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You’ve just begun digging into the planning process for your organization’s next event. The venue contract was signed months (or even years!) ago, and you’re beginning to align the existing components of your event within the contracted space grid. And suddenly, a colleague comes in with their next BIG IDEA… and “the plan” goes out the window…
The short story above is familiar to many of us. Stakeholders often throw out ideas that don’t fit “the plan”. But as our events have evolved over the last three years, I’m seeing more and more instances where “the plan” no longer fits the event.
Attendance figures are still rebounding from their pre-COVID highs. Attendees remain interested in accessing content through virtual or hybrid events. Planners are stuck with contracts that no longer meet the needs of the organization. Content teams are still planning for hundreds of content sessions for audiences two-thirds their previous size. Venues are insisting that food & beverage minimums must be met -- and even if you reduce your space usage, that won’t affect your minimum. OH!, and, organizational leadership is looking for their teams to provide innovative (and cost effective) ideas and that will rejuvenate live attendance numbers!
So, the question is: how can planners balance all of these concerns while continuing to advocate for meaningful experiences and human-centered event design?
The short answer – it can be TOUGH!
The long answer – Navigating the current scenario involves getting buy-in from stakeholders and balancing the need for evolution against organizational sacred cows and the inclination to “do what we’ve always done”. It also depends on the unique set of circumstances around your event and the flexibility your organization has to evolve during a single event cycle.
If your attendance is out of alignment with the size of the venue, consider how you can rework your spaces to allow for a balance between over-crowded and empty. Leverage airwalls to expand or condense rooms to fit the group’s size. If space is limited, consider expanding the venue contract to include additional rooms, or offering a hybrid viewing option. If the spaces are too large, give your content team the classroom seating and collaborative workshop room sets they’re always asking for! Either way, attendees will appreciate the flexibility to spread out or to attend in an alternative way.
To navigate challenges between the amount of content you offer and your attendance figures, consider how content might be improved with smaller audiences. Smaller audiences might mean more hands-on, collaborative sessions, rather than one-way lectures, giving attendees an opportunity to co-create lasting takeaways. And by focusing on quality over quantity, organizations can better leverage the value of attending their events and ensure attendee retention year-over-year.
If you’re running into challenges with meeting F&B minimums, consider expanding sponsorship opportunities in alignment with the event’s food and beverage needs. Offering lunch-and-learns and partner receptions as a sponsored opportunity will allow you to pass through the meal costs to your partners, while working toward your minimum and keeping attendees fed and happy! If your event has a trade show, consider an Exhibit Hall Booth Crawl with customized F&B packages that exhibitors can purchase through the exhibitor service kit.
I encourage you to take the opportunity to redesign your event with the attendee’s experience in mind. By designing in alignment with your event’s unique venue, content, and experience goals, I’m certain the best of live events is yet to come!
How have you improved your attendee’s event experiences? Are there any creative solutions you’ve used to balance venue, content, and experience? Let us know!