Here in the United States, we are deep in the November doldrums, which means that event season is nearly upon us. Caterers are prepping for banquet season, which starts here in a few short weeks, while wedding season officially starts during the holidays when newly engaged couples start to search for event planners. And convention season and annual meeting season both start after the new year. Some event professionals dread this time of year because it's slow (sometimes we event pros can be adrenaline junkies, and I'm as guilty as anyone) and revenues shrink a bit. But I must admit that I sort of like this short slow season because I have time to take a deep breath, focus on tasks I haven't been able to complete during the busier periods and start preparing for the coming events season. So whether your busy time is banquet season, convention season, wedding season or annual meeting season, now is the time to lay the groundwork for a successful 2014. Here are some of the things on my annual checklist for preparing for event season, and I encourage you to consider using your down time to focus on at least one of these items, because it could make your life a whole lot easier when you are in the weeds.
Boost your productivity and efficiency
Do you have some convoluted processes or old ways of doing business that you know slow you down and that can be more efficient? Of course you do, because we all do. For example, are you tracking all your leads with a Google calendar and crossed fingers, hoping that nobody falls through the cracks? The spend some of your down time moving over to a customer relationship management tool that simplifies how you and your team manage your sales funnel. Tired of the inefficiency of spreadsheets to track and share details (and the hassle of emailing them back and forth and hoping you are using the right version)? Consider switching to more efficient event management software tools. There are a thousand ways you can be more productive ... you simply need to analyze what you spend too much time working on and look for a better solution.
Research new trends
What are the trending colors of the new year (Pantone always has a great take
)? What event themes are growing in popularity (check out Special Events
)? What costs are driving up the expense of events (our 2014 event industry report
says rising food-and-beverage and venue costs)? What new technologies will event professionals be picking up this year (see the Event Manager Blog
)? Now is the time to find the answers to these trending topics and more. Your clients hire you (or your company hired you) for your inside knowledge of the events industry. And they count on you to be up-to-date on the latest industry trends and practices. So take a few hours to take the pulse of what is going on throughout the industry so you are prepared with answers to questions you know you are going to get in 2015.
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Regroup with your key vendors
Lots of things change going into a new year for many event-related businesses ... menus, price lists, inventoried items, policies, personnel, etc. That alone is a great reason to check in with your key vendors and see if they have made any changes that could affect your event planning or preparations for the coming year. However, the best reason to check in with your key vendors is to maintain your rapport and great relationships with them. Your most reliable vendors are also the biggest reasons why your events are so successful. There's the old saw that nobody is ever successful by themselves ... there is usually a large team of talented and dedicated people behind any successful endeavor or individual. And this goes double for event management, as our staff, vendors and contractors are indispensable in making our events run smoothly. So reach out to your vendors, take them out to lunch and find out what's going on in their world.
Try one new marketing tactic this year
Whether you run an event planning business or an event venue or plan big events for corporations, non-profits or higher education, you are always looking to improve your marketing campaigns. I've been in marketing for more than 20 years, and the most successful event professionals are the ones who are always trying new marketing approaches and tactics. If you talk to any astute marketing veteran, they will tell you that marketing is all about trial and error (or success). You try something and you measure it as best you can. If it works, you improve upon it and put more resources into it. If it doesn't work, you change it dramatically or drop it altogether. So if you haven't done much video marketing, focus on that this year and grow your Web traffic with video. Or try advertising on a new Web site or local magazine. Or spend more time networking at events that your target audience attends. Whatever the tactic, make sure you measure it as best you can so you can know if it worked or not.
Tweak your pitch
Is your pitch still relevant? Does it resonate with your target audience? Does it still accurately reflect the brand identity and promise of your company or events? Often we spend a lot of time upfront coming up with our brand and our unique selling proposition and then put it on auto-pilot for years to come. But the brands of your organization and events are evolving things and aren't static because they are changing as you and your audience change. So take a look at your pitch and your marketing messages and tweak them if necessary.
Incrementally raise your prices
When I suggest this to many businesspeople, they flinch, shake their head and say "That's not really possible. Our customers would rebel." But is this really true, or is this just a kneejerk reaction based on fear alone and not facts or logic? I completely understand where they are coming from because, first of all, people hate change, and second of all, people really hate higher prices. And most event professionals assume that higher prices will scare people away from attending their events or hiring them to plan events. However, every year price inflation erodes the buying power of every dollar and eats into your profits, and you must raise prices to at least keep up with rising costs. In addition, luxury brands are proof that people WILL buy more expensive things (because they assume it is better and will pay more for things they believe are better and have an air of exclusivity… lots of social psychology studies back this up). But the secret to raising prices isn't to jack them up by a large margin every 3-5 years or so. Instead, you incrementally increase your pricing/rates every year. Most customers don't notice few dollars more here and there each year, but you will notice it in your bottom line. And if you are great at what you do and your services or events are in demand, people will pay because they want the best. What tips do you have for preparing for wedding season / annual meeting season / convention season / banquet season / whatever events season it may be? Leave them in the comments below?