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Special Events 101

Among the most powerful of all marketing communications strategies, special events offer the opportunity to bring together large audiences and the presentation of substantial volumes of information. Whether your message is best communicated through a campaign, a celebratory occasion (a concert, party or awards presentation), a product kickoff, trade show or sales meeting, a special event can yield numerous benefits. These include, but are not limited to: increased visibility and strengthened identity for your organization, product or cause—or what our French friends call "éclat, élan and espirit de corps" for your workforce or membership. Whether you decide to host a reception, symposium or commemoration, or "roll out" a long-term publicity or development program, a well conceived, produced and documented event can make all the difference for your organization.

Depending on your objectives, a special event can range from an intimate reception for 20 accompanied by food and a brief visual presentation to a multi-day conference for thousands featuring panels, awards, banquets and vendor presentations. We first learned our craft in the special events area through eight years in legitimate theater, including two seasons backstage with a large producer of touring musical comedies, and three years in trade show marketing and presentation with the largest producer of computer industry conferences in the world.

No matter what the intention or scope of a special event, almost all are characterized by their complexity, cost and effort. Invariably, time is the most precious commodity in creating any special event, varying in value proportionate to the amount of time available prior to the event. The closer to the day of production or launch, the more precious time becomes. If your marketing or development plans include a special event, we suggest a minimum of six months or more be allocated for planning prior to the actual date of production.

Since 1968 we have conceived and produced numerous special events for industrial clients, including:

  • Product launches
  • Sales Meetings
  • Trade shows

and for not-for-profit clients, including:

  • Arts festivals
  • Commemorative celebrations
  • Campaigns and rallies
  • Symposia

Special Events—The nuts and bolts

While your organizational culture, products and services may be directed to the highest purpose, the best analogy we can make in providing an overview of the special events process is "show business." The reason for this is simple: In creating a special event, one always seeks to exert maximum impact on the target audience, using multiple initiatives and media resources to leverage investment (which can be substantial) and gain maximum "return." For this reason, it is useful to think of the event in terms of its three primary components: pre-event, event and post event.

The pre-event "build" includes but is not limited to the planning which ensures the event will provide the maximum "carry," as a means to fulfilling your goals and intentions. While logistics are an important part of this process, they in no way should subordinate the critical relationship between organizational charter, policy and current marketing strategy. In determining the themes, event components and outcomes of a special event, the critical relationship between who you are, the nature of your intentions and the value you seek to create must always be observed.

Such ideas will inform the process through which we undertake pre-event publicity and attendee/audience development on your behalf, right down to the content of the brochures, posters, press releases and invitations that promote the proceedings.

The event itself should be couched to convey a clear style and ambiance. Thus settings, surroundings and accoutrements must all combine to convey specific messaging. You might host a reception in a four star hotel or on a factory floor. A university hall might be the perfect place to stage a symposium or a hotel sufficient to gather your audience. Art, flowers, food, occasional music or a special after-event tour might add a jot of color to your event. Fireworks are always memorable.

Given the amount of thought, time, effort and money required to stage any special event, the quality and compactness of information, the main conveyor of your ideas and intentions, must always be well conceived and presented. Seminars, panel discussions, printed materials, and mixed media—all are important. Even more so are the authority and presence of your keynote speakers and presenters. Inspiration always commands a premium and is well worth the cost. Useful knowledge, especially for professional and cause-related audiences, runs a close second.

By documenting a special event you benefit twice, first to whatever extent the media will recognize the significance of your efforts and propagate your messages to a wider audience. Identifying, engaging and developing proper media is important, but so is literal documenting, including tape and video recording. Depending on the nature of your event and attending audience, a video (especially one that benefits from post-event editing) can help enormously in leveraging the themes and messages that led you to stage your event in the first place.

See examples in our portfolio of special events.

Copyright 2002, 2014 The Golden Group.
The Golden Group is a marketing, creative and Web services firm located in the Metrowest area of Greater Boston, Massachusetts.

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