Sustainable vs. Perishable Events. And Not the Green Kind

A sustainable event is one in which attendees remain connected to the organizer, sponsors and fellow conference-goers from the opening reception to closing remarks. General session seats are filled early, and facilitated networking events are as well attended as impromptu groups forming in hotel lobby bars.

You might not think the definition of perishable can possibly describe a corporate event but think of it in these terms: something perishable is likely to rot or decay because the core of the event lacks sustenance and nourishment to keep the energy alive.

Sustainability starts with one very important question. “Why should attendees care about attending this event?”

If you don’t know why they should care, then you cannot expect them to react. If gaining affinity is the only objective, a few A-list speakers and cool activations might do the trick. But at the end of the day if your goal is to inspire action, attendees need something more. The “why” is really your event mission statement and the strategy, creative and execution should benchmark against your mission statement.

Does your event story have a beginning, middle and end?

A sustainable event has a fundamental through-line, an overarching message that helps create a compelling narrative and a lasting impact. The through-line is your theme and should almost always incorporate a call to action. Event marketers as story-tellers should emotionally link the presenters and content to the audience. If there is a hole in the story, it is likely your event will become perishable.

If attendees can see themselves in your story the bond strengthens.

Appealing to many but speaking to one might seem like a daunting undertaking in pre-event marketing intelligence. Utilizing surveys at registration with general questions about interests, hobbies, industry pain points, causes they support, etc. will reveal general commonalities that can be addressed throughout the event to create personal connections.

Is conscious branding consistent throughout your event?

An audience that sees clarity on the brand’s identity, core values, beliefs and a commitment to transformation inspires action. Whether the audience is internal or external to your brand, using the event as a platform to create “evangelists” can be powerful. However, when a company’s message is contradicted in the details, a savvy audience will doubt your integrity. Communicating efforts to reduce the brand’s carbon footprint and offering Styrofoam cups, or a commitment to go paperless and handing out swag bags filled with notebooks and paper coupons puts holes in the story.

Attendees experiencing both physical and emotional interactions will forge stronger impressions about the brand.

When designing your event, think about how many of the senses are triggered. The more senses engaged, the likelihood you will create memories that attached to your brand. Besides triggering the senses, tap into the power of emanation through humor, compassion and empathy. If you can make someone smile or shed a tear, you know that it is the start of an emotional bond.

Is social currency considered in your event plan?

It is far more effective for attendees to socially share their event experiences than it is for the organizer to bombard social media with self-promotion. Attendees LOVE exclusivity and if they receive insights at your event they can’t find anywhere else, watch your messaging spread like wildfire.

Changing the physical and mental scenery throughout the event creates more energy.

Have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day”? We saw Bill Murray’s diminishing sense of purpose after waking up to the same scenery and experiences day-after-day. You might think comparing attendees at a conference is a stretch but consider how they feel sitting two mornings in general session, and although the speakers might change, the cold ballroom hasn’t. Every break-out room is usually laid out the same and your vendor showcase is a sea of booths. Event teams who can think out of the box on how to push out content in unconventional ways support a sustainable event.

Is the shared content in danger of being irrelevant within months of the event?

This tip shouldn’t require too much elaboration. Adding visionary speakers to the roster can lessen the risk of content being perishable.

Shared experiences have a stronger impact on how attendees view their individual experiences.

Events are evolving into community ecosystems where shared experiences are becoming an integral part of the attendee journey. Organizers need to think deeper, though, on designing group activations that have sustenance versus novelty. We’ve seen a lot of giant Jenga and life-size foosball tournaments and although the fun factor is undeniable, there is something so powerful about bringing attendees together to work on solutions.

Sustainable events have four things in common – immersion, inclusion, inspiration and intimacy. Which one is yours?

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