Events are about bringing everything and everyone together. Managing all the parts, to become more than the sum of its parts. Events are about organising people behind the scenes, to bring something to life. For people to share an interest, at a time, and place. It sounds simple, but as you know, it can be complicated and stressful to create a show for the wider world to enjoy.
So here is my roadmap, to help you bring it all together.
12 questions to ask yourself
To design (or redesign) a popular, profitable (and possible!) event, here are some critical questions you need to ask – and answer – with your team.
1. Who is it for?
Firstly, you must know who your event is for. It can be surprising how hard this question is to answer when you ask it of your team, and in your organisation.
2. Do you really know them?
Understanding your audience is critical, and to make your insights meaningful, it’s always best to create a relatable ‘Persona’ – an accurate and relatable description of your targeted audience. Give them a name and get to know their motives and challenges. This is really valuable for you and your team to have the front of mind when you make all your decisions. When you start, and throughout your planning and to reviewing, you should walk in the shoes of your audience.
3. Who is it not for?
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”
– BONO (plus a few others!).
To really connect with your audience, it is likely you can’t cater for everyone. We spoke with sports industry pioneer Anthony Everard about this on The Event Show, of how he led cricket through the evolution (or revolution) of launching the Big Bash League.
Anthony spoke of how they had to be very clear on who the audience was, to communicate, and offer experiences that would resonate with that audience. And that what they offered would not necessarily resonate with the traditional cricket audience. That is not always easy to do. As Anthony put in, they needed to ‘think like pirates in the navy’, leading what was essentially a start-up inside an organisation that had been around for over a hundred years.
Tim Wood, a leading brand expert I worked with at Nike, said the same, any great campaign (or event) must actually alienate some people. It must, of course, resonate deeply with your audience, but you must also be prepared to leave some people out.
When I worked with Marina Dowling as we launched the Big Bash in Melbourne, we had to make many conscious decisions around what the event needed to offer – for the audience we wanted to attract. Music, DJ’s, fireworks – not things that were expected at the cricket. There were barriers, but the result’s exceeded expectations – with a record-breaking 45,000+ turning up to our first match. And they keep coming back.
4. How do you relate to them? What is your shared interest, your shared purpose?
Demographics are useful but getting into the minds and actions of your audience is more important. Knowing your shared interest is the critical starting point. The sport, the act, a cause, an attitude, a purpose and then understanding the relationship is that they have with you, will determine all your interactions. How you communicate, the experiences, the activities and services, that you provide.
The greater the connection you have with your fans or participants, the greater the value.
5. What Influence are you seeking to have?
Events are all about having a positive and desirable influence on people’s behaviour and attitudes. What they think, feel, and do. What they say and share. What your customers see and hear from you, will influence how you make them feel. It will influence what they do.
What do you want them to do? To think and feel?
What do you want them to say – and share?
Whether the influence is to get them to sign up, show up, and show up again. Or across a campaign, to influence them to shift from awareness and contemplation to interest and action. It may be to get them to buy something, participate in something, a pathway into something. The influence may be to raise awareness or funds. It is up to you. You just need to know what influence you want to have. In each moment, across each phase of the experiential journey with you.
6. What is the idealexperience??
Mapping out the journey you want your audience to go on, and the comms and experiences you will provide to interact and facilitate that journey is critical. It is the roadmap, a guide for all your decisions.
7. What value are you providing??
Once we understand our audience and the journey we want to go on with them, we must provide the value – the features and benefits they are seeking, so start and stay on the journey with us. To sign up, show up, and show up again.
To do this, we need to provide value at several levels.
8. What are you allowing people to do more of?
Events must offer your audience something different from everyday life. That may be organising them, giving them access to something, facilitating an experience they won’t get any other day of the year. This is the fundamental value we offer. The foundational requirements, allowing audiences to do more, to be informed, educated, or enabled. Whatever is needed to get a group of likeminded people together to share their passion.
Events allow us to do more by organising us to come together.
And while we must cater for these base level needs, we must also strive for something above the functional. As I like to say, seamless is great, but it’s a bit boring. So, what else can you offer?
9. How are you allowing people to feel more?
What separates events from other products and services is that they fulfil our emotional needs. They provide enjoyment; they inspire us to feel special. They can ensure we feel inspired, connected or secure. It is these emotional needs that we also can, and must, cater for.
Last week GEMBA released a study that 78% of New Zealander feel anxiety during a rugby world cup. This may seem negative but is an example of how this event provides a cue to individuals, and a whole a nation to feel this way every four years. Our craving is for an AB’s win, for a sense of unity and pride that the national rugby team can provide. Our response is to watch and attend the event, and the reward, well that comes in the form of togetherness, a shared passion (or when it doesn’t go well – shared empathy!). But ideally (fingers crossed), a shared celebration.
10. How are you allowing people to belong more?
Humans are social creatures, and events have always been a means for us to come together, to connect and share experiences. For interpersonal interaction, for stimulus, for safety. And in recent time, events have increasingly become a source of status — a social currency. The ‘experience economy’ that we live in has offered a golden era for event providers.
So, we must tap into this need to connect, and the value that our experiences provide by engineering shared experiences. And we must design experiences that are share-able, providing people with content to share in stories in person, in word of mouth, and online in their social channels.
Supporting a team, or a cause can provide this sense of belonging. And then, being somewhere can also provide a sense of social currency.
11. What aspiration are you providing?
Ultimately, we are all driven by progress, aspiration and a sense of identity. And you can leverage this need and provide immense value by offering an event that taps into this human desire. Your events can act as a catalyst, a focal point for individual or shared motivation. A sense of purpose that many people are seeking. And your events can provide a source, a platform from which people can leverage off, to fulfil their aspirations, and to reflect on their achievements. Sometimes by sharing these with others, it provides a sense of unity and identity that cannot be sourced in other parts of life. This is extremely powerful and valuable.
Another guest on our Event Show, my mate Andy VB, created a great event concept called Everesting. Not only is it an aspiration concept, but it also provides a recognisable test of physical and mental endurance and a badge of honour for those that achieve it. Something that can shape participants sense of self-identity and belief. What a cool value proposition that is.
12. How do you bring this to life?
Working with the fundamental elements is a good place to start.
If you can design and refine your event, based on the best use of Time, the milestones and moments, the Place, the location and spaces, and People, to maximise the impact of shared activities and experiences, you will be able to create immense leverage.
We will cover these elements next week, in HOW you can connect with your audience, offer value, to have a positive influence.
For now, I hope these steps 12 from my Playbook, give you some inspiration and a roadmap to find the influence you want to have.
If you need some help with that, please let me know.
And thanks to those of you that have shared this with others, I appreciate you sharing the love!