Over the past few years, many members of the events industry have confronted a challenging question: Is the title on your business card accurate? If it reads meeting planner, event planner, conference organizer, or any other traditional name for the role, the answer is most likely “no.” “Our roles have always been more than just managing logistics, so why doesn’t our title suggest that?” Laura Lopez, senior community manager for Social Tables, told Convene earlier this year. “Defining and expanding the modern meeting planner’s place in the organization demands that meeting professionals expand beyond the role of logistics wizard.”
The evolving role brings with it fresh questions that dig much deeper than inquiries about a venue’s bandwidth, F&B options, or other typical RFP items. As more meeting planners make the shift to become business-event strategists, it’s important to add these three big-picture questions to brainstorming sessions.
1) What’s Your Brand?
The word “brand” may bring to mind powerhouse names such as Apple, BMW, Google, and other well-recognized global giants. However, branding isn’t confined to consumer-facing businesses. It’s equally essential to events, conferences, and trade shows, too. “Organizers should be focusing on the brand of their experience in the same way that corporations do — especially for those that are member organizations,” said Josh Haynie, vice president of business development at Freeman. “Oftentimes, the annual event is the greatest single gathering of that organization’s community in one place for the entire year. Business-event strategists can seize the opportunity in that forum to focus on the brand of the organization and the event while having a big portion of your members together.”
Haynie’s perspective on member organizations is especially relevant. For example, consider medical associations. Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can belong to any number of associations and societies that all offer similar resources: education and networking. So, each brand’s value becomes an essential piece of distinguishing one association from its competition, and the brand characteristics must be on display at every event to remind attendees why they are proud to be part of that brand.
2) How Does the Event Accelerate the Organization’s Mission?
The brand might include certain colors, symbols, and language that are key to establishing an event’s unique identity, but what about the bigger mission? How does it help advance the organization’s year-round goals? “Create a vision or mission statement with an aspirational goal,” Parul Shah, strategy director, Freeman, wrote in a recent article. “Are you looking for increased sponsorship at your show? More quality leads for your booth? To successfully reveal new product offerings at your annual conference?”
Haynie said that he has noticed an increase in the number of organizers who come to the table with a clearly articulated vision or mission statement. “More than ever, organizers are viewing their events as one of many channels in which their organization is reaching their key communities,” said Haynie.“Understanding that broader, overarching mission and integrating it into all facets of the event experience is critical to achieving organizational and event objectives.”
When it comes to PCMA’s annual Convening Leaders event, “we ask ourselves if every piece of the Convening Leaders experience supports PCMA’s statement of purpose,” said Carolyn Clark, PCMA’s senior vice president of marketing. “Does it inspire, connect, and innovate the global business events community? And we make sure that our partners understand our purpose and where we want it to take the entire organization — not just in one year, but looking well into the future.”
3) Are You a Must-Attend Event for Your Community?
“Organizers have to ask themselves if the experiences they are delivering create the type of meaningful engagement that their audience cannot get anywhere else,” Haynie said, “and include enough stakeholder value to ensure that they return year after year.
“There has been much disruption to the old paradigm of why people attend events,” Haynie continued. “With more competition than ever — from not just other events but alternate channels for receiving information and community gathering — they will want to ensure that their attendees and exhibitors are getting an experience that cannot be attained through any other event or channel.”
For associations, the must-attend criteria can be tough to identify. In many cases, attendees can earn the necessary clock hours they need for professional certification online, which means that the face-to-face event must offer even more compelling reasons to register. “We’ve expanded our Convening Leaders live-streamed programming over the past seven years,” Clark said, “but at the same time, we’ve been laser-focused on making sure that in-person attendees are getting an elevated experience with every element designed with intention that isn’t available simply by tuning in.”
This educational article was brought to you by Freeman, a PCMA Uber partner and the production team behind Convening Leaders 2018. For more insights, be sure to visit Freeman’s official website to explore “The Roadmap to Success: A Winning Game Plan to Maximize Your Brand Experience Investment.”