Generating a better return from client events – Part two

To be successful, scrupulous planning is a key requirement of running any client event. Excellent preparation, fielding your own best people to play host, and post event follow-up are absolute essentials in making the most of such opportunities. In the second article on the subject Michelle Gahagan and Shelley Hill offer some advice.

Seminars and events are very popular tools in the legal sector. Their popularity has, however, led to over-use and clients are now voicing concern over those, which do not provide any obvious value to their business and the issues they are facing. When an event places the guest and their motives at the very heart of its organisation, it often generates a more positive experience for all involved and a better return against the time, money and energy invested. In this second part of our two-part series we look at the day of the event itself and how best to follow up to ensure there is a significant return on the various investments made.

On the day

If the event involves a presentation, then the best firms conduct a dry run to ensure that all the technical equipment works and that sound, sound-proofing, lighting, ventilation, heat are all comfortable for the audience. Ideally your venue will complement the message of your event and add positively to the experience. Some law firms prefer to use unusual venues, which create a particular atmosphere and mood. They say this often helps guests to remember the main message they wanted to convey through the event. Whatever your choice, close liaison with the venue both before and on the day will need to be built into the planning. This is to ensure the surroundings do just what you want them to on the day and don’t detract in any way.

For the duration of the event itself we would encourage you to consider these examples of best practice, which we have seen some law firms apply:
 

  • Keep guests out of the main presentation room prior to the start-this allows the presenters any final preparation free from interruption and also allows the seating to be adjusted right up until the last minute.
  • Ensure that all the firm’s representatives-speakers, hosts and support staff-arrive well in advance of the guests. Try and run a final briefing before the guests arrive so everyone is up to speed and knows the plan.
  • If you can let guests have a copy of the guest list in advance do so, it will help with their own networking and can sway people not to drop out at the last minute.
  • Ensure there is a secure area where people can safely leave all their coats, bags etc. It’ll free them up from having to carry these around and enable them to have a 100 percent focus on the event itself.
  • Make sure that the typeface of name badges is large enough so people can read them quickly and easily. Consider making your people’s badges distinctly different from the guests’-saving potential confusion for the guests.
  • After registration, have people available to take each guest to their receptive host-who ideally is positioned at a fixed “station”. It is this lawyer’s task to ensure that the guest is catered for.
  • If you need to introduce other members of the firm to specific clients, have them rotate around the hosts in a pre-arranged sequence or timeframe.
  • If the event is a seminar or similar, ensure the hosts sit in to understand exactly what went on, what messages seemed to gain greatest audience interest, and which guests had specific questions.
  • Respect the time that your guests have invested. Do not over-run and be clear about the timescales of the event so people’s expectations are not confounded.
  • Use any discussion time to get a feel for the issues affecting the guests and their organisations-particularly in relation to the event subject.
  • Where the issue needs greater time and effort to explore, then encourage the hosts to suggest to a guest that they will drop them a line on the subject.

After the event

The best firms see the end of the event as just the beginning of a longer journey. They set time aside for all the hosts and support staff to share intelligence on what has been discussed or learned from different guests. The information is turned into a follow up plan for each guest. Sometimes the follow up takes the form of a standard letter, which is then adapted to include a paragraph or couple of lines relating to subjects that were raised in discussion with the guest. Sometimes a telephone call is made in the immediate future seeking to set up a more focused discussion or meeting. In all cases each guest is usually thanked in some way for their attendance and given some material of value, which further builds on the theme of the event or its content. The really successful firms give the event’s “director” the empowerment to monitor this progress and stimulate further actions to ensure the event generates the return that is desired.

Summary

Clients have become much more selective about where they invest that time. For firms to attract the guests that they want, they will need to demonstrate that their events deliver tremendous value. Such value will depend on the relevance of the content of the event to each client; it will also come from the dynamism of the speakers, the buzz of firm’s other representatives and the quality of the venue and organisation.