Whoever you are and whatever you may do in the way of work or leisure, you've probably attended an event that's been planned and executed by a professional events organiser. Whether you've been to in-person events, or virtual ones hosted online because of the 2020 pandemic, a lot of thought, time, effort, money, and expertise goes into event planning.
As an audience member or delegate, you sit back and enjoy the event, and perhaps don't think too much about what goes into planning an event to make it one to remember! But, if that's a subject that you're curious about, we're here to spill the beans about event planning and all the pieces that have to come together before the big day. So, let's take a look at the behind the scenes work on events that you may be surprised about:
Once an events professional has an event in mind, or has been commissioned to produce one, one of the first things that they've got to think about is the agenda. As a delegate, have you ever thought about how the event came to be, and who decided what topics were going to be covered? All of this takes a lot of research well ahead of the event, to ensure that the topics fit into the aims and objectives of what the event is trying to achieve.
Furthermore, if you want your event to be a success, it needs to be relevant to your target audience. We probably all know the painful feeling of having to sit through an event or talk that is just plain boring! So, it's also important to ensure that the topics covered are in line with current news and trends, and are going to lead to an event that is engaging and useful for everyone that attends.
Organising the speakers
Here at Events Together, we absolutely love organising our yearly conference, This Is Us, which explores the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. A big part of this event, and many others, is the range of interesting and talented speakers that come to present. But what goes into planning an event and getting all these speakers together? Let's have a look:
This is where even more research comes in! Now you've carefully chosen your topic and what you want your agenda to look like, you need to make sure that you choose the right speakers that will be relevant and actually bring something to the table. This involves looking at potential speakers, and getting a feel for what their speciality may be.
We've found that speakers don't necessarily have to have years of speaking experience, but they do need to have passion for and knowledge about their topic. At Events Together, our favourite way to find speakers for events is through personal recommendation, as this almost guarantees that they will be good. Or, if we see a speaker at another event and experience their speaking first hand, or we have read something that they've written that piques our interest, these are also good ways to source quality speakers.
Speaker Alignment Calls
When you're event planning, you can scout out the speakers that you think would be a good fit, but a lot more work is to come! After all, they may not have the time to speak at your event, or you just might not be as good a fit together as you initially thought. So, next we vet our speakers with speaker alignment calls.
This is usually an open and honest conversation about the event, what we're looking for in terms of content, whether the event is a good fit for them, and whether they are truly passionate about the topic and what the event will be covering! Again, this is something that takes up a lot of time. Each conversation takes around half an hour, and sometimes it takes many of these calls to find the right lineup that will keep the audience engaged, and sell tickets in the first place.
Speaker Briefing Guides
When the event draws closer, the speakers are decided, and things are in the final planning stages, it's time for the speaker briefing guides. These are an in-depth guide for the speakers about any tech that we're using, their responsibilities on the day, our responsibilities as the event organiser, instructions about the format of their presentations, and key dates such as rehearsals and submission deadlines. This allows the speakers to be prepared ahead of time, and gives everyone the peace of mind that things should run smoothly!
What goes into planning an event, outside of the main attractions? With any event, it's not just about putting together the agenda for the delegates to enjoy. There are also plenty of operational elements that go into ensuring an event goes off without a hitch. It's important for these elements to stay behind the scenes, so that the delegates have a seamless experience and the event looks and feels well organised. These elements include:
Liaising with the venue for a live event to ensure that our expectations as events planners are met, and everyone is on the same page
Liaising with production management if the event is virtual. Virtual events are new for so many people this year, so it's important to put the time and effort in to learn as much as you can, to ensure that the virtual events are as good as can be.
AV flow- this encompasses everything from the order of events, who is speaking when, the details of speakers' slides, any polls or Q&As they may be doing, and so on. It's important to know what's happening and when so that you can foresee any potential issues and make sure everything runs as it should.
Risk Assessments are vital for all events, alongside a detailed health and safety plan. If the event is live, it's up to the event planner to do a site visit of the venue to assess its suitability. This may not be local to where you are located, so it's a 'hidden' element of event planning that takes time, but most delegates won't know has happened!
Website and promotion
When planning an event, it's obviously important to make sure that people know about it so that they can come along! So, the website and promotion of the event are very important:
Any good event needs its own dedicated website. Whether you make this yourself or hire someone to do it for you, you'll need to provide the relevant content, keep an eye on it, and make sure that it's continuously being updated with any additions and changes needed.
Marketing is possibly the most important part of planning an event. Without marketing, nobody will know about your event in order to attend! Considerable time and thought need to go into creating a marketing strategy for the event, including social media posts, responding to requests from journalists, and any general marketing duties that come your way. And, if you don't do the marketing yourself in order to save time, this is another expense that has to come out of the event's budget.
Interviews with speakers and others involved in the event are another thing that is great to have, in order to promote the event and their involvement in it. These can then be used on the website, social media, and more to gain more attention. But, as usual, they take time and effort to organise, especially with lots of conflicting schedules!
Alongside everything that we have mentioned, there is also even more pre-planning that needs to be done if you want your event to be the best it possibly can be! This includes:
Registration. It's important to create, or have created for you, a registration platform so that delegates can easily book tickets and you can keep an eye on registration numbers. In the lead up to the event, the event planners have to ensure that everything is working properly and that enough tickets are being sold to make the event worthwhile
Rehearsals are another important part of the event, and they can span over a good few days, depending on the speaker availability! Here is the opportunity to sort out any technical issues and ensure that the event will run smoothly on the day.
The day itself
When the day itself rolls around and everyone is enjoying themselves, there's no time for the event planners to relax! There's plenty to keep us busy in the lead up to the event and on the day. For example, the event planner will have to be on hand throughout the event to sort out any issues that may arise. This includes being on-site before anyone else, to make sure that everything is ready for the speakers and the delegates.
The result of what goes into planning an event
So, when it comes to event planning, a lot goes on behind the scenes! How many of these elements did you know about as an event attendee? All of this takes time, money, and effort to produce, with no 100% guarantee that it will pay off.
As we've mentioned, these are all the hidden elements that most event attendees won't even know have happened! But, they make the event what it is. The aim of any event is to create a seamless experience for the delegates. So, if they do know about the existence of any of these things on the day, you could argue that the event isn't running as smoothly as planned!
However, with the events space changing so drastically in 2020 because of the effects of Covid-19, we think that it's important that people know about what goes into planning an event, virtual or live. It's likely that the event planner has put a considerable amount of time and money into this event, and they want to see it be a big success! They want the delegates to enjoy themselves, but also for their time and effort to have paid off with a successful event.
With things like free and virtual events cropping up more and more often, we're seeing issues arise such as delegates choosing not to attend on the day (because they have not paid for the event), therefore taking up a registration space from somebody who could have attended and was interested in learning and gaining value from it. This is obviously an issue for event organisers that have used their own time and hard-earned money to put the event on for the benefit of the delegates!
So, what's the answer?
We think that there isn't one simple answer, but there needs to be a change in approach from both the events professionals and event attendees. It's important for event attendees to be respectful of the time, money, and skills that go into planning an event, paid or free, and ensure that if they cannot attend, let the organiser know so that they can open their space up to somebody else. And, events professionals themselves need to ensure that they are producing events that offer true value, for both paid and free events, and doing all that they can to attract the right audiences.
Overall, it's a fine balance, and we're all trying to get it right. But, the truth of the matter is that, over Covid, events have changed drastically, and who knows when they will get back to 'normal'? The best thing that we can do is work together to produce the best events possible, for delegates and ourselves.