From the uber-popular Revenue producing events Webinar, here are some worksheets to help plan your next event.
• List of event ideas. Take a look at the events list attached above. Note that there are two basic kinds of events - expos, driven by booth sales, and banquets driven by sales of tickets and sponsorships.
If your company is the dominant local media, they are in an ideal position to produce large B2C local expos in which the primary driver of revenues is booth sales, then sponsorships and then, sometimes, ticket sales.
Banquets - sometimes called luncheons or dinners - is an odd term that signifies a different business model: Smaller events that rely on sales of high price tickets to cover the food and room, plus pure profit from sponsors who receive the attendee list, speaking opportunities, and other benefits. The risk is lower, margins are higher, and it's easy to do several a year, tied in with editorial projects.
Some companies such as Media One of Utah and Chattanooga launch both types.
• Events criteria. The worksheet above helps your company look at event ideas selectively, based on market and media strengths, competition and other factors.
• Competitive analysis. Once a few event ideas are selected, this worksheet allows any administrator to assess the strength of competitors in the market.
• Events P&L. Begin with the end in mind. Use the P&L in excel to map out financial targets for your event.
Below is a close look at how to work through the events criteria worksheet to select the best ideas:
1. Is your own company new to revenue producing events? If so the first one or two events should be able to pay the producer's salary and prove profitability. Focus on finding a winner.
The next event may be more strategic and creative, now that the department and company have the experience.
2. Expos or banquets?
If your company is the dominant local media, they are in an ideal position to field large expos with thousands of attendees and hundreds of vendors.
The revenue for those derived from Weddings is an ideal selection - but only if the market is not crowded with other producers. Some companies have had huge success looking for "holes in the market" that also match other criteria.
Banquets include business recognition awards and rely on sales of tickets and sponsorships rather than booths. The risk is lower, but so are overall revenues. For business luncheons, you should have some kind of local B2B franchise. However, banquets can also be other kinds of civic, art, best of or high school sports awards.
Some companies do both but it's a good idea to establish clarity on which event types the events division will take on.
3. Are there already money-losing events at the company - or in the market - that could be turned around?
Many companies have events that are cost centers, such as the Best of Awards party. The Chattanooga Free Press turned theirs around by simply adding food and entertainment and selling tickets to non-winners (winners got too, but invited more people) - as well as beefing up the editorial component to make the awards more credible and prestigious.
Some markets have fledgling events - too weak to buy enough advertising, too established to compete with - that would make good partnerships.
4. What company strengths (audiences, editorial programming and clients) can be leveraged for "known winner" events?
For first time events, it's often easier to start with a category that can be leveraged to upsell current advertisers.
The availability of solid contacts with interested major sponsors - such as hospitals - can help spearhead a new event, getting it off to a financial head start.
5. What company franchises does your media want to target?
Strategically, events can be used to help grow new or weak franchises - and/or block competitors from entering into these spaces. Chattanooga, for example, had earmarked both minorities and home services as targeted areas.
6. What are the core activities, strengths and aspirations of the marketplace?
Some areas have a great deal of local passion and merchant investment around key interests - and that spells opportunity for events.
Areas that are known for foodies may gravitate towards a restaurant week. Centers of government may be ripe for Summit-style conferences on health, energy or economics. Travel destinations may yield themselves to a travel fair.
Does your city aspire to go green or become a tech center? Those are signs that you will have communities supporting the event.
Some meg-events with a national draw have been created in markets that saw themselves as a good center for an event that happened on the other side of the country. Comic Con in Salt Lake City, created by Deseret Digital Media, and SVC2, a SouthbySouthwest style event created at Metro Silicon Valley fall into this category.
7. Depth of businesses in the category and related categories that can participate.
For B2C events especially, the number of businesses is also a key factor in the size - and therefore, total revenues - of the event.
The easiest way to determine the depth of the category is to list all the categories that can be sold and count. If you are intending to upsell current advertisers, count this potential as well.
Selecting a broad idea - such as a Women's Expo, Health and Wellness, or Seniors - greatly expands the size of the opportunity and helps to maximize the return.
8. How many and how strong is the competition?
The competition is always the next key factor to take into account. New events departments should look for viable holes in the market - ie: known winners with weak or no competition.
Weddings, an ideal "first event" because it does not require vast attendance and has high ROI, also has strong competition. The Chattanooga Times had an experienced manager who successfully took on a weddings event in the face of an out-of-town competitor. Today both the newspaper company and the out-of-state promoter have successful weddings franchises in the same marketplace - but's its a fierce competition.
The Denver Post, on the other hand, felt that Wedding Expos in their market were over-done, and launched an Aging expo instead. There were a number of smaller similar expos, but after attending them, the events manager determined they were no match for an event powered by the dominant newspaper. One year later, none of the former events is still in existence. Pick your battles!
9. Factor in ROI.
The price that can be obtained from booth sales is determined by the strength of the merchant ROI. Do the audiences have money, are the purchase sizes large and the size of the businesses substantial? We've seen booth packages that start at $200 and ones that start at $1,800. Given a choice, aim high for the most profitable events.
10. Availability of large sponsors.
Large sponsors who "pre-commit" to the event can help it get off to a running financial start. Talk to your sales teams and to your customers to determine the level of interest.
Commitment of your own internal team.
It would be great if there were exactly ten factors! But equally important is commitment of the management team to looking at events as a business unit, and confidence of the sales team in selling it.
One of the secrets to the Denver Post's home run with it's first expo - and only one manager - was the internal support around selling the project. It is probably not a coincidence that the idea not only was vetted by the sales department but originated there.
For more information see all the case studies and materials at the Events Channel.