Welcome, welcome to part 2 of my two-part event planning I’m continuing this month from March, see the March post here.
This next installment is two fold, I’m going to talk about some of the things I see event planners doing that bother me from an author/vendor perspective and things I feel should occur when I switch my hat and assume the role of event planner.
I love events. In fact, conferences, festivals, book club conferences, just about all the live events make more money for me than online/social media selling of my books. I hope that live events will be a mainstay of our industry for many, many years to come.
Like with anything, there are a couple of “practices” that I see that come across as outright rude and very inconsiderate and I want to change that. There are likely more than ten things that each of us can do to ensure success as event planner and vendor, but these are just some of the ones I think of as I address this subject.
AND don’t forget, I am late and I apologize, but get this month’s Freebie Planner for April and the event planner cheat sheet for larger events and conferences at their respective links.
10 things WE Can Do to Show Good VENDOR Behavior
10. NEVER, EVER talk poorly about the event at the event or express negativity about the promotion or the event host. Yes, I have talked about some concerns one to one, usually to a table mate or via e-mail after the event but to talk about an issue AT the event is simply poor taste. Everyone has had a bad event, we’ve all experienced low turnout but these are lessons and grievances that should be outlined in a proper, formal evaluation that you can share with the host(s) upon the conclusion of the event.
What we all should be talking about is what outlets WE used to help promote the event and share resources. Unfortunately, that might be a very short conversation.
9. Always offer a wonderful experience for YOUR shopper. You are not only representing yourself, you are representing the event/hosts and their “selection” of you. If you need inspiration for table/booth set ups, look through the pictures on my social media pages and use my Book-signing Checklist to help you prepare. I have seen A LOT of tablescapes being in this business but I saw the best one recently when I met the Brittany Traveste – author of BLOOM.
Look at her table, it’s beautiful.
She has three important things
Her table is super pretty with the flowers (and her book’s title is Bloom, like, oh my gah!). She has a clearly marked sign with the book price and she has another sign with her twitter/website (on the left) in a very nice picture frame. The wonderful thing is the lettering on the floor in front of her table. That took some work I’m assuming but it came out awesome.
There is no excuse for shaggy presentations and it is a reflection NOT only on you but the planners too! Little added things that make the experience that much nicer, insert a book mark into your books, have nice bags for whatever you sell, make something small/cute/inexpensive to give away like a little journal or purse sized pad, if you sell scents or body-butters/creams, are there samples you can get made, ask the Mary Kay Lady to help you. Whatever you sell, it’s little details like that, that make all the difference to the user/shopper experience.
8. Take time to network. You’re mighty lonely sitting there just waiting for someone to come by your table. Take time to network at every single event and to talk to other vendors. I would dare say stand up, lean in, engage. I would stand up if I could but I use a wheelchair, so if room permits me, I go around my table to engage, I even call all passerby (probably hoping I don’t notice them) over to my table, they are always willing to engage and that’s the first step in any potential relationship.
7. Promote yourself PRIOR to the event as you would if it WAS your own event – Sadly if all of us, especially authors took the time to promote the event as if it were our own, we could expect a better turn out every single time. And I’d even say that if you are attending any event, that event is YOUR OWN. We are all guilty of expecting the host/planner to do the majority of the promotion and that’s unfortunate. Sadly some events move around and the planner cannot possibly know about all the smaller clubs, news outlets and local social media they can tap. That’s where us local people come in. At present, when I’m going to attend or even if I’m only considering attending an upcoming event, I Google the event using different variations of the event name, to see where news about the event is popping up. Moreover, a new event will not have the turnout that a more established event has. It can take years, sometimes 8 – 10 years for an annual event to build a solid and considerable following, so if the event is in year one, they’ll need even more assistance with their promotional efforts and just because an event is in its infancy stages, thats no reason not to attend. Promotion is a group effort, enhance ONLY by many people doing it.
6. Consider the Vendor Fee – Will you make back what you paid? What grade would you give the host for their promotional efforts and their attendance numbers? These are just some of the considerations I make regarding whether or not I’m going. It seems a no-brainer but an event can be worth the costs (in rare circumstances) and you still don’t make back what you paid. Breaking even is important and as more and more opportunities come my way, I’m evaluating everything about it to make the right choice for myself and my wallet. An opportunity to meet someone you need to meet could be one way that the ROI isn’t going to be met at the end but still good to go ahead and pay. Really think about those pluses and minuses and then you’ll feel much better having a checked your expectations.
5. ASK, then LISTEN, then SHARE/TALK! This is probably my biggest pet peeve. I meet a LOT of authors and many of us, myself included happen to be “Jack” and “Jackie of all trades”. That is the nature of being creative. You really trial and error your way through lots of unrelated “jobs” and employment ventures, on your way to writing and publishing (or whatever you do). But with that, guess what? Spewing forth so many of your multiple ventures (regardless of their lucrativeness) when you first meet someone doesn’t inspire confidence, can make people tired and confused all at the same time. I have three questions that I use on different people at various times:
- What do you like to read? Listen then if you have something like that great, point to it on your table, give it to them to hold and read and then converse some more. IF not, be well rounded enough in genres to suggest something else.
- Hey, is the conference going good? What brought to this event?
- General “how are you doing today, I’m Tracee and author of…” The only way I got into other “ventures” I have, is if we somehow landed on them. ALWAYS ask people their name, where they are form. My point is that we need to engage, make general conversation and tailor our “wares” to their “needs”. In order to find out their needs however, we’ve got to make small talk.
If you’ve gotten up to network, (# 8 above) guess what, you’d know what others sell and could then be in a position to make proper referrals to table/vendor mates around you and how selfless would that be?
4. In addition to networking, be observant. Recently, there were a group of ladies that had a luncheon in another room adjacent to the book event I was attending. If it wasn’t for those ladies, I wouldn’t have had any sales so I was thankful for them. But I looked at their attire as they walked by and most of the people attending our festival wore jeans and more plain clothes. They were not dressed up. This became an instant in for the conversation. I saw you ladies were having a luncheon, did you attend the luncheon?… and on it went but had I not paid attention, I wouldn’t have had thoughts to ask them what they were doing there and tell them what I was doing there.
3. Don’t let a bad day show – I’ve said this in the my Booksigning Checklist but sometimes selling your products is like being unemployed, after a couple of rejections it’s hard to get geared up with one more smile for the umpteenth interview but you can do it. The next one might turn things around.
2. Don’t just complain, offer solutions. If the turnout wasn’t what you expected, don’t just say “The turnout wasn’t what I expected, thank you.” Take time to put in some suggestions. The event will likely happen again and we only make things better with actionable suggestions. There are things that we as authors/vendors have been very creative about in order to sell our products that other’s haven’t ever thought about.
- Give it another chance. There are a couple of events that I’ve been like, “uh, no, not going back.” But after some thought, I do think I’ll go back. It’s important, especially for anything you’ve been to only once/it’s their first event. You want to look and see what/how/ and if the event has learned lessons and implemented them to improve. One bad experience shouldn’t ruin all future events and again, ask what you can/did do to help make it success. Once it’s clear that things aren’t improving by all means, remove that event from your list but bad events can go to great given proper feedback and 364 days later.
10 Things Organizers/Event Planners Should Do to Welcome their Vendors and Ensure a Great Experience for All
10. It’s important for event planners to remember that authors are paying patrons like anyone else. We shouldn’t be some how relegated to a small room, in the back, packed in tightly where there’s little to no traffic. We’ve paid extra for a “vendor” opportunity, and even as such, remain a type of supporter of your event. My ideal location for authors, would be IN the room of the general session and a part of the event, tables on the outskirts of the room. This has worked well in every single event I’ve been to that’s set up this way. Not hidden or put away but in many ways, highlighted. Relegated to another room that few or no people will visit seems off-putting and dismissive.
Yes, we are selling products to your consumers. And many attendees like the shopping experience an event provides. Some don’t and that’s fine, those people won’t feel obligated to make a purchase. But others see added value in a one-stop shop where they are not only learning but get some new items they may not have thought about. I would say however, to ensure that people are not overwhelmed with similar items, create a rule where you’ll have only one-two of the same vendor type/item. Then next year, if someone wanted in that could not participate because similar vendors were already reached for the amount set, they can participate next time around. You’ll need to keep good records of who you had if you implement something like this.
9. Help promote the vendors you’re having throughout the actual event. You can do this a couple of ways. 1. Mention the availability of the vendor and share what they sell. Why not use at least some portion of the segment to highlight the products. What can that spa, Mary Kay independent beauty consultant, author/publisher, bath and body cream seller, shea butter outfit and life coach/motivational guru… DO for the people at your event? Highlight that. Any attendee/vendor should be more than willing to write you (the host) a two sentence informational commercial that you can read aloud during the breaks of your conference sessions. At each break, highlight two businesses and that will spark interest on behalf of your attendees and help promote your vendors even more by keeping them top of mind. 2. The other way is to always list ALL the vendors in your material/conference booklet. A simple mention will be taken with the attendees and when they are home, remind them of that “thing” they wanted to check out.
8. Feed EVERYONE – I’ve been at events where I paid extra for lunch but why can’t I just go to the buffet table like everyone and mingle? Why must I be brought my lunch like I’m not a part of the festivities? I am a part of it, I paid a little more than everyone else, yet I eat my lunch in the corner like a second class citizen. You could simply have empty (same looking) tables on the outskirts or perimeter of the room and place notes that reserve the tables. It’s at the back so the front and best seats won’t ever look and be empty.
7. SEEK Feedback and then Make Use of It! Evaluations are an important part of any future events overall success. I’ve read some awesome, truly helpful and encouraging comments in many a evaluation, even if they had a negative undertone, I’ve seen ways (buried) in there to address the issues. ONLY someone who truly wants to improve will offer an evaluation form and be mature enough to handle the good, the bad and the ugly. I say make use of them because it’s one thing to have them but it’s another thing to implement (some of) the suggestions within each one. You don’t have to take all the suggestions someone makes, of course, but ask yourself if what the person who took the time to write has a valid idea or is just writing to complain. You will know the difference.
6. Set a Reasonable Vendor Fee. I’ve seen some ridiculous vendor fees and I wonder if planners ever think about whether or not we as vendors will make back that return on our investment? Perhaps you don’t care but that seems like a poor business practice. It is an investment and I hope most people would want to make a little over what they’ve paid. We all need to check ourselves about what we think the other person is (and is not) making and set a price accordingly. As a planner you also need to distinguish between what a company does, having full financial backing and a line item for “outreach”, to what a small business does and the significant differences between small and large businesses revenue. I’m with the school of thought that you would like vendors to return to your event year after year. We can ONLY do that, if we feel we will turn a profit, making back our vendor fees.
5. Realize when you need a team of folks. Many small event planners bite off more than they can chew. You need to have a team of folks, even if it’s a small committee of three people, to help assist with small details otherwise you run around, feeling frazzled and some component of your event ends of lacking or isn’t properly planned at all. Poor planning shows and doesn’t make people desire to return. Also think about someone to work with difference kinds of people attending your event. E.g. A “liaison” for the vendors, two people to assist the attendees, a visual/tech person and so on. That way everyone involved has a point person and you are not everything to everyone.
4. Think about lower costing venues. We all want the big ballroom, the catered food and the wait staff, but both budgets and attendance don’t always rise up to those demands. Furthermore, look to graduate to those events as you grow NOT start out of the gate with a large and costly facility. Events do not have to be at the Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott to be awesome. They can be at community centers, libraries, conference centers, public schools and other smaller, less expensive venues, many of which permit you to bring basic, wrapped food in rather than purchasing their more costly options. I’d rather go to a school for a book festival and be able to have coffee/tea you brought in than go to a hotel where I’ve paid the vendor fee and then had to go to the restaurant paying seven bucks for one small cup. While any conference does not have to provide you with food/beverage, basics such as coffee/tea/water are courtesy items I think my vendor fee should have been able to spare particularly for any events that start at 8-9 o’clock in the morning and last more than four hours.
3. Do it or DON’T Bother – WHY are you really doing this? This is a great question that many of us in all aspects of life pursuits fail to address. You likely wanted to make money is a real and valid reason but if you’re going to scrape and scrimp, are you setting your event up for failure? You very well could have made a couple thousand (results not likely by the way) but if no one is coming back next year what’s the point?
2. Call the Thing the Thing! What does this even mean? It’s all about proper BRANDING. Recently, another event I attended as a vendor/author called the event a “fest”. Sadly, it wasn’t. It was a writer’s conference in disguise. There is nothing wrong with “writer’s conference”. What’s sad is that promoted as a writing event (which also happened to be free to outside attendees) and where people would receive the ins and outs of writing and publishing AND get to meet/greet some international best-selling authors… would have gained so much more support and attendance than it did touting the event as a “fest”. Moreover, festivals, for me, inspire thoughts of outdoors, food trucks, entertainment, local caterers selling food, artist selling beautiful tapestry/artwork and should have been easier to access than the lower level ballroom. Be certain, as the event planner/promotor that you are using the right words for the occasion/content.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO HIRE ASSISTANCE – Finally, while hiring a PR Firm can be costly, most of us think things are cost prohibitive yet we’ve come to that conclusion, often on our own, without real research. In today’s social media industry, many of us can get a young/knowledgeable, social media freelance guru for a small amount of funds that can give us greater reach than we can do on our own. It’s worth looking into to getting help to ensure your event’s increased exposure especially for the first couple years. Utilizing a professional until you build the contacts, the following and the reach is a great idea. Once you have worked with someone a couple of times, you’ll have more ability/confidence to do it on your own. If nothing else, for your payout, any reputable provider will at minimum, supply you with a list of outlets they have sought to gain exposure to, on your behalf AND with that list you can do this on your own in future.
Now that everyone has suggestions about what we can do to help one another be successful, lets get to it. Before you go, however, leave a comment below about…
What are some things YOU do as a vendor do to increase your event(s) exposure?
What are some trends YOU see in event planning that are being implemented to enhance attendance/attendee experience?
Do you think the online event (via Facebook, Twitter, webinars and etc.,) have replaced the live event?
What was most memorable about the last event you attended?