Whether it’s a conference, awards night, training event or trade shows, countless hours of work and planning go into organising a successful event. And anyone who’s been involved in one will understand just how many things there are to juggle - from sourcing the right conference venue to finding a great speaker, caterers and entertainment, to name but a few.
We asked 23 leading events professionals, including events planners, venue managers, speakers, analysts and more, one simple question:
“If you could pick one key ingredient that goes into making a successful event, what would it be?”.
There are all sorts of guides and how-to’s on the web telling you how to plan your event, but you can never be sure if the person who wrote it even has much experience. That’s why we went straight to the experts who live and breathe events, to hear what they think. And with such a varied group of professionals, we knew they wouldn’t all say the same thing, so here we have 21 invaluable insights covering virtually every angle of the events industry...
In no particular order...
David Adler: Founder & CEO of Bizbash | @davidadler
“The missing link on all events that are not successful is some sort of emotional connection to either the attendees or a shared passion in attainment of the goals of the meeting or event. If it’s an informational meeting it’s watching the lightbulb go off; if it’s an ideation meeting or event, it’s about feeling satisfied that the ideas were successful; if it’s a gathering to sell something, it means that what is being sold is relevant to the audience of attendees; if it’s a social gathering it means that there is heart.”
Michelle Bruno: Writer, blogger, journalist and content strategist in the live meetings industry | @michellebruno
“Objective setting. Success is relative. If the only objective you set is to have 10,000 people walk through the door, then you can deem your event a success as soon as that milestone is reached. What could be more helpful is to set multiple objectives in a number of areas: attendance, mobile app engagement, satisfaction, leads collected, meetings scheduled, funds raised, positive social media sentiment recorded, costs reduced, sponsorships sold, net profit earned, and so on. After the event, review each and every metric. Only then, can you determine whether the event was a success.”
Corbin Ball: Events & tradeshow technology analyst | corbinball.com | corbinball
“Historically, the two main reasons people go to meetings are education and networking. However, as education has become widely available through other channels, the relative importance of networking at face-to-face meetings has increased substantially. This networking/relationship building/contact sharing component, I believe is the one key success ingredient for many events. Fortunately, there are numerous technology tools that are beginning to assist in this goal including social media tools, matchmaking apps, appointment managers, beacons, gamification, lead exchange tools, mobile event app tools and more.”
Rebecca Jones: Business speaker & Author | rebeccajones.biz | @RedShoeBizWoman
“From a speaker’s point of view, understand what your audience needs from the event and let your speakers know their replies to help them focus their talk on the audience need.”
Jeff Hurt: EVP, Education & Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw | @JeffHurt
“One key ingredient that all meeting and event professionals should use is the following filter: “Is this decision in the best interest of the paying attendee?” If not, don’t do it. If it’s in the best interest of the exhibitor or the sponsor, rethink it. How can we create something that is both in the best interest of the paying attendee, and [is also something] the exhibitor or sponsor values.”
Thom Singer: The Conference Catalyst and Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do podcast host | @thomsinger
“Success at live events hinges on the networking, but successful networking is more than free booze and chit-chat. To create a culture of connecting the importance of networking must be seen in the planning, agenda and the venue. Meeting someone is not networking, but it is how that relationship is cultivated after the event. Additionally the speakers must address the importance of learning that comes from discussing their topics with other attendees - and the speakers should model the networking by participating as part of the conference community (not just fleeing to the airport right after their talk).”
Adrian Segar: Author of Conferences That Work and The Power of Participation | @ASegar
“Event process that creates participants rather than passive attendees. People learn, remember, and benefit best through engagement and connection, not sitting and listening.”
Gwen Haynes: Event Planner and Owner, Event Worthy | @eventworthy
“I believe a successful event is the perfect alignment of a myriad of factors. However, if forced to choose ONE… I would say time. This is not to say a last minute event can’t ever be a success, but I typically tell my clients that the best way to stay on budget, reduce mistakes, interject creativity and remain excited is if we give ourselves enough time to plan and execute the event properly.”
Michael Heipel: Consulting & training for tradeshow, conference and event planners | Blog | @michaelheipel
“In today’s marketing world, user experience ranks top of the list - no matter if you talk about shopping, online or mobile usage, media consumption, or events! A successful event is created with an eye for detail, with a clear focus on an overall consistent experience for the attendees. In that sense, the term experience applies to communications aspects as well as networking and learning for delegates. From the first (online) touchpoint, to the “thank you for attending” message after the show, successful event managers have a feel for the journey their participants take and provide the right messages at the right moments, delivered in the most appropriate fashion.”
Jason Allan Scott: Speaker, Consultant and Events Expert | jasonallanscott.com @Penthouselord
“I always say the most important ingredient in any event is the basic ingredient. Listen carefully to the main objective of the client, then deliver that, and one thing more that they could have asked for but is still in line with the theme of their greatest purpose. That leaves the most mark for repeat business and guarantees all concerned will leave having a successful event.”
Caleb Parker: Entrepreneur, CEO Meetingrooms.com | @Caleb_Parker
“Connectivity. The ability to connect to strong wi-fi enables delegates to better engage and connect with each other via social media which enhances face to face networking. It also provides the added benefit of viral exposure for the event itself when using hashtags. The other part of connectivity is connecting to a power source. We can’t tweet if we run out of battery!”
Anders Boulanger: Founder & CEO of The Infotainers | @TradeShowCrowds
“In my experience of performing at over 2000 events in my career, I believe that the key ingredient to make your event successful is a very clear vision of how the event will proceed. This includes where your guests need to go during the course of the event and how the evening will flow both in timeline and in energy level. When an event planner has that nailed, not only does the event go more smoothly, but your guests will have that much better of a time because they can sense they are in good hands. Guests can smell disorganization and poor planning. Don't let that happen.”
Mandy Applegate: Creative Director at Accolade Corporate Events | @Mandy_Applegate
“Precision planning. Planning every last detail, every possible eventuality will ensure that the event runs totally smoothly and is a huge success. You really can’t ‘over plan’ an event, and then this of course leads on to the next most important element of ‘communication’, you need to communicate those plans to the whole of the team, everyone needs to know how they fit into the big plan.
Ruud Janssen: Co-founder of Event Model Generation and creator of #EventCanvas | @RuudWJanssen
"Design with the end in Mind:
1. Map out the stakes of the stakeholders in the event,
2. Define your constraints,
3. Prototype solutions and then select the best strategic option.”
Cameron Toth: Owner at Toth Event Staffing | @CameronToth
“You can approach an event from a lot of different angles. I think that if you approach the planning and or execution of that event with genuine care and concern for your guests and attendees then you almost can't go wrong. A great example of that is dining at a restaurant with a new waiter who really means well and does care. Because we know it is an experience gap and not an attitude gap we are more willing to allow for error. It is when someone is apathetic to our needs that frustration and anger sets in. As we gain more experience caring allows us to do what we would have folks do for us if we were looking to have an awesome experience. Because we care.”
Chris Lee: Speaker agent, CEO of CAL Entertainment |@speakersearch
“The one key ingredient necessary is great content, great speakers. The food and beverages have to be very good too. But if the speakers are hacks, wanna-be’s, uninspiring, behind the times with old data or ideas, really haven't themselves accomplished anything, selling from the stage, saying nothing new, monotone or boring, then your attendees might as well have not showed up.” “You can approach an event from a lot of different angles. I think that if you approach the planning and or execution of that event with genuine care and concern for your guests and attendees then you almost can't go wrong. A great example of that is dining at a restaurant with a new waiter who really means well and does care. Because we know it is an experience gap and not an attitude gap we are more willing to allow for error. It is when someone is apathetic to our needs that frustration and anger sets in. As we gain more experience caring allows us to do what we would have folks do for us if we were looking to have an awesome experience. Because we care.”
Kristin Banta: Event & Wedding Planner and TV personality | kristinbanta.com | @KristinBanta
“The most important element for event success is for guests to be comfortable. They should not ever have to be hungry, cold, standing for too long, unable to hear others above the music, or drink-less. Taking care of what I call the basic "creature comforts" is the number one priority for the success of any event.”
Patrick Duffek: Event Tech & Event Apps, Owner at EventLightNing | @PatDuffek
“Success to me is gained by full and complete communication and agreement between all parties, during the booking, planning, and execution of the event.”
Michael Flavin: Trade Show Services & Exhibits, Speaking & Training | michaelflavin.com | @michaelflavin
“Event Planners and Trade Show Managers should plan early and plan often. Each detail needs to be considered. Many focus on just the basics of a certain exhibit style or giveaways. However, they should also focus on all other details, such as: What are the demographics of the show? Who do we want to talk to at the show? What is considered a qualified lead? How will we qualify leads? How will we attract attendees to our booth? What's our measure of success? By planning ahead, no matter the end result, we'll be guaranteed to do better in our trade shows & events than if we had just shown up without any forethought.”
Anne Thornley-Brown: President, Executive Oasis International, Cvent blogger | @executiveoasis
“The ability to respond to the client's stat ed needs and still go beyond that to deliver the Wow factor.”
Paul Singh: Speaker & Entrepreneur | Results Junkies | @paulsingh
“The best events are highly curated. The speakers have been coached and the audience is highly targeted. It's a win-win.”
Juraj Holub: Marketing Manager at Sli.do | @Juraj_Holub
"For me, the key element of successful events is participation – making people an active part of an event. In my view, no one described the importance of participation better than Burning Man co-founder, Larry Harvey, who said that “[t]ransformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing.” Applying this ethos to the context of events planning, successful events will be those, which will stimulate delegates to actively participate -- to work, debate or create together. This way, not only will delegates learn more effectively, but they will also build stronger connections with others. And these are elements of any successful event."
Liz King: Events Planner, Blogger & Speaker | LKE | @lizkingevents
The single most important ingredient in a successful event is the people. Attendees make our events come to life. We can have solid content and great decor, but if there aren't attendees, it'll fall flat. Even if you have a large number of people in a room, their engagement matters and will make a huge difference in the success of the event.
That's certainly a lot to take home. Make sure you share this and keep the discussion going - what do you think is the most important ingredient for a successful event?