Strategic event management and the importance of being curious

By Kelly Freeman

The word ‘why’ can get you far in life. It’s a reality check, and it focuses attention where it’s needed — both on the details, and on the big picture. Unfortunately, when it comes to strategy and planning for major corporate events, it’s a little word that we don’t hear often enough.

By default, organisations tend to trundle on doing what they have always done. Experimenting would mean challenging the status quo. Why take risks when that might backfire on reputation? That’s an unhelpful way to think, of course, because there is just as much repetitional risk in doing nothing while critics and competitors take the spotlight. Not top mention the money that is squandered through ill-conceived events that are meaningless to attendees.

How many times as a communications professional have you been told to put together the content for an event, at short notice, after the date and venue are already booked? It’s backwards planning: strategy and concept must come first. Practicalities come later.

It might be easier to be told to do your job with one arm tied behind your back! This is because so many organisations hold events for the sake of having them rather than aligning them with business strategy setting measurable goals and objectives to demonstrate effectiveness.

Even in the age of social media and technology-driven communication, face-to-face channels like events are an important part of the mix for both internal and external outreach. But now more than ever, trying to execute events without a strategic focus is a threat to ROI, not to mention reputation, if delivery falls flat due to poor planning.

That’s where the little “why” word starts to punch above its weight. Our job as strategic communication advisers is to ask “why”, because the answers to this simple yet powerful question will direct four key stages of strategic planning.

1) Strategic alignment

How will this help us achieve our business goals? How can we measure the outcome so can demonstrate the success to our stakeholders.

2) Measurable impact

How do we know that an event is the most cost effective channel we can use to reach our audiences? By setting SMART objectives (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely), we can measure impacts on changing attitudes, behaviours, etc.

3) The Value Test

How can our event add value? What techniques can we employ to ensure a cutting edge response and how can we choose speakers that are not usually accessible to our audiences, thus ensuring a high turnout.

4) Learning for the future

How can we learn lessons that we can apply to future events? How can we make them better? How can we build reputation for offering good networking facilities and sharing best practice?

Events cost money, and persuading budget holders to cough up the funds needed to execute them properly becomes a lot easier when you turn up with an evidence base. Strategic planning can demonstrate with confidence the value that events contribute to business; how they have changed the attitudes and behaviours of key stakeholders; how positively they have been received by the media; how they have helped executives to establish thought leadership in key fields; how they have enhanced the organisation’s reputation as a modern, dynamic, engaging corporate citizen that prioritises building strong relationships and partnerships.

Who knew that a little word like ’why’ could play such an important role in how an organisation positions itself in the modern world? Try it and see the impact that it has with your business units. Your reputation depends on it!

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This article draws on the ISOC knowledge base for Advanced Event Management.

Related courses

Events courses