Lost in the Lights: The Importance of Purpose in Event Planning

I recently had the opportunity to attend an industry event, in fact, I attend quite a few. This event was for a hotel group with about 15 upscale properties and was hosted at one of Chicago’s great nightclubs. Now, I am familiar with this hotel group; we use a number of their properties on a kind-of regular basis, and I have sited just about all of them. Great places………..every last one of them. This event planning was not so great.

We were excited to attend the event because this hotel group had a property that we were interested in for a client event and one of our planners really wanted to take 5 minutes and chat with someone. Nothing in-depth, just a “hey, what are your thoughts on…….”.

We walked in up the stairs and into the club. Nothing. Not one booth, table or even sign stating that the hotel group was hosting the event. No reps, no announcements, no nothin.

The food was awful, and the servers were clueless. The question to the server was, “oh, what is this?”. Answer (And I am not kidding) “Chicken” (and the conversation ended there). No napkin to go with the “chicken” either. This may have been funny on any other day, but the person I was with was allergic to nuts. Before I digress………

The evening was progressing (Awesome bartenders pouring great drinks and one of the best local cover bands in Chicago), and I expected to hear an announcement about the hotel group, new plans, new properties, etc….Nope, Nothing.

We left shaking our heads. We never spoke to anyone from the properties. Had I been invited to a party, COOL….. I like parties, I really like parties. But this was not just a party, I was invited to an industry event where I wanted to learn about the host, meet a rep or two. I was totally willing to be “sold”. This was a complete waste of money (not mine, they even covered the valet parking).

What were they thinking? It goes directly to one point…… HAVE BETTER EVENTS. This was not a matter of budget; they threw big cash at this event and spared no expense on the drinks, venue and “chicken”.

They had an opportunity to grab me, teach me and basically have me ready to sign a contract over a cocktail (remember, we were there to specifically ask a question or two about a particular hotel) and they blew it. Think before you do this type of thing, being swanky and cool is OK, but be swanky and cool while pitching your product. You invited me, you are buying, I expect the pitch.

With just the money they spent on the décor, they could have done a few simple things. Even if they were going for the club feel and wanted to do nothing more than entertain as a thank you, a slide show of properties on the wall would have been great, could have even been hip. Literature could have been placed around the room. Reps could have been the greeters welcoming me to the event and handing me a business card.

Here are a couple of simple suggestions for how the night could have gone.

  • Arrive – greeted at the door by one of the reps, who welcomes me and gives me a card.
  • The rep directs me where to go or introduces me to the rep from the property I wanted to discuss.
  • Party and network while a slideshow shows some of the great properties they have. –Booths (manned or unmanned) around the perimeter with literature and business cards.
  • At some point, get up on stage and talk about the properties (2 Minutes)
  • While on stage, introduce the reps so we can all put a face to the name and introduce ourselves later (Another 1 minute)
  • Go back to partying and networking and talking to colleagues about the images of the properties being shown on the wall
  • Leave feeling like we just had a great time hosted by a company that we want to do business with

I came because I like your properties or want to learn more about them, and I am open and ready for the sales pitch. Close the deal! If I want to simply go to a club, I can do that any night of the week, I live in Chicago.

Another from the March 07 way back machine. An update to this post…..this hotel group did not get the program that I referenced in the post. It went to one of their competitors that we met with about a week later…

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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