Effectively Communicating And Implementing Changes To Your Event
Posted in Spotlights on May 23, 2018
There are times when you need to make changes to how your event is structured for a number of reasons - cost being the biggest factor. However, these changes might not always be well received by the public. It’s a challenge to change the price, but it’s also a challenge to change how your event is run, or the venue, or any other number of important alterations while still maintaining trust. At the same time, there are positive changes you can make to your event that will easily bring in more revenue. This topic is not a perfect science, so what I’ve done is I’ve taken quotes and research from organizers and marketers that have made significant changes in their event’s structure. In addition, I’ve included some of our own observations and experiences as well.
The Golden Rule Of Event Changes
How well your change will be received is directly proportional to how selfish and divergent from your event’s brand the change is perceived as. If your event alteration is purely a cost-cutting move with no value to the public (or even now has negative value), you cannot expect that you will maintain trust with the public.
Note that some changes, of course, are necessary - cost-cutting may be one of them, but it comes down to effective, consistent communication.
Consider Your Staff’s Input and Needs
A consistently overlooked part of any sort of change is the staff. In reality, your staff is going to be the most affected by any change. They are the ones who will be on the ground, checking in attendees, setting up event systems, and engaging with attendees on social media. It might sound great to extend your event 3 hours to fit in more speakers, but it could be hard for volunteers. When you first determine that you are going to be making changes to your event, speak with your staff and get them on board. Listen to their feedback, and where applicable, apply it.
Consider Your Event (and Brand’s) Positioning
One difficulty in getting a consistent message across for most events is the fact that your brand has perception behind it. For example, if you’re a free event that’s easy for families to attend, then charging for tickets is something that may not go over well. If you want to expand your event, make sure that the choices make sense within the context of how your event is perceived.
Consider Customer Feedback From Previous Events
Most event changes are made with previous customer feedback in mind. This isn’t always possible, especially if it’s an entirely new change. However, if you are looking at making updates, it would be a good idea to reach out to attendees and see what they think about the new features at your event. You don’t need to ask everyone, but by reaching out, you can get a good sense of how well-received your alterations will be.
Consider Where You’ll Need To Update Your Info Online
Think about all of the places that your event is present on. Normally it’s social media and a website. When you start putting your plan into motion, get a list of all sites that your event is present on. These days, your event is going to also be located on event listing sites. By having a full list, you can rapidly deploy any and all changes.
Engaging The Attendees
When you make major or even minor, changes to your event, you are going to encounter those who dislike the change. Obviously, you can’t please everyone all the time - but you can help them understand why you did what you did. If you have really taken the other steps to heart and implemented them, engaging with disappointed attendees will be much easier. Be prepared - have someone available to staff all social media, especially ones with quick reply times such as Facebook and Twitter. Encourage discussion because there is nothing worse than a page that deletes dissenting material. Take all of this time as an opportunity to communicate and educate.
Methods of Communication For New Changes
- Email. Email should be your first line of communication because you will be interacting with past attendees. Past attendees will have many different thoughts about updates as opposed to newcomers to your event. When crafting messaging, it is critical that you get in contact with them first about updates.
- Social Media. Social media should be another place where you can write longer content about why you’re making updates to your event.
- Press Releases. Although they’re considered “old fashioned” by some, press releases still hold a lot of weight. If your event is local, get some contacts at local papers to get them to run an article about changes. If your city has a subreddit, consider sharing the article there too.
- Website. Your website should have the story of your brand, and a section with updates and press.
The upcoming Austin Ice Cream Festival made a big change this year. In former years, it was one festival from 10am to 10pm. Now, it is two “separate” festivals - one earlier in the day targeted towards families, and one at night targeted towards adults. This was a big change, and so it needed to be communicated effectively to previous attendees as well as to new ones that would show up.
“We arrived at this change by looking at the data we got from consumers from there. We saw that there were two distinct camps - on one hand, we had loads of families, with kids over 8. On the other hand, we had a high proportion of 20-40-year-olds without kids, that wanted a different experience. We have a plan for each of the channels that we use. We have 2 different sets of messages: we have an email list from the year before, and we use email to segment and send folks info that is pertinent to them. We rely heavily on social media channels and website. We start with a look and feel in our email, that’s directed towards the different audiences. The brand is the same, but there are 2 different views, one for each of the audiences. We use the website and social media for deeper views and explanations. Email is for more direct communication.” - Abby Sandlin, Forefront Networks
The Food Network & Cooking Channel’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival also made some major changes to increase its audience. They chose to publish a list of the biggest changes on Bizbash. One particular item of note is that they have added new sections such as a section for vegetarian and vegan eating. In addition, they also added more seated dinners. One small quote of significance is here: “According to the founder, guests want smaller, more intimate experiences. “The more we keep adding, the more we sell out, even though people say I’m crazy,” Schrager says.” In addition, they also brought back barbecue to the menu, which had been removed in previous years. Note how this falls in line with brand/event positioning.
You can read the article on Bizbash here - 5 Changes to Look for at This Year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Making changes and updates to your event is never easy, but communicating them can help attendees understand why. These changes can even be well-received, depending on how much work you have put in. Remember the golden rule of keeping it brand consistent. Always discuss upcoming changes with your staff, consider where your event is present online, and prepare to engage in discourse on social media and via email. Your website and social media are powerful tools for creating a story, and email is a powerful method of first interaction.