A lot of what I’m about to write in this letter may seem daunting, so I’ll start of by saying that what you’re about to do, you should do. Definitely.
Organising a major event isn’t going to be easy. There’s no way you can prepare for how tough it will be; or the emotions your journey will throw at you. But you can’t imagine just how rewarding the best bits will feel.
Writing to my former self reminds me that Strawberries & Cream started out with a great idea born of your love of music, the world of festivals, and a desire to bring people together. It’s your vision that will drive the event into existence and surround you with a loyal band of people, from the production team, to your suppliers, and even volunteers. These people will become supporters and friends as well as contractors, and will help to shape the event into Strawberries & Creem. But remember: it’s your event, your creation, and you should know that it succeeds… because you worked extremely hard and stayed true to your vision.
You may come across people who don’t want your event to happen, and that will always be the case – partly because they have nothing to gain by it happening. Rise to the challenge of getting people on your side in support of your event, because once it achieves success, they will soon get behind you to advocate your event and your team.
Live events take time to build and there’s no such thing as an overnight success; so hope for the best; but prepare for the worst. Learn and adapt after every event, take risks and enjoy yourself! Manage the event as it grows and embrace the excitement!
Finally, there will be times when you think the challenge has become too much. But as I write, I’m able to look back at a series of amazing events, enjoyed by thousands of people, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Good luck, you won’t need it!
I’m sitting in London’s Leicester Square, Head of Entertainment at Capital Radio, on a great income with all the perks. But I’m restless. Sure, I love the money, the people are great and the job is a very good one, but I’m not fulfilled. I needed a change.
Fast forward 14 years. I’m stressed, I’m cold. I’m watching a festival to which, working for a promoter, I have given everything for the past five years, potentially take down my event production business, my employees, and ruin me financially.
Fast forward another five years to the present day and I’m about to do it all again, and this time for myself! Why?
Why? Because I love this industry, and I love what I do. And, although it continues to stick the knife in whenever I least expect and certainly don’t need it, creating events remains one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
You have to hand it to the senior team at Capital Radio. When they asked me to create Party in the Park, I had no experience in event production. But I understood creating teams, I knew music, I knew how to form partnerships, and I was creative. I still am. I don’t think my bosses realised then how addicted I would become to this process of creating worlds.
The job of an event producer can be so immersive, imaginative and awe-inspiring that we will endure any amount of crap just to get the buzz of creation once again. I’ve been involved in failures and fallouts, as well as losing money and respect for others along the way. This can be a cruel business and unfortunately it can be unstable.
But when it works it is truly magical. We create worlds and watch as people walk through them in their thousands. We see the live effects of our work upon all kinds of people, as they create memories that will stay with them forever. We watch imagined concepts grow out of the ground and into reality. We breathe life into new and inspiring spaces where people gather and have a great time.
So, I have a new idea. I want to create another world where this time I make the decisions. I take the risk; but it is my risk. I may sink or swim. Who know? But I’m loving every minute.
It's very rare that an idea pops into your mind fully-formed. Like a nice cup of tea, let it brew before you start telling the world
Ideas are very fragile, especially in their early stages. The more people you tell, the more input you get, the less pure the idea becomes. You’re the guardian of your idea, give it some protection early doors
In events we create worlds, so start to visualise the world your idea will become. Do this as much as you can, like a book or a film. Imagine the story of the experience
Make sure you are your idea’s biggest fan. You’re about to have a long relationship with your idea; so make sure you love it enough to spend every waking hour in its company, and that it loves you back. The best relationships are reciprocal
As soon as you are comfortable, start looking at the audience that will bring your idea to life and inhabit your world. Build it for them, not just yourself
So what’s your community? It can be little or large; but you need to know it intimately
Think about the budgeting. How are you going to pay for this? Whose money will you beg and borrow? What is the risk and the reward for you, them, the bank, your friends? Think about it
One that will love your idea as much as you do. Your team will make the event, you just had the idea. Give them a healthy dose of love as well
Being visionary is one thing; being unrealistic, stubborn or arrogant is another. Don’t be stupid, know when to stop
It could be 100 people in a field in Kent, or 100,000 in a London park. Both are acceptable; as is happiness, work / life balance, a big car, a massive house, and the genuine enjoyment of creating a world
Having an idea for an awesome event is unfortunately the easy bit. To bring your dream to fruition you will need money, and often a lot of it! But don’t let this put you off: there are numerous ways to finance new events. From traditional finance methods like bank loans through to the new and novel routes like crowdfunding, we’ve outlined eight different ways to finance your event idea – choose one; or mix and match to secure the cash you need.
Before you start, estimate the costs of your event and how much you could realistically raise from each funding source.
The advent of crowdfunding platforms has made testing the appetite for new events so much easier, allowing organisers to try out ideas before risking cash. You simply provide details about your great, new event, set a fundraising target, and ask wannabe attendees to pledge to buy a ticket if the event takes place. If there is insufficient interest and you don’t meet your target, the pledged money is released. Crowdfunding is a risk free ‘investment’ for attendees and also for event organisers, who do not need to stake their own funds. However, although the process is simple, attracting ticket purchasers is not necessarily as easy.
Angel investors are wealthy individuals or groups of people looking for investment opportunities. Websites like Angelsden can help connect you with relevant investors via personal introduction or pitching events (for a fee, of course).
Angelsden has 13,000 angel investors and claims a 90% success rate following coaching by a ‘lead investor’. However, you need to have some trading history and must be looking for at least £50,000. Other routes to finding an investor would be approaching existing contacts who know and trust you; or highly-targeted individual investors and specialist investment groups. For example, if you want to launch a conference about innovations in cleantech, approach an investor with a track record in energy, not someone who usually places their money in real estate.
…Also known as the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ option! Look at your own resources to see how much cash you personally or your company can put into the budget. Exposing yourself to some level of risk can demonstrate your commitment and help encourage other investors, sponsors and partners to get on board.
Banks don’t hand out loans as easily as they once did, and they are unlikely to lend against an event itself; but if you have a company with a proven track record, a business loan may be an option. Alternatively you can borrow against an existing asset, such as your house; but unless you are 100% certain your event will be a success, you’ll have to give this one lots of thought before committing.
Using an event-ticketing platform like Eventbrite means you can start selling tickets long in advance of your planned event date. Not only does this enable you to test the water in terms of appetite for your event, it also gives you access to some working capital.
Using a facility such as Eventbrite Payment Processing means you’re qualified to apply for advance payment to receive payment before your event takes place. Twice a month, you can receive a proportion of your advance ticket sales, providing you with vital cashflow to get your project off the ground.
Corporate sponsorship is an extremely effective method for funding key elements of your event, and is utilised by the vast majority of events. However, sponsors usually come on board after your event has got off the drawing board.
Sponsors will want to know how many people are coming to your event, when and where it’s taking place, and what’s on the agenda. They’ll want to see your marketing plan.
It will probably be necessary to get some core funding in place – or to have people already signed up for your event – before approaching sponsors. When you do, make sure you’ve also finalised your sponsorship packages and are clear on exactly what benefits you can offer to sponsors in exchange for their cash.
In the same way you can sell tickets in advance of your event, you can also pre-sell exhibition stands and take deposits from exhibitors.
You can sell space for hundreds of pounds per square meter, allowing you to raise a significant chunk of capital by getting exhibitors on board early. However, being a new event with no track record could make securing exhibitors a challenge.
Work your existing contacts to gain your first few exhibitors, offering tempting early bird discounts. You can then use their commitment to help convince others of the credibility of your event.
Finally, don’t discount the value of in-kind funding. What can you or your company offer to companies in return for the goods and services you need?
For example, a magazine that is organising a new event for readers could offer catering companies free print advertising in exchange for providing food and beverages.
Alternatively, you can offer partners the opportunity to play a role at the event itself – negotiating with the venue, for example, to give you a discount if you allow them to make a presentation. The more you work with other brands and partners to host your events, the more you can save.
As the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. Harnessing a combination of the above funding tactics will allow you to gauge interest in your event, allowing you to book your venue or sign contracts in confidence, before moving on to woo bigger fish.
Kevin Jackson is Founder and Director of Ideas and Innovation at The Experience is the Marketing, a marketing and consultancy agency and an investor in major events. The business is best known for its growth programmes and has been the force behind the establishment and growth of some of the most successful events in the UK.
Few have as much experience in what makes major events succeed, but also fail.
Edition Capital is an investment company that works within the festival and outdoor events industry. Edition Capital has been the driving force behind Rewind, and special advisors to Bestival, Camp Bestival, Common People, Field Day, and South West Four.
The biggest reason we see festivals fail is a lack of senior financial experience. Event teams have great passion and the best creative minds; but because they don’t have a financial strategy or plan in place, the business fails. Nine times out of 10, when we are asked to work with a business, it’s the financial department where we have the most to add.
“If we build it, they will come” is not a financial strategy. I would encourage all new event organisers to think seriously, and even invest in research that helps them project worst and best-case scenarios for ticket sales. This means numbers can be forecasted and managed accordingly.
How a business spends its money is as important as how it makes it. Work with the right suppliers, manage them properly, tell them as much as you can and make them a partner in your vision. Suppliers can make you; but, if you choose the wrong people, they can also break you.
Every great innovation is made great by the business model that backs it. Once you have your vision, become pragmatic. Who will come? Where will they come from? How much will they pay? Next, model your marketing: how will you reach your buyers? Selling tickets is the holy grail of event success. If you don’t sell the tickets, the whole thing implodes.
The uncontrollable. Weather, for better or worse, will affect your event, so don’t hide from it. Be prepared, have a plan for worst-case as well as best-case scenario. Weather can hurt you, so protect yourself, protect your stakeholders, and weather-proof your investment.
Increasingly, new events are financed by crowd funding platforms, with many success stories. These allow the event organiser to offer consumers different opportunities to ‘invest’ in the event, through advanced ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities or direct financial investment.
But, for every success story, there is another idea that failed. So, how to navigate this tricky opportunity to bring your event to life?
Not just for the event, but also for your crowdfunding campaign. Don’t just put it out there!
Then put together a plan that gets you where you need to be, as quickly as possible
By lining up potential funders who can jump on board and give you early momentum.
You can rely on the resources available through your crowdfunding platform, but it’s crucial to take things into your own hands and promote your story
The majority of funding will come early in the cycle. You need that strong initial momentum - if you don’t get it, crowdfunding for your event will be a real slog
Get people excited about your event first, then pitch for the money
Include an achievable minimum funding option that is accessible to all, as well as options for larger investors
The easy option is tickets; but there are other ways to engage investors and show them a satisfying return
Make them stakeholders in your project, keep them with you every step of the way, and reward them with love as well as financial returns
If it doesn’t work out first time, learn from your experience. Go back to the drawing board and try again
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that people who organise events, like the two of us, naturally find themselves at home with crowdfunding.
It’s a means of generating funds that involves engaging your community, your customers and supporters: the people who most benefit from the event, and the people with whom you want to build a relationship. Crowdfunding also involves you telling your own story. Bringing your vision to life really helps to get people on board. It’s worth seeing crowdfunding as a marketing platform, not just a platform for raising funds.
For us, starting out with crowdfunding allowed us to fully commit to making Samphire a reality. Without the funding, we wouldn’t have been able to commit 100 per cent to organizing our event. Once we’d found our crowdfunding platform, we researched like mad, looking at successful project campaigns, putting a plan in pace.
As a rule of thumb, successful campaigns generally achieve 10 per cent of their funding on day 1, 30 percent by day 3, and 50 per cent by end of first week. The reality is that it’s a crowded marketplace for festivals, and we knew we’d have to work really hard to succeed. In the end, we were able to reach our initial funding target within two weeks, and our extended target within 50 days. It’s hard to describe the magical feeling when pride and fear are equally balanced – it was time to put on our event!
So, our advice for people looking to crowd fund an event? The biggest and most important thing we learned was that it wasn’t just about promoting the event; but about letting everyone in, inviting them to be a part of us. Investors needed to buy into us as people: our enthusiasm, our passion, our identity. Video was a massive tool for creating this access, both as a promotional tool, and also to update everyone on what we were doing, how our event planning was going, and to show people how much we cared about them and their investment.
We also enjoyed, and really do recommend, getting creative to encourage investment, both financial and experiential. We had a lot of fun creating rewards for investors, who could get involved in Samphire in all kinds of ways. One was to pay a small fee to have their photo stuck on a portaloo. If your face matches the loo, you get to jump the queue! This was really important. It showed everyone who were, what we were trying to achieve, and how we wanted to go about creating and personalising our festival.
It’s worth mentioning that there was a bit of a lull in the middle of our crowdfunding campaign, which was quite nerve-racking. With production of the festival well underway at this point, this led to a lot of sleepless nights. Still, we got there, it worked for us, and it bought us closer to our community.
This could just happen!
This looks likely to happen. Oh, and it keeps on getting bigger and bigger!
People are excited and willing to invest in our project.
Now they own you… you’ve taken their money, it’s up to you to give it back!
Worse than raising funds is spending them. The fear of wasting money is terrifying. We don’t have the funds to make a mistake or lose money on a bad decision.
This is easier, this is what it’s all about. But there’s always the nagging fear that we’ll get it wrong.
Great customer relationships are brilliant and our business, like many others within the events industry, is built around them. However, over here at GL events, we’ve become increasingly aware that you can get too close. Sometimes, we forget to ask the basic questions, and look too quickly to the solution that solves the problem, without digging a little deeper.
We work with a lot of new events. We see the production team full of enthusiasm and vision: they know what they want and their briefs are incisive and clear. We immediately assign our best people to the job of designing a solution that fits the bill, to the best of our knowledge. Hey presto. You can’t lose!
But there’s a risk that this approach devalues our people and what we’re really here to do. Our job isn’t just to design and install the temporary structure or seating solution specified by our client; but also to consult on what’s best for their event, making sure we understand why they want a specific solution, what it will be used for. Sometimes it’s a matter of interrogating the brief, or even starting from scratch.
This sounds harsh, but the one thing we know from GL events UK’s century of heritage in this industry is that new events are a massive undertaking of risk, and every line of the budget needs to be right. It’s as much our responsibility as the organiser’s and, as event partners, we need to make sure that we’re lending our experience to this process, as well as our expertise.
This is important because, in outdoor events, the risk goes both ways. An unsuccessful event exposes the supplier as well as the buyer; so it pays for us to be invested in the success of the event, and if we can, we’ll bring more to the party.
We’re keen to encourage this kind of conversation in the industry. We believe that suppliers should act and be considered as partners, and if you’re supporting an event, you bring everything in your personal arsenal to make it work. If it doesn’t succeed, everyone loses. If it works then everyone wins.
We’re keen to create a new model for working with customers, particularly new ones; but also with those we know so well that, on occasions, we forget to go back to business. So, make sure you’re asking (and benefitting) as much as possible from your suppliers and, if you’re not, let’s talk!
Have chemistry meetings, you need to like the people you are working with
There are shady companies out there that could destroy your vision. Look for accreditation, membership of industry associations, heritage, proof of performance. Don’t be afraid to ask for references
All suppliers should be seen as event consultants, so make sure they have the right information to enable them to give you the right counsel. Be honest about numbers and budget: this will help them to help you
Be precise and clear on parameters in your brief. If you ask for blue-sky thinking, you’ll get it; but this type of thing usually costs money
This is really important. It allows both parties to shape the plan and will make your brief better and more responsive. Meeting is consulting!
Make sure the agreement you put into place motivates their support, and encourage them to become part of your team. Bring them in on everything you do
When negotiating, push on price; but also push for commitment. Most suppliers gain much from multi-year deals, so commit them to supporting you, then commit yourself to growth. This way you incentivise both sides of the deal
Especially when it comes to price. Don’t be afraid of encouraging your suppliers to make money, too; if they do it keeps them interested. If they’re too drilled down on price, they will lack motivation to succeed
In live events, everything changes. Make sure you’re reviewing the relationship, but also the brief. Sometimes things need tweaking, sometimes you need to rip up the brief and start again
Both from your existing suppliers, and beyond. A good company constantly innovates and looks for new ways to make your event successful
The explosive and fast-moving world of event technology would probably warrant a guide book in its own right. So let’s keep this short. If you’re a new event organiser, technology is going to come up. You will read about it in the trade press, see lots of solutions online, and no doubt have sales people contacting to you from all angles. Therefore, you may well lose sight of what’s important.
So, for now, let’s look, top line, at what some of the new stuff can do. If you start thinking about tech at an early stage, you can make it work for you. We’ll start with the essentials, and then get more exciting and complex! Good luck.
Event technology has changed the way this works. There are great businesses out there and they are able to help you put on a better event. The simplest and most effective are the self-service ticketing sites that have sophisticated software, professional box office and entry apps, and make using things like QR codes really easy. They link in with social media, which can open your event up to new audiences, and in turn, you’ll be able to sell more tickets.
Purchasing the ticket is one of the first interactions your audience will have with you. Getting this element right sets the precedent that your event will be slick and professional.
Once your audience arrives at your event, you want them to get the most out of their time there, after all, you’ve gone to a great deal of effort to make it amazing!
The task of engagement is made far easier when you know more about each of your customers as individuals, rather than a crowd of people. This is now far easier with data gathered from various avenues such as your CRM tools, or visitors’ own smartphones.
Harnessing the power of smartphones enables you to give attendees personalised information, at the right place, at the right time. Here, at LiveStyled, we create apps that do just that, for some of Europe’s biggest venues and events, such as The O2 Arena, London and The Grand National, Aintree.
These apps can deliver tailored information from the venues and event organisers straight to the attendee. This opens communication channels prior, during and post-event. Examples of how this can be used at each stage include:
Prior to the event - Give venue information and the best travel routes, or offering pre-sale offers on food and drink to encourage early spend. Offer ticket upgrades if you have unsold VIP inventory.
At the event - The technology enables you to target attendees based on where they are in the venue. This is done with clever use of geofencing and the use of beacons. With this, you can send targeted push messages to promote offers on food, drinks and merchandise, or highlight parts of an event that the attendee may have otherwise missed. This means your audience has a truly personalised experience and that you, as an event organiser, can commercialise the event so everyone wins.
Post-event - Offer downloads of exclusive content from the event, encourage people to share selfies, and use the channel to circulate marketing information on future events.
The smartphone offers a wide range of engagement tactics, however, it is not the only way to communicate. Another example could be to give attendees tickets or tags with the technology in it. After that, the sky's the limit.
Through RFID, Near Field Communication (NFC) and the like, you can track them into the event, give them access to promotions, sponsorship activation experiences, VIP areas and even push notices that may well improve their experience. Coachella festival is an example of an event really making the most of RFID. Attendees must register their wristband, this then enables their sponsors to gain knowledge of exactly who attended and more importantly who interacted with their brand or experiential area. With this information, they can send them product offers, or content from the event.
You want your audience to have a great time, but it’s hard to know what’s making them tick. The last thing you want, post-event, is to find people leaving bad reviews that may put off potential future ticket purchasers.
Sentiment tracking platforms enable you to link in to your visitors’ social media feeds and gain the capability to track the sentiment of your audience in real-time. This knowledge allows you to identify pain points, and to fix problems as they happen, rather than finding out after the event.
Sentiment tracking can also indicate commercial opportunities. For example: if sentiment feedback tells you a certain band is getting a lot of love on stage - you’ll know it’s time to push their merchandise to the front of the stand!
As organisers, you want to make money, but you also want everyone to have a good time. Tracking sentiment allows you to get this information and then to act on it to improve experience and harness commercial gains. Win-win!
A police officer for more than 27 years, Jill worked on major national and international sporting and music events, establishing Operation Gothic which, through sharing of information and intelligence with event organisers, security and venues, significantly reduced crime, threats and risk at festivals and events. She held unique operational coordination roles on behalf of the Police Service for the London 2012 Olympics, 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Rugby World Cup. In her current role, Jill’s remit extends to team and match official security, hotel and route security, as well as venue stadium security liaison.
As an event organiser, you take on legal responsibilities. These responsibilities extend to your workforce, performers, exhibitors, and members of the public attending your event.
It’s worth remembering that although safety and security are nearly always grouped together as a subject title; measures to keep the public secure from attack may inadvertently cause a public safety issue; so the two must be considered together and a balance struck. So….
What is it you want to achieve? How will you achieve it? Where do your responsibilities start and end? This doesn’t have to be complicated, but spending a little time asking yourself these questions will help you clarify your position and plans
Is your likely to be targeted by criminal groups or individuals who may wish to engage in anti-social behaviour? Where is the event taking place? What incidents occur at similar events, or at events held in the same location? Your intelligence picture will help you understand the risks
What are the safety and security priorities based upon your identified risks? Is it emergency access to your site, or a strong search regime? Is it keeping queuing customers off the highways? Do you have the capacity to increase the relevant resourcing or physical protection if there is a change to the threat levels? Monitor the situation during your event too, and be prepared to change your plan and tactics if necessary
Engage with safety advisory groups, licensing authority and other sources of information. Engaging with the statutory bodies and external partners will help you to find out more information about your event environment and any current national issues regarding safety and security. Police Security Coordinators (SecCo’s) are a source of very valuable information. Always refer to statutory and up-to-date good practice guidance: the Health and Safety Executive’s Event Safety guidance has been recently updated and is a good starting point. Ensure you fulfil any licensing conditions that you may have volunteered to adopt, or which may be imposed upon you.
Do your research and check that your safety officer, security and stewarding teams understand all potential threats and risks, and are suitably experienced or qualified to manage crowds effectively. Crowd management is a skill and a profession, with recognised qualifications for safety managers. The consequences of a safety or security issue can be very serious, so protect yourself, your staff and the public, and employ a professional to design your emergency access, evacuation, contingency and crowd management plans.
Keep your communication lines open with all parties before, during and after the event. Make sure you keep regular contact so you know what’s happening and are aware of potential impacts. Think about the safety and security messages you need to convey to your customers before and during your event. For example, what’s the best way of informing them what they can and can’t bring in; or where the emergency exits are located? This will save time on searches and help reduce queues.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Bring your key people together and look at recent issues at similar events, then ask yourself honestly if you are equipped to manage such incidents. Document your findings and update your plans accordingly.
You must keep audit trails and records of your decisions. Always remember that if there were to be an enquiry, you would need to show your thought process and demonstrate the information that informed your planning.
The answer should be yes. Always. Would you be happy for your family and friends to attend your event? Would you be safe in the knowledge that they were safe and secure? Not only do you have a moral duty to care for your customers and staff; but the consequences of failing to do so can be severe
Again, this does not have to be time consuming or expensive; but the best way to improve is to seek honest feedback which, if you’ve planned appropriately, is likely to be positive! Embrace the positives, address the shortcomings, and remember that we all make mistakes; but that any mistakes must be rectified moving forward.
I never fail to be astounded by the naivety of so many “new” event organisers (and, dare I say it, a number more experienced professionals, who really ought to know better).
I am by nature a cynic; but a pretty common approach by newcomers appears to be as follows:
It is at this point that everything usually starts to go pear-shaped.
This can happen in a variety of ways but, most commonly, one of two things happen. Either the council’s licensing officer asks a question along the lines of, “have you mentioned this to our Safety Advisory Group?” (or their local version - known by a variety of titles but basically a group of people whose job it is to make sure that events held on ‘their patch’ are safe – i.e. well planned).
Or, the police or Environmental Health Officer gets in touch, stating that they are not satisfied that the application promotes the licensing objectives, and they intend to object.
Suddenly, it dawns upon our would-be event organiser that he/she has a problem and needs to produce an awful lot of paperwork. An event management plan for starters, and all the bits and pieces that feed into that: security and stewarding, crowd control, noise management, traffic control, medical provision, drug and alcohol policies… and so on and so on.
The list is not endless but it is a very long one and, of course, every event is different, so forget trying to cut and paste plans from other events. Nine times out of ten that makes things even worse, not better.
Although council, police and other officers (usually) try to be helpful, it’s not their job to plan your event, and by this time they are usually getting a little bit cheesed off with your attempts to put things right. In the case of the police, they may well demand that you have paid-for policing at your event because, by now, they have lost all confidence in your ability to put on a civilised, peaceful occasion that isn’t going to cause them (or anyone else come to that) a problem.
Our event organiser (now getting pretty desperate) has a problem. The licence application has to go to a hearing and it looks like it will either be refused, or granted subject to a ton of conditions with which it will cost a small fortune to comply. This wasn’t in the budget and all those advance ticket sales have been used to pay deposits for the bands, the security, the website, and all manner of other things. Cancel the event and all those ticket sale funds need to be paid back (but the ticketing website is going to take its cut anyway).
To make matters even worse, the decision about whether or not to grant a licence is only going to happen a very short time before the gates open. Our poor soul is now between a rock and a hard place. Some choose to cancel and cut their losses (signifying the end of what should have been a promising career in event management).
Others decide to fight to the bitter end and pay someone (usually a barrister) an astronomical sum of money to argue their case at the (by now last ditch) hearing. Unfortunately, there aren’t a huge number of lawyers out there who actually know what they are doing when it comes to getting an event licensed. But, if our event organiser is lucky, the silvery tongued advocate will save the day. The event happens and at least the lesson is learnt for the next one.
But then again, maybe that didn’t happen. So please, please take my advice, because there are people out here that really want your event to happen, and for you to be duly rewarded for your efforts. We want you to keep your house, and enjoy your career.
I know that my message will be dismissed by many as a little more than a bit of scaremongering; but please believe me when I say that involving professional advisors from the outset is inevitably a great deal cheaper than parachuting someone in at the last minute to save the day.
Go for it!
We all know that (I hope). So, for the novice event organiser, the best way forward is as follows:
What paperwork do you need to make this happen and are you capable of putting all of that together?
from people who actually know what they’re doing
Talk to the council, police and all the other authorities who might have an issue with your creation (it’s unbelievable how unreasonable local residents can be when they find out you are planning to play music/sell alcohol/have an event in their back yards!)
Plan well in advance (nine to 12 months is a good starting point). A charm offensive for locals is usually a good idea too
One of the biggest costs in your event budget will be marketing. So, if you’re going to make the most of this spend, you need to understand what makes today’s digital economy tick.
You’re probably already well aware of the many changes driven by the digital economy; but as a starting point, let’s focus on one specific area: customer-centricity. Let’s face it, one of the key factors that differentiates the major e-commerce players from their competitors is their relentless focus on the customer: think Netflix and Amazon.
The content of any event will always be key; but it’s important to note that the wider customer experience is also vital to selling tickets for your event. Every detail of your attendee’s experience matters. This begins with the initial discovery of the event, continuing through to the online ticket purchase; all the way to their arrival at the event and, of course, customers’ experience of the event itself.
For the purpose of selling tickets, let’s focus on the route from event discovery through to ticket purchase. What should you, as an event organiser, do to optimise this purchasing experience?
Conversion is the key metric to understanding how to optimise your purchase flow. A strong conversion rate drives incremental ticket sales without the need to increase your marketing budget.
You’re selling tickets to your event. You know the following pieces of information from your market research, and analysis of other shows:
In this example, a 2% growth in conversion increases profit from £25 to £175. That’s a 600% increase in profit! So how does this work? How can an event organiser improve their conversion rate?
We know that all the best e-commerce organisations put their customers first, providing a simple, customer-centric platform. The rules of improving conversion in the ticketing industry are the same: it’s all about putting the customer first when designing the online experience and purchase flow.
The first area of focus is upon how your attendees find tickets to your event. You want to get your tickets in front of as many potential attendees as possible. This means you want good distribution partners. Where is your audience? Most event organisers will more than likely answer that question with Facebook – so get your tickets onto Facebook. You’ll also want your event to appear as high as possible in Google search results. So, address search engine optimisation.
Next, focus on how event tickets are purchased. Here’s a few things to look out for:
Instead of pumping more and more into your marketing budget; take a moment to consider the performance of your purchase flow. Putting your customers first is the key to selling out your event.
The world of sponsorship has evolved from the old transactional model and is now an agreement of partnership between like-minded brands.
We turned a corner some years back when we decided we had as much to gain from a sponsor’s reach, expertise, experience and enthusiasm, as we did from their money. After that, we looked to renegotiate all of our agreements.
The main conversation was not just around financial investment; but what else our sponsors could bring to the partnership, to the events themselves, that could make them grow. We looked at joint marketing campaigns, efforts that could be made pre- and post-event, as well as brand activations that could take place at the events themselves.
More and more, this rang true with the sponsors’ own objectives for the event. Like us, they wanted a higher level of engagement with the event, and not just to be a logo on a banner. My favourite example is the Speedo team, who created an ‘exit team’ to help our competitors out of the swim section of the race. The swim section of our races takes place in lakes, and it gets muddy! This allowed Speedo to establish a personal relationship with competitors, and for the brand to play a part in their experience, literally ‘helping them out’ of the water.
In another of our events, the colour running festival ‘Run or Dye’, we worked with Clinique. As well as the commercial arrangement, the guys at Clinique brought a layer of expertise and all kinds of extras that we couldn’t have had without them. They brought in a celebrity association with British Olympic athlete, Victoria Pendelton, a charity partner; they added to our participants’ goodie bags, and even created a brand experience area at the event, adding a new feature for competitors.
This level of engagement benefits both parties. We can give our sponsors reach and an opportunity to get in front of new and existing customers. They can create experiences for our competitors that go beyond traditional advertising.
It’s sometimes hard to think beyond the finances; but event sponsorship is a long-term marketing commitment, and partnership is key to winning and retaining this investment. In my experience, this happens when both parties are asking each other for more engagement.
Interrogate every aspect and drill down on as much data as possible:
a. Geographic, demographic and economic: Where do they live? How old are they? Do they have kids, jobs, money?
b. Emotional: What do they listen to? Who are their friends? What do they wear? What brands to they buy and interact with? What do they do in their spare time?
This is the most important exercise you will do for your event, and it shouldn’t just sit as a line in your sales and marketing strategy, as part of a tick list; it isn’t just a paper exercise.
Bring your audience together into central spaces. This can involve a number of different areas, for example:
a) Social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, wherever your audience consumes media. Depending on your audience, engage often but not just for the sake of it – treat your online brand with the same care as you devote to face to face meetings.
b) Databases: These can be bought in, gathered from partners, or created from scratch; but immediately start collecting data and use it wisely – a CRM system can help here.
c) Media: Look at partnerships with other media outlets who share a similar audience. Get to know these guys both as partners and as editorial supporters of the event.
It’s important to build these platforms, through web and digital presence, social media, and e-mail marketing databases like Mail Chimp (including timely follow-ups). This way, every time you have something to say to your audience, or something to ask, you can hit them wherever they like to be hit.
Immediately look at ways you can grow your community; through incentives surrounding your event, specific marketing, or social media engagement. You should try and spend at least 15 minutes, three or four times a week, working on this. It builds your community and increases your prospective visitors.
Make sure you’re keeping them invested in the event, sharing your plans (or potential plans), and that you’re asking opinions and listening to your audience. Your community is your most important stakeholder, so take time to know them and understand what they want.
Create a timeline of content that needs to be shared with your audience to assist them in attending the event. Start with basic things like time, date and place. Then unveil content and features. Use your timeline as a plan to build excitement and noise.
Remember, as an event organiser and an active, leading participant in your community, your first responsibility is to promote an event that will give your community pleasure. Convey your excitement. Don’t be embarrassed!
Think of all the people that can spread your word, more quickly and more directly than you can. Again, think about media partners, other promoters, contractors, ticketing partners: everyone involved with the event. Make sure you’re giving them the information they need to spread the word, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Marketing isn’t about telling the world, it’s about telling the community. Don’t get dragged into lengthy activities that target people who don’t want, or who you don’t want, to attend the event.
Set a budget that targets, grows and engages your audiences through a thought-through social plan; SEO, online advertising, PR, print and on-street advertising, and make your marketing consistent. If something isn’t working don’t do it – be pragmatic. Get to know the channels that work for your audience. Minimise wastage of message and wastage of budget; focus on activity that generates the right engagement.
So, the team at GL events asked me to write a sign-off because, well, they – and the rest of the events industry – really want you to bring your event to life. I do too. And, as someone who speaks from experience, I just want to let you know that producing my events has given me more pleasure than I could possibly image. It’s an amazing job, an amazing world. It’s everything you could wish it to be right now, and a whole lot more.
So do it. Do it well, with your eyes wide open, but do it. The world needs people like us, who make masses of people happy, bring them together, and enrich their lives. We’re memory-makers, smile-creators; we’re builders of worlds and global life-enrichment officers. We do things that no one else can, so we do.
Welcome to the best club in the world,