Events can be a successful technique for marketing, engagement, and networking—if they're done properly. Unfortunately, many organizations settle for mundane, outdated, and unimaginative events. So much so, that when some people hear the word "event," they may just roll their eyes.
Three-quarters of executives are looking for greater return on investment (ROI) from corporate events, a national Harris Interactive survey found. That may seem daunting to achieve, but there are tried and true ways to increase event ROI, including making use of behaviors that drive happiness, such as the surprise factor and authentic interaction.
Here are five tactics you can use to ensure your attendees thoroughly enjoy your events and, in turn, ensure ROI. (Also see MarketingProfs' 7-point checklist for a memorable event. —Ed.)
1. Understand how the brain works
If you are incorporating a speech or presentation, keep it short. Your brain can focus for roughly 7-10 minutes on a presentation, and then the brain needs a break, research shows.
Incorporate a change of pace—a song, a video, something interactive to allow the brain to take a break, and only then move on. This allows your message to sink in and resonate better—not go in one ear and out the other.
2. Make a positive memory
Daniel Kahneman, who wrote a book called Thinking Fast and Slow, writes, "We don't choose between experiences. We choose between memories of experiences."
Incorporate that thinking into your event. For instance, when people leave the event to get their car, you wouldn't want them standing in a long disorganized line, because that is what they will remember the most about the event—not the amazing time they had there.
For instance, to create and elongate a positive memory, consider creating a "valet lounge" where attendees could relax on couches and continue that wonderful experience while waiting for their cars.
3. Keep it cool
Literally, keep the temperature cool in the room. Warm/hot temperatures make everything feel as if it's going slow, and the warmth will put your attendees to sleep. Have refreshing ice cold drinks on hand, too, so everyone will feel rejuvenated.
4. Refresh or die!
You may be working with the same or limited budget, but that doesn't mean the repeat event can't be revitalized.
Instead of a typical ribbon cutting, for example, try re-inventing the cutting by having ribbons fall from the ceiling on a grand scale with a kabuki drop. The audience won't be expecting it, and it will incorporate an element of surprise!
You can infuse new life into an event, without its costing a penny, by rearranging the interior design.
For instance, if you're hosting an awards ceremony, designing a "runway style ballroom"—by arranging the audience chairs on either side of an aisle—can work great. And by shortening speaker sessions and adding lively music, the energy stays high, similar to a fashion show.
5. Kick up the interaction
Instead of having guests engage only with the people to their right or left at their table, make it more interactive and inspiring. For instance, Alinea, in Chicago, makes dessert right on the table, as a form of art.
You can replicate that sort of experience and guests will be able to interact with the chefs, the desserts, and each other. It creates a unique and amazing experience, and it sets an energizing mood for conversing with each other.
Apply this five-step process
Here are five steps to take, including questions to ask yourself, before, during, and after an event.
- Learning: Determine what success looks like. Do you want attendees to learn more about your company's services, visit your website, or donate to your nonprofit? You need metrics in place before you even start the event. If you want attendees to go to a website, do you have the systems and data in place before your event so it can be measured afterward?
- Reaction: You want attendees to have a great time, and come back again. Poll their reaction to something, whether it's the inclusion of music at the event or their thoughts about a keynote speaker.
- Implication: What happens when the event is over and attendees leave? How do they apply what they've learned or what they've been exposed to, and how are you tracking that?
- Impact: After you measure the first three items, what is the impact of the event?
- Financial: Once you have taken care of the first four items, you will have gone a long way toward deriving a positive ROI from the event.
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