It’s all in the details: Five tips for a successful event

By Kellie Davie, APR
Vice President of Awards, IABC Nashville

Business communicators are often tasked to plan and execute the “tactic of all tactics,” a special event. It could be organizing a conference, hosting and running an awards reception, or an event that draws in hundreds of people. Whatever the subject, special events are an effective way to reach audiences in-person and in real-time.

They also can be a bear to run.

Throughout my eleven-plus years in communications, I have helped or took the lead to plan and implement dozens of special events: hotel and restaurant grand openings, trade shows, a week-long fashion show, professional development luncheons, and most recently the Music City Yoga Festival – an annual fundraiser benefiting local wellness nonprofit Small World Yoga attended by several hundred yoga enthusiasts and affiliated exhibitors. Each event has varied in budget size and audience demographics, but the formula for executing them remains the same: it’s all in the details.

Above: Music City Yoga Festival

Being a detail-oriented individual is vital in becoming a successful and respected professional in any field, but it is critical in that of business communications. The ultimate test of this skill comes when implementing a special event for your organization. Here are my five tips in planning and executing a successful event:

Develop a Structured Plan

Like any marketing communications campaign, events need to be structured with intent and purpose, not created on a whim. When developing an event for your organization, consider the following outline:

Goals: Does this event help to advance the mission of your organization, and will it bring back a strong return on investment from execution?
Objectives: Develop SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time specific. Are your objectives designed to change audience behaviors and perceptions of your organization, or are you trying to raise general awareness or a product, service, or client? Strategies: How will you go about reaching these SMART objectives and accomplishing the event you are planning?
Tactics and Tools: What are the communication channels and tools you will need to not only get the message out about your event but to execute it with quality, on-brand and on message?

Above: Ribbon-cutting for the Omni Nashville Hotel

Create Detailed Timetables

A successful event is 1,000 things happening on time and in order. A timetable makes that happen. Use every tool available to develop timetables to collaborate with your event team. Google Sheets, Trello, and Basecamp are three tech tool that help keep everyone on the same page. While every organization varies when it comes to its planning processes, there are some standard documents you should make when planning any event:

Timetable: A detailed timetable of what is happening and when is critical in the event planning process to ensure details are not missed. I like creating these in a Gantt chart format that illustrates a project timetable to make it reader-friendly for various teams.
Task List and Affiliated Task Ownership: Task lists can help everyone understand their responsibilities. They also facilitate clear and consistent internal communications to remain clear and consistent.
Run of Show (ROS): Put simply, this is a document that shows what happens when. A Run of Show is essential for speakers/presenters, production teams, and all internal stakeholders involved to know how the event program will run and the specific times each transition occurs. And they cannot be too detailed. David Green, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” has a ROS that even includes scripted lines such as “Good morning, I’m David Green.” A good ROS leaves nothing to chance.

*    BONUS: It is also helpful to become familiar with other event planning documents including Banquet Event Orders (BEOs) for catering setup, stage plots for audio/visual teams, and detailed scripts for speakers.

Above: Nashville Fashion Week

Know Thy Budget

This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often I have seen budgets thrown into disarray when someone gets a little too excited about décor, entertainment, or gourmet food and beverages. Good communication is the key to successful budgeting. Consider the following to help you plan a budget savvy event:

Everyone Must Understand the Budget Limitations: Work closely with your organization’s accounting department to understand how much money is allocated for the event and keep track of all revenues and expenses by creating and updating an event income statement. Trust me; your accounting manager will love and thank you for doing this.
Consider Sponsorships: Are you planning an event on a shoestring budget? Consider reaching out to like-minded brands on sponsorship opportunities. Not only will sponsorships help offset additional costs, but sponsors can help spread the word about your event by sharing it across their communication channels. A “win, win” if you ask me!

Communication is Key

This goes without saying in our profession, but healthy communication practices are critical when planning any event. Everyone involved with your event, whether its attendees, production teams, or sponsors, should be kept informed with the latest updates on what is happening and when. Make sure you are keeping the following in mind to streamline communications with your event planning:

Accuracy: Are all your promotional materials and communication channels (i.e., websites, social media handles, news releases, and e-newsletters) for the event accurate with dates/times, location, presenters, and registration details?
Clarity: Are your event materials easy to read and understand for both internal and external audiences? Does your event messaging and programming reflect the objectives you are trying to achieve?
Team Meetings and Updates: Be sure that all who are involved with implementing the event are continuously updated throughout the planning process leading up to the big day. Schedule regular meetings to review timetables, get status updates on tasks and troubleshoot any possible concerns. Meeting in-person or over the phone goes a long way, plus it ensures communication details don’t get lost in email chains.

Above: Good planning leads to things like IABC Awards

 Be Kind

Deadlines, ticket sales, catering and managing a timetable and a budget is stressful and can represent high-stakes tactics for an organization. It’s stressful and can bring out the worst in people, so it is essential to maintain professionalism and show gratitude to those who are involved. As the saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” so remember to be kind and respectful to others throughout the planning process.

Keep Your Cool: Murphy’s Law is real; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Be prepared to go straight into problem-solving mode if a speaker fails to show or a delivery isn’t made and find solutions to work around any event issues. You are in control of your work and emotions, so do not let a setback cause damage to your reputation post-event.
Maintain Professionalism: You may be the only one keeping your cool when a problem occurs. That’s where your problem-solving mode can be beneficial. Astronauts and scientists at NASA always expected someone to go wrong during a space flight (and something almost always did). The key is to work the problem and you do that by remaining professional. Expect to isolate that lone wolf who does lose their cool; they aren’t solving the problem(s).
Show Gratitude: Everyone involved with planning the event is putting in extra time to make it a success. Be sure to keep your teams motivated by continuing to thank them and give praise on excellent accomplishments. A genuine “thank you” or “great job” goes a long way with team members and volunteers.

At the end of the day, producing a successful event is all about creating a memorable experience and helping your organization reach its goals. By keeping these tips in mind the next time you plan an event will help you to strengthen your professional development and bring even more value to those you serve.

While we are on the subject of events

 Are you interested in sharpening your event management skills? We are looking for volunteers to serve on our IABC Nashville Music City Gold Pen Awards Committee. The Music City Gold Pen Awards is an annual celebration taking place in late August/early September that recognizes Middle Tennessee professionals who exemplify excellence in strategic business communications, management skills, thought leadership, and creativity. Opportunities to get involved with the committee include judging, marketing communications, event logistics, and sponsorship outreach. Please email kdavie@keycompr.com by Friday, March 20, if interested and available.

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Professional Development Luncheon: The Power of Podcasting

Get into the heads of your audience, literally! Podcasting has become one of the most effective ways to foster brand loyalty with existing customers and build relationships with new ones. Learn how to harness the power of one of the most effective content marketing tools in existence.

Join us Wednesday, February 19 as Christopher Foust guides us through the strategy, tactics and technology of podcasting. If your 2020 marketing goals include trying new platforms or finding creative ways to reach your audiences, this presentation will jump-start your path to achieving those goals.

Event Information

11:30 a.m. – Noon: Networking
Noon – 1 p.m.: Lunch and presentation

Location

Channel to Channel inside the Packaging Plant
Wedgewood-Houston
507 Hagan Street, Suite A
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
(Parking available in the gravel lot across the street)

Speaker

Christopher J. Foust
Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder
Motus Creative Group

About our speaker: Christopher J. Foust

Christopher J. Foust is the co-founder of Motus Creative Group, a podcast and marketing agency working with some of the largest brands in healthcare, entertainment, retail, and politics. He brings over 17 years of entrepreneurial and marketing experience, assisting organizations of all sizes connect with their ideal clients, mobilize their employees as advocates and do more good in the world through effective branding.

Foust utilizes a diverse background as a touring musician and competitive boxer to construct a fresh outlook and approach to branding and marketing, where innovation and creativity are the most effective forces in achieving success.

Motus Creative Group harnesses the power of podcasting and content marketing to help their partners define their brand message in the marketplace, solidify their authority in their respective industries, and use the podcast platform to increase employee engagement.

Reserve your spot for this informative event. See you there.

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Why are social media posts like the cobbler’s children?

Finding good writing on social media can be like finding the proverbial unicorn.

A guest blog by Joe Diorio

The end of 2019 represents not only the end of another year, but the end of a decade.

That’s prompting no shortage of #grateful type posts on social media. Sadly, there is more than a bit of repetition to all of them, since the posts all start out the same way.

“So grateful for …”
“So happy to see …”
“What a year this has been …”

The problem with this is that if everything reads the same, then nothing may be read at all. The scan and skip nature of reading online material makes it way too easy to gloss over these posts.

It’s not just end-of-year messages, either. After IABC Nashville presented its annual Music City Gold Pen Awards, the avalanche of social media messages about the awards mentioned a lot except what was done to win the awards. Here’s a sample of what showed up in my various social media news feeds:

“Congrats to all of today’s award recipients!”
“We are thrilled to announce …”
“Wow, we are in awe …”
“So proud of you …”

At the risk of making everyone hate me, we are communicators, right? Then why are our social media posts so – what’s the word? – dull? Repetitive? Uncreative?

OK, everyone put down the torches and blunt objects and please read on before sending me a variation of a “WELL, YOU TRY IT” email. Don’t kill the messenger (a variation of that phrase can be traced all the way back to Sophocles in 442 B.C., but I digress). We all know the demand for quick and up-to-the-nanosecond communications is leaving good writing in its wake.

Dull writing is the proverbial kiss of death for marketing communication professionals. A decade after Nicholas Carr asked in The Atlantic asking “Is Google making us stupid?” we seem to be forgetting that the single most important job for us is to communicate.

We get it that you are proud, happy, and thrilled to have won, but go a step further and tell us why. Rather than saying “we are thrilled to announce” how about:

  • “Teamwork and a dedication to the goal of increasing widget sales by 10 percent resulted in our being recognized with a Music City Gold Pen Award.”
  • “A team from our agency and our client who believed we could pull off an event that
    heretofore never took place in Nashville was honored…”
  • “We taught consumers something they never knew before …”

In other words, use social media to tell your followers what you did, how you did it, and why you did it. We all have scores of social media accounts we follow. Identify those nuggets of wisdom that made your communication effort an award winner and lead with that. And along the way omit the needless and, sadly, self-serving words. Everyone should plan their social media posts about their awards as carefully as they plan the communication activities that garnered them said awards.

In 2009 I had the privilege of meeting Ted Sorensen, who wrote so eloquently while chronicling the presidency of John F. Kennedy. He explained the need to communicate clearly and effectively with a brilliant shaggy dog story.

He said a salesman was setting up shop to sell seafood. First pass at a sign: “Fresh Seafood, Fish for Sale.” Well, he thought, who would sell stale fish? So he shortened the sign: “Seafood, Fish for Sale.” Heck, fish ARE seafood, so the word “fish” was dropped. But if he’s selling seafood in a store, then why say it’s “for sale”? The final sign, eloquently and to the point, read, simply, “Seafood.”

And, by the way, I’m confident he was proud, excited, and humbled by the chance to open his store.

Happy new year, and let’s write carefully out there, people. 

Joe Diorio is a Nashville IABC member and a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. You can sign up for his newsletter, “A Few Words About Words,” by visiting his website

Would you like to be a guest blogger?
Email us at iabcnashvilletn@gmail.com

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Panel discussion: Entrepreneurship in Communications

With the end of the year fast approaching, many business communicators are reflecting on the next steps for their brands and careers. What does it take to launch a freelance career or establish an agency? How can businesses and in-house communicators benefit from hiring a freelancer or agency to help take their brands to the next level?
 
Join us Wednesday, November 13 for an in-depth panel discussion with some of Nashville’s most well-respected communications entrepreneurs as they share their insights on what communicators should do when starting their own business, and what in-house communicators should consider when hiring and working with an agency.

Meet our panelists  

 
Janet Kurtz, CHDM
President & Founder, Kurtz Hospitality Marketing
 
Angie Boyd-Chambers
President & Founder, Boyd-Chambers Communications
 
 
 
 
Mike Smith
President, Founder & Chief Marketing Strategist, Conjure
 
 
Moderator: Kellie Davie
Managing Director & Founder, Keycom
Vice President of Professional Development, IABC Nashville

Event information 

Schedule

11:30am-12pm – Networking
12:00pm-1pm – Panel Discussion and lunch

Location

1918 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203
 
Saltine is located in the old Blackstone building. Ample parking is available in the lot adjacent to the restaurant.

About the event   

The panel discussion will include:
  • What to consider when starting your own business in the communications field.
  • Balancing creativity and client work with business operations.
  • Client relations: The good, the bad, and the savvy.
  • How companies and in-house communicators can maximize their agencies for long-term ROI. 

Reserve your spot

Register today – we look forward to seeing you there! 

Thank you to our sponsor!

Special thanks to our November 2019 luncheon sponsor: Keycom

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November mixer: End of year holiday soirée

Let’s eat, drink and be merry with the best communicators around! Join IABC Nashville at STK Nashville Thursday, November 7 for our last networking mixer of the year. Enjoy tasty libations, snacks and engaging conversation with fellow communications pros as we celebrate a successful 2019.

Event information

STK Nashville 
700 12th Avenue S
Nashville, TN 37203

Thursday, November 7, 2019 
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. 

Parking / transportation options  

  • Lyft / Uber
  • $5 valet at STK Nashville 
  • Park on your own in a nearby parking lot or metered spot 

Reserve your spot for our last mixer of 2019!

Members are FREE and non-members are $10 to attend! Prepay only. Registration will not be taken at the door. 

We can’t wait to see you there!

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