How Organizations Can Stop Wasting Money On Event Production Items That Don't Improve Their Strategic Outcomes
The special events industry is a $1.5 trillion business, according to the Events Industry Council, with organizations spending at least $100K on events annually. Yet, so many organizations make common event production mistakes that fail to bolster their reputation, increase news mentions, spur more partnership deals, or further membership goals. This is not because of a lack of budget, but because they are hiring consultants who are not thinking about their events through a strategic lens, leading many organizations to make ill-advised event selections that are costly, but not very effective at promoting their organization's mission or brand.
Framing event choices with context, strategy, and intent are more important than understanding how many chairs fit at a table or which microphones work best for a panel. Here are four common mistakes event producers make when they do not consider the former:
Choosing the wrong step-and-repeat banner: Our step-and-repeat concepts are predominantly inspired by award show red carpets. These displays are designed so media can capture event branding no matter where they are on the press riser, hence why the logo is repeated over and over. Attempting to recreate this look without the proper construction materials or lighting can lead to saggy or glary displays, causing the event to appear cheap or unprofessional. If an organization's budget is limited, it is better to invest in a photo-op that best communicates the event's vibe and intent instead of trying to recreate the red carpet look from the Grammys (e.g. a quote wall, rose wall, green display or art gallery setting). If recognizing sponsors is a concern, organizations can opt to display logos or videos on screens or name certain areas after key partners (e.g. stages, lounges, bars, etc.).
Stage design that doesn’t promote social media interaction: Many organizations will use a logo step-and-repeat as the stage background because it's usually the easiest thing to do. But what impact does this leave on attendees? How will they understand the company's brand on the live stream? Will it make them want to photograph and share on social media? In the age of hashtags, organizations are better served by ditching old staging ideas and swapping in bold designs that ask deep questions or make big statements. This will raise the vibe level of the event and help it breakthrough on social media.
Failing to think about registration booths as a public engagement tool: Most conference attendees approach registration with some level of anxiety. They may fear their name not being on the list and not knowing anyone there, or they may be overwhelmed with so many program options or tracks. That's why registration should never be the last thought for event producers. Since the registration booth is the first physical point of contact, appropriately branding these areas and equipping check-in staff with scripts and simulation exercises empowers event producers to maximize a key public engagement opportunity. Registration is where organizations can set the tone for the event and provide attendees with instructions on where to go, what to do, and even what to tweet.
Copycatting on sponsorship displays: Many of us have sponsorship materials like branded bar signs at our events because we have seen them at other events. The reality is few people are taking pictures of framed bar signs while ordering a tequila sunrise. Organizations can bolster recognition for alcohol sponsors by going big with a custom bar brand design that people will want to pose next to. It may require more thought and cost, but the elevated recognition and potential social media benefit will ultimately please sponsors and compel them to renew their commitment next year.
Events will always be a communications tactic, so it's critically important event producers think about design, production, and logistics choices through the framework of context, strategy, and intent. Doing the opposite only halfway sets clients up for success and leaves too much room for wasteful spending and choices that ultimately do not elevate the company or organization's brand recognition.
Antonio White is founder and principal of Beyond Ideas Group, a public affairs and strategic events firm that elevates diversity and social responsibility impact efforts for business, tech, media and policy organizations.