Using Events for Brand Building

I have managed lots of events during my career.  From intimate breakfast meetings at business clubs to multi-day executive conferences at posh resorts, I have spent many days (months and years) planning and executing business-to-business events to drive brand building, accelerate the buying process and retain customers.

These events have been educational, social, business building, business retention and reward focused, and have featured company, client and industry speakers.  I have also hired a fair number of high-profile, paid speakers from politics, business and sports, including President George H. W. Bush, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Howie Long and Joe Theismann.

With company downsizings and the resultant additional work for all employees, it has become more and more difficult for executives and managers to dedicate a morning, let alone a day or a few days, to an event.  Webinars are being used for delivering shorter educational sessions, but they are nowhere near as effective as the in-person event in terms of delivering the human touch.

Here are some tips from my many years of managing events:

Align with the Brand – An event can be a great tool for communicating the brand the company wants to attain in the minds of prospects and customers.  Develop the event so it reinforces the key communication points from the company’s value proposition.  This applies to the speakers, invitation, venue, activities, etc.  Everything should align with the brand you want to achieve.

The Core Objective – Get internal agreement on the core objective for the event.  Is it educational, appreciation, reward, business retention, new business development or some other objective?  One event can have a number of objectives, in which case you should get agreement on the core objective and the relevant importance of other objectives.  This will be invaluable in deciding various aspects of the event.  But beware the event that tries to be all things to all people: It will probably be a weak, unsatisfying experience for everyone.

Ask Potential Attendees – If you have time, ask the potential attendees about the location and timing that would be most convenient for them.  Also ask for their ideas about speakers and topics.  Of course, you are giving them options that meet your brand requirements and objectives for the event.  In addition to helping you build a more effective event, this type of survey may create some commitment to the event because potential attendees feel they had a say.  If you don’t have time to survey before your event, definitely conduct a post-event survey to gauge what attendees liked and disliked, and to capture suggestions for your next event.

Prepare and Be Flexible – A fellow manager had a great saying pinned on his office wall: “Fail to Prepare = Prepare to Fail”.  Outstanding events take outstanding preparation.  And when you think you have it all down perfectly, go over it again.  But even with exceptional planning, the unexpected happens: A guest has a medical emergency, a bus gets lost, a speaker falls off the stage, the sound system goes on the fritz.  Your flexibility in reacting to and overcoming the unexpected will impact the success of your event.

Done well, an event can be an effective addition to your branding toolkit.  While the cost and time to manage events can be considerable, they can yield tremendous payback in sales to current and new customers, and positive perceptions of your company.


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