When you embark on special events for your organization, whether it is fundraising, customer appreciation, or even a winery pick-up party, you should utilize best-in-breed strategic planning. Oh, come on Constrained Gourmet – it’s just a party! Right?! Well, yes – but don’t you have a goal? If you don’t, you should.
I believe that all success starts with a good strategy. Even what you might think is a simple special event should have a strategy, supporting goals, budget, resource plan and, most importantly, differentiators. These are common elements in business planning that should extend to special events.
How to plan special events
There are always other competitors fighting for the same dollar – whether you are a business, a non profit, a winery or a special events planner. I was at a wine pick-up party with friends recently and I couldn’t believe how disconnected the event was from the buyer profile. The music was blaring, the wines were way too far from the food, and the entertainment was not right for the genre. I guessed that the event was planned by millennials, yet the patrons were all older than their parents (think about who can afford $125 bottles of wine!). It’s knowing the demographics of your audience and what they want, not what you want. If this winery utilized standard marketing demographic analysis, they would have realized that this was not the right strategy.
In the world of special events, it is the one who produces an experience, rather than an event, that wins. Special events are costly, so it is essential that a strategy is aligned with the experience that you wish to create. We have also moved into the era of interactivity. Most people who go to an event with a standard dinner, no matter how nice and elegant, consider that boring. We want to connect with others in a meaningful way. We want to learn about the organization hosting. We want to meet other like-minded people. We yearn for soulful collaboration.
These are trends in special events that you should consider:
- Location, location, location. I think we’re all done with the boring hotel ballroom. Think about cool but elegant locations in industrial settings with chandeliers or outdoors.
- Environmental stewardship. More and more event participants care deeply about the environment. They notice overuse of throwaways and the dying plastic straw.
- Technology. Artificial intelligence and chatbots allow you to connect with your audience in a different way and collect data to personalize your interactions.
- Centerpieces. First, they are real. Second, they are natural. Greens, branches, mini olive trees. And, you can give them away as part of your event.
- Specialty Drinks. No one, and I really mean no one, wants to drink cheap airline wine. Wine Spectator throws an entire party for vintners based on magnums of wine. Very cool concept. Spend the time to seek out great wines that pair perfectly with your menu. Look for up and coming winemakers – they might even give you some for free for the publicity.
- Different seating options. When you are forced to sit for hours at a table next to someone you don’t like, you are less likely to think positively about the event. That can translate to less fundraising. Here in wine country, we’ve seen flex seating for some time. Provide lots of tables and let people move about. Especially if you have an incredible and varied buffet, this totally works.
- Make the event an experience. I still remember the dinner at Versace’s house in South Beach Miami where Tyler Florence cooked for all of us and Trefethen brought wines from their cellar. That’s an experience, not just a special event.
- Social media. Events that cater to this trend will win – Eventbrite research found that nearly two-thirds (74%) of adults under 35 attend live events to express who they are and that social media is a key part of this expression. More than half (53%) of millennials have attended events so that they have something to share on social media.
- Virtual reality. This isn’t just interesting anymore – it’s in marketing budgets now. Events can use virtual reality to blur the line between online and offline worlds. The goal is to make your brand experience deeper for your participant.
- Value proposition. Are you giving your participants value? If you don’t and someone else does, they’ll go there instead. Think about your buyer persona and what they want.
- Facilitation. The World Café is a very cool concept. Small groups move between crafted questions designed to inspire intellectual discussion. At the end, harvesting promotes sharing of insights and results. This is useful for many types of events.
- Know your target audience. This is Marketing 101, but please don’t subject an older audience to a millennial experience and vice versa. Use the demographics that you have just like your marketing team. Use the buyer persona to understand what your target audience wants from this event.
- Hyper-local. Whatever city you are in, look to add hyper-local food, chefs, wine and even hiking, biking, walking tours to your event.
The Constrained Gourmet special events services focus on elements that I use in my consulting business – strategy, goals, planning and huge amounts of creativity! But I like to think that I harness creativity by working with your team on a thoughtful and successful unique event.
Contact me to obtain a quote for special events services for your next important function!