The Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner is a great movie.
If you haven’t seen it or heard of it, an Iowa corn farmer gets down on his luck, but he starts hearing voices and interprets them as commands to build a baseball field.
The voices that Kevin Costner’s character keeps hearing tell him, “build it and they will come.”
The saying is often misquoted as “build it and they will come.”
But Costner’s character remains confused, because he doesn’t know at first what he needs to build and who will arrive.
Should he build it or not?
We’ll let you watch the movie and find out.
Circulating advice tells event planners, corporations, and conference organizers to simply “build it and they will come.”
While this sounds like a fine idea, the phrase doesn’t paint the entire picture.
In fact, you know that there is much more to planning an event, whether conference or corporate, than simply “building it.”
- A theme, message, and mission
- An audience hungry to listen
- A plan to execute
- A schedule to follow (tentatively)
- A team/staff to support the endeavor
- Speakers to attract, engage, and transform your audience
- And so much more
The list is quite long, and it’s why you have a digital record of it (unless you still take the paper approach. Then it’s a 3” binder).
With all that being said, here are some pitfalls that may make your event fall flat. Watch out for them. Plan to avoid them. And make sure you address them before they ever become an issue.
Event Planning Pitfalls to Avoid
#1. Your Audience Isn’t Specific
You want to define your target audience as granular as you possibly can, and then go find people that fit a high percentage of that definition to invite them to your event. If you’re running a conference, a topic typically ties people together. A corporate event tends to be, either a certain level of workforce (Executive, Director, Manager, etc), or orbiting a general topic (digital marketing, divorce law, classic American vehicles, etc.). Ask these questions to get to know your audience a bit better:
- What are the demographics?
- What is the common interest/topic?
- What does the audience want to achieve?
- What does the audience care about?
- What topic is being discussed?
- What are the common professional titles of the audience?
- What are the common skill sets of the audience?
#2. You Don’t Know Your “Why”
If you’re handing out free food at your local warehouse grocer, you don’t really need to have a huge why to do your job. However, if you’re organizing a 100-, 500-, or even 10,000-person event, your why better be strong, impactful, and meaningful. Can your audience buy into your why? Does the concept you’ve created for your event tie to your why, theme, and mission? Ask yourself, “Why should the audience care?” Get the answer to that last question, and you’ll be avoiding a huge pitfall of not having a deep enough reason for your audience to attend.
#3. You’re Understaffed
In the midst of a bustling and hustling event, you may feel understaffed, but are you understaffed? A staff that’s redlining for hours or days at a time can be harmful to your event in ways you may have not considered.
You probably know that you ought to take proactive measures in keeping your staff de-stressed as much as possible; however, your staff leaving due to stress is not the biggest pitfall.
In fact, stress, at specific levels, has been shown to improve performance for short periods of time. The goal, then, is to rely on human psychology to get your staff through a wonderful, impactful event unscathed by the stress monster.
Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
What’s interesting is that you are the average of those entire people, stress and all. So, if you’re understaffed, and your staff is stressed, you’re allowing the “average” stress level to rise and negatively affect how your team performs.
#4. You Neglect or Ignore Technology
It’s hard to deny the prevalence of technology. The use of the smart phones, the internet, and social media alone has revolutionized how humanity interacts. While face-to-face should have it’s place at your event, you want to facilitate the interactions that happen online, too.
For example, companies send one or two people to conferences to get the dirt on the industry, and those one or two people use email, social media, video, and more to share what they’re discovering online. Offering zero or poor performing WiFi is not acceptable. You could be losing ticket sales to your next event, and more importantly reputation points.
Get your tech up to par, and use it to engage and encourage your audience to show the world what they’re experiencing.
#5. Your Facilitate Disorganized Registration, Slow-Moving Lines, and Lost Attendees
What you do as an event planner is nothing short of miraculous. You rally people around a topic, theme, and mission to organize entire experiences for hundreds or thousands of people from all over the state, region, nation, or globe. You are essentially the superhero of social gathering.
As a superhero, you may not look at the finite details of your event.
The first is the registration process. You want your attendees to get online, register, and have their tickets before they can order and get their meal at a fast food restaurant. High expectation, but it pays dividends in merchandise sales and repeat event attendees.
The second is the speed of lines, if you have any. A slow-moving line is worse than traffic on your local interstate during rush hour. Shorten the amount of time that people have to stand in line, and watch their faces light up with happiness, as their subconscious’ cheer with joy.
Finally, your event layout, direction, and signage is critical in keeping attendees moving toward their next objection. There’s a saying in sales that goes something like this, “If your customer is confused, they won’t buy. So, don’t confuse them.” The same should go for your event. Make the layout and signage crystal clear. In fact, go overboard on making sure your attendees don’t get lost, and they will thank you later.
#6. You Do Not Document or Share the Event
Tie in pitfall #4 to this one. It may be worth the expense to hire a professional camera and film crew to document your events. Not only do you get real, personal footage of the inner workings of the experience you created, but after each event, you will have promo material for the next event.
What’s more, encourage your audience to document their event, and give them a hashtag to use across social media. Then, you can go curate content based on your audience’s experiences, which is virtually guaranteed to resonate, because your attendees created it.
#7. You Don’t Hire the Best Speakers
You should hire the speakers that will do 3 things for your audience:
The “best” speakers for your event will be the ones with the highest chance of engaging your audience; relating to your audience’s pains, fears, and goals; and compelling your audience to take action in some form or another.
Hire a speaker based on which one will be the best for your audience — to move them one or two steps closer to what they desire to achieve.
You know that “build it and they will come” is a great dramatic and all encompassing phrase. You understand that it’s not specific enough for you to use. And you’re taking actions to avoid the 7 pitfalls shared in this article.
In fact, the phrase, “build what they want, and let them know it exists, and they will come” is more accurate to how you operate.
It’s time you level up your events and make the experience for your audience impactful.
And remember to hire the best speakers for your event.
Here are the key pitfalls from this article:
- Your Audience Isn’t Specific
- You Don’t Know Your “Why”
- You’re Understaffed
- You Neglect or Ignore Technology
- Your Facilitate Disorganized Registration, Slow-Moving Lines, and Lost Attendees
- You Do Not Document or Share the Event
- You Don’t Hire the Best Speakers