Special events represent an excellent strategy for direct, personal engagement and relationship building, whether an official groundbreaking, a community grand opening with public tours, a public open house, a topical seminar or a fundraiser. A well-planned and executed event offers a uniquely personalized means of building positive awareness, highlighting your key benefits and advantages first-hand, answering important questions, and bonding with those who are your potential customers, donors and influencers.
In our increasingly impersonal world of electronic communications, public events provide a perfect opportunity for good old-fashioned human interaction. You can meet your customers face-to-face and provide them with the chance to experience all the wonderful “deliverables” they can only read about on your website or in a brochure.
Your community’s major events provide your key constituents with the opportunity to meet your staff, hear your stories, ask their questions and develop potentially valuable relationships. In a sense, these types of activities offer the public a chance to “kick the tires” and sample the very essence of your brand.
Adrienne Mansfield Straub, SageAge Strategies’ Director of Client Services, Traditional & Online Media, has guided many senior living communities across the country to highly successful results. Says Adrienne, “With the right planning, organization and execution, public events can be a very powerful tool for inspiring trust and confidence in your community — two factors that continue to be vital to making the sale. This is especially true among today’s increasingly discerning and savvy adult children who want to feel assured about the decisions being made for their mom or dad.”
“Of particular importance is the planning and organization stage of your event. This is where all successful events begin. Without the appropriate level of planning and forethought, your public event can be at serious risk of failure – and a source of public embarrassment that reflects poorly on your organization. Quite simply, major events such as groundbreakings and grand openings can involve a seemingly endless number of important details – all of which have to occur flawlessly on event day.”
The Key to Success Is in the Planning
You’ve heard the saying, “The devil is in the details,” and nowhere is this more applicable – and important – than in event planning. As some unfortunate senior living communities have found out the hard way, one small error can result in a major embarrassment on event day.
To eliminate the potential pitfalls and to take the first steps toward a successful public event, be sure to follow these basic guidelines:
- Provide regular and consistent communication with all key stakeholders who are involved, such as elected officials, major donors, community leaders, local dignitaries, economic development and zoning officials (e.g. planned conference calls or meetings to discuss timelines, expectations, participation, etc.), to ensure that all parties buy in to the high-level aspects of the planned event.
- Exercise due diligence to ensure that all appropriate individuals receive invitations (e.g. investors, management company partners, construction team, politicians/legislators, etc.). Make a list and check it – (at least) – twice!
- Set clear and steadfast expectations for vendors (e.g. arrival time, deliverables, attire, interaction with guests).
- Create a practical program agenda that is respectful of people’s time, (i.e. your VIPs and your audience). You don’t want any attendees getting up and leaving because you’ve exhausted their patience and tolerance for sitting. Briefer is better, especially if you’ve planned some time for refreshments and socializing after the formal program has concluded.
- Make sure that your President, Executive Director or appropriate board member(s) give their approval to the program early in the process before you proceed on the myriad details.
Effective Preparation and Implementation Can Assure Your Plan’s Success
Aside from having a well-conceived event plan, the execution of the plan’s details is the second, most important element.
- Conduct a pre-event walkthrough with your participants when possible so there is no confusion as to who is doing what, when – and for how long. Also conduct a pre-event walk through with vendors.
- Plan from a Murphy’s Law perspective (if something can go wrong, it will). Have an indoor alternate plan for the outdoor patio leg of the event. Make sure you know where extra outlets ‘storage spaces’ etc. are. Have a backup microphone just in case.
- Be Flexible – successful events require a large amount of “going with the flow,” where things still fall perfectly into place, though not necessarily exactly how you planned them. A big secret: in most cases, no one will notice but you.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Program
There are also some basic principles or best practices to follow to achieve a successful event. For example:
- Adhere to established protocol – The most important people go first (e.g. US senator before State Senator, Mayor before Council Representative, etc.)
- Keep it Short – The average attention span is 14 minutes, so that’s three speakers at four to five minutes each! This can be a challenge with major public figures, but the truth is that you are doing them and the audience a favor.
- Instead of verbally thanking all of your key partners by name and potentially missing one, create a highly visible “Thank You Board” to be displayed at the event, which all stakeholders have approved to ensure that no feathers are ruffled.
Optimizing Your Media Coverage
Taigen Thorne, Director of Public Relations and Media for SageAge Strategies, adds, “Achieving positive media coverage for your community should also be a primary goal of your major event’s strategy. When it comes to media coverage, you get out what you put into it! While you can never fully control the story that ends up on the evening news or on the front page of your local newspaper, there are key steps you can take to increase the chances of generating the kind of positive publicity you’re seeking.” For example:
- Send advance press kits out to local media that includes a descriptive press release, full program details including the agenda, a pertinent fact sheet and brief bios on the chief program participants.
- Call each contact on your media list to confirm their receipt of the kit and extend a personal invitation. On the day before or on the day of the event, call any media who have confirmed to remind them of the event, and call any who did not confirm to invite them again.
- Provide opportunities for the media to interview key individuals after the formal program. A separate media area that offers more privacy and less background noise is often a good idea.
- Send a post-event press kit with actual photos and applicable quotes included to make the media’s job easier, as well as to reinforce the information that is most valuable to your event’s PR and marketing goals. For example, State Senator Smith stated, “This beautiful new facility will provide our community with the very latest in evidence-based memory care services. It offers loved ones best-practice therapies designed to fully engage individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and provide them with greater happiness and a better quality of life.” You can also coach your dignitaries by providing them with sample quotes they can use if they are not that familiar with the subject matter.
Special Event Planning and Implementation Services
Whether your public event is designed for 50 or 500 people, SageAge Strategies has experienced planners and specialists who can make your event a memorable one.
The SageAge Team has worked closely with many client-partners to create the most successful special events possible. Our experts assist in organizing every detail of your event, including invitations, venues, food, logistics and more.
- Idea generation
- Theme creation
- Program and agenda development
- Invitations and RSVP management
- Marketing and publicity
- Speech and script writing
- Gifts and promotional giveaways
- On-site logistical support
We Would Love to Hear from You!
If you have comments or questions on the value of public events as a means of directly engaging area prospects, families and sources of influence, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any experiences you’ve had in these areas, whether they have been successful or not. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Results-Based Event Planning and PR Help Your Community Grow
If you’re looking for assistance in developing an effective event strategy and public relations initiative, our award-winning team excels in this area. By working with SageAge, you can plan, implement and publicize a major event that effectively engages your key constituents and enhances the reputation of your brand in your competitive market and the media.
SageAge Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth and marketing organization that operates exclusively in the senior living industry and was recently named one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. For more information, please call or e-mail Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext. 202 / firstname.lastname@example.org.