Event production is a complex and challenging process, but with the right tips and strategies, you can elevate your event to the next level, and achieve your event goals while creating a memorable and engaging experience for your attendees. That all sounds great on paper, but how do we go about it in practice? That’s the main question I get asked during many of the conversations I have with established or potential clients.
And it’s a valid question, which is why when I consult with my clients, we don’t just have a conversation about the type of gear they should use for their event, instead, we pursue the WHY and WHAT before we get to the HOW.
We dive deep into strategy because while the technology and production tools that are there to support your event have the potential to make or break your event, without thought-out intentional strategy and planning, your event won’t produce an ROI or deliver on your KPIs, assuming you have set your KPIs in place.
This blog post below is part 1 of 2 and will provide you with the first three tips for next-level high-value production by providing you with the insights and expertise you need to succeed. Don’t settle for an average fundraising event or gala – let’s work together to create an exceptional and memorable event that achieves your goals and leaves a lasting impression on your attendees.
Tip 1: Set Clear Key Objectives and KPIs
Before starting any event planning or production, it’s important to set clear objectives. Without clear objectives, it’s difficult to determine the event’s purpose, budget, and target audience. This work may not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary to plan and execute a successful event. Setting clear objectives helps ensure that everyone involved in the planning process is on the same page and working towards the same goals. It also helps you measure the success of the event and identify areas for improvement in future events. Setting clear objectives is a critical first step in event planning and one that should not be overlooked.
Procrastination disguised as productivity is the biggest enemy to progress.
From a Planning POV, you need to ask yourself:
- What is the goal or desired outcome of this event?
- How much money do we want to raise?
- Who are we trying to reach?
From a Production POV, you need to ask yourself:
- What is the concept and design for the event?
- What is the content? Slides, Presentations? Videos? Entertainment? Auction?
- How many presenters? Is there an MC, Auctioneer, or Keynote speaker? Will they remain on the stage or move among the audience?
- Is the event taking place in a single space? Is the foyer or adjacent rooms used?
- Is the event needing to be streamed live or recorded?
- Who are your other partners and vendors? (because we all know, coordination and communication are key!)
Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives, you can start planning the event accordingly.
When it comes to setting KPIs to measure how effectively your nonprofit is achieving key objectives, you may be tempted to try and track as many KPIs as possible. However, it’s best to focus on the goals and initiatives you’re implementing at your nonprofit, since too much data may actually hinder your team’s progress, overwhelming them to the point that no one knows what to focus on or where to begin adjusting strategies.
Some examples of KPIs to track are related to general fundraising metrics such as cost per dollar raised, event conversation rate, matching gift rate, gifts secured, pledge fulfillment percentage, etc
Other KPIs are related to giving level metrics such as average gift size, giving capacity, and gift frequency, while other KPIs provide you with metrics for your donor relationships, such as rate, growth rate, lifetime value, number of donors by type, acquisition cost, demographic, lapsed donor rate vs churn rate. Keeping track of your engagement and marketing performance metrics is another area where having KPIs in place will serve your organization well. In this article here, you can get an idea of the type of KPIs other nonprofits have been tracking, get a clear understanding of each, and decide for yourself which ones make sense for your organization and your fundraising gala event.
Food for thought:
What are some KPIs that you’ve found helpful to track for your fundraising gala?
Tip 2: Use The Technology to Your Advantage
In today’s digital age, it’s important to leverage technology to make your events more accessible, engaging, and successful. We’ve all gotten tired of virtual fundraising galas and online auctions, but as we gather in person, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater and remember that for example, online auctions are a great way to raise funds and reach a wider audience. Many in-person fundraising galas are moving away from in-person silent auctions and instead using an online platform to streamline their fundraising efforts in the digital world.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Online auction platforms such as Auction Frogs, Max Giving, Auctria, Give Lively, One Cause, Snap! Raise, Network for Good, Givebutter, Greater Giving, Charity Auctions Today, and GiveSmart provide real-time updates, automatic bidding, and secure payment options, making the process more efficient as you organize your auctions and make them accessible to people from all over the world.
Other technology that has been widely successful during the pandemic for numerous successful virtual fundraisers, such as the auction live thermometer, closed captions, sign language interpretation, gamification through online quizzes, engaging trivia questions, the spin wheel, and wheel of names, just to mention a few, all of those can still be implemented into your in-person or hybrid fundraiser to create a dynamic and engaging event atmosphere.
Food for thought:
What technology have you used and found especially helpful for your fundraising gala?
Tip 3: Personalize the Attendee Experience
One of the most effective ways to engage your audience and make your event memorable is to personalize the experience. Before you do that, you’ve got to find out who your target audience is, which is essential for planning an event that resonates with them. You need to understand their preferences, interests, and needs, and tailor your event accordingly. A few tips on how to do that.
- Having a well-planned and engaging program can keep attendees interested and invested in the event. This includes using creative event themes, creating an engaging program by scheduling compelling keynote speakers and having a well-produced organizational video, as well as an ask video. Sprinkling throughout the program several testimonial videos showcasing impactful stories and success stories that create an emotional connection with your attendees can inspire them to support your org’s cause. Live entertainment pre- or during the event, and fundraising activities that align with your organization’s mission and goals are other ways that can enhance the program and event experience. Send out personalized invitations before the event, have personalized name tags and seating charts, and post-event send out customized thank-you notes.
- Making use of creative lighting, sound, and high-quality visuals, such as custom graphics, videos, and animations, are powerful tools for creating a dynamic and engaging event atmosphere and can enhance your event design and technical production while creating a memorable and engaging experience for attendees. Use lighting to create mood and highlight key elements of your event, such as the stage, speakers, or auction items, and use sound elements (walk-on/off music, stingers, VOG) to create excitement.
- Incorporating interactive elements, such as photo booths, social media walls and handles, and interactive displays, can create a fun and engaging atmosphere for attendees. These elements can also help increase social media engagement and reach and provide opportunities for engagement with your organization and cause beyond the event. When attendees feel like they are part of a unique and exclusive experience, they are more likely to donate generously and spread the word about your mission.
In order to do all of this, you’ve got to have a Seamless Logistics Plan, which is essential for ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event. This includes planning for all technical requirements, such as audiovisual equipment, staging, power needs, rigging, wifi, and dedicated internet. All these technical details should be considered and planned for well in advance, which not only will help your budget but also help to avoid any technical difficulties on the day of the event. Also, communication and coordination between the many vendors, AV and live-streaming partners, volunteers, and other stakeholders are essential to ensuring that everything is in place and running smoothly.
On the AV production side, your best bet to ensure all of your AV needs are met, contingencies and unexpected changes are covered, and potential failures are minimized or prevented altogether, is to work with your own AV Provider. This puts you in complete control.
Bring in your own AV partner as the technical event producer aka “your advocate” to provide technical direction and oversee the event production.
In most cases, event planners have the right to use their trusted AV partners, or a minimum bring their own Technical Event Producer to oversee all aspects of their AV technology needs. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you will be able to use your preferred vendor and bring your own team. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a venue where you are simply not able to negotiate out of using in-house AV.
You can still bring in your AV partner as a technical event producer or project manager to oversee your event. The majority of my current events bring me in as the outside AV project manager or technical event director for their event to oversee and run the entire production after we’ve had an in-depth consultation going over the event’s goals, objectives, and KPIs. While at first, you might think that this is an added expense, in many of my client’s experiences, it actually saved them money in the long run because having a technical advocate ‘on their side’ that understands the technical aspects of the event will prevent incorrect or unnecessary AV-related costs, as well as ensure that the event happens in the way you envisioned it.
If you are not able to negotiate your own AV team, this month, on March 22nd, I am hosting an MPI-sponsored talk with four other event veterans panelists with whom I will dive deeper into the Budgeting & Contracting Tips for The Current Ever-Increasing Event Pricing Landscape. Save your spot now.
Consider Virtual as an extension to your In-Person Event
The pandemic has proven how much virtual/digital events can expand your event’s reach with attendees who may not be able to attend the in-person. Consider incorporating virtual elements, such as live streaming or virtual auctions, to create a more inclusive and accessible event.
When it comes to virtual events, it’s important to keep things short, concise, and visually engaging. Attendees are likely to have shorter attention spans when attending virtual events, so it’s important to create an experience that captures their attention quickly and keeps them engaged. This can be achieved through high-quality visuals such as animations, graphics, and videos that align with the event’s theme and purpose.
On the other hand, for the in-person component of the event, it’s important to create a special and memorable experience for your attendees. This can be achieved through creative event themes, personalized invitations, and customized decor. Consider incorporating interactive elements such as photo booths, social media walls, and interactive displays to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for attendees, offering recognition and thanks to your attendees, such as displaying donor names or offering special perks for top donors. The goal is to create an immersive and inspiring experience for your attendees that they will remember long after the event is over.
For the virtual component of the event, make it short, concise, and visually engaging.
For the in-person event, make it memorable for your attendees.
If you’re looking to take your fundraising event or gala to the next level, I’m here to help! As a seasoned event production professional, I have the experience and expertise to help you create a high-value event that engages your audience and achieves your fundraising goals.
If you’d like to dive deeper into high-value production strategies for your particular event or fundraising gala, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one conversation with me. During our conversation, we can discuss your event goals, audience, and budget, and identify strategies and tactics that will help you create an unforgettable event experience.
Whether you’re looking for guidance on event design and technical production, fundraising strategies, attendee engagement, or marketing strategies, I can provide you with the insights and expertise you need to succeed. Don’t settle for an average fundraising event or gala – let’s work together to create an exceptional and memorable event that achieves your goals and leaves a lasting impression on your attendees.
Contact me today to schedule a one-on-one conversation and start planning your next-level fundraising event or gala!