By Kristen Lewis, Director of Marketing, EisnerAmper LLP
When it comes to event planning, working on the program, curating an excellent attendee list, setting the scene at a venue people want to come to, choosing a buzzworthy giveaway, or preparing the ultimate trade show experience counts as the fun stuff. It’s certainly tempting to focus exclusively on these tangible aspects, the “bells and whistles” which often gain the most praise and attention. However, the most important steps you can take in preparation for a winning event are often the least glamorous.
The ultimate success of any event or sponsorship depends heavily on your team’s ability to convert the momentum into opportunities for new business and enhanced relationships. Putting together a participation plan ahead of time, and continuing implementation long after the caterers have packed up and your last guest has left, makes all the difference.
Practice growth is no spectator sport – everyone needs to play a role. By assigning tasks to team members and following up on their progress, accountability will be created. In addition, utilizing a plan creates a wide variety of ways people can add value to the event, fostering an environment where team members at all levels can participate and share in the success.
So what should a participation plan address? The elements of your plan should be unique to the event itself and encompass the preparation, implementation and follow up stages. Here are some categories to consider:
- Event planning – recruiting external and internal speakers, making connections with potential co-sponsors, topic curation
- Greeting attendees – working the registration table, answering questions
- Exhibit duties – working the booth, connecting with sponsors/exhibitors, set-up and tear-down
- Blogging – attending sessions and writing up the topics discussed
- Social media – live tweeting from the event; taking pictures for posting
- Speaker management – greeting at registration, escorting to the stage, time management, AV requests, etc.
- Networking – facilitating introductions, earmarking clients and VIPs for special attention
- Target marketing – determining 3 – 5 important contacts to connect with before, during and after the conference
- Follow-up – adding contacts to your database, connecting on social media, setting meetings, sharing content after the event
As with any plan you make, the goals and workloads assigned to team members need to be realistic. Over-planning is a legitimate concern, because if there are too many action items or too much detail, it can be ignored. Get a feeling for what is manageable, and work closely with your colleagues to make sure questions and concerns are handled in a way that encourages them to see it through. When all is said and done, be sure to thank everyone who helps out and celebrate the wins. The more successful the process, the easier it will be to engage team members in future initiatives.
Every event or sponsorship is different, but to make the most of them, a participation plan is a necessity. Whether it’s a major conference or a simple trade show sponsorship, take maximum advantage of the opportunity to involve more team members in practice development, represent the firm’s brand, and make the kind of connections that can grow your practice.
About Kristen Lewis
Kristen Lewis is the President of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and the Director of Marketing for the Philadelphia office of EisnerAmper LLP.
Kristen has been an active volunteer for AAM since 2004, serving on various committees and task forces over the years, as well as a member of the Board of Directors. As AAM’s current President, Kristen has been heavily involved over the past two years in the planning and implementation of the organization’s Vision 2020 strategic plan. In 2009, AAM honored Kristen as Volunteer of the Year at the organization's Annual Summit. She serves her local community as an employee campaign chair for the United Way of Southeastern PA. Kristen also serves on the Marketing Committee for the annual PACT Capital Conference.