreal. It was an outside-the-box idea and not something we have done within our past events. In the end, it was a real success and that experimental idea not only enhanced our event but also deepened our delegate experience.
Understand the power of events and what it means to be a strategic planner. Take pride in the work you do and learn how to do it well. Events are not glamorous and are not fun most of the time. They are powerful tools to support marketing and shorten the sales cycle. Understand the role you can play in helping your organization achieve their goals and adding to their bottom line.
Take this job seriously and present yourself as a professional. If you want to be a planner for a living because you like to decorate and choose floral arrangements, be a wedding planner or a social planner. Corporate event planning is about goals, budgets, communication strategy, effectively disseminating content, leading teams and keeping your attendees safe and comfortable.
Take time to work on yourself, not just your business and your events. Work on time to educate yourself through research. If you don't understand all of today's security issues, Google what the different terms mean, and the tools and techniques you can use to stay protected.
If you don't understand AV, invest in the time to educate yourself and learn more about it. So many times, planners are so concerned about the next client or the next event that they don't accomplish important personal goals. Take the time to do it. Schedule the time to work on yourself. That will enable you to ask better questions and produce more amazing results.
Be obsessed with defining and segmenting your target audience. Participants are attracted to high relevance. You can’t deliver relevance without target audience obsession and an intimate knowledge of what keeps them up at night.
There are too few people who know how to create better meetings, and this provides a golden opportunity for meeting professionals to stand out from the competition by learning how to design and facilitate them.
It's clear that our event experts know their business - do you?