10 Planner Resolutions for 2019
- Understand the purpose of your event and how it furthers the mission of your organization.
So many times, we plan events without a clear, defined purpose for what we are trying to accomplish. Often it is: “We hold this event because we always have,” or “We are the gathering of subject-matter experts for our community, so you should come.” So what? The event should be a celebration of the community and an opportunity to inspire pride, all while furthering the mission of your organization.
The best events are planned by professionals who understand the purpose of their work and deliver on the promise of a great event.
If the leaders of the event haven’t defined a purpose, you can start yourself by laying out your organization’s goals, mission, or strategic plan. Then look at the objectives of your event and line them up with the organizational goals. Then ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you hold this event?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How do you want attendees to feel at the conclusion of the event?
- What do you want attendees to walk away with?
- How do you want your exhibitors to feel at the conclusion of the event?
- What do you want exhibitors to walk away with?
- How does your event deliver on broader organizational goals?
As a bonus, being able to clearly articulate how your event delivers on the organizational initiatives helps to protect your event budget and, if needed, may give justification for asking for budget increases.
- Read like you are searching for ideas.
There is an abundance of event advice out there (including this article you are reading now). If you aren’t already signed up for the major industry emails – PCMA news junkie, Associations Now newsletter, BizBash daily news – do so in three minutes when you are done reading this one. While they are all great for skimming, try approaching them and other sources like you are actively looking for ideas, and you’ll be surprised what you can discover. For example, I subscribe to a technology daily newsfeed meant for scientists, which is sometimes a bit above my level of understanding, but it has led me to gems like this.
It’s a white paper that links the recycling of mobile phones to the population of gorillas in the Congo. This got me thinking: how can we better tell the stories of our events and associations and draw links to the impact beyond what happens in the meeting room?
One technique I use is actively making time in my schedule to read these things. This isn’t easy, but if you start thinking of it as something that makes you better at your job, then it can become a priority for you.
- Commit yourself to wellness on the road.
This is a hard one. Planners are up before breakfast is available and in bed long after dinner’s been served. If we eat at all, it’s a stolen cookie or piece of bread while running around and at the end of an on-site day, a glass of wine may be the only “fruit” we have consumed. We wear ourselves out and wear ourselves down.
While planning, I found I was getting sick about once a month, and it was always worse after an on-site, so I took a chance on a health coach. He gave me some simple tips for on the road:
- Keep track of how much water you are drinking. I now carry a reusable water bottle and use an app to keep track.
- Eat greens whenever possible. When I see veggies, I eat them. I opt for the salad at the airport. I look for the crudité packs from Starbucks.
- Seek out real fruit. I used to drink juices as a quick way of getting nutrition, but turns out it is best to just eat an apple. And apples are usually easy to find.
- Embrace variety. Turns out when you eat the same thing every day, even if it is broccoli, it actually lowers your immunity. I try to be mindful that I’m not getting the exact same thing from the convention center concession stand every day.
- Do your best to get outside and breathe, even if just for a few minutes. I’m still working on this one.
It’s been a year since I started these things, and I have only been sick one time. It’s a dramatic difference for me. In addition, I enjoy the benefit of just feeling better, having more energy, and needing less recovery time when I return from an on-site.
- Practice being present.
Planners almost never live in the moment. We are usually obsessed with what happens next. The session’s kicked off; time to check if the break is set, run through the logistics for transportation to the off-site, and review this contract sitting in my inbox for 2020.
There is a ton of research on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Meditation helps you find and connect new ideas more quickly. It helps with detail orientation and finding mistakes before they happen. And it also helps lighten your mood and just enjoy where you are.
There are a number of apps that can help with learning meditation, but if you aren’t ready for that level yet, here are two quick things you can try:
- Box Breathing – this is a technique that Brené Brown teaches that is super-simple. Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Repeat four times.
- Five Senses Checklist – take a moment to focus on each of your five senses. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you feeling? What are you smelling? What are you tasting? It is an excellent way to anchor yourself.
- Remember that when you are stressed, you are less empathetic.
Simon Sinek wrote a great book called Leaders Eat Last, and in it, he talks about the evolutionary reasons for why our capability for empathy goes down when our stress goes up. It’s no secret that event planning is continually rated in the top five most stressful professions. Planners are stressed, particularly before an event. We work on teams of people who are stressed. Our offices become powder kegs of stress, and it doesn’t take much to set things off.
Just being aware of the fact that your stress level makes it difficult for you to be empathetic can help when it’s crunch time in the office. Understanding that you may not be in a place to effectively deal with someone else’s issues can go a long way and that everyone else is struggling with their empathy as well, can keep that powder keg from going off. (That box breathing from Resolution #4 can be helpful here).
- Take a closer look at your event metrics.
We tend to measure events based solely on budget or number of attendees. Take the time to look at all dimensions of how your event is performing. We use the 6 Rs framework to evaluate an event through a different lens.
- Reach – percentage of attendees at an event out of the total addressable audience with buying power
- Retention – percentage of attendees/partners returning to an event from one year to the next
- Relevance – the core appeal of an event and organization to its audience
- Reputation – the position, authority, and dominance of the event and organization
- Revenue – top-line revenue from partner investment, attendee registration, and sponsor engagement
- ROI – event income compared to event investment
Tip: 360 Live Media offers a free tool to measure your event performance in all of these categories here. Understand where you have opportunities for change, and focus on those areas this year.
- Love thy partner.
It’s time that we think about our partners in a new way. Just like planners, they are being expected to do more with less. They are being asked to quantify ROI and budget dollars are being held more tightly. Remember that partners are a key part of your community. In addition, your attendees need your partners to do their jobs, and the partners are offering solutions to make them better at their jobs.
Skip the flyer and instead start your sales process with a conversation. Ask your partners what they are trying to accomplish and how they are expected to demonstrate ROI. Then craft your packages to meet their needs. As part of our event evaluation process, we interview partners and we hear over and over again just how happy they are to be listened to.
But that’s just step one. Step two is to re-educate your attendees on how they should think about their partners. Remind them that the show floor isn’t just a place to collect swag and spam; it is an experience you are putting together for them to bring solutions, ideas, and hopefully some fun.
- Hold yourself responsible for the diversity of your program.
In the current climate, “pale and male” events stand out more than ever. Planners should always be making the recommendation to add speakers of different backgrounds to their events. It goes beyond just adding female speakers. Consider diversity in all of its forms: age, culture, people of color, non-heterosexual orientation, gender identity, people with disabilities, religion, and people with different mindsets and backgrounds.
Not being able to find diverse experts or not having enough diverse experts submitting in your call for papers is no longer an excuse. We have to take responsibility to drive diversity in our events. Yes, it requires more work, but it will pay off in a better event.
Need help identifying speakers? Here are a few starting points.
- Stop using the word “Tribe.”
For a few years now “tribe” has been a planning and experience design buzzword. We use it to describe how we create space for people to find their people and feel wholly connected to their community.
However, it was recently pointed out to me that the use of the word “tribe” can be considered cultural appropriation at best and is even offensive to some who come from Native backgrounds. I’m doing my best now to replace my use of this word. For now, when I want to use something stronger than “community,” I’m using “pack,” because I love dogs. I’ll let you know if I come up with something better.
- Recognize the power you have as a planner.
We planners hold in our hands the power to transform people. We can create situations that spark world-changing ideas. We can produce sessions that bring people to personal and professional revelations. We can put people together in a room and create opportunity to invent products, cure diseases, make policies, and maybe even change the world. Do not take that for granted. Recognize the impact you have through your events, both on people and on carrying forward your organization’s mission.
This ties back to Resolution #1: know the purpose of your event. If you know the purpose, you can deliver on the purpose using your power as a planner.
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