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Friday, March 24, 2017

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How to Develop Exceptional Events
Karen Eber Davis

May, 2007

If you are like most professionals, at least some of your job involves creating events for others. Events range from annual meetings to planning retreats and even formal three-day convention center events. Given the time they take and their cost, wouldn't you like the events you plan to be exceptional? If yes, what are the secrets of developing exceptional events? To find out, I interviewed people whose positions required them to attend numerous events each year.

Few and Far Between

"How many exceptional events did you attend last year?" I knew I was on to something interesting, when I received answers to this question like these:
"Not very many, if any..."
"Maybe one or two... maybe."
"I really have to think. Doesn't that say something?"

As I asked more questions, it became clear that exceptional events were memorable even if not frequent. Answers about exceptional events were also consistent and enthusiastic. Here are three ideas that you can use when you plan your next event.

Idea One: Find Presenters that Wow

  • Look for "highly engaging presenters - who are generally well-known and sought after," suggests Jim Rindelaub, Executive Director of the Choristers Guild in Garland, Texas.
  • Seek out "excellent keynotes and excellent workshop presenters," encouraged Irene Flynn, Director Florida-Bahamas Synod Resource Center.
  • "I look for people that I think will be top-notch, not the typical institution events," shares Julie Aageson, Director Eastern North Dakota Resource Center.

These three responses suggest that spending effort on securing first-class keynotes and other leaders is critical for two reasons. Before the event, engaging keynoters draw reluctant attendees to mail their registration forms. A great keynote supports both the quality and quantity of your attendance. At the event, great leaders leave everyone thinking about the ideas shared and stimulate numerous conversations between attendees in classrooms, hallways and at meals.

Idea Two: Provide Opportunities to Meet Personal Goals

  • "I look for inspiration and challenge," states David H. Webb, Brigadier General (retired), Bradenton, Florida.
  • "I want to be stimulated and challenged intellectually. It's content not technique," said Aageson
  • "The reason for getting together is meaningful and educational. That being said, I go to learn something new-ideally about being a better person," shared ClarenceCaldwell, Assistant to the Bishop, Florida Bahamas Synod, (retired)

Planning for an exceptional event involves selecting strong leaders, but these events also give attendees opportunities to achieve their personal objectives. Naturally these objectives will vary from person-to-person. As you plan your event identify a handful of the most likely personal objectives, then interweave opportunities to meet these objectives throughout the event. For example, events often provide chances to obtain certifications, pick-up continuing education units and have works-in-progress reviewed.

What will you offer to help people meet their objectives? Don't be afraid to challenge attendees to use the event as a turning point in their lives. Attendees, in fact, often hope this will happen.

Idea Three: Plan Everything

Planning the exceptional event takes place on multiple levels; this includes components like meeting personal objectives, excellent event leaders, the mix of facilitators and elements like event pacing and entertainment. Even "details" can be opportunities to help attendees experience an exceptional event. Don't ignore opportunities to be creative with break activities, commercial vendors placement, registration and even your pre-event emails.

  • "I can put up with mediocre food and facilities but the meeting needs to be well planned and focused, " said Caldwell.
  • "The event contained many creative touches; people were thinking about how to make the experience special and fun," Flynn concluded.

Most of us, sometime during the year, are involved in planning events for others. Keep these three ideas in mind to build an exceptional event.

Karen Eber Davis is a consultant, strategist, group facilitator and writer. As president of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, she draws on her full set of skills to help organizations plan and fund their way to excellence. Her firm has attracted such clients as the Red Cross, Circus Sarasota, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Suncoast Workforce Development Board, the Englewood Water District, Dreams are Free and more than 100 local, regional and national organizations. Her consulting work is respected for its innovation, enthusiasm and energy as well as its practical understanding of the spirit and psychology of nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit her website at www.kedconsult.com.



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