When taking a multi-dimensional approach to event planning, consider shaking things up, flipping events on their heads and rethinking the traditional ways
In our event-planning business, we approach events by looking at the finale first. We ask, “What is the last thing people will remember once the curtain closes and lights go on? What is the magic that people will feel once they leave the venue and go back to their lives? How will we leave an emotional impact that will make them want to return and support our event and client?” We are always looking for synergistic ways to give back and to build our partners’ business. It is also paramount for us to only do business with clients who share our core values.
We try to be different. Take fundraising events, for example, in which we incorporate a full-blown stage show with a twist. For The Sara Riel Foundation, we envisioned an event with an a cappella group performing in a high-energy stage show with a completely unexpected finale. All of the artists had finished their performances and had received their applause. When it went quiet, a single performer stood up at a front table in a glittering silver dress. As the spotlight found her, she sang an a cappella version of Madonna’s Like a Prayer. The singer had been part of the audience only a moment earlier, seated with the other guests throughout the dinner, and they sat in disbelief trying to determine what was happening. Her vocals and presence in that moment is still talked about today. Then, she walked on to the stage and was joined by the a cappella group. The crowd was on its feet. The lights came up and out walked all of the other performers, with the addition of some extra members from local choirs, delivering the well-known chorus as the entire audience joined in. There was an intentional relationship thread created throughout the event that came together in one incredible moment, binding all of the performers, vendors and suppliers together. It taught us that when you create a relationship between all those involved, it will create life after the event. And, it began by crafting the finale and planning backwards to ensure it came to life.
EACH EVENT STARTS WITH A NARRATIVE
Another example of a signature fundraiser, Band Together in support of Jocelyn House Hospice, was created by first understanding the charity partner’s main role. Once that was established, we looked to what we know best – entertainment. We tied in a song that we feel best explains what the hospice does. The song helped create the narrative. The goal is to have everyone understand the overall theme and spirit of the event so that all
artists, speakers and performers will “feel” the theme. The first year, we chose Songs Of The Beatles – I Want To Hold Your Hand. The interpretation of this fundraiser could have been a tribute to the Beatles by local artists, but the vision was more than that. The performers were asked to partner with other local artist to deliver their interpretation of the Beatle’s songs, while considering the theme. The finale was having all who participated deliver a heartfelt version of I Want To Hold Your Hand.
BRANDING INFLUENCES THE NARRATIVE
Create more excitement for the name of the event than the norm. Many fundraisers title events with the organization name + “Gala” or “Fundraiser.” Instead of going with the obvious, we work with our creative partners to create an original concept that is developed into an iconic graphic that will become the brand of the event. This, plus understanding the audience, helps us achieve the goal of building a strong narrative.
EMOTION ADDS DEPTH
This year, the Band Together theme is Motown, R&B, Soul – I’ll Be There. We have carefully researched to choose the right speakers and performers for a memorable event. We look at things like, “Will they be able to make an emotional connection with the audience? Do they have a natural connection with the charity partner?” The planner and the performers really need to “get” the audience for whom they are performing. It’s important to ensure that they know the narrative, understand it and shape their speeches and performances to connect with the audience and leave a lasting impact. When this happens, everyone wins.
INCLUDE FUN AS A CRITICAL DIMENSION
Work need not be dull. When our team gets together, it has to start with fun. We listen to music, watch videos, look through images, throw ideas around and play with concepts. We explore everything that is suggested and like to have a representative of each facet of the event at the table. The How we plan is as important as the What and the Why. Our team members bring diverse backgrounds in a variety of fields. It has taken a lot of time and care to build the kind of synchronicity we currently enjoy.
BE THE BIGGEST FAN OF YOUR OWN EVENTS
The planner and the entire team have to be all in. Once you are excited, others will be excited. This flows right into our objective for their clients. Make the long-term business goals of your partners, talent and everyone who has a stake in your event, important. These critical understandings help create the magic and energy. Success and relationships with guests and clients come through the support of one another. It’s one thing to have a relationship with a client, it’s another to be able to provide support.
Find speakers who know their own narrative and truly understand their own brand. What a speaker has available on their website or through social media messages helps influence the search. The more they have, the better. For the most part, we already have the narrative for the event before we begin the speaker search. We then look to find the right fit. There is the odd time we come across a dynamic speaker and build the narrative around them. This doesn’t happen unless the speaker already has amazing marketing and a great brand for the niche they have carved out for themselves.
BRANDING AND MARKETING
Speakers are the main reason guests are coming to the event. Speakers frequently ask, “How should I market myself better to the event planner?” They need to position themselves to be discovered for their area of expertise and they must stay relevant. Keeping up with social media is absolutely essential. They must align themselves around the issues about which they speak and continue to communicate the message through Twitter, blogs, Facebook and other social media even when they are not speaking. They must become the go-to expert who’s interviewed on the evening news. When searching for an expert on a specific topic, we look for someone with a high level of integrity. When they aren’t speaking, what are they doing?
BE RELEVANT ALL THE TIME
Relevance is the life beyond the event. It is critical to have a connection to the message not only before and after the event, but all the time. Live your message and it becomes the conversation after the conversation. Connect with people all the time and be an impactful, passionate voice when speaking about what is important to you. Be sure to know what’s going on in your neighbourhood, city, country or the world, and speak out, particularly on how it applies to your subject matter. This will not only add a whole other dimension to any event, but will also add another voice and dimension to the world – truly the life beyond the event.
Angie Lamirande is a partner at POP Sports & Entertainment. She is a passionate event planner who breathes her vision, passion and integrity into each and every event. www.popsportsent.com
Appeared in Speaking of Impact, Summer 2014 Edition