So what goes into planning an event for such a complex sector?
By Shervorne Brown, Event Co-ordinator for Support Solutions
It is possible to create a successful event for the Social Sector by keeping it simple and being creative.
Choosing your target audience is very important, and as there is a wide range within the social sector it is important that your event topic relates well to the potential attendees. If you decide to incorporate different aspects into your event e.g. an exhibition or sponsorship opportunities, it is extremely important to ensure that you have exhibitors and sponsors relevant to your sector (no one wants to attend a Social Care Conference that is sponsored by a nightclub). If there is no relevance you may struggle to draw in delegates and indeed other sponsors or exhibitors.
When you have decided on the location, you need to choose a venue that is able to offer you a good package with a Daily Delegate Rate (DDR) that includes your refreshments and audio-visual requirements. Some venues may include parking but you normally need to pay extra for this or some venues offer to validate delegate parking passes for the day. A venue with good transport links is always a bonus for any event (delegates enjoy easy access to and from the venue). If your event requires delegates to stay overnight, ensure there are local hotels and remember to ask for a deal.
Budgeting for an event within this sector can be tricky especially with all the spending and budget cuts. I have found that events within the Social Sector are not particularly flashy and tend to be to the point with giveaways normally consisting of pens and the occasional stress ball!! Again it is useful to research what your money can buy or how you can help lower your outgoings. Offer other companies within the sector, or who serve the sector, the chance to add a publication to the delegate pack for a small cost. They could also add their own marketing tools e.g. mouse pads, pens, or other useful gifts (be careful not to overfill your delegate pack with unwanted items)
How you market your event also has a huge impact on getting the right impression across to your audience. With the explosion of Social Media including sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, its useful to take advantage of this kind of marketing, as you can reach a wide audience at the click of a button. Get your event trending on twitter by introducing a #hashtag to let your followers follow all your updates. With technology today the possibilities to reach out to people is endless, so it’s important to utilise these methods of marketing. There are still the traditional ways of advertising in magazines, newspapers, leaflets and mail-outs.
Be creative with your event by enlisting a keynote speaker who will help to capture and captivate your audience, and get your message across in order for you to meet your event goals. Choose someone who fits you theme and cause, and don’t forget – you can use this speech to entertain your audience as well as inform them! Think carefully about the best place to put this speech; beginning may set the wrong tone / middle may interrupt / end may mean people leave early and disrupt the speech half way through. You will have to consider the timing and fit it to the aim and approach of your conference.
Post-event, it is useful to keep all evaluations as minimal as possible to encourage people to fill them in. The feedback you get can help you plan your next conference! Positive and negative comments will help you improve the choices you made, but don’t take the negative comments too personally – anonymity can bring out the worst in people! You can make the feedback more interesting, with things like being entered into prize draws or raffles as an incentive. Instead of paper based evaluations why not try and use online evaluation surveys, such as surveymonkey.com?
I hope you find this information useful when planning your next Social Care event.
Please check out our Conference Page to look at the results of our most recent event!