Killer Events
Tips for Killer Events

Caroline Boyd

There’s a reason that Forbes listed Event Management as one of the top five most stressful jobs in America (it’s been in the top five for more than five years running) – only just losing out to  police officers, airline pilots, firefighters, and military personnel.

Sleepless nights. Last minute, complicated AV requests. Venue costs that could cover your child’s full four years at Harvard. Speakers uncommitted, cancelling, or showing up late. Balancing sales team demands and executive expectations against what your government customer really wants to hear.  Wondering if everyone who registered will actually show up. The list of stress factors is endless when it comes to planning your public sector event.

But the appetite for events is strong and growing in the government IT market – with an average of 20 IT-focused programs each week that government IT executives and their staff have to sift through to attend, speak, or participate in. Most will be – at the least – pretty good; many will be great. There’s a lot of competition. So how do you stand out from the crowded field and produce a killer event, while not letting the stress kill you?

First, hire someone.  Let them deal with the lack of sleep.  Then,

  • Collaborate on creative, sexy, and strong, NOT salesy, content – Short, powerful, engaging, “get to the point” info hits are of highest value. The program is the beating heart of your event – it’s what makes it worth attending – so carefully orchestrate your speaker lineup; infuse your sessions with different levels of experiences, dialogue, and  interaction; use well-prepped, short-winded moderators (just because your boss wants to moderate doesn’t mean they should – wink, wink). No pitching – you catch more flies with honey
  • Focus on the WIIFM? – What’s in it for Me? – and by “Me” I mean 1.) your target attendees and customers first, then 2) your internal stakeholders – in that order, or the beating heart goes into cardiac arrest
  • Sweat the Details – If you don’t, your attendees, speakers, and prospective customers will. Logistics matter and ignoring the complexity of what seems simple can make or break the experience. Even a great speaker may not be enough to sway the opinion of someone who had a typo on their name badge, got lost because of poor signage, couldn’t stay awake because the coffee ran out, or had to wait in a bathroom line that was longer than the networking break itself
  • Watch Out For Tumbleweed Time – What’s this? Any part of your event you hold past 2 p.m.  Because that’s all there is in your government audience after 2 p.m.
  • Remember the Ethics Ethos – There’s a false sense from many in our IT community that the ethics guidance put in place in the wake of the 2010 GSA Vegas scandal no longer applies. Time may fade some memories but don’t be fooled – the guidance still stands – on gifts, giveaways, food, and WAG requirements. In fact, there has been new guidance issued as recently as last year. Don’t be the one to end up on the front of the Washington Post for all the wrong reasons
  • The Cheese Stands Alone – For all the years of your life that are shortened in the process of event planning – not to mention the angst, time, and money spent – it’s important to leverage the content beyond the event. Think about ways to start the dialogue early in your event promotion and how you can leverage the momentum, speakers, and presentations for other marketing activities beyond the day-of experience. Don’t be the cheese

Finally, again, hire someone. Let them sweat the details.

Want to learn more? Come to our next GovMark lunch and roundtable program – Killer Events – at the Tower Club on September 12th. We hope to see you there!

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