Are you creating ‘can’t-miss’ events?

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Are you creating ‘can’t-miss’ events?

By Blair Potter | May 15, 2023

Fran Rickenbach says you must identify a “hook” if want to create a can’t-miss event.

“For example, people always want to be where their ultimate boss is—the opportunity to talk face to face in a way they never could when they are at work is often too good to miss,” says Rickenbach, CAE, IOM, president of Management Excellence Inc. “If that is your hook, make sure your key speakers don’t just come 10 minutes before they speak and walk away 10 minutes after.”

Rickenbach will be presenting “Create the Can’t-miss Event” on 24 May in The Valley powered by MPI & ICCA (Stand 9010, Hall 9), part of the robust educational opportunities for those attending IMEX in Frankfurt. Participants can expect to walk away with a better understanding of how to compose an event plan that delivers the return, illustrate the elements that create a wow and solve client challenges through great event design.

We recently spoke with Rickenbach about why many events don’t excite attendees, how to ensure your annual event isn’t stale and why she’s excited to share her message with IMEX attendees.

Why do so many events fail to excite attendees?

Planners don’t understand the underlying goal of their event. We identified empowerment and developed a theme, format and content that all addressed that goal. Then, when people come onsite, brand the venue to the hilt, from keycards when they register and signage (even in unexpected locations—we use a sign 12 feet long between the two escalators that take participants down to the meeting level). We also use a 20-second animation on the digital signs both inside the hotel and on the marquee and throughout the meeting.

What advice would you give a meeting planner whose annual event has become stale?

Blow it up! We hit bottom in 2018. We rebranded the meeting, brought in new people for the planning committee, created a new format, used information from surveys to develop new ways for our attendees to interact. We also went from secondary- or tertiary-level speakers to primary speakers. Even if the CEO can’t come to your meeting, arranging for a three-minute video of a key CEO talking directly to the participants about why they are so important makes a huge impact.

Learn much more about what to expect at IMEX in Frankfurt. The wide variety of Inspiration Hub topics includes resilience, crisis management, building sustainable business and much more.

We have been steadily growing our event since 2019. Stop thinking about each event as a “one-off” and think of it as one step in a continuum. You won’t turn around a failing meeting in one year but sparking word of mouth that your event is the one your target audience should attend will help grow your event. Here’s what a chief administrative officer of a key company in our space said: “In the 20 years I have attended nephrology/dialysis conferences, the NANT Conference has provided me with more memorable sessions than the rest.”

Be clear with your exhibitors and sponsors about what you are trying to accomplish—that is, increase the traffic in the exhibit hall, bring the right people to the meeting who have the authority and responsibility to buy their product and services. Our exhibitors have voluntarily raised their fees so we could offer more food events in the hall, increasing their exposure to the participants.

Why are you excited about sharing your message with IMEX attendees?

Our membership base is only 4,000 and our live participation this year hit 500—and we do it on a proverbial shoestring. How we turned our conference around and generated a 425% increase in attendance and a 300% increase in sponsorship support has elements that any meeting planner can take to apply to their event, no matter how small. My first year at IMEX I was amazed at the size of the meetings people are representing—but this meeting size is really the bread and butter of the events industry.



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Blair Potter

Blair Potter is director of media operations for MPI. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).