Those of us at Event 360 who focus on event production have one goal in mind: creating impactful experiences for participants. Here are 10 ways to do just that in the year ahead.
1. Leverage technology.
Event professionals can employ all kinds of technology to be more efficient and provide a better product. Use Google Earth to scout sites and lay out site plans to scale. Provide GPS for staff and volunteers to navigate routes more effectively. Incorporate barcode scanners for credentialing (e.g. you can scan in participants who have printed their credentials and brought them to the event).
2. Plan surprises.
Introduce unexpected elements to create a “wow” factor at your events. This can involve something simple (offering popsicles on a hot day or hot chocolates at the end of a rainy day) or poignant (capping a multi-day event with a compelling ceremony highlighting survivors). It’s all about exceeding your participants’ expectations and making them feel like they experienced something special.
3. Plan for the unexpected.
Don’t let unplanned surprises ruin the participant experience. As part of your standard operating procedures, have a contingency plan in place for everything from bad weather (heat, cold, rain, snow) to a participant losing her backpack. That way, staff and volunteers know how to respond before — or right after — something goes wrong.
4. Strengthen community ties.
Reach out to the communities where your event takes place. Let residents know your walk will be coming right through their towns. It’s not only considerate but also a subtle way to encourage support (e.g. we’ve seen some communities line an entire block with balloons and cookies to welcome participants). Who knows? You might even convert a few locals to your cause.
5. Walk in your participants’ shoes.
Anyone who is involved in planning and executing an event should experience it firsthand. Eat your own dog food. Sign up for your own event or find one that is similar in your area. Find out what it’s like to ride that 50-mile cycling route, work as a volunteer on the check-in team or navigate a new event with 5,000 other people. The lessons you learn will only help you make next year’s event even better.
6. Make a good first impression.
Traffic flow and parking: If you don’t manage these well, participants will be irritated before the event has even begun.
7. Make a good second impression too.
Once participants have arrived, they should immediately know what to do next. Use clear, prominent signage that guides them through registration, credentialing and any other preliminary steps. Having sufficient staffing and good line management also helps. When you handle logistical items like these flawlessly, participants become fully immersed in the event experience.
8. Survey participants.
Does your organization regularly collect comments from participants after the event? If not, make it a priority — this should be standard practice for every event professional. Find out what participants did or didn’t like about the event, and then put that information to good use. Some of the best ideas we’ve implemented were inspired by participant feedback.
9. Master relationship-building 101.
Fire and police departments. Vendors. Sponsors. You should be nurturing your relationships with all these parties year round. Check in with them periodically — not just when you need something from them.
10. Kill a sacred cow (or two).
It’s easy to get into a rut with an annual event. Maybe you’ve always held it at the same site or did things in a certain order. Well, don’t be afraid to shake things up. We’ve flipped our start and ending sites, started at a new time of the day or year, and eliminated packet pick-up, all with great success.
How do you create impactful experiences for participants?
“Patrick and Sarah’s Experience Hub” blog posts will be featured monthly. Director of Event Production Sarah Coniglio and Director of Event Production Patrick Riley have many years of hands-on experience in almost every aspect of event operations and production.