Navigating the unpredictable world of event planning

Navigating the unpredictable world of event planning

Successfully navigating the intricacies of event planning requires a combination of experience, strategic decision-making, and even a touch of the ‘dark arts.’ Before you even start, you should plan what you’re going to be doing – and what is out of scope, how you’re doing it and how all your communications will connect. Check out our ‘Everything Event Model’ on the resources page to start your scoping journey.

In this blog post, we will explore the dynamic nature of event management and share valuable tips for those getting started in events – once you’ve made your own version of the ‘Everything Event Model’ of course.

Embrace the unknown

When embarking on your first (or even 21st) event planning journey, it’s crucial to embrace the unknown and be prepared for unexpected twists and turns. To show you just how unpredictable event planning can be, let’s dive into my experience with the annual Smith Family Challenge, first organised by Challengeworks in 2016.

The team aimed to revitalise the event by introducing new elements, enhancing the participant experience, and increasing fundraising efforts. While the event turned out to be really successful, there were a few surprises along the way – including the Unexpected Goanna Invasion.

The Smith Family Challenge glamping campsite in the Blue Mountains happened to have a high population of these feisty reptiles. The caterers ended up having to dedicate an entire person just to chase away the goannas from the kitchen tent.

Despite the unanticipated wildlife encounter, the event went on smoothly – but that was a whole resource dedicated just to fending off wildlife.

On another occasion the event site became unusable due to extreme flooding 10 days prior to the event – in this case a number of options were weighed with our client and a short postponement was determined to be the best course of action. Good honest communication to participants ensured that the reorganised event achieved record fundraising results and continued momentum of the event brand.

Have a guide for your trade-off decisions

Successful event planning involves striking a delicate balance between achieving your objectives and understanding your target audience. You will have to be continually making trade-offs. So, it’s important when you’re going into your event that you’re clear on three things that will help you guide your decision-making:

1. Define your one primary target outcome. Before diving into the event planning process, it is essential to define the target outcomes clearly. Are you primarily focused on fundraising, brand exposure, or creating a memorable experience for participants? There will often be elements of each but what is the top priority? By ranking these objectives, you can keep sense checking that your decision-making aligns with the primary goal of the event.

2. Understand Your Audience. Knowing your audience is key to delivering an exceptional event experience. ChallengeWorks tailors our events to specific target demographics. For instance, for one event, a female-focused charity event supporting critically ill newborns, we want to bring fun and an emphasis on completing the challenge together and celebrating friends made along the way. For another we put more emphasis on creating a rugged, outdoor, competitive event targeted towards a male audience. It’s kind of sad it’s this gendered, but we always make sure the events are catering to the many, with adaptations to please the few.

By identifying the primary audience and catering to their preferences, you can boost participant satisfaction and engagement – leaving people wanting more!

3. Dream big but know your minimum viable product. It is far easier to scale up a small event that has surprised you, than scale down one that is struggling for momentum. Your minimum viable product is the most basic version of your event that you are comfortable to deliver.

At ChallengeWorks we’ve found that scalable event concepts work wonders. Take a fun run, for example. Start basic with a nice event brand, a memorable running rote, and smooth registration process. As registrations grow, we start to build the event centre scale by adding attractions like a kids’ jumping castle or a post-event massage service. At higher numbers, we throw in t-shirts. We’re all about getting the best bang for buck.

Knowing what participants value is also key. In challenge events, people go crazy for medals. Surprisingly, medals cost a fraction of what t-shirts do. So, we give them what they love without breaking the bank.

Bottom line: we adapt and improve. No rigid plans here. Feedback is gold. You can manage risk while enhancing the event experience.

To wrap up, great event management is about great planning, adaptability and understanding your audience. And if you don’t have the time for all of that, you can always just give us a call to manage some or all of it for you.

Good luck out there, and watch out for goannas.

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