Most industry research points to the fact that more than 70 percent of corporate events today are organized outside of the events department. HR often arranges its own recruiting, training, and culture-building meetings. Sales enablement is building roadshows and customer engagement events. Field marketers are using events to create brand awareness and convert their pipelines. Today’s professionals want to organize events with their own touch and unique creative expression.
In some cases, corporate event departments get visibility into these events through a mandate (we all know the limitations that come with mandates, however). A more effective strategy might be to see where an events department can support and add value, by finding out what these DIY organizers need and where their pain points are. The goal is to build an “agile” plan, so you can gradually improve your program over time and serve this sizable pool of ad-hoc event organizers. The most critical element is proper information gathering.
1. Personalization is everything. Every meeting organizer in your company has his or her own unique style, particularly the creative professionals who work in marketing and sales and don’t register their events. Rather than fear how their events will impact preferred-venue programs and compliance policies, embrace their creativity and start getting your arms around it. The first thing to do is create an engaging survey to learn about their preferences. Use a simple free survey tool like Typeform. Identify representative users across departments and ask about their business objectives around events, their event preferences, and how they want to measure ROI. Use open-ended questions and remain scientific.
2. Start with a blank slate. Employee-driven events are completely different than customer events and trade shows. For example, they may not need an event website, but instead opt for the privacy and exclusivity of nicely designed email invites. Maybe they want to host their events in Airbnb venues or restaurants instead of hotels. Perhaps they want to send out surveys or link to their existing systems like Salesforce or Eloqua. This requires slightly more in-depth interviews. Target a couple of responders and arrange interviews to dig deeper.
3. Learn how they get the job done. During the interviews, ask about the entire journey of the organizer, including budget approval, collaborating with their teams, designing the event, booking the venue, managing the guest list, sending out invites, and communicating pre- and post-event. Where do they need help? Where do they feel the most frustrated? The deeper your empathy and listening skills with these stakeholders, the more value you can create.
4. Spread your wings. To build a DIY program for the future, consider on-site events as well as off-site events. By looking at both use cases, you can consider strategies that help avoid costs by driving usage of on-site facilities and by getting more widespread adoption. It will also help you learn more about the needs in each department—from marketing and sales to HR and operations. Understanding their events in the context of “use cases” will be helpful for building program success. Supporting DIY meetings isn’t about venue bookings or invitation management; it’s about event success. Each event type is different and requires a different approach. Recruiting events are completely different than sales dinners, which are completely different than product launches. Gather data on the primary use cases that are important, and then you can begin to build a pervasive model for the future.
5. Seek out opportunity. Based on your findings, build a thesis about how you can support these events and drive value to the users, as well as deliver savings and reduce risk for the organization. Perhaps you’ll find dining events where you can start negotiating savings, or simple wins that could be achieved on event contracting, or new opportunities to drive value.
The data you gather will set the basis for your “business case” around unlocking the opportunities around DIY events. In our next post, we’ll explore what to do once you have some of this data in place, so you can begin to build a more expansive SMM program. We’ll conclude with how to coordinate the data in a way that delivers real value for the organization. Like all great endeavors, start with small but powerful steps. It’s the agile way.
Ron Shah is the founder and CEO of Bizly, an end-to-end corporate platform for self-service events. Bizly enables employees to build events in a creative and collaborative way, while providing the rules, guidance, and data that supports procurement. Prior to Bizly, Ron was a venture capitalist and an on-air contributor on CNBC.