10 Corporate event pitfalls and how to avoid them
Monday, 08 June 2015
Whether it’s a global AGM or a smaller-scale sales conference, corporate events can be complex and require top organisational skills. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. So here are 10 things that could go wrong, and how to head them off.
1. Bad timing Setting a date is an early and crucial part of the event-planning process. When deciding when to hold your event, do thorough research into what else may be on your delegates’ radars. Are there other industry functions happening at the time, is it a common time to take a holiday, or is there a major national or sporting event going on? Maximise the potential attendance by setting a date that works for your attendees.
2. Lost attendees We've all been there – taken a wrong turning or missed an exit only to find ourselves lost and late for an event. Getting your delegates to the venue on time and with minimal difficulty can be a bigger challenge than it sounds. This is especially true of large national or international events when people are coming to an unfamiliar place. The solution? Lots of forward planning and lots of information. You may be lucky enough to have budget to cover travel costs – airport transfers and taxis for delegates. At the very least, provide a clear set of directions and have someone familiar with the area on standby to take calls and help direct attendees to the venue.
3. Poor reception The registration desk is not just a functional area. It’s the event’s equivalent of an opening smile and handshake. How delegates are greeted and directed as they arrive sets a lasting impression. An overworked, disinterested or perfunctory reception will give a lasting poor impression. So make sure your front-desk staff are friendly, welcoming and engaged. Give them more breaks or perks if need be – it will be well worth it.
4. Demanding speakers Ever dealt with a ‘VIP’ guest speaker? Not all corporate conferences inspire the same passion as rock concerts or music festivals, but there is no shortage of speakers who demand extra-special treatment. This is a tricky area. On the one hand, you want to keep your star attraction happy. But on the other, running around to meet unanticipated demands can be a drain on time and resource. The best thing to do is to have a full set of requirements agreed in advance. Make sure you can meet these and set expectations ahead of the event.
5. Technical glitches There is no pain as exquisite as that caused by a malfunctioning slideshow. A few awkward seconds filled with repeated clicks and puzzled looks can feel like hours. And it’s all so easily avoided! While in theory something can always go wrong, cover yourself by checking and rechecking ALL technical equipment, presentations, videos, lighting and sound. And have reliable technical support on hand should the worst happen.
6. Hungry delegates! We’re all serious professionals here, with a deep interest in our industry and in connecting with other colleagues to enrich our experience. That being said, getting a good lunch is fundamental! Everyone will remember if there’s not enough food or if you hire a bad caterer, while a great lunch is definitely a talking point and sticks in the memory. So push the boat out, put on an interesting spread and, whatever you do, don't run out!
7. Dull entertainment We don't presume to know what your delegates will and won’t enjoy – you should be the judge of that. But there are ways to avoid lacklustre entertainment putting a dampener on the day. Don't just book the same act as last year – people like a change. They also like having something interesting to talk about, so if you can get a topical or unusual outfit on board, so much the better. Also, keep an eye on what other events in the industry are doing. If everyone this year has gone for a tightrope walker, then avoid it at all costs. Stand out.
8. Dissatisfied clients Most clients are wonderful to work with and work for, but dissatisfaction and disappointment can sour a working relationship and potentially lose you business. Agreeing and managing expectations is very important, as is clear and frequent communication. You and your client should be clear about what you are hoping to achieve, and any targets, KPIs and parameters should be clearly set out at the beginning.
9. Budget-blowing In these belt-tightening times, sticking to the budget can be the difference between a successful event and a flop (from an accounting point of view, at least). As ever, detailed forward-planning is key, with detailed budgets and contingency planning for costs that might creep up on you or appear out of the blue. If you feel you will need more budget – ask for it nice and early. Clients will appreciate forewarning more than a nasty surprise at the end!
10. Bad word-of-mouth An oft-quoted statistic states that when people receive a good customer experience they share this with just one or two other people, while a bad one is reported to up to 10 or even 12 of their friends, peers and colleagues. The truth behind this is that negative experiences stick with us, and are more of a talking point. So it’s essential, when planning corporate events, that you ensure delegates receive the best care, and that any issues are dealt with promptly and expertly, to ensure good word-of-mouth.