Why your event is not ‘the end’…
We’ve all been there… somebody internal (usually pretty senior) sidles up – sheepishly – to your desk, post-event, and says something like… ‘Can you give me a breakdown of x from (such and such event)?’
You look baffled, contain your immediate impulse to scream at them, and smile your best ‘diplomatic’ smile. Here we go again…
The event they’re talking about was months ago, and they didn’t ask you to capture the information they have just mentioned, at any time before now. You may not even have (or be able to get hold of) the information anymore.
You’re feeling pretty peeved – you’re being asked to have information post-event that nobody even thought about beforehand. Information that you now (probably) can’t provide. (‘Not fair, not fair!’ – you wail – in your head).
If they had asked for the data to be captured in the planning stages, it would have been easy. But you don’t have psychic powers!
The killer question
The above is usually a result of not asking what I call ‘the killer question’. A question that is often overlooked.
In my experience, one of the most difficult questions in events seems to be ‘What’s the purpose of this event?’. This question genuinely baffles a lot of intelligent people. They look at you slightly confused, so you have to elaborate.
Are you, for example:
- Capturing people’s email addresses and contact details, so that you can develop a relationship with them longer-term?
- Hoping to invite them to another event?
- Planning to send out a report or a document post-event?
- Aiming to sell a product directly at the event?
- Building a brand or reputation through an interactive or high profile event?
- Attempting to boost staff morale?
- Improving your social media following?
- Establishing or positioning your business as a thought leader in the field?
- Developing a business-critical strategy, with the input of senior staff?
- Hosting a conference for the benefit of the people that refer business to you?
- Throwing a social event in order to network with existing clients?
- Asking your guests to refer you to their own contacts?
All of these objectives are absolutely fine, and there are plenty of others too. Often, it’s a combination of several. Sometimes, trying to figure out what people are actually trying to achieve is like trying to get blood out of stone. Why is it so difficult?
The power of being assertive
Often, you don’t ask the obvious questions because you’re worried about other people’s reactions. You worry that you’ll make senior people look foolish when they can’t answer them, or you feel like you’re asking too many questions (aka ‘being a nuisance’), and they’re – quote – ‘very busy’.
But that’s missing the point. They are funding the event (and events aren’t cheap!), and they’re also funding your salary, so it’s not a silly question. Putting on events costs serious moolah. It’s an entirely reasonable question to ask.
It’s not stupid to discuss why they have chosen to spend that money on an event (instead, say, on some other marketing activity), what they are hoping to achieve, and what (if anything) they need to measure or capture through the event. It’s stupid not to ask!
Why it matters, Cinderella
You might, understandably, be worried that you’re only going to create extra work for yourself. Quite often, by asking these sorts of questions, you do create more work for yourself. But it challenges you, in a good way, to focus not just on what you’re dong, but also why you’re doing it.
In turn, that makes you a smarter and better events manager. Sometimes, doing a bit of extra work isn’t a bad thing for your career longer-term, either – if it genuinely adds value to the business.
Your management team may want all sorts of post-event reports, statistics and information that, from your point of view, aren’t that important. And yes, it may require a bit more work and create a bit more hassle for you. But events don’t end at the end, not really.
By providing information that is important to the business, you’re making yourself hard to replace, and the events you manage become business critical. You’re no longer the person that ‘organises the parties’. We all know what that undertone means…
For example, maybe your company needs to know how many attendees are clients versus non-clients, or how many actually brought a guest with them, or how many attended the event for the first time. It doesn’t really matter what the specifics are.
If you know – early on – what is required post-event, then it’s relatively straightforward to manage the event in a way that captures these details. So long as you ask the relevant questions in the planning stages!
“I’m (not only) a party girl…”
So stick to your guns. Let yourself be just a little bit awkward sometimes. Don’t let them off the hook so easily. Keep asking questions. Don’t just ask ‘what’. Ask ‘why’ as well.
When you’re making your routine enquiries about a future event – what do they have in mind… dates… attendees… invitation process… etc – make sure you regularly include the most important question of all.
‘What’s the purpose of this event?’
Just make sure you know how to deal with a baffled face – and keep your diplomatic smile on standby…!
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