It seems the most basic of all rules: Know what the goal of the meeting or event is before you plan it. Yet, I’ve seen two spectacular events recently that had a great “wow” factor, yet fell flat because the planners seemed to ignore what their clients were trying to achieve.
The first was an opening night reception at a fancy golf clubhouse. The organization promoted it as having a “Caddyshack” theme. But the event production company thought that would be déclassé, considering the venue’s world-class reputation. Instead of playing off the movie’s themes, the company chose a mini-golf theme, creating fantastic themed areas evoking world landmarks. The effect was elegant, showy and fun, but ultimately, it left the attendees confused. No one seemed to get that the numbered posts by each area were supposed to evoke a mini-golf course. When it was explained to them, they still didn’t understand what it had to do with the advertised theme. And those who did heed the invitation’s request to dress up like a “Caddyshack” character looked as hopelessly out of place as the Bill Murray impersonator who was hired to entertain.
The second instance was another opening night reception, this one for a group of travel writers. Traditionally, the first evening is all about reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen all year, or for several years. So being able to talk and network is the ultimate goal. The secondary goal is to host the event in a venue that displays a facet of the city travel writers may write about.
What the host committee put together was a spectacular fashion show in the middle of a mall. It attracted a huge crowd of shoppers who hung over the balconies to get a better look and had some interesting clothes and great musical entertainment. But the format discouraged interaction, and the setting/situation was not something the travel writers felt they could write about. Plus, I heard some grumbling about how much money must have been spent on producing such an event.
So planners, listen to your clients. Know what the goals are. It doesn’t matter how big your “wow” factor is if you’re off target.