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Introducing the SiriusDecisions Event Management Framework

March 01, 2017

The success of a b-to-b event strategy depends on three essential elements: event support, event logistics and event experience. These elements must be in place so events can drive results that justify the level of investment that organizations continue to make. In this issue, we introduce the SiriusDecisions Event Management Framework, which helps marketers implement the three elements that ensure an effective and repeatable event experience for organizers and attendees alike.

One: Event Support

Event support comprises the core principles, processes, organizational interlocks and technology infrastructure required to support event creation and attendance.

  • Core principles. To drive an effective event strategy, organizations must define, agree to and document fundamental event principles. This includes establishing definitions of event types and their characteristics and matching key personas to their preferred event types. Organizations that are planning events in the context of need-based campaign themes and program family objectives (e.g. reputation, demand creation, sales enablement, market intelligence) should treat nearly all of their events as a single group of integrated, multi-touch tactics that support those themes and objectives. Events that require an extended planning cycle (e.g. user conferences) or satisfy objectives across multiple campaigns should be designated as out-of-campaign; this type of event should comprise only a few of the total number of events. In all circumstances, use the SiriusDecisions Campaign Framework to formulate clear event objectives that align with campaign program goals.
  • Process. To improve investment effectiveness and ensure alignment with campaign goals, introduce event selection processes that use objective, prescriptive and rational criteria for justifying event expenditures. For large events designed to drive initial demand creation, consider introducing specific lead-routing options based on event-specific service-level agreements (SLAs). Ensure that all event-related messaging, branding elements and budgetary governance procedures are consistent with broader organizational processes and guidelines. Apply agreed-upon metrics, based on the event type and specific event goals, to understand event spend and quantify an event’s value in terms of program goals (not just the number of contacts captured or anecdotal employee feedback).
  • Organization. Event management is a federated discipline based on the interlock of multiple functions. Although many organizations maintain a central events function that offers logistical expertise and is responsible for organizing relatively large events, a single function or department is unlikely to have sole responsibility for the strategy, selection, planning and execution of all events. To differentiate roles and responsibilities and assess the organization’s relative maturity in terms of events, conduct a maturity assessment. This type of assessment allows an organization to transform its event discipline from a tactic-driven team into a proactive resource that focuses on business value, and helps identify opportunities for evolution. The resulting gap analysis can provide a detailed view of cross-functional activities and deliverables, helping to isolate resource gaps, investment priorities, and necessary process and operational improvements.
  • Infrastructure. Conduct an assessment of event-related systems and gain agreement on the required level of technology investment and integration within the organization’s broader technology stack. Event-related technologies range from simple online registration tools to event attendee mobile apps (e.g. networking, scheduling, polling) and multi-module packages that cover all aspects of event management (e.g. location selection, pre-event marketing, attendee check-in, event budgeting). Event management solutions (EMSs) continue to support the backbone of event organization, but a range of other tools provided by EMS vendors or point solution providers have emerged to improve specific aspects of the attendee experience or supplier insights (e.g. at-event social network apps, attendee contact data appending, travel management solutions).

Two: Event Logistics

Internal specialist event managers and external agencies are ideal resources for organizing and staging events (e.g. venue selection, lodging, equipment management, registration processes). Choosing a person or team to focus exclusively on event logistics frees other practitioners within the event discipline to meet other objectives (e.g. reputation, demand generation).

  • Staffing. The size of the event, its budget and the availability of skilled internal resources help to determine requirements for external logistical support. In all cases, assign an internal event logistics owner to coordinate event activities, internal staff communications and overall budgetary control.
  • Venue management. Venue selection, including the venue tender process, is a key task for live events and user conferences. Whether or not the organization uses an external agency, the ultimate responsibility for smooth event execution lies with the internal event logistics manager and his or her team. Checklists and running orders assist with personnel allocation, room assignments, staging, audiovisual operation and catering.
  • Registration. While other members of the event discipline promote the event and drive attendance, the collation of event registrations (including payment, if appropriate), individual requirements (e.g. dietary needs, transportation) and cancellations is owned by the event logistics manager.

Organizations must differentiate the responsibilities of roles that determine event policy vs. those employed to manage execution logistics. For example, the event specialist function or external agency must not assume responsibility for determining event objectives, messaging, or prospect and customer followup.

 The SiriusDecisions Event Management Framework

    Three: Event Experience

    Event experience involves the planning and execution of a complete experience for each attendee before, during and after an event takes place. Organizations must consider the event process in its entirety and clearly define the role each stakeholder plays in supporting attendee experience.

    • Pre-event. Take steps to maximize audience engagement and value prior to the event. Consider engagement efforts targeting personas, influencers and/or customers (e.g. audience invitation segmentation, topic track scheduling, pre-event nurture). At this early stage, ensure that appropriate contextual information and contact data are collected and stored in a format that enables post-event nurture. Don’t take personnel event training for granted. Select and train staff based on the event type and any pre-defined goals and objectives. Even when the event is part of a planned and agreed-upon campaign, promote internal awareness and reconfirm stakeholder action accountability.
    • At-event. Whether the event is a half-day live event or large-scale user conference, attendees must gain value from the experience, and each employee must be confident and skilled in his or her role. Use the event as a platform to engage key audience segments (e.g. influencers, customer groups, late-stage prospects). Build in sufficient human interactions for networking, reflection and rest. Leverage social media and live video streaming to extend the reach of the event to non-attendees (both prospects and employees). Use running schedules to manage the at-event audience event experience via the execution of logistics (e.g. location staff, audio, catering), technology (e.g. onsite registration, apps for attendee interaction, data capture) and content (e.g. demo stations, presentations, one-on-one meetings).
    • Post-event. Post-event efforts include promotion, continued social media outreach and ongoing nurture-based activities that focus on an attendee’s stage in the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle. While a traditional approach to post-event activity is to breathe a collective sigh of relief for a job well done, it is vital to maintain momentum. Ensure prompt post-event followup by using technology (e.g. advanced at-event data capture) that improves the collection of contact request information and quickly uploads event data into internal systems. Ensure adherence to SLAs (e.g. lead hand-offs, followup timing), and collect information to populate future event selection discussions and debrief staff on any need for improvements.

     

    The Sirius Decision

    The SiriusDecisions Event Management Framework provides a holistic view of the elements that a b-to-b organization’s event discipline must address to establish an effective event strategy. Presented with this big-picture perspective, an organization can more effectively pinpoint areas that require attention, identify and discuss skill gaps, and establish comprehensive tracking and reporting of event activity and ROI.