Congratulations! You have been assigned the task of putting together this year’s Annual Appreciation event for your company or organization. Before you think that it’s no big deal since you plan to copy last year’s Program Agenda and hope for the best, you might consider putting yourself in the place of a typical program attendee.
Have you attended a formal awards banquet luncheon or dinner recently? Was the experience positive (glad you attended, interesting and memorable) or negative (a torturous boring waste of your time, with long-winded speakers and an unprofessional execution)? Or have you found yourself at a sparsely attended fundraising event and considered for a moment, just sending in a contribution and coming up with some excuse for not attending?
Attending a poorly executed program or event can make you not only regret coming to the event but can also discourage you from attending next year’s. Attendees are not the only ones impacted. An event that is not up to par, speaks volumes about the organization itself. A Board of Directors that allows a mediocre program (or worse) to showcase its organization sends a message about how the organization itself is operating within. Sponsors, on the other hand, are happy to tie their brand with an organization and will continue to do so as long as it puts them in a positive light.
Still think that it’s no big deal? Think again. Fact is, at the end of the day, whether your program was a success or a flop, it will reflect on you, the person responsible for putting it all together. You will take the heat or be the hero. Rather than getting anxious about it, see this as your opportunity to make your event something that everyone will remember in a positive light, one that brings the quality, professionalism and organization to a new level, and generates interest for next year’s event in terms of sponsorships and attendance.
Here are three critical areas to consider that can help you create a successful formal event:
1) Substance and quality is everything. Remember, your program will only be as good as the people on the program’s lineup. Period. All the hoopla surrounding all the presenters is just icing on the cake. Whether your event has one high level speaker as the highlight of your event or whether you have several presenters in the program, make sure that they are interesting, relevant, exciting people, famous or even controversial. Use them as enticements or draws that make people want to come to your event. As a backdrop, use topical programs, fun entertainment and great food that says this is a “can’t miss event”. You should shoot high, but based on your budget, you may need a plan “B” or “C”, etc. You get what you pay for still goes but negotiations savvy goes a long way here. Start looking early.
2) A well thought-out, strategically planned program is critical. A well thought-out agenda strategically places the sequence of the speakers for maximum effect and allocates the speaking times accordingly, as it helps the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee) tightly weave the entire program, with choreography, proper etiquette and protocol around the lectern. When planning the event, always keep in mind the purpose, goal and direction of the program so that it never looses focus and maintains the excitement of the audience. This will be the surest way of putting your organization’s best foot forward in front of your sponsors and attendees.
3) Acquire an experienced Emcee. A great Emcee enhances any program by keeping the various elements and dynamics of the program on track and controls the tone of the event, keeping it positive and energized. Experience with a great track record speaks volumes. Choose an Emcee carefully, besides being energetic, positive and upbeat, he/she should be familiar with proper lectern etiquette and protocol. Remember, just because the person may be a well known individual, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a good Emcee. Equally important, just because he or she is the Chair of the event, doesn’t automatically qualify them as the best person for the Emcee’s job.
The combination of great content, a well thought-out plan, coupled with an experienced Emcee who can pull it all together, are the elements needed for creating a professional, well-executed Program for your luncheon, banquet or dinner. The quality results you get will be closely tied to your efforts made towards quality, professionalism and substance that you have put into it. People will notice you and your team’s hard work, as it manifests in a smoothly run, dynamic and professional event that leaves attendees looking forward to next year’s event. It will reflect well on your organization, sponsors and yourself, building everyone’s credibility and brand. Isn’t your event worth the effort?
Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development