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Written by Sara Estes

SHEBOSS: The Key to Great Event Planning is Finding Allies and Communicating Value

June 26, 2018

Whitepaper

Written by Sara Estes

@saraestes

SHEBOSS: The Key to Great Event Planning is Finding Allies and Communicating Value

June 26, 2018

When planning an event, we can all agree that there’s one universal goal — to ensure that everyone is able to have a fantastic time.

More often than not, accommodating accessibility is usually more of an afterthought in event planning (or not even a thought at all). As event planners, it’s on us to make sure that every component of the events we plan is accessible to every single participant — no matter ability.

So before you fall into ADA rule-fatigue, Splash is here to give you some simple accessibility tips for your next event — everything from venue accessibility to communications.

Let’s just get this out there:event planning is hard. It takes a special type of person (and when we say “special,” we mean extremely organized, strategic, and detail-oriented) to plan and execute events for a living – not to mention do it well.

Tiffany Ashitey and Tasha Morris of creative agency,Benchmark Creative Group, run SHEBOSS – an event series that helps women navigate the unspoken rules of business and explore universal issues that aren’t always spoken about (think: money management, being your own advocate, and the reality of being the only female in the room).

After aSHEBOSS eventhosted at Splash HQ, we sat down with Tiffany and Tasha to pick their brains: about the company they’ve built, their go-toevent strategy, and career advice for first-time event planners. Check out what they had to say:

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Tell us about Benchmark Creative.

Tiffany:We are a Brooklyn-based, female-led creative agency, and we work with brands to bridge the gap between their offline community and their online community.

A lot of times brands will have a lot of social followers, but they’ll fail to engage with them in person – or vice versa. Since we have so much experience with events and they’re at the heart of what we love, we focus a lot of our work on social and event activations to connect the online with the offline.

Do you have an example of a customer you’ve worked with recently?

Tasha:Our most recent and biggest client isBlack Tech Week, which is historically a weeklong conference in Miami that focuses on building a minority-focused ecosystem in the tech world.

They’ve now turned that single conference into a city tour across the U.S. — most recently in NYC last month. We’ve been working with them on their expansion into a roadshow, and developing strategies for getting the word out to each city.

Tasha:Our most recent and biggest client isBlack Tech Week, which is historically a weeklong conference in Miami that focuses on building a minority-focused ecosystem in the tech world.

They’ve now turned that single conference into a city tour across the U.S. – most recently in NYC last month. We’ve been working with them on their expansion into a roadshow, and developing strategies for getting the word out to each city.

How did SHEBOSS get started?

Tiffany:SHEBOSS literally started as an everyday conversation. Tasha, my friend, and I were talking about a rough work day and two questions arose. One: How come men don’t seem to go through these things? And two: Are other women going through this and just not talking about it?

From that, SHEBOSS was born. Our first event was in March 2017, very appropriately a part of Women’s History Month.

What’s the mission of SHEBOSS?

Tiffany:Whether you’re an entrepreneur, still climbing the ladder, or already in the C-suite – these are things that you have, will, or someone around you has experienced.

We knew we needed to find and unite other women who were experiencing the same professional issues. By creating this dialogue, and bringing in dynamic speakers with amazing stories, our hope is to give women the tools to help them navigate their professional lives.

You bring in some incredible speakers. How do you find them?

Tiffany:Before we decide on speakers, we look at the topic we’re tackling and build a formula. We think thoughtfully about what would make a panel conversation more dynamic and more engaging – we target speakers from different sectors who can all speak on the same subject, but have unique perspectives.

Tasha:Once we have a good idea of what we’re looking for, we’ll reach out to our network of old colleagues and college friends. We also go to a lot of heavy networking events to meet people.

And sometimes… we do cold outreach. We’ll go through LinkedIn and target specific people who we think would be great. And we always do research on if they’ve done other speaking engagements in the past – just because someone is knowledgeable, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great at public speaking.

How do you keep the conversation going after an event?

Tasha:After an event, we’ll send a recap email. We’ll follow up with photos for people to check out, or a follow-up from the actual panelists. It can be anywhere from two to three newsletters just to keep the community talking about the event and engaged.

Do you find that the people who go to your events are much more engaged in your marketing strategy than the people who haven’t?

Tiffany:Absolutely. When people attend one of our events and then they get our newsletter, they feel more connected. We’ve seen a lot of replies off of our newsletter, like, “Thanks for sending this! This is awesome!” And I don’t think that would happen unless we had connected with them in-person at one of our events.

Do you have any tips for filling the room?

Tiffany:A lot of times event planners assume in advance that the room is just going to get full. But it doesn’t happen unless you put in the work behind it.

It’s important in yourpre-event communicationsto make sure people understand what they’re going to get out of the event. Value is crucial, which is why we’re so thoughtful about the topic and the speakers we’re featuring at our events.

Tasha:We also rely on our partners. We make sure they have all the tools they need to spread the word – whether it’s a flier, specific messaging, or hashtags and social media handles to include. And then we’ll also do a flash sale or a promo to incentivize people to buy tickets.

What do you find is the biggest challenge you face when you’re throwing an event?

Tiffany:It’s getting people to believe in our mission. It’s not easy to find speakers, partners, or venues — trying to convince these people that our event is worth their time, whatever they’d be contributing — that’s an uphill climb.

Tiffany:It’s getting people to believe in our mission. It’s not easy tofind speakers, partners, or venues– trying to convince these people that our event is worth their time, whatever they’d be contributing – that’s an uphill climb.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs or event planners first starting out?

Tiffany:My biggest piece of advice is do your homework.

Don’t just assume that because you have a great idea, or you have a lot of followers on social, that nothing is going to go wrong. There is no such thing. Something always goes wrong, so be prepared — but don’t let that stop you from doing it.

Tasha:It’s also really important to make sure that your message goes beyond your current reach. So if there’s anything you could do today, it’s to find partners and create allies that believe in what you do. That way, when you’re ready to launch, they’re there to help you along the way.

Tiffany:My biggest piece of advice is do your homework.

Don’t just assume that because you have a great idea, or you have a lot of followers on social, that nothing is going to go wrong. There is no such thing. Something always goes wrong, so be prepared – but don’t let that stop you from doing it.

Tasha:It’s also really important to make sure that your message goes beyond your current reach. So if there’s anything you could do today, it’s to find partners and create allies that believe in what you do. That way, when you’re ready to launch, they’re there to help you along the way.

What do you see as the future for BCG and SHEBOSS?

Making your event accessible is a big part of it. The other part is making sure your attendees know about all the details so they can prepare ahead of time.

There is so much room for upfront attendee communications when it comes to the inclusion and accessibility of your events.

Consider doing the following:

1. Put accessibility information in your event page footer.

Take a look at the example below of an event page that looks great, feels great, and is displaying helpful accessibility information at the footer of the page.

Tiffany:Our company’s future is multifold. The future of our company is to create a large, seven-figure agency. We want 25 people that are passionate and have that hustle about events, marketing, and branding.

For SHEBOSS, we want to build it into a national conference, and either take it on tour or find a hub city.

Tasha:After last year, we asked ourselves, “where do we want this to go?” Because there’s no point in doing anything if there’s no goal. We knew we needed to grow this into a national conference. Because if people are having this conversation in New York, who’s to say they’re not having it in LA, Houston, or Charlotte?

2. Use your RSVP form to gather attendee needs ahead of time.

Your RSVP or ticket order form is the perfect opportunity to help yourself be better prepared, all while assuring your attendees up front that you’re thinking about their needs.

Here are some custom questions you can include in your forms:

• Dietary restrictions

• Requests for interpreting services or assistive listening devices

• Requests for accessible parking or seating

• An open text area asking about other accommodations that will help ensure full guest participation

• If you’re going to be using your attendee’s information to print badges, it’s also a good idea to include preferred pronouns on your form so you can display them on those badges.

Here’s an example in Splash:

Should you ever receive a request that you’re unfamiliar with, you can simply collaborate with the requesting attendee. There is no shame in asking questions – if anything, it shows that you take accessibility seriously and want your event to be as enjoyable as possible for all who wish to attend.

3. Send an email about accessible transportation options.

In the weeks before your event, whip up an email in theSplash Email Senderthat let’s all of your guests know how they can best travel to your event. Within this email, take some time to lay out accessible route options.

Take a look at this example:

4. Disclose any specifics in your pre-event communications.

In terms of accessibility, it’s better to over-communicate. It’s extremely important to note the following in your pre-event communications to your attendees:

3. Determine Your Actual Event Investment

Event Marketing Budget Decisions

• Use of flash photography

• Any sort of strobe lights or flashing images that may cause seizures

• Distinctly amplified sounds/music

• The use of fog machines/any other chemicals or smells that may make your space inaccessible to individuals with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or Idiopathic Environmental Intolerances (IEI)

• Whether or not interpreting services will be provided for various speakers, panels, talks, etc.

• Whether or not you will be providing assistive listening devices for hard of hearing attendees. (Fact: these are fairly inexpensive!)

• Disclose all additional/optional parts of your event. This pertains to social activities off site, recreational activities, and more. If an activity is not fully accessible, communicate those details in advance so individuals living with disabilities can determine their interest and ability to participate.

See how they built it:

Do you have what it takes to leverage event technology? Learn more from Matt Burton in this 20-minute video.

Not only is it helpful to quickly solve any issues (and there arealwaysissues), but it’s also helpful to communicate with your team inside the venue on the status of check-ins. Most importantly, alert your sales team that their VIP guests have arrived.

5. Let your speakers know about any specialaccommodationsbeforehand.

The speakers at your event should know about any special accommodations so they can be prepared. Some accessibility notes to provide speakers may include some of the following:

5. Dos-and-Donts for Not Breaking The Law: Keep Count Of Your Attendee Numbers

The last thing you want to think about is hitting capacity. Because hitting capacity for your event would be a good thing… right?

Unfortunately, not keeping track of the number of attendees, and subsequently, violating fire permit laws, is a common problem for many event planners. Avoid this by using an old-fashioned clicker or theSplash Appusing the “checked out” status — that’s key for tracking who’s in and out of the space.

Pro tip: have the fire permit in hand and contract printed out. And have cbd belgian hot chocolate stirrers sativa packs of 3 keep track of how it feels inside the event, whether it’s hot in the venue or too crowded.

A couple good questions to consider asking the venue manager about the space:

• How many people in the venue makes it feel full?

• How many people makes it feel empty?

• Where can lines form?

• How many people can be at the bar at a time? (A typical drink order takes about 2 minutes.Alleviate bar crowds by having cocktail waitresses holding pre-made drinks.)

• Speak clearly (ideally facing forward without covering your mouth)

• Avoid acronyms and colloquialisms as much as possible

• When addressing someone specifically, ask for his/her/their name and pronouns to confirm

• Specify when you’re finished speaking

• If there is an interpreter, avoid addressing them in a conversation with a hard-of-hearing attendee. Always look at/address the participating attendee.

Bonus Details:

Want to up your event game?Watch our Run of Show videosfor expert tips on securing guest speakers, maximizing event engagement, and finding partners and sponsors (downloadables included!).

Timing: Start Door Duty an Hour Before Event

Sure, attendees may arrive late. Sure, you may still be organizing right up until the last minute. But people will begin showing up 25 minutes after starting time, which means, security has to be ready for the flow of arrivals. Some people will also arrive early and if the door isn’t staffed, you don’t want these people sneaking in before it’s time.

Staff Up: The Golden 1:50 Ratio

To maintain organization, have a 1:50 ratio between the company and guests. This may vary based on how complex the on-site registration is.

Making your event more accessible and inclusive is the first step. It also opens up a space to begin a much-needed conversation around accessible event planning and becoming an advocate.

This may require some thought and work, as it will probably force you to rethink how you typically throw events and do business around your events.

Part of this rethinking might also include reaching out to your attendees both during and after the event to see how things went and if they were comfortable, informed, and able to fully participate.It’s a great idea to get feedback and continue to improve your planning practices around accessibility.

Once you’ve thrown some events with these accessibility tips put to the test, we also encourage you to educate others within your business and within the event planning and marketing community! It’s up to us all to create a conversation around accessibility in order to spread best practices and throw events that are that much more inclusive and, in turn, that much more extraordinary.

Veterans know: there is no such thing as too many RSVPs

When I was a rookie planner, I remember being very nervous that there were too many RSVPs and the right people wouldn’t get in.

As much as the experience at the door matters, remember: a packed event is a good thing. A very good thing. A line makes you look popular, and people don’t really mind waiting (if it moves). Much worse than over crowding is UNDER crowding… no one likes an empty room. And when someone on your team is stressing, tell them to chill. You got this.

author

Author

Sara Estes

Sara is a Content Marketer at Splash, where she assists with content strategy and creation. As a Midwest native, she’s slowly but surely getting used to East Coast life – typically by searching for her latest favorite restaurant in NYC.

About the Author

Ben Hindman is co-founder and CEO of Splash, the country’s fastest-growing event marketing platform that helps businesses and brands more effectively market through their events. An event planner turned tech entrepreneur, events are in Ben’s DNA. Prior to starting Splash, Ben was the Director of Events at Thrillist, where he produced large-scale events from concerts to mystery fly-aways.

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