Ten tips to deliver successful live events – inspired by findings from our recent research

Crowd Surfing | Axiom Communications

How crowd-sourced insights could see you crowd surfing on a wave of success

‘It’s always nice to be recognised for delivering a great conference or event.’ explained a client recently ‘… Being called up on stage at the end to receive another bouquet of flowers and another half-hearted round of applause from participants who, by then, are thinking about starting their long journey home.’

‘…But I dream of it going so well’, she went on, ‘…that I can dive off the stage like a rock star and crowd surf all the way back to the crew at the control desk, carried aloft on a wave of success. Got any tips?’ she asked.

‘Well yes, several actually…’ I replied, ‘inspired by some crowd-sourced insights from our peers in the industry, through some research on the pleasure and pain of delivering live events that we helped commission earlier in the year.’

In this blog I share ten tips, triggered by the research findings.

Ten tips, triggered by the research

Tip 1. Start with the end in mind

Our research highlighted the need to agree with stakeholders exactly what success will look like as a direct consequence of your event – after you’ve switched the lights off at the venue. So sign-off on what will be better… for the business and the people it serves, for leaders, and for colleagues at the coalface. This is your ‘North Star’. It will guide everything you do and cut out a lot of confusion or duplicated effort.

Tip 2. Agree the entire event ‘experience’

The event ‘experience’ begins with the ‘save the date’ post and ends when you can prove to your stakeholders that everyone, including colleagues that did not attend, are bringing your key messages to life in their part of the business. Our research highlighted the need for your thinking to extend beyond the ‘high-profile’ bit of the event itself, however tempting that might be, to cover the entire, end-to-end, process.

Tip 3. Check in with participants

Before your event, conduct some ‘presearch’ with your audiences. Find out what they already know about the topics you intend to cover and their attitudes towards them. Find out what they are actually talking about at the water coolers and in the canteen queues. Then use this information to help ‘dial in’ your speakers to the ‘word on the street’ and target their messages. And while you are at it, find out what people would truly value as part of a cascade toolkit.

Tip 4. Make time to deliver success

Our research participants expressed frustration at too many things being left to the last minute. So book time in the right diaries early; to agree who should attend the event, who should speak, how long for, about which topics. And then book more time in; to co-create their content, build and evolve their slides, rehearse and time their presentations prior to going on-site, and book time for an on-site dress rehearsal too.

Tip 5. Respond to emerging trends

Our research clearly pointed to the demise of large gratuitous events, in favour of highly focused outcome oriented conferences, which lead to concrete outcomes being taken post event. Live streaming to reach out to off-venue and remote workforces is increasingly sought. If that is what participants want, that’s what we recommend you give them. The days of the ‘jolly’ it seems are now consigned to history.

Tip 6. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

The emerging trends that topped our poll were the rise of audience engagement and interactivity, along with the increasing use of technology in events. Add these things together and you get a clarion call for genuine collaboration, powered by tech. Why not get audiences truly engaged with your content by asking for their questions, crowd-sourcing solutions, prioritising initiatives and recording their personal actions

Tip 7. Help speakers connect with the audience

Our research showed that whilst event participants love the transparency afforded by the use of live interactive technologies, some senior leaders find the prospect daunting. A good way to help leaders feel they can ‘safely’ connect with the audience is to schedule breaks between, for example, calling for questions and answering them. You can use the break time to cluster and prioritise the questions and give those that will be called upon to answer them time to gather their thoughts.

Tip 8. Play to strengths

True partnership with external providers was highly prized by our research respondents, who also wanted to see them as trusted extensions of the in-house team. So we recommend you simply play to each other’s strengths. No one will know your business – and its unique challenges – like you do. Combine that with the expertise, experience, innovation and creativity that good external professional facilitators and suppliers can provide, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Tip 9. Turn up the ‘amplification’

Our research revealed that the most frequently cited success criteria was the need for participants to leave the event armed with clear actions, then actually deliver change back in the workplace. Respondents also conceded they didn’t invest significant resources in post event activities. We strongly recommend you make it as easy as possible for participants to cascade and amplify your key messages, by giving them the tools and techniques to do the job. This is where the cascade toolkit you identified through Tip 3 comes in. Simply providing copies of the slides rarely does the trick.

Tip 10. Measure and report success

Delivering a successful event often demands investment, in both time and money. So the business has a right, in our opinion, to see a return on that investment. By following Tip 1 you identified what success would look like, so now you need to go beyond a post event ‘happy’ sheet and conduct some meaningful research to measure impact; namely the extent to which you delivered for all of your stakeholders. Then be bold enough to openly report what went well, what didn’t, and what you are going to do differently as a consequence, in the immediate term and for the next event.

Riding on a wave of success

Of course the painful truth is that event professionals are highly unlikely to ever jump off the stage and crowd surf all the way back to the control desk.

But follow the 10 tips that our crowd-sourced research triggered, and it is definitely possible to ride on a wave of success.

To find out more, read the full research report here.

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