FM Future directors Frazer Chesterman and Marcus Timson, speak to Exhibition News about perfecting one of the industry’s most vital skills: launching a new event:
The launching process is arguably at the heart of the exhibition industry. It is a process that embodies the highs and lows of working in events and attracts the entrepreneurs that have built a multi-billion-pound industry from the ground up.
But, for all that it’s an industry cornerstone, launching new events is a process that many navigate with a combination of common sense, nerve and guesswork, sometimes with mixed results.
At FM Future we’ve created a new training course aimed at every level of organiser, from solo entrepreneurs to teams in the industry’s biggest businesses, which we’re calling the Event LaunchPad.
We’ve spent a combined 45 years working in events and exhibitions, with much of that time spent launching into various markets and countries. Over the years we’ve identified several of the key strategies and cornerstones that make for a successful launch.
Go to the market, and listen
If you spend a lot of time contemplating and perfecting an event launch idea, it can become hard to gain the objective distance needed to see its faults and potential problems. It’s vital to take your idea to trusted stakeholders, influencers and communities in your chosen industry and find people who will give you honest, constructive feedback. And it’s even more vital that you listen to that feedback and take it on board.
If you’re hearing “yes” all the time (or “no” for that matter), have the strength to take a critical look at who you’re choosing to confide in and what their feedback indicates.
If you’re launching an event for a specific industry there’s every chance that it’s already an industry you’re familiar with, or are passionate about. Leave your own thoughts and preconceptions out of the equation and build an event around industry feedback and research.
Research, research, research
It’s not uncommon in the world of exhibitions to hear anecdotes about hefty research folders explaining the pros and cons of a potential launch being thrown unceremoniously into the nearest bin.
A new launch should put the visitor and exhibitor experience front and centre, and research is an invaluable part of perfecting that process. Talking to key stakeholders in the industry can give you valuable insight, but research gives you scale and scope.
Importantly, research will give you a fact-based answer to the hardest launch question of all, especially in an already crowded market: “Why?”
Content is king
It’s becoming a hackneyed phrase but delivering the right content is vital to an event’s success. Whether this is through your seminar programme, networking sessions, feature areas, online content or the exhibitors themselves – every element of your event can either entice visitors or discourage them.
Your research and conversations with industry stakeholders can inform the content at your event (and what form it should take), while partnerships with key industry bodies and publications can ensure you’re providing relevant, intelligent and original thought leadership.
Be willing to surrender ownership
Events are, by their very nature, collaborative. In addition to seeking advice and feedback from key industry stakeholders, you should be seeking genuine buy-in. Be open and flexible and allow them to feel ownership over the launch. Allow it to transition from “your event” to “our event”.
Whether it’s in the form of an advisory board or a founding sponsor, make a point of acknowledging and crediting those who help you in the early stages of a launch. Often they’re not just investing money (if at all); they’re investing trust and time in you and putting their name to something that’s untried and untested.
Harness the value of ambassadors
By far the best way to sell something is to have someone else do it for you. A coffee shop’s website could be perfectly constructed and thought-out but it’s the online review that often ultimately sways the consumer.
Establish a team of people in the market who have an interest in your event succeeding. Every industry has its influencers, thought leaders and respected veterans, and they can help you gain credence and spread the word.
Commercial gain cannot be the (only) driving factor
When you attend a trade show, you love nothing more than a theatre full of sponsored content, a queue of people you don’t know who’ve paid to meet you and a confusing hierarchy of VIPs, correct? Unlikely.
It can take resolve and nerves of steel, but you have to unfailingly work to the benefit of your visitors. The content they’re interested in, the products they want to see and opportunities they want to be presented with should form the bedrock of the event from day one.
Exhibitions can be an incredibly effective educational, networking, marketing and business tool. While no two events are exactly the same, by following best practice and doing your due diligence when launching you can ensure your event has all the elements needed to succeed.
To learn more about FM Future’s launch training course visit eventlaunchpad.show.