Learning from the pleasure and pain of delivering live events

Meditating Businesswoman | Axiom Communications

How recent research can shape your approach to live events

Event Planning is often listed as one of the ten most stressful jobs in the world, just behind Firefighting. Many would argue the two are too often related. So earlier this year we helped commission some research on the pleasure and pain of delivering live events. Our goal was to help communications professionals compare experiences and shape future actions.

A panel of over 50 participants provided their views, via an online survey designed by employee engagement specialists, Axiom, and Crystal Interactive, the UK’s leading event technology company.

Here we share just some of the highlights from the research – and offer some insights to guide better ways of working.

The biggest frustrations in delivering live events

Our research participants told us that ‘time’, in a number of guises, was the biggest frustration in delivering live events:

  • Insufficient face-time with content owners ahead of the event
  • Speakers not making the time to properly prepare and rehearse
  • Presenters pushing for 45-minute slots and refusing to believe they can deliver their content in less time – and then making last minute changes.

The natural consequence of all this results in agendas that are too tightly packed and speakers running over time at the event, in turn ‘stealing’ time from other presenters and squeezing other activities.

While the research respondents report spending a good proportion of their time in pre-event planning, business leaders and presenters clearly do not. This disconnect causes enormous frustration for all involved.

In our experience, the early sign-off of the event objectives amongst leaders and speakers, the agreement of the agenda to deliver them, together with strictly imposed deadlines for content creation and rehearsals, always paves the way to a more successful and less stressful experience.

More keys to success

Not surprisingly the most frequently cited critical success factors, that our panel reported, revolved around the need for participants to leave events engaged and armed with clear actions, then actually deliver change once back in the workplace.

However, over 70% of respondents reported spending just 0-25% of their resource on post-event activities.

We strongly recommend greater levels of partnership between comms professionals and the business, post-event, to deliver greater success – as opposed to ‘leaving them to get on with it’ – when we know in our hearts they don’t.

The emerging trends of live events

The rise of audience engagement and interactivity topped the poll, together with the increasing use of technology at events.

We are clearly seeing the demise of large gratuitous events, and the rise of highly focused business, outcome-orientated activities.

Live-streaming and interactive techniques powered by technology to engage ‘off-venue’ and remote workforces are on the increase, as are live feedback, surveys and collaborative problem solving.

However, the data shows that some senior leaders, often baby boomers, are reluctant to take advantage of the transparency afforded by interactive technologies. So the challenge facing the often generation X and Y-led events industry might be how to engage leaders with these ‘new’ ways of working.

One approach, that works in our experience, is to appeal to their competitive spirit, by using case studies, showcasing how their peers are demonstratively achieving great results by adopting new interactive tech.

Clearly, we need to inspire attendees to take the buzz of the live event and amplify it through the organisation afterward.

Broadening participation, collaboration and action planning, as part of pacey and interactive plenary and break-out sessions, powered by technology, is no doubt part of the solution.

The role of external supplier partners; pre, during and post event

Our research revealed that true partnership with external partners is highly prized, with respondents wanting external suppliers to work as extensions of the ‘in-house’ team. Innovation, creativity and new ideas were cited as important, as was trust. And flexibility, reliability and affordability were considered key, as was faultless execution.

Pre-event, participants said they were most likely to use external resource to help with attendee logistics and venue finding. At the event, audio and technical services topped the poll.

But post-event, few respondents enlisted the support of external partners.

Given that this is at odds with some of the finding outlined above, perhaps external partners could be harnessed more to add value where the pain is really being felt – the lack of action post event.

More pain or more pleasure?

Keep doing what you’ve always done – and you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Our research shows that’s more firefighting and more pain – adding up to more stress.

But by learning from the insights our research has helped produced you might just get less of the above – and a lot more pleasure – adding up to a lot more success.

To find out more, you can read a copy of the full research report here.

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