Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned event planner or a key player in your industry looking to organize an innovative meeting or convention, planning an industry-first event is a definite challenge, but one that will jolt your industry and bring peer recognition.
We spoke with Guylaine Demers, Ph.D and Director of Université Laval’s Bachelor’s Degree program in Sports Intervention, who recently organized Conversation 2015, an event that welcomed over 200 delegates from across the globe to discuss women and girls in sports. Conversation 2015 was not only the first of its kind in the Canadian sports industry but also the very first event she had ever spearheaded. It was so successful that a second edition is planned for 2018.
Here are her tips on holding an entirely new industry event.
Surround yourself with event experts
“One cannot wake up one morning and decide to be an experienced event or meeting planner,” laughed Ms. Demers. “We soon realized that there were a lot of aspects to consider, particularly as Conversation 2015 was an industry first.” According to Ms. Demers, the Québec City Ambassadors’ Club played a vital role in the event’s success. “The Club gave us access to a wealth of resources and experts to support us for all aspects of the conference—from marketing the event to logistics to establishing relationships with key influencers. Partnering with event specialists really goes a long way to increasing the quality of a conference.” In addition, using local experts can go a long way in saving both time and money as well as mitigating risks and errors.
Key takeaway: Once you’ve selected a location for your meeting or convention, do some research to see if a local group is available to help you organize your event. Talk to event and/or tourism representatives to identify trustworthy suppliers, adequate venues and key considerations for holding an event in your desired location.
Sell the location. Then, sell it some more
“We decided on Québec City very early on,” said Ms. Demers. “Although Québec City is a hotbed for sports thanks to major events that have taken place here.” Although “selling” Québec City to potential sponsors and delegates was fairly easy, Ms. Demers and her team nevertheless consistently marketed the location right up until the very last minute before the event. “Québec City is somewhat of an easy sell. It’s beautiful. It has a unique mix of culture and the great outdoors. There’s a ton of activities for all types of tastes. We made sure to evocatively describe the city in all of its glory, focusing on exoticness of its French culture. And we did not disappoint: attendees were simply in awe of Québecers’ friendly nature, the food, sports infrastructure and tourist sites. With our promotional strategy, many delegates visited Québec City with their families, staying an extra few days to discover the area.”
Key takeaway: Rather than simply cut and paste a few key facts about your event’s location from typical online resources, take the time to “talk to the locals” and find out the city’s very own je ne sais quoi. Sure, tourism bureaus are a great sources of information. But don’t forget to ask your local partners what makes the location really tick. This will help you go past the standard generalities and provide the fodder you need to create engaging messages to your target audiences.
Promote the event
Particularly with first-time events, never underestimate the importance of promoting the conference or meeting way in advance in order to establish its credibility and boost registrations. “It was crucial for us, from the get-go, to make a strong statement about what we were trying to achieve with Conversation 2015,” said Ms. Demers. “We had a razor-sharp focus to quickly engage with industry leaders, associations and experts to not only help us develop the conference but also so that they could be our event ambassadors.” Undoubtedly, a solid content strategy and communications plan is what will make or break a new event. “We didn’t wait until our strategy was finalized from A to Z. We sold our idea for the event way before the event planning was underway,” she added.
Key takeaway: Building the right messages, securing the right conference speakers and consistently marketing the event using the most ideal media for your industry is literally the only way you’ll guarantee interested and a high level of participation. Social media, email campaigns, blogs, partnerships with influencers that can trigger a domino effect, and media relations in trade outlets all go a long way into building hype around an avant-garde event.
If you’re considering going off the beaten path to organize a distinct event or helping a client or team make a new mark in its respective industry, carve out extra time to establish ties with local experts and hone out your event’s marketing strategy. Getting people on board early and getting the word out even earlier should be your mantras. “The success of Conversation 2015 can be attributed to the culmination of expertise, engagement and enjoyment,” concluded Ms. Demers. “It’ll be interesting to see how we’ll top that in 2018!”