The answers to these questions won’t surprise you; the failure of many event organisers to apply them probably will. Networking is one of Wilmington’s key capabilities, and the essential elements of success feature in every one of our events.
Cultivate communities with shared interests
Leah Darbyshire, Head of Events and Books at ARK Group, put it very simply: “Know your audience. Cultivate communities with shared interests, and run events that address those interests.”
Leah’s advice makes perfect sense. Most business professionals rate their immediate peers as a valuable source of knowledge and advice; what isn’t always to hand is a forum for accessing those resources in a hurry. In 2014, ARK Group established the Legal Compliance Association (LCA), a forum for practitioners working with compliance and risk management in legal services businesses. The UK Legal Services Board welcomed the initiative, acknowledging the value of “exchanging ideas, sharing best practice and learning from each other.”
Play an active part in your communities; if you want to drive the discussion and attract people to your events, you need to be setting the agenda. An organisation like the LCA won’t manage itself – it requires commitment both from the ‘sponsor’ and from within the community. But, says Leah, “an active community is a known, motivated audience for a well-targeted event.”
For a great example, look no further than ARK Group’s 12th Annual Conference on Anti-Money Laundering Compliance for Law Firms, an LCA event. Delegates travelled from across the UK to hear high-profile, authoritative speakers tackle the tough issues of a challenging sector.
Deliver expert content that satisfies current needs
Effective community managers are intimately familiar with the topics that stimulate the most active discussions. Developing agendas that address these topics and engaging highly regarded expert speakers to deliver key sessions are key steps to generate interest within the community. The reputation of the community itself is a valuable tool for attracting the most sought-after speakers – a virtuous circle to delight any event manager.
“Our keynote conferences, the two RISE Summits, draw on the reputation earned by RISE (Resource Initiative and Society for Education), a community established by FRA; it’s the first national association totally dedicated to healthcare professionals facing the growing challenges of accountable care and healthcare reform. In a single community, we bring together senior people from all healthcare industry sectors.
“The calibre of the RISE membership allows us to attract the very best speakers for our flagship events; typically, we engage leading experts who speak authoritatively on current and trending topics that impact on our members every day of the week.
“Bringing so many RISE members together at a single venue also guarantees a good outcome for those wishing to build strong peer-group networks. For many, it’s as important as the expert content itself.”
Make it simple for people to participate
Felicity Beale, Conference and Marketing Manager at Mercia Group, agrees with her colleagues. The final piece of the jigsaw, according to Felicity, is to eliminate anything that makes it more difficult for delegates to sign up, show up and participate. Having a motivated audience won’t guarantee a top-notch sign-up rate – it has to be easy on all levels.
Says Felicity: “Once would-be delegates decide to go ahead, we make it easy for them to complete all the arrangements they need. This starts with the choice of venue – which must be convenient for those travelling on the day as well as those coming from further afield. For those looking to attract overseas delegates, accommodation options are also a big factor; providing a one-stop shop is a big plus.
“It’s essential to have a highly efficient, easy-access booking process that’s simple to use, backed by first-class administration; remember to retain a paper-based option as an alternative for clients who aren’t tech-savvy. Once delegates arrive, organisation, both from the venue and from the organisers, must be flawless. People commit their valuable time with the intention of optimising their overall experience; nobody wants to remember an event because the venue wasn’t up to scratch.”
The outcome … delighted delegates
Felicity emphasised the importance of following up after an event. Delegate satisfaction with Wilmington events is always high; keeping it that way and building it even further requires professionalism and persistence. Eliciting feedback, she says, is a vital first step – finding out what you didn’t do well is a must if you expect to address any shortcomings in future.
Measures of success? Keep your eye on repeat booking rates and subscription renewals, and remember that word-of-mouth recommendation is one of your most successful sales channels. Will you be at our next event?