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Five Ws and an H!

So you are hosting an event? GREAT! You have a budget, venue, menus, A/V and entertainment ideas. You have contacts with transportation companies, caterers, décor and graphics companies. You have timelines, spreadsheets, checklists, post-it notes. You are ready to plan!

WAIT! Not so fast…back-up, back-up. Further…further…

Before you do anything, you need to ensure the event you design is built to achieve your goals. Or else, why do it?

Earlier this year, Kinsley Meetings introduced you to the Event Design concept. Event Designing is a step-by-step planning method that incorporates a strategic mindset when making event planning decisions. During each step of the process, the event design process requires you to ask yourself: “does this align with my goals.” Kinsley Meeting Architects excel in walking their clients through this process and building successful events worldwide.

In the simplest of terms, Event Designing is defining your 5W1Hs: “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Why” and “How”. However, in the Event Design process, we shake up the order a bit: “Who”, “Why”, “What”, “When”, “Where” and “How”.

1. The first step in the Event Design is figuring out: Who cares?

In the very beginning you need to determine who your stakeholders are: those individuals/groups impacted by the event. Stakeholders are both internal and external. Internal stakeholders include your boss or board of directors (the conference/meeting hosts), colleagues, and perhaps most important – your finance guru. External stakeholders are your attendees, vendors (hotel, A/V, entertainment) and the community impacted by the event.

2. The next crucial step is to determine: “Why they care?”

- Your board tells you they want to host an educational conference to help members of the industry stay up to speed on current events. GREAT! But industry members get their news and information online and don’t like to travel.

- Your attendees say they want to network to help grow their business. GREAT! But your boss wants to keep the meeting short and doesn’t have the budget for a networking reception or breaks.

Through Event Design, you define why your stakeholders care about the conference. And you take the time to write down the “whys” to see where interests align and where they differ. Writing down the why’s may seem tedious – but it is critical because it can help everyone in the planning process get in synch with end state objectives. Your stakeholders’ interests then become the cornerstone for each decision moving forward. When interests differ, it is important to do a cost benefit analysis during your planning. This analysis will help infuse confidence in difficult decisions. In some cases, the internal stakeholders’ interest will take precedence. In others, your external stakeholders’ interests rise to the top. In the best cases, there is a happy mix of the two.

3. Now you can figure out: “What the heck am I going to do?”

Once you’ve defined your stakeholders’ interests, you can determine what type of event to host to achieve those goals. This can be an educational conference, a party, an onsite meeting, an offsite retreat, a dinner, a breakfast, an expo or symposium. The possibilities in the event world are limitless, but the format for your conference must align with your stakeholders’ objectives:

  • Motivating employees? Be sure to wine and dine attendees! Host a party, distribute awards, hire great entertainment!

  • Enhancing industry networks? Create a conference w/ speakers that appeal to all aspects of the industry (suppliers and buyers), maximize break times and opportunities for attendees to mingle with each other.

4. Determining the fourth “W” is your next step: “When am I going to do this?”

Figuring out when to hold your event involves taking into consideration several things. First your stakeholders’ schedule. Retailers don’t take vacations during the holidays; farmers won’t travel during the harvest. It is imperative to understand major events that impact your attendees’ schedule – or you may be hosting a meeting for one – you!

Next, you need to take into account your competition. This means not considering not only other conferences that may be taking place near yours, but other things vying for your stakeholders’ attention/time. Die-hard football fans know NEVER to plan a wedding during the playoffs.

Find a pocket of time that fills in a lull to drive attendance.

5. The last “W” is your final step before breaking out those checklists: “Where are we going?”

Often time the “where” selection is driven by budget considerations:

  • Want to go somewhere sunny and warm in the middle of winter? Guess what? So does everyone else and you can expect to pay a premium! But this impact to your budget may be offset by a boost in attendance driven by selecting a popular location.

  • Conversely, if you score a great deal at a remote destination, you may have to build in more days onsite if it is difficult to get travel to/from. You may also lose attendees who find it difficult or time consuming to get to that destination.

Here again, it is important to go back to your “whys”, your event cornerstones --- why are you holding the event in the first place. If your purpose is for industry networking, attendance is crucial and budgets may have to be stretched to get the best location possible. If your purpose is to educate masses, selecting easily accessible locations is imperative.

Once you’ve answered the 5Ws of Event Design, you can now whip out your timelines, checklists and contacts and start to tackle the 1H - “How”.

Planning before you plan is a key to building an incredible event from the ground up. Answering the 5Ws up front provides the glue that ties the event planning decisions together and can lead to success in the long run.

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