With travel and meeting restrictions bringing event plans to a grinding halt due to ever-evolving coronavirus concerns, production technicians, meeting managers, and training teams now find themselves with something that was previously hard to come by… TIME.
Therefore, don’t fret if you’re staring at an empty event calendar. Start planning! It’s important to keep a close eye on local and global restrictions to ensure the health and safety of attendees, but there’s a lot you can do now to be prepared for future events. Here are our top 6 reasons why it makes sense to get a jump start on planning.
Selecting Your Venue
Early planning gives you first pick of your preferred venue. More importantly, first pick of your preferred venue on your preferred date. With all the cancelled events this spring being rescheduled for later in the year, we’re seeing that hotel and venue availability for the fall is quickly filling up. Eliminate stress for yourself, stakeholders, and attendees by sourcing venues early. Whether you’re rescheduling a postponed event or planning a standard Q3/Q4 meeting, avoid trying to cram your event needs into a tight timetable. By starting to source early on, you’ll have the flexibility to tailor the contract to meet your needs, negotiate outside production provider terms, discuss hotel branding options, and customize access times and load-in and -out details. Talk with your sourcing partner about cancellation or postponement terms on new bookings. You’ll find that venues may be more flexible than in the past if you’re able to book sooner rather than later.
Planning for Your Space
Once your venue contract is signed, sealed, and delivered, you can now focus on planning for the space. Consider holding a FaceTime or conference call with your assigned conference sales manager (CSM) to discuss the details of the program in advance, walk through the space, and listen to their recommendations or suggestions for plans that work well in their venue. This extra time also allows your production team to create room diagrams, CAD drawings, and 3D stage renderings which eliminate unnecessary surprises once you arrive onsite. You can look at seating options, scenic pieces, and other elements that will elevate your attendees’ experiences at the event.
Creating Your Agenda
Knowing what your space can accommodate, you’ll now be able to schedule time with your stakeholders and meeting leads to discuss the needs of the program. Time allows you and your team to discuss and ideate on questions, such as, but certainly not limited to:
- What are our key objectives?
- What do we want our attendees to leave with?
- What are the goals for our workshops?
- What tone do we want to set from the stage?
- How can we engage our audience and increase participation?
Additionally, seeing your agenda come to life will help you identify areas for extracurricular activities such as team building functions, offsite receptions and dining events, group transportation needs, and keynote presenter opportunities. Knowing in advance about the need for such events allows you to coordinate with your destination coordinator to maximize attendees’ overall experience.
*PRO TIP: Assign a dedicated point person to own agenda changes throughout planning. Doing so will ensure version control and eliminate confusion when it comes to crunch time.
Aligning on Your Event Theme
As your agenda and program objectives are solidified, the team can focus on the overall meeting theme and message. Starting to plan early will allow you to connect with stakeholders and the leadership team on key ideas that will help your meeting brand come to life. From the tone and tagline to the colors and imagery, having a well-thought-out theme idea will empower your creative agency to design a visual identity and key messaging points that engage attendees and highlight key takeaways from the event.
Communicating with Your Presenters
With an established agenda and messaging, your presenters and session leads can develop quality content. Use this time to work one-on-one with your design and communications agency on best practices for:
- Displaying your content – ensure branding consistency with a company- or custom-branded PowerPoint template. Enhance your presentation with designed slides, supporting videos, or custom animations.
- Delivering your message – ensure message consistency and focus on the event’s selected theme and objectives.
Additionally, more time allows for pre-meeting speaker coaching sessions, virtual design meetings, and dry run rehearsals. This will leave all presenters feeling prepared, comfortable, and ready for “go time”.
Planning for Technology and Experiential Learning
And finally, you can use this time to explore new technologies and learning tools for use in your presentations and sessions. Spend time researching and selecting technologies that will enhance your program. From holograms, to video production, to immersive learning environments, to gaming platforms and virtual reality, experiential learning resonates with attendees, allows for hands-on learning, and increases your program’s ROI.
We can all agree that time is one thing we wish we had more of. Starting to plan early will reduce stress, eliminate surprises, and leave you and your team ready for the events to come. Take advantage of this time, and start preparing for your best events yet!