By Channing Gatewood
This post is part of the Conference Series, where 2016 PRSSA National Conference attendees from AU PRSSA reflect on the lessons they learned from the conference’s events and panels. Click here for more conference blogs.
While at first glance, an “Event Planning” session at a public relations conference may seem out of place, Trinity Productions’ Theo Tyson emphasized the importance of the event planning skill within the communications realm. She proved that it is extremely applicable to the field because while PR does entail writing and speaking, it also requires research, detail, professionalism, and preparedness– all of which are essential skills to planning a successful and worthwhile event. Tyson is the founder and experimental events director of trinity productions, a firm that works in event production and experimental strategy. She particularly shared her experience working with and organizing fashion events, and handling all of the expected and unexpected occurrences with professionalism, power, and grace. For the discussion, Tyson broke down the primary elements of a successful event into themes, which included the following:
Every event should “make sense.” Tyson stresses that while many events can parade fancy attire and lavish cocktails, only memorable events give attendees the feeling that something was accomplished by the event’s end. Tyson reminds that during any event, planners are asking people for their time, and it is important to think of this when deciding what type of event activities will be worth the time of many people.
Be sure you are sending the right messages. Be aware of what different colors, symbols, and phrases could imply when promoting the event, and choose wisely.
Always keep an eye on the budget. Tyson recognizes that event planners have big dreams and big visions for their final production. However, she reminds us that realistically, a budget must be central to the event-planning process. Establishing a budget also puts the grandeur and purpose of the event into perspective: does this event necessitate a huge budget, and can the ultimate goal and effect be accomplished without extra bells and whistles?
Entertain the guest from the very beginning. An event is an experience from beginning to end, and Tyson stresses the significance of little details that maximize every minute of the experience. These details can may include greeters in the event parking lot/front doors, entertainment acts, or exemplary service by staff throughout the event. These little things build up to the greatness of the attendee’s satisfaction level following the event.
Be diligent and vigilant with all details. As an extension of the previous point, guests will be satisfied from beginning to end if event planners are detailed and considerate of any circumstance that may occur. Tyson uses examples of keeping a first-aid kit on deck, along with other minor but potentially significant items, like safety pins, tissues, and glue. Tysons says to not think of “if” something will happen, but “when” it happens, and plan accordingly to ensure that event staff are prepared for any situation.
Create a social media plan. Tyson admits can in this day in age, social media cannot be ignored during any event (or even communications campaign). She notes that if we, as planners, do not direct the social media, others will do it for us. However, with the establishment of social media “organizers” such as hashtags and event pages, attendees have a pre-established platform to work with when engaging with social media during, before, and after the event.
“One size does not fit all”: Know who, when, where your guests are. In conclusion, Tyson reminds us that while the tactics she shares are applicable to many events, every event cannot be handled identically, but individually and uniquely to cater to the attendees’ wants and needs. She also clarifies that “knowing” your attendees is not accomplished by gathering data of each person’s age and ethnicity. An audience is more than age and ethnic background, and similar to public relations communicators, event planners must perform detailed research of the audiences they are serve to be sure that they are not stereotyping or completely ignoring a necessary component of the event.
Tyson ends with the following: “You cannot have a perfect event, but you can create a perfect experience.” Event planning, much like public relations, is about knowing, catering to, and connecting with the audience, and if the audience leaves the with something they did not have before– whether that be a new perspective, new knowledge, or a fresh feeling of happiness and satisfaction, then the event has been successful.