Event goals are what you aim to achieve before, during, and after your event, and they impact almost everything event professionals do. So what happens when you crush your goals? Well, Ana A. reached out and asked precisely this. She says, “Say an event was successful, reached all goals and objectives, and made the host more money. What would you say the next step for the event is? Would it be making the event bigger year after year?”
That’s a great question, and in this episode of the Event Brew podcast, Deanna, Arianna, and Will share their thoughts on how to proceed. Tune in to find out what the Brew Crew thinks of event goals, how they handle ongoing progress, and what they think your next steps could be. Let’s dive in!
Do You Really Need to Grow?
Arianna starts today’s discussion with her initial reaction. “My first thought was, do you need to make it bigger and better? And why? Then, my other reaction is, I’m not sure how to wrap my brain around this question because I finish every event with this feeling that there are three things we didn’t miss by any measure, but I know there’s more to do here. So, I guess, who are you making it better for? Are you making it better for your sponsors, attendees, the core organization, or the production crew? That would help me look at the categories of where I want to seek improvement.”
Will challenges event professionals to escape this need to grow constantly. “We discussed this on the event tech podcast, but regarding budgets. We talked about the idea that so often when it comes to events, we’re always trying to grow. You don’t have to grow or die,” he says. “If you had a super successful year, do it again. I think you will naturally grow. We don’t have to be in this mindset of growth, growth, growth.”
Deanna agrees and further emphasizes Will’s point. “When I think about goals and objectives, and you achieved them, do those need to change?” she asks. “Do they need to change for your audience, your stakeholders, you, or the organizing team? The status quo is absolutely fine if the goals and objectives don’t need changing. It’s almost like a therapy question. Why is there a need for growth? If it’s not coming from your stakeholders or audience, why do you feel the need to do that?”
In Deanna’s eyes, this may even be a question of personal growth concerning career advancement. “For the first 75% of my career, up until today, I worked in many flat organizations. There wasn’t room for lateral growth or vertical growth. So when I outgrew those roles, I had to leave. Maybe you need to take that next step.”
Deanna continues: “I also think about how this event can impact the broader community, whether donating unused food or thinking about the event’s sustainability. Are there nonprofit partners we can give a portion of the proceeds to? Things like that don’t necessarily impact the experience for attendees, but it’s a way for you to challenge yourself and feel better about the impact it leaves.”
Look Beyond Your ROI and Find all of Your Community
Arianna also wants to push back ROI as the most crucial event metric. “I just want to argue with ROI as the be-all end-all of event,” she says. “Events are experiences, and those are hard as hell to measure. They’re also long-tail experiences, so understanding the true measure of impact can take years to realize.”
Deanna agrees. A new metric developed by Liz Lathan, as part of Haute Companies, gives event planners a new way to measure an event’s impact. “They created the metric of return on emotion, looking at how events impact people. For example, how they walk away differently and how they felt inspired, engaged, or connected. I thought this was genius because those memories are all they’ll walk away with at the end of the day. Those are the things that cause repeat attendance.”
User interviews are essential in understanding an event’s impact, and Arianna couldn’t agree more. “I’ve spent a few days deep in the edit cave right now editing community testimonials. In people’s own words, I’m hearing the impact of an event over time. And rather than trying to make up your own set of envelope-pushing goals, go to each stakeholder asking, how can we do better?”
“The post-event survey process is one thing I’ve been kicking and screaming about my whole career,” adds Deanna. “We don’t do enough actual benchmarking year after year. Half the time, we’re asking questions and don’t actually look at the responses. Don’t ask a question you’re not going to listen or respond to.” She also wants more diversity in user interviews and event surveys. “I’d love to see a bit more creativity in our industry, more diversity, and partnering with more marketing research firms. I haven’t seen enough diverse feedback in our industry.”
How can we fix this? According to Arianna, reach out to historically underrepresented groups. “Create outreach groups with those groups we don’t hear from. For whatever historical reasons, they might not be offering their voices through standard channels. Create safe spaces for multiple modes of feedback so we can figure out who is responding to these and whether we are holistically meeting the needs of our communities.”
And as you reach out, don’t forget about people outside your event or direct community. “People who’ve opted out are always a good cohort to get information from. Understanding why your event is not accessible is huge. Is it cost? Location? Physical diversity and neurodiversity are finally gaining traction in our industry,” concludes Deanna.
Maybe it is Time to Scale
“If we’re meeting all our objectives, is there a need to zoom out and think more about where the industry is going in the next five years?” asks Deanna. “Where is the organization going in the next five years? Is it time to look at the big picture of how this event will fundamentally change? How will our audience and stakeholders change? Start pre-planning for those macro trends.” As busy professionals, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day and never think about tomorrow.
Arianna thinks about zooming out too. But rather than zooming out in years, she zooms out and considers the overall experience. “I think beyond an individual event is also zooming out and looking at the pre and post; how we’re extending that experience,” she says. “Community is such a hot word right now. Events 365 is such a hot word right now. It’s hot for a reason. The pandemic pushed us to realize that nothing is one-off. Look at connectivity and expand beyond a singular in-person event. What are those digital access points? What is the continued connectivity?”
To build on Arianna and Deanna’s ideas, Will thinks that it may be time to scale if you’re hitting all of your objectives. “If you’re hitting all your goals, maybe it’s time to go from one event to two events,” he says. “If all your multiple events are hitting all their goals, then you’re crushing it. Kudos to you! How can you scale it up and reach even more people? I think as long as you can keep it as low risk as possible and you don’t take down the big successful event by doing another event, you can be successful at duplicating your efforts.”
What’s an Area You’re Pushing to Improve?
As Deanna wraps up today’s episode, she gives Will and Arianna one final question. “What’s one area you are pushing on across your event portfolios?”
For Will, it’s all about efficiency. “A small example of this is ensuring we have the best technology to accomplish our goals.” He also uses this approach when thinking about team size at an event. For example, “If the lighting person was sitting twirling their thumbs most of the time, do we need that lighting person next time? I’m constantly thinking of ways to be efficient because I look at my client’s budget like a business too.”
“For us, it’s about diversification of our attendee group,” says Arianna. She strives for better representation “across industries and experience levels. Because we’re a community-facilitating event, people need to see others with lived experiences similar to theirs. Are we as inclusive as we can be? And where do we need to do better?”
“I’ll piggyback on that,” says Deanna. “I’m thinking about event content and delivery methods and how we reach people of all abilities, backgrounds, ethnicities, and gender expressions. How are we creating content experiences designed with everyone in mind? Really honing in on inclusivity, accessibility, and equity, but from a niche space of content and delivery methods. That’s something I’m leaning on,” she concludes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Event Brew podcast. We want to thank Anna for submitting their question. And tell us, what do you do when you hit your event goals? Send us an email with your thoughts. Have questions you’d like us to address in future shows? Make sure to send us those too. We’ll catch you here next time!