An Exercise In Accountability
I feel so blessed that so many people come to me asking for help with their events – I’m even giving a talk on it in September. The trouble is that I don’t scale particularly well. I want to help everyone but I still want to do everything else that I want to do. So…I’m going to write a book, and now that I’ve made this post, I guess I’d better make it happen! This is the only draft of the first chapter, just as it came out. I’d be honoured if you read it and left me some feedback in the comments. I also need a title – all suggestions are welcome. Cheers!
Maybe events aren’t right for your organization.
As a person who loves attending and producing great events, it kind of makes me cringe to type that sentence, but the fact remains it is possible that event production is not part of your particular path to success.
When I was growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, right from around the age of eight years old I used to love to organize ways of bringing people together. I was that girl who hustled the phones after school each evening, rounding up a big gang to head down to the outdoor municipal skating rink for some sub-zero winter fun.
As I got older, the circumstances changed; sponge-painting instructor, nightclub owner, health show producer, community manager for telecom giant, municipal jazz festival producer and regional manager of tourism to name a few. What all of the activities and roles had in common however, and the thing that really resonates with me, is that my work brought people together and made them happy.
It seems most fair if I put that out there right away: I have a built-in, visceral attraction to event production; a natural bent toward bringing people together and so it is likely that what’s right for me isn’t automatically just right for you.
Just the same, here you are reading a book on how to take your events to the next level. So let’s have a look at the top reasons for creating and executing amazing events.
Community Building – If you are operating any sort of business, for-profit or otherwise, it is a given that success today means building community around what you do. Many businesses have done outstanding jobs of creating online communities to the point where there becomes actual pressure to produce a real-life meet up.
This book will speak extensively about relationships, and the fact is that a great deal of success in any business is going to depend on your ability to not just form, but also to nurture ongoing relationships with business partners, suppliers and buyers. If your organization has been around for a while already, chances are you know of some people who already love to do business with you and who keep doing so. There is gold in these relationships, but if you fail to maintain the relationship, you fail to extract the gold.
Bring People Together – What makes people wallow through muddy mosh-pits at outdoor festivals, shuffle slowly through huge crowds for cultural exhibits, or park their cars and walk twenty minutes to get to a municipal fireworks display? After all, you can watch fireworks from quite a distance away and still enjoy the experience, can you not? The answer is that humans by and large require and enjoy contact with other humans. We are naturally wired toward tribalism. People know that at the local service club’s rib festival they are sharing an experience with other people of the same tribe – folks who will line up for two hours just to sample the barbecue skills of that one particular pit master and then smile and agree with a total stranger next to them that the wait was absolutely worth it.
Chances are that the event you are producing can have that same kind of bonding effect on people. You can be the conduit to gather people who want to raise awareness around a social justice issue, who want to raise money for a new animal shelter, who all love pottery or jazz or calypso music or who applaud your efforts toward enabling public art installations. There is no end to the list of what can bring people together, but it all still needs an engine to make it happen and, since you are reading this book, that engine is you. You are the one to help these people find their tribe.
Marketing Opportunities – All of this talk about community and tribalism is great, but you still have an organization you are responsible to run effectively, am I right?
By building community, you have the opportunity to build a meaningful bond with your customer base. To speak to them in real life, survey them and find out more about them. The beautiful thing is, the better you know your customer, the better you can tailor your work and your marketing to them in the future. We will get into greater detail on this later, but knowing that (for example) you have an audience whose average mean age is thirty seven, who is 41% men and 59% women who are also into gardening, travel and gourmet coffee allows you to make nearly surgical use of online advertising tools when it is time to reach out to your community for future events.
So, are events right for your company? If you can answer yes to any of the below questions, then maybe events are not a great fit for your strategy:
We need a quick, one-time burst of PR
We need a quick, one-time burst of cash flow
We need to raise our profile to sell a single purchase one time to people
Our NPO requires people to donate once, but then never again
My department is not accountable to any stakeholders once this year is up
If, on the other hand, you need to stay sustainable, accountable and visible in perpetuity, you need community. You need people to feel a sense of connection to what you are working on. You need to be able to reach out to your tribe to ask them what they think of the changes that you are considering making. To succeed in business now, you must be able to co-create with your buyers. Those buyers become partners, advertisers, your R&D department and trusted advocates. But it is up to you to build and create experiences that are worthy of their attention – that is the only way to have them join your community and that is the only way to make them feel like they have found their tribe.
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2014: If you’d like to be informed when my book and all resources related to my book are available, please subscribe to my email list and I’ll make sure you’re the first to know. Cheers, KK.