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Apple Expo: Lessons Learned

It’s often the difficult and disappointing experiences that allow us to fully appreciate a job well done. Having attended the first year of the Apple Expo, below are some key learnings specifically related to event management.

12 tips for good event management

  1. Ensure all advertising, web, and printed materials are consistent. If the website posted 6 months prior to the event uses terminology such as “seminar”, ensure this continues through printed brochures and name tags—don’t suddenly switch to “workshop”. Consider using an editor to ensure pieces are consistent.
  2. Your event should provide what is advertised. If your event indicates that it will meet certain objectives, ensure it does so. When an event is advertised as covering certain topics but the actual event in fact does not, participants leave feeling confused, unfulfilled, and disappointed. Ensure your event objectives are clear and are met.
  3. Target your specific audience. Instead of trying to draw a wide range of people to an event, target your audience to ensure the intended people get your message and do not leave disappointed. IT personnel have much different needs to graphic designers or iPhone users. If your event does target a wide audience, go through the various vendors and speaking topics carefully to make certain participants will not be disappointed.
  4. Either minimize or maximize welcome kits. In our society, concern for the environment is paramount. Consider making your event “green”, minimizing printed materials in welcome kits. If you are giving out welcome bags, ensure they are reusable cloth bags, and that they come with practicalities such as a note pad/booklet and pen for participants to take notes (this was not provided at Apple Expo). For high-tech events, consider using vibrating coasters or send reminders to participants’ mobile devices to that remind participants that it is time to attend their pre-registered seminar. For networking events, you may want to provide business card holders or some other special gift to make the occasion memorable. Whichever route you choose to go, if you’re not providing useful tools for the participants, don’t provide anything at all.
  5. Ensure the location of the event is suitable. You may require a welcome area with room to facilitate a large amount of people, or an area that is a certain shape to funnel traffic through. Ensure there are washroom facilities nearby and that they are clearly visible. Finally, if refreshments are served, ensure this area is located near the event entrance and not pushed off to the side so that guests may still feel part of the event and continue their discussions with colleagues.
  6. Hold talks, seminars, or workshops within the advertised timeframe of the event. This sounds simple enough, but was not executed at the Apple Expo. Don’t start seminars prior to the event or, for obvious reasons, your speaker may end up presenting to empty seats. If seminars must occur prior to an event start time due to time or facility constraints, be sure to notify all attendees of this change at least 1 or 2 days prior to the event.
  7. If your events requires pre-registration for seminars or workshops, notify attendees of the seminars they have been awarded. If a website indicates pre-registration but the attendance of the seminars at the event is on a first-come, first-served basis, there is no point to pre-registration. Simply having a clear plan for the entire event from advertising to rollout should rectify the situation.
  8. Ensure communication is clear. If seminars have been cancelled or if topics, locations, and times have changed, indicate this with clear signage in the welcome area. Participants may be overwhelmed or distracted as they take the event in, so have staff draw attention to these changes as they welcome participants.
  9. Make sure map layouts of the event are correct. If participants enter an event hall through a north door, be sure the map indicates this. For smaller events, participants still may be able to find their way around, but for events with multiple rooms or for larger events, a false map simply defeats the purpose.
  10. Provide ample seating. Seminars may be informal, being marked off with curtains  and a section of chairs or may be held in a separate classroom setting. Whatever the style, ensure that there are enough seats for many attendees so that guests feel welcome and do not have to stand or feel that they have to miss out on a given seminar. It’s better to have more seats than not enough.
  11. Make sure seminar attendees can hear. Noise levels make it difficult for seminar/plenary session attendees to hear. Ensure that either a sound-proofed room is provided or that microphones, speakers, and other audiovisual needs are provided. This will ensure your attendees hear the seminar, speakers can give their presentations comfortably, and speaking events start on time.
  12. Follow up your event with either a survey or request for comments during the event or within a few days of the event. This not only indicates that you value participants’ experiences, but that you are interested in meeting your target audience’s needs. If you leave the follow-up too long, participants will already have forgotten the experience.

Have I missed anything? What are your experiences with event management—good or bad? If you have any further tips, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.