What are some ways to invigorate your annual events?
Annual events are awesome from a planning perspective because you can start with the previous year's plan, make a few tweaks and get to work implementing the plan. Everyone is familiar with the planning timeline and often there are just minor tweaks that need to be made. The biggest risk with annual events is that you can easily rely too heavily on what was done in previous years. How many times have you heard or said "We've always done it this way."? In addition to easy implementation, there's comfort and minimized risk in doing things the way you've always done them. However, it's important to mix things up and try something different. The easiest way to start is by looking at the feedback from the previous year.
In addition to the formal evaluation process, it's helpful to casually ask attendees onsite to share their thoughts for improving the event. I often collect some of the best and authentic feedback and suggestions, just by chatting with people throughout the event.
Let's consider 5 ways to spice up your next annual event.
Incorporate technology to boost audience engagement
With the rapid pace of technology, there are seemingly infinite options available to engage your audience. Polling your audience breaks up long presentations and it gets attendees involved. Polling technology is also an effective way to collect information for post-event content. I've personally used Poll Everywhere and Sli.do and both worked well. A social media wall is another way to harness the power of technology. Try options like TweetBeam, Tagboard and Hootfeed to display social media activity on screens throughout your event. While it's easy to get excited using the latest and greatest technology, it's important to consider your industry and audience and decide what makes the most sense for your event and attendees.
Modify the event format
Changing the format is another way to freshen up an annual event. Speakers and attendees (and event managers) get comfortable with formats used year after year, and may not welcome any changes. We all struggle with change sometimes, but changing the format can easily liven things up a bit, especially for events that have maintained the same format for many years. For the truly risk adverse, you can make small changes, for example, make panel discussions longer or shorter. Increasing the length of the breaks is often a welcome change and provides more time for networking.
Deliver content in a new way
It's common knowledge that content is key. Particularly with annual events, content is an important part of your event marketing mix. Consider changing the way you share content with your attendees. If you typically provide hard copies of event materials, try sharing content on a flash drive or via a mobile app. Making the switch from hard copy to electronic saves money on printing costs and is a budget-friendly way to make your event more environmentally friendly.
Try a new location
A change in location is an easy way to liven up your annual event. Just be sure that that any new location is just as convenient for your target audience as the previous location. Also, make sure the event format and layout and make sure they work well with the new location and be sure to work through any potential issues. A new location can attract new attendees, it also can present a number of new risks, which you can easily minimize by anticipating potential issues.
Change the time
If the event has typically been held in the morning, try hosting it in the afternoon. Before changing the timing, check the previous years' feedback. If everyone is happy with a morning event, switching it to the afternoon is a big risk and likely not worth it. On the other hand you may increase registration by changing the time. It's all a big guessing game until you actually do it. The time of day for events is a highly debated topic. I am a fan of morning times for 2+ hours substantive seminars and continuing education events. I think it's easier for people to show up to an event before they get to work. Afternoon and early evening are good times for shorter, 1 - 2 hours events with a networking component. The opportunity to connect with others while enjoying delicious food and drinks is a significant draw for many. While we're on the timing topic, it's useful to mention that breakfast events tend to be less expensive than evening events because breakfast catering is much easier on the budget than a reception with boozy drinks.
What are some ways that you've livened up an annual event? Please share in the comments or let me know on Twitter at @reikorenee.