Even with your best intentions and ample planning, attendees can still walk away grumbling about your event. It’s easy to overlook a single mistake or gaffe that can derail your event’s success and leave clients or managers questioning your decisions.
Here are the four most common, cringe-worthy mistakes that can completely derail your meeting.
1. Overwhelming attendees with too much
When planning meetings and events, it’s natural to feel you have to squeeze in as much value as possible so that attendees feel they’re getting the most for their time and money. Packing in too much content or too many activities, however, may make attendees feel pressured and rushed, and their level of engagement will plummet.
How do you know if your meeting is guilty of this faux pas? Just look at the agenda. Are there multiple concurrent sessions that force attendees to miss something important? Are sessions packed so tightly back to back that there is barely time to take bathroom breaks or answer emails and calls in between? Are there late-night parties or networking events, followed up with an early morning education session?
A continuous stream of content, educational sessions, and networking events will ultimately frustrate participants, shut down their propensity to learn, and leave them feeling too exhausted to soak in anything.
Take stock of your attendees and what they need to be successful during and after the event. Deliver the experiences that will achieve their goals but also leave plenty of time for them to regroup and recharge, discuss ideas among their colleagues, and incorporate the ideas they learned.
2. Not creating plan B
Take it from Murphy’s Law and thousands of meeting planners before you: If something can go wrong, it will. Even the most meticulously planned event can hit a landmine. General session speakers get sick, sudden thunderstorms drench an outdoor networking event, attendees return late from an off-site activity. Without enough anticipation of what could go wrong, last-minute messes like this can leave you in a tailspin as you scramble to amend the issue.
After you’ve finished your initial event planning, map out backup plans. Gather with your planning team and brainstorm all the various mishaps that can disrupt your event’s timeline, budget and goals. Then, figure out ahead of time how to mitigate those risks, such as preparing a roster of replacement speakers, additional on-call staff, and an adverse weather plan.
3. Selecting the venue with the lowest bid
We understand. It’s a great feeling to come in under budget and save your client or company money. Plus, it simplifies your decision process when you can automatically select the cheapest venue. That said, our data shows that more than 60% of corporate event planners chose a venue that is not the lowest bidder.
The venue you decide on will ultimately determine how the rest of the event goes. We all know meetings are all about ROI (return on investment). The return is the value your organization gets from having all those attendees together, consuming great content, and networking to make new deals or enhance your company culture. By focusing too much on the investment, such as the cost of the hotel, you can overlook important elements that impact the return.
By focusing too much on the investment, such as the cost of the hotel, you can overlook important elements that impact the return.
The cheapest venue often ends up costing you a lot more in time, money, stress, and attendance in the long run. You may have to spring more to pay for transportation to activities located 30 minutes away and budget the time to get there. You may have to listen to complaints from attendees about having to travel an extra hour after arriving at the airport. Even worse, you will have to work harder to convince attendees to make the trip in the first place.
Suddenly, the cheapest option doesn’t seem so cheap.
Get clear on the meeting agenda and other priorities besides price. This will ensure that you look beyond dollar signs when reviewing venue options. Are attendees looking for shorter (and cheaper) travel time from the airport to the venue? Do you plan on incorporating any golf or spa activities and prefer to have those amenities at the venue? Do you want to incorporate more outdoor events?
Automatically going with the lowest bid most often means you’ll have to sacrifice in other areas that might be just as vital. Note: GroupSync can help you easily and quickly narrow down destinations and venues based on your most important criteria.
4. Unintentionally putting your attendees to sleep
Depending on the audience, it can be tempting to keep things strictly educational at meeting and events. For instance, government programs or medical meetings are often attended by professionals accustomed to dealing with sensitive information and serious issues. The impulse is to build a ho-hum agenda with more of the same, such as booking industry presenters to lecture on trends or formatting education sessions to merely present research.
Remember that serious can be very close to boring. Most people, whether they’re a doctor, scientist, lawyer or government official, don’t remember what bores them, much less enjoy it. This undermines the goal of most events, which is to leave a lasting impression on all attendees.
Every event, no matter the audience, could use big doses of fun and laughter. After all, your attendees are people first, professionals second. And everyone delights in humor, connection, physical movement and storytelling.
Brainstorm ways to inject creativity and playful interaction in otherwise staid topics. For instance, ask speakers to turn their speeches into interactive conversations. Gamify educational topics by presenting them Jeopardy- or Family Feud-style. Encourage attendees to get competitive by teaming up to outdo each other in solving a common industry problem. Use visual and performance arts to spice up a topic.