Free food or intellectual stimulation? We are missing the point of business events


Founder and chief executive of presentation studio Emma Bannister. Source: Supplied.

Having attended, hosted and organised events of all shapes and sizes, I think there is one unifying problem undermining every bad event: a lack of purpose.

Each year, event season becomes busier. Events are the new billboards, and branding departments across the country are popularising events as the newest promotion method. This isn’t a bad tactic — after all, 80% of marketing experts believe live events are a key strategy. What’s more, 62% of senior marketers plan to increase the budget and frequency of their events.

And yet, if you’ve been to an event in the last few years, the likelihood of you walking away feeling completely satisfied with your experience is probably fairly low. Sure, there was free food, the venue was decent and the list of speakers impressive. You may have even felt like you enjoyed the event, only to walk away later not really remembering much of the content that was shared.

Why? A lack of clear purpose.

Events have moved from clearly targeted interactions for a specific purpose to a source of entertainment. The catering budget has gone up but the strategic planning has gone down. This is not to say the overall presentation of an event isn’t important. Food, networking opportunities, venue and collateral add to the overall success of an event. But, without substance, these additions serve no purpose.

Re-finding purpose

In order to solve this problem, we need to go back to basics. When we begin to plan an event, we need to ask ourselves three questions.

  1. What is the purpose of this event?
  2. What is the theme and message of this event?
  3. How will we portray these elements throughout the event?

An event will only make a lasting impact for a brand if it has a decisive message and remains on theme. This message can serve as the skeleton for an event — the centrepiece on which your speaker selection, presentations, entertainment and structure hang.

Did you know, 90% of event planners say that their biggest challenge is reaching new attendees? In a crowded market, where there are hundreds of event invites to respond to, your event must have a clear purpose in order to win over new attendees. If your event doesn’t appear to be a worthwhile investment for attendees, it won’t matter how good your snack bar is.

Deliver your message

Only 10% of event planners spend the majority of their budget on speakers. This is as compared to the 34% who spend the majority of their budget on catering and the 36% who spend it on the venue. Is it any wonder then, many of the events we attend seem unfocused?

Presentations are the primary way an event delivers your message. While marketing collateral, aesthetic choices and other elements of the event contribute to the overall theme, your speakers are the clearest instrument for delivering key messages.

Whether your event has one keynote speaker or a range of presentations, each one should align with your message. If you attend an event marketed as a ‘environmental business strategy’ event, and one of the speakers seems to spend most of their presentation talking about creative marketing, you might be confused. You are certainly less likely to remember the overall message of the event. Investing in the right speakers, and giving them the right material to speak to, is essential for creating events with a purpose.

Events matter

Events are undoubtedly important. They are rated as the most important tool for B2B content marketing. Events are one of the top three sources buyers turn to when researching a brand’s products and services. 

So, why are we wasting them?

Our brands have so much potential to create impactful, meaningful events which bring real value to our audiences. And yet, so many events are unfocused and lacking in purpose.

Don’t waste your event season. Focus on defining your purpose and delivering your message. That’s the revolution our audiences are waiting for!

NOW READ: Networking is key to better funding outcomes for female entrepreneurs

NOW READ: Ditch the notes and smile: Eight hacks to keep your presentations interesting


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