What makes your event stand out? What are you doing that makes people LOVE their experience, tell everyone about it, and come back again? Creating an “experience” rather than just putting on an event is crucial to getting repeat customers and event sponsors.
Have you ever been to Disney world? We recently went to Magic Kingdom for the first time with our kids and it was an absolutely perfect experience from the moment we parked to the time we left. It wasn’t about the size of the rides (our kids were too small for the big ones anyways!), or any one particular thing, it was all of the little details that made it such a enjoyable, comfortable and memorable experience. Granted, they obviously have more money to work with than pretty much any other place you will visit … but you get what I’m saying!
Understand who your customers are
The first step in creating an amazing customer experience is understanding who your customers are. You need to know your target market (who is coming to your event?).
Top: a foam party at a concert we ran back in the Outback Camping days.
Below: the half time sheep scramble at our current annual event, the Norfolk Ram Rodeo
Obviously, our two event photos above show a totally different target market … how could you possibly plan a positive, memorable experience if you didn’t understand first which group you were targeting?
When you know the type of people you are aiming to attract at your event, you can plan with them in mind. How can you make it comfortable and enjoyable to them?
Consider things like noise level (ie. seniors don’t generally like loud music), safe and accessible seating (ie. old wooden bleachers are very dangerous with little kids), and the amenities offered.
For example, at our annual rodeo our main target market is families with kids. For this reason, we make sure there are lots of activities planned to keep the kids happy all day. There are both scheduled kid’s events (like the half-time sheep scramble), and things for them to visit between events (like inflatables and an area where they can meet farm animals). If the kids aren’t having fun, the family is going to leave, unhappy with their experience.
Above: Our vendor area …we make sure there is lots to see and do outside of the main rodeo performance.
Pay attention to details
It is often the little details that customers recall even more than the main event. These little “extras” don’t have to cost much (if anything).
How are you making your event accessible to people with disabilities? What amenities can you provide to make your guests more comfortable? How can you get your sponsors or community groups involved to add the little extras?
Make sure you consider the event flow. Sketch out maps of different possible setups to ensure that the event grounds are easy for guests to navigate and find everything. Don’t be afraid of change… we tweak things every year!
Last year, we sat down together and sketched out 4 different layout ideas we had and thought about pros and cons of each before deciding on one.
At our rodeo, we have added small things like a parenting station for parents to feed and change their babies. This doesn’t cost us anything (we asked a local community health group to set it up, in exchange for advertising their services there), but is really appreciated by visitors with young children.
Every year you run the event you will learn more about what your visitors need. For example, the first year we only had a handful of reserved handicapped parking spots but realized we needed way more… every event is a learning experience!
Don’t forget about the aesthetics either. People will notice if the event grounds are tidy or a mess and it will impact their overall impression of the event. Make sure that you have people delegated to mow the lawn, weed gardens etc. just before the event. Have volunteers going around to check garbages, bathrooms, etc. throughout the event. Don’t let something as simple as overflowing trash cans have a negative impact on your visitor’s experience.
Great customer service
This seems like a no brainer, but people will remember the customer service they receive. Communicate the importance of this clearly with everyone in your organization.
Image from : https://www.thebalancesmb.com/rules-for-good-customer-service-2948079
- Make sure you are easy to contact before the event (to answer people’s questions, etc.).
- Provide friendly interactions right from the front gate (welcome guests, thank them for coming, offer to help them find their way, etc.). Giving visitors a warm friendly greeting is free and makes them feel special from the moment they arrive.
- Listen to people’s concerns/ complaints and see if there is someway you can help make it right. Even if all you do is listen (and not argue that they are wrong!) they will feel like they were heard and likely be less upset about the issue.
Give the unexpected
How are you going to “wow” your visitors? When they purchase tickets, they will know what the main event is, but is that all you will be offering? If you want your visitors to talk about how amazing your event was (and come back next year), you need to “over deliver” by giving them something unexpected. Think about what there will be for guests to do during “dead times” (when the main performances aren’t happening).
Again, this doesn’t always have to cost a lot…. You just need to get creative! Can you have your sponsors donate door prizes to give away? How can you get the crowd involved? Do you know someone that has an interesting talent that might show it off in exchange for advertising?
Above: Every year Krista gets in the rodeo arena with all the kids who are there early and does a “kids rodeo” on stick horses. Free, and very enjoyable!
An event that remains the same year after year gets stale and people have no reason to continue attending. Try to add a little something unexpected every year. One year we had friends of our own who own a circus school locally put on a surprise aerial silks performance. People were so surprised when ladies started twirling out of the trees, and an excited crowd gathered around in minutes!
Last year we hired a busker who rode around on a life-sized ostrich. He wandered around through the crowd before the show and at half time to take selfies with people. Guess what they were sharing on social media?!
Create a personal connection with your guests
Be “real” with your visitors. Get in front of your crowd, introduce yourself and thank them for coming … Feeling appreciated is an experience that is universally meaningful. If you aren’t a great public speaker, make sure to prepare and practice what you want to say.
Above: this past year we drove a RAM truck into the rodeo arena with 4 generations of Timmermans on the back, and gave a quick speech to the crowd to create a personal connection with visitors.
Be present and mingle with your guests whenever possible … even if it’s only for a short time, people will see and appreciate it.
What are your strengths and interests? At our event, Krista loves to get involved with the children’s events like the kid’s rodeo (where we invite all the kids from the crowd to come into the arena and run an obstacle course on stick horses). Mike likes to hang around the bar and buy a drink for all the sponsors (“relationship building”…it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. 😊 )
Ask your guests for feedback (and act on it)
Nothing is perfect … how can you improve for next time?
During the event, try to mingle with your guests, ask them how they are enjoying the event, what could be changed to make their experience more enjoyable, etc.
Send out a survey after the event asking for feedback (we use Survey Monkey because it is free and easy). Ask questions that can help you improve, not just ones that look for positive feedback. Consider offering a prize to entice people to take your survey (can you get something donated by a sponsor to giveaway?).
Act on your feedback to improve for next time. Some of our most consistent feedback from our first year was that we needed more food vendors, and that we needed seating that was safer and more accessible. We started adding a couple new food options each year, and began our bleacher rental company because we couldn’t find a safe and affordable bleacher option in our area.
Above: our new and improved grandstands from Bleacher Rentals. Click here to get a Free Quote!
Experiences that are meaningful, fun, unusual and unexpected are ones that will be remembered and talked about by your visitors.
The little details are so easy to overlook but are so valuable. They are what will make your customers tell everyone how amazing your event was and keep coming back over and over. There are so many events happening all the time… it’s the details that set yours apart, and that influence customers to choose to come to your event again and again.