Taking Your ‘Show’ on the Road?February 1, 2015
11 Keys to a Successful Multilocation Event
By Mary MacGregor
February 1, 2015
Taking Your ‘Show’ on the Road?
11 Keys to a Successful Multilocation Event
Mary MacGregor is Corporate Vice President – Event Solutions for BI WORLDWIDE (BIW), responsible for all operating areas of the BIW Event Solutions Group including purchasing, design, delivery, group air, individual incentive travel, onsite operations, technology, communications and merchandise. She leads a team of more than 175 industry professionals who deliver memorable experiences and measurable results for their customers. www.BIWORLDWIDE.com, info@BIWORLDWIDE.com
Taking your “show” on the road can be a fantastic way to communicate your message, engage your audience, get real-time feedback, conduct interactive training or put your product right into the hands of your very best prospects. It also can be a time-consuming, logistical nightmare that can drain your budget without generating the results you need.
Making sure your multilocation event or road show meets your objectives requires careful forethought, extensive and highly detailed planning, tremendous flexibility, creative thinking and access to a broad network of subcontractors and suppliers.
If you’ve never done a multilocation event before, it can be hard to grasp how complex they can be. In almost all cases, your best strategy is to hire an experienced event planning agency to help you. Their first-hand knowledge and extensive network of technology, logistics, transportation, hotel, facility and destination partners will be invaluable.
“If you’ve never done a multilocation event before, it can be hard to grasp how complex they can be.”
Whether you decide to take your show on the road yourself or work with an agency, here are 11 insights from BI Worldwide, an industry leader in event planning, to keep in mind to make sure your show goes on!
- Analyze your objectives to determine if a multilocation road show is the best fit for you. Road shows are a good way to create more face time and close interaction with your audience. They are excellent when you need to do hands-on training or get prospects to test-drive your products. Road shows can give regional management a chance to personalize their local messages. They can mean less travel time/out-of-office time for attendees and offer attendees flexibility to choose dates and locations that meet their schedules.
The engagement benefits are outstanding with smaller audiences, but they come with two critical caveats: time and money. Road shows almost always cost more than a single location, large audience event. And, they often can require substantially more upfront planning time.
If time and budget are extremely tight, a road show is probably not your best choice.
- Plan MUCH further ahead than you normally would for a single location event. Finding appropriate space at the specific locations you want according to the exact calendar flow you hope for is easier the further out you plan. The tighter your time lines, the more flexible you’ll need to be.
- Define your event needs before setting the schedule and selecting venues. Outline your event content ASAP as it will determine the types of venues you need, technology required, setup and tear-down time, and travel time between events. It’s simply not possible to have hands-on demos of heavy-duty equipment in many hotel parking lots, often due to zoning ordinances. And, no matter what the weather, you can’t get two semi-trailer trucks of demonstration equipment from Denver to Baltimore in 16 hours.
- Evaluate your event sites carefully. Suitability has to take precedence over price. The venues must be able to accommodate your needs and be convenient for your participants to access. While smaller, out-of-the-way locations can be less costly than larger convention centers or full-service hotels, they may not be able to provide the support services you will need to demonstrate product, make and maintain high-speed technology connections, provide suitable food and beverage service, have enough or the right kind of hotel rooms, or give you access to subcontractors for drayage, set construction and tear down and other specialized needs. If participants need to fly to your event, larger airports provide more frequent service and often offer better airfares.
- Visit calendars before picking the event dates based on your audience profile. Industry trade shows, holidays and school schedules can impact whether participants choose to attend. For example, if your industry traditionally has a major trade show in early October that your desired participants attend, you’ll want to avoid scheduling too close to those dates.
- Communicate clearly, frequently and use a wide range of media. Publish your event calendar or issue invitations as soon as your dates and locations are confirmed. Be clear about registration deadlines and your policies for switching dates or attending locations outside of the participant’s region. Use all types of media: print (via USPS), email, social media, text messaging and voice calls. Send reminders and request a response. You want to make sure that you aren’t holding spots for people who won’t attend while turning down registration requests from others due to lack of space.
- Put your brand front and center. Your brand is more than your logo; it’s your organization’s personality. At every turn, consider ways to infuse each touchpoint with the intangible factors that differentiate your brand (tone, values, beliefs, etc.). When vetting creative partners, make sure that candidates have extensive experience utilizing brand identities to unify all aspects of execution, from graphic and/or scenic design to written copy to interactive elements. By creating an inviting, cohesive, personal experience for your audience, you have an opportunity to clearly and holistically distinguish yourself from the competition in an emotionally compelling way.
- Make the experience fun and memorable. No doubt, you have a clear objective for putting on a road show, but you also need to view the event through the eyes of your attendees. Give them a reason to stay involved by wrapping your subject matter into something that will immerse them into your brand AND be enjoyable. Attendees who have fun will most certainly appreciate your efforts, but more important, they will reach a deeper level of engagement! Offering an entertaining experience will come back to you twofold: You’ll get immediate results via increased engagement, and your attendees will be eager to attend future events.
- Make technology your partner. Whenever possible, give participants the ability to download materials onto their phones, tablets and laptops or access the material digitally when they return to their offices. Invite them to participate digitally and share their experience with friends and colleagues via relevant social media platforms. Consider creative ways to incentivize digital engagement through giveaways, recognition and/or competition.
- Staff up. You will need more staff for a multilocation event. Everything will take longer as you need to set up and tear down at every location. You may need bigger advance teams based on the complexity of your event. You may even need to have “two of everything” so one show can be moving and setting up while another is operating.
- Evaluate and adapt as you go. Define clear goals and create tools to measure the success of those goals at each and every location. Ongoing feedback gives you the ability to make needed changes before the next location. This keeps you from dealing with the same challenges at every event.
The opportunity to maximize audience engagement is a strong reason to use a multilocation strategy to communicate your message and achieve positive results. Making sure you have the time to plan and having the budget resources to execute well are the keys to your success. Doing it yourself is possible, but working with an experienced event planning agency will likely save you from making costly missteps that can mean the difference between a blockbuster road show and a tedious over-the-road trip to nowhere. C&IT