As a planner, you know the events ahead in the coming year — whether it’s the big annual conference, a lecture series, or some other cornerstone of your program. At some point soon, however, it will be time to sit down with the leadership team and fill in the details.
If you are the one who makes the presentation, the information you bring can have a major impact on the experience you create for your audience. A strong pitch goes far beyond a list of thought leaders.
Of course, discussions with your executives often focus on finding the right topic and voice — and rightly so. The selection of who takes the podium and what they address are likely the most consequential decisions you will make. They affect everything from cost to the quality of the experience in the room.
But there is a great deal more to consider. Here's a list of points to address when you meet with the C-suite.
1. Address your organization’s deeper goals.
With budgets and expectations rising, savvy planners must drill down and ask some very important questions: What are our goals? And what does my organization need to address right now in order to show leadership in our industry?
For many events, the goal is obvious. At a fundraiser, for example, the goal is ticket sales and revenue. Figuring out how to show leadership in your industry, however, is far less obvious and much more specific. An organization involved in manufacturing, for instance, may need to address global trade. It may also need to provide information on environmental regulation.
Framing your decisions correctly for executives will make a successful pitch — and ultimately a successful experience for the audience. Propose something different, and it may seem off-key.
Everything will go far more smoothly if the event you have in mind harmonizes with the organization’s deeper goals.
2. Choose a theme to meet audience needs.
Take that same approach and apply it to the audience. What does your audience need to know to be successful this year?
If your organization has research that can help answer that question, such as a survey or a focus group, stir that information into your presentation. When you know what your audience wants, you can create a theme that informs your speaker lineup.
The result can be powerful.
It is hard to overstate the impact of providing vital information to an audience at a time when they need that information most. Events planned around the immediate needs of the audience will always be strong.
3. Set real metrics for success.
How do you know an event is successful? For most, it is a mix of in-the-room experience, conversations afterward, and perhaps a survey.
While most planners can get a pretty good read from these inputs, they are difficult to convey to the rest of your organization.
Before you meet with executives, create measurable — and realistic — goals that can be tracked throughout the process. Whether the goal is attendance, new memberships, earned media, or digital engagements, a shared definition of success (and agreement over how to measure and report it) will make for far smoother planning.
4. Make the ROI case for speakers.
Of course, the major discussion in any pitch will always revolve around choosing the right voice at the podium.
If you are expected to bring a short list, take the time to outline the ROI for each. This is not necessarily about cost or attributes. This is about explaining clearly what each speaker brings to your organization and the experience they create for the audience.
For example, let’s say that you work for a large company that is hoping to better align employee performance with company goals. You have selected thought leaders with military experience because they manage large numbers of people and are well in touch with motivation and morale.
Make sure that you communicate how the audience experience they create, including the stories and the lessons, directly relates to your organization. The return on investment will be how it resonates with your audience.
Communicate this clearly and the result will be a decision made on more than just name recognition and cost — and that’s almost certainly a better decision.
5. Communicate a plan for added value.
A speaker’s value extends far beyond the podium.
In some cases, they can help market events in advance and extend their utility afterward. If this isn't doable, you can use their existing work to strong effect.
Many visionaries and thought leaders publish books, write op-eds or blogs, and appear regularly on television. All of this offers opportunities to contact an audience and expose them to these materials — whether to build anticipation before an event or to remind the audience of it afterward.
For example, if you have a former secretary of state coming to address your organization, you can send out their latest TV interview to build excitement for the big day.
Smart planners don’t leave these opportunities to chance. Make a plan to harness these opportunities and weave it into your pitch.
6. Keep technology moving forward.
Audience expectations are increasing as technology makes events more efficient and more fun.
In the past, people relied on paper packets to receive information just a few years ago. Today, they download an app to access schedules, speaker bios, maps, and other data. Some apps allow attendees to create custom schedules, book personal meetings, and even receive recommendations on what to attend.
Of course, that’s just one example.
Technology is changing events in many ways, and smart planners will stay in touch with audience expectations.
Before you meet with your leadership team, determine what your organization needs to do this year — be it upgrade or overhaul. Then, make a clear and informed pitch that is focused on the audience experience and the need to stay current.
As with all of these points, a little thought and research in advance will lead to a better presentation, a better planning discussion and, ultimately, a better event.
Glen Justice is a content strategist and contributor to the WSB blog. He is the founder of Outside Voice, a custom content firm, and has been writing about advocacy in various forms for almost two decades.