From the August 2010 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

August 1, 2010

Planning Perfect Events

A step-by-step guide.

Author's Note: A perfect plan for a perfect event includes invitations, checklists, confirmation scripts, and much much more ... far more than I can include in this article. You can find models of these at www.billgood.com/perfectevents. Free, from me to you.

Virtually every financial advisor will produce events, sooner or later, many or few.
Some will be poorly planned, poorly executed or both. This will lead some to think, "Seminars (or whatever) don't work anymore" -- which is emphatically not true. Well-planned, well-produced events work all the time.

Poorly planned and poorly run events will, in turn, be poorly attended which, in turn, will generate poor word of mouth. Perfectly planned and produced events create buzz, which builds toward your next event. Perfect planning makes perfect events.

Perfect Events Start with a Perfect Plan

The event-planning process involves perhaps a half-dozen checklists, a set of job descriptions, a budget and a timeline. Yes, it will take you a few hours the first time you do it. As you get better, it takes less time. Finally, you will get to the point where you have one or more events "in the can." To produce one, you tell your staff, "I want a golf outing Friday afternoon the 5th." Your job then is to show up and present, or preside over the event.

The reason for stressing perfect is that one overlooked detail can ruin an otherwise perfect event. Suppose the chairs are not comfortable. During a break, one or two people may comment on it. A few others chime in and agree. These little drops of acid burn holes in an otherwise perfect event, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of your guests -- all because you didn't send someone to the meeting room to check out the chairs, the lighting, the sound system, etc. This otherwise perfect event is OK, but an OK event does not generate the word of mouth and referrals you seek.

Or consider a loud noise during the event in an adjacent meeting room. This happened to me at an event my company produced at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The room next to mine was filled with gospel singers who were having a great, foot-stomping time. Their event may have been perfect. Mine was not, because I failed to find out who was in the adjacent room.

No matter who your guests are, you want to produce a memorable experience. It's that experience that alone determines how many follow-up appointments you will set, and how many referrals you receive. You will only produce a great experience if you nail all the tiny details. That's why you need a perfect plan.

What is a Perfect Plan?

Your perfect plan must take at least eight categories of activity into account. In summary, they are:

o The Goal

In business, in life, or even with something as small as a single event, the person without a goal will wind up somewhere. Without a goal and a plan, you will not enjoy your final destination.

Here's my goal for a seminar I rolled out in July. Produce a two-day seminar that kick-starts the prospecting effort by showing the participants proven strategies, and a proven way to implement these strategies.

Here's a possible goal for your event: Produce a client educational seminar so precisely targeted to known client interests that at least half the clients attending will bring a guest when asked.

o Communications Plan

To have a perfect event, you need great content. Content is king. Without an informative and entertaining seminar, don't think for a second that your guests will set an appointment. They most certainly will not.

The starting point for developing content is actually the invitation. Writing the invitation forces you to conceive the details of the event itself. Once you are done with the invitation, you should have a very clear idea of what your event will be.

While each event may differ, here are the bare-bones pieces that must be included in your communications plan:

  • Invitation
  • Written Confirmation
  • Telephone Confirmation
  • Thanks for Attending
  • Sorry You Couldn't Make It (For No-Shows)

o The Production Plan

The core of the production plan is a series of checklists:

Facilities Checklist: There are actually three of these: The Facilities Inspection Checklist is the one you use for selecting a venue for your event. (Would you have remembered to check on the route from the parking lot to determine if it's well lit?)

Then there is the Meeting Room Size Calculator. It's critical you get a room not too big, and not too small. This will help you.

Finally, the Facilities Checklist is where you record your facilities contacts, notes on who you speak to about different issues, and a place to record the materials you will take with you.

Communications Checklist: Here you figure out the letters, e-mails, and phone calls that people will receive. These include the invitation, confirmation, reminder messages, thanks for attending, and no-show messages, plus one or more confirmation calls.

Attendee Processing Checklist: This details database changes necessary to track attendees. It should include the design of a Record Update Form to capture enrollment information and communicate it to the computer operator.

Materials Checklist: Here you are going to identify all the materials each attendee will receive.

"Day Of" Checklist: This covers supplies you need to gather, and specifies who does what, when.

Post-Seminar Processing: These are the detailed instructions on how to update the record of each person who attends, and those who do not show up. It should specify which message to send for attendees and no-shows.

o Timeline

The timeline is your master checklist. It lays out what must be done in date order, and assigns each task to someone. I make my timelines from bottom up. (See Chart 1.)

o Post Production

A Post-Production Checklist for a seminar might look like Chart 2.

Evaluation

In a well-run office, the staff meets once a week. I recommend a 30-day and 60-day evaluation of event profitability. These evaluations can happen at weekly staff meetings. When you review the event, you can check off who closed, who didn't, and who is still in the pipeline. This gives you a huge clue as to whether you should produce a similar event.

The Planning Process

In my experience, it is highly unlikely that you will start with a goal and then proceed step-by-step. You most certainly should start with the goal you want to achieve. But I find, when planning, that I bounce from Communications Plan to Production Plan to Post-Production and back to a refinement in the goal. It's not linear. But it's fun. And I hope your next event is a perfect event because you did a perfect plan.

Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much. Visitwww.billgood.com. His seminar program, "No More Pies!" helps advisors manage ETF portfolios by using technical analysis. Visit www.nomorepies.net.

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