“Now, more than ever, event planners need to think outside of the box, collect data and personalize experiences.” – Jade Scott, Masterclass
The event industry can be unpredictable. Whether it’s massive changes like the shift to virtual at the start of the pandemic or smaller, incremental changes because of emerging technologies and audience preferences, the way we plan and execute events is constantly evolving.
We’ve seen first-hand how our event organizer clients have turned challenges into opportunities to improve their processes and elevate attendee experience in the midst of these industry-wide changes. As part of AAE’s 2022 Speaking Industry Benchmark Report, we asked them to share what they’ve learned. Here is the best advice from event organizers for their peers in the industry.
Don’t get too comfortable
Throughout the entirety of AAE’s 20 years of experience, we’ve learned so much about event industry best practices. While there are a few clear-cut guidelines that most event organizers live by, our survey respondents also emphasized that you’ve got to be prepared for worst case scenarios, get comfortable with trying new things, and question everything.
“Create at least three plans. Your best, most desired plan; your worst case scenario plan; and a goldilocks version that is more likely going to be just right.” – John M. Roberts, Alium
“Rethink your strategy. It should change YOY, especially with the new challenges we face in the industry due to the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box.” – Ruslana Milikhiker, The Stevie Awards
Enhance the virtual experience
It’s no secret to those in our industry that audience expectations around virtual events have changed forever. And there’s no going back. When attendees tune into a virtual event, they expect unique experiences and real-time networking and communication opportunities. Our survey respondents recognized this reality, and they spoke to the importance of finding ways to enhance the virtual experience.
“Virtual events can be effective. To go the extra mile, consider ordering signed books or similar as a follow-up to send to all attendees.” – Sean Lashley, SLASH Entertainment LLC
“Understand your platform limitations for a virtual engagement — not all platforms are created equally.” – Anonymous
“Translating live events directly into virtual events does not work. Virtual meetings need shorter sessions, more breaks and unique ways to engage participants.” – Erika Holroyd, MilliporeSigma
Expand your reach with hybrid events
As the virtual event experience grew and evolved over the past couple of years, in-person have recently seen a resurgence, as audiences become more comfortable with gathering together in a physical space again. It’s clear, though, that audiences as a whole still enjoy having the flexibility in how they choose to attend any given event — and a hybrid format makes plenty of room for that flexibility. When done right, hybrid events can expand your reach and provide more meaningful experiences for your audience. Here’s what our respondents had to say.
“For hybrid events, design special presidential packages for reduced groups with appealing networking and collaboration activities. Leave mass attendance based only on lectures for virtual attendees, to generate a true differentiation between the virtual and the presidential options.” – Mario Plata, ACRIP
“Hybrid is fluid, and there are many types of event formats for you to achieve your goals and deliver results for your conference.” – David Stankiewicz, IEEE
“Use the hybrid format to expand the geographic scope of your event — and then celebrate that with your attendees!” – Margaux Bolte, Link Ventures
Booking earlier is better for all parties involved
This one is a given. In the event industry, we know that getting ahead of the game is key to delivering high quality events and unforgettable moments for audiences. The hundreds of event planners who responded to our survey overwhelmingly confirmed this, specifically calling out the importance of booking early, communicating early with event partners, and planning well in advance.
“Plan well ahead! Our best trick for virtual events is to have a tech check and meet with everyone to go over the roles for the day of the event.” – Diane Rossignol, Humana
“Talk to stakeholders in your organization ahead of time to be sure that the scope of needs from a speaker are identified prior to contract negotiation.” – Anonymous
“Think outside the box. The more creative you are, the easier it is to implement solutions that cater to everyone’s wants and needs. Planning ahead is key.” – Caree Stevens, State of Black Learning Conference
Two standouts: empowering diverse voices and making room for mental health
When we asked respondents about the speaking topics they’re planning to target in 2022, two of the top answers were diversity, equity and inclusion (58.1%), and mental health (47%). Two of our favorite responses submitted as part of our survey effort centered around these two crucial subjects. The first implores businesses do their part to support diversity in the speaking industry:
“Diverse voices yield better outcomes — it’s our job to make sure that our clients, our leaders, understand that as they assess presenters. Making room for diverse voices is not just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.” – Omar Sanabria, JM Family Enterprises
Another respondent encouraged their peers to take a step back and put things into perspective:
“Take a deep breath. We’ve literally survived almost 3 years of a global pandemic and need to be kinder to ourselves and understand where our work fits into the vast scheme of life. Our health (mental included) and safety come first.” – Anonymous
Where do you line up?
We’d love to hear what you think about the topics covered above. What advice do you have to share? What has your experience with virtual and hybrid events been like? Tweet us at @AllAmericanEnt_ with your thoughts.
These nuggets of wisdom from event organizers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the insights we gathered on the entire event planning process. In the full report, you’ll find all kinds of information on everything from choosing speakers to orchestrating an unforgettable event experience — as well as predictions on what lies ahead for our industry.