How to create an enchanting event

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Ever since I read Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment, I have looked for products and services that meet Guy’s high standards for enchanting your customer.

Last week, I found an enchanting experience in the form of the GSMI Blogging Strategies Summit. The event enchanted me because it provided great content, intimacy, the right attendees, personal service, and an intriguing location.

If you host events as part of your marketing outreach, I hope your next event contains these essential elements:

1. Great content

A successful experience begins with great content. It’s obvious, right? But most events I’ve attended — even excellent ones — do not give your uniformly great content. Lurking in the agenda are always a few dud speakers who have you running for a self-imposed break.

But I was impressed by every session I attended at the Blogging Strategies Summit. The purpose of the event was to share best practices in corporate blogging and community management. The speakers ranged from Duane Forrester of Bing (who discussed the importance of optimizing your content for search marketing) to Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tMedia Strategies, who led workshops on blogging for women and executives.

Duane Forrester

At some point you’d think that so much focus on a single topic would lapse into the realm of geekiness or irrelevancy. Such was not the case at the Blogging Strategies Summit. Why? Because all the topics, however esoteric, tied back business needs everyone cares about, such as servicing customers or improving your brand.

The presenters also shared their ideas through a variety of styles. Guy Kawasaki, who discussed the art of enchantment, used striking visuals and humor to make his points. Kevin Smokler, vice president of marketing at Byliner, used zero slides and relied on the power of his passionate delivery to discuss the transition of content creation to the digital world.

Meaghan Edelstein and Guy Kawasaki

For her part, Carisa Miklusak was one of those highly engaging “floor walkers” who relies on her own body language to keep the audience engaged.

I was so inspired that I ended up writing a number of blog posts (in real-time or close to it).

Kudos to Meaghan Edelstein, Global Strategic Management Institute vice president and social media director. Besides being a warm emcee and host, she for programmed outstanding content. (She also provided me photos of speakers for this blog post.)

2. Intimacy

On June 14, I walked into a workshop with no more than 10 people in the room. How cool is that? For a half day, workshop attendees had a conversation with Carisa Miklusak about blogging for women. That kind of intimacy changes the speaker/audience dynamic. Instead of 10 people sitting around listening to Carisa discuss blogging for women, we all had a conversation with her and each other.

To be sure, it helped that Carisa effectively got everyone talking with her conversational style. Because so few of us were in the room, though, we were encouraged to discuss topics in detail, like what could Motrin have done more effectively to handle angry mommy in the wake of an ill-conceived viral ad campaign that targeted moms.

You just can’t have a conversation like that in a room full of 1,000 people (at least without feeling like you’re derailing an event and distracting an entire hotel ballroom).

There could not have been more than 50 people in the room even for the general assembly sessions that occurred after the smaller workshops. I couldn’t believe my luck: having direct access to the likes of Charlene Li, not just during her presentation but hanging out at lunch afterward. You’d never know she’s a busy executive running her own company, Altimeter Group, with all the access the event gave us.

Charlene Li

3. The right people

It’s important that an event attract a highly engaged audience who ask thoughtful questions.

The Blogging Strategies Summit was that kind of event. My peers consisted of experienced marketers who have been around the block and have matured past the stage of Blogging 101.

Here’s an example: at any event concerning marketing, inevitably someone in the room complains about how impossible it is to work with his or her Legal team. But at this event, during break time and lunches, people like Tonia Hammer of Molson discussed how they build relationships with Legal to protect their brands.

And nowhere was the SxSW crowd present. You know who I’m talking about: the self-important, cynical geek who scoffs at every speaker and cannot give anyone more than 5 minutes of his attention because texting someone else is more important than what’s going on in the room.

I think the event attracted the right people by programming content about business issues (not shiny technologies). And the price tag ($1,885 for all three days) to weeded out people who were not passionate about the topics discussed.

4. Personal service

Here’s what personal service looks like: during the event’s first day, a work commitment required me to miss lunch for attendees. While everyone else dined upstairs, I cranked out some work in the empty conference room. With the lunch hour winding down, Luke Vinci of GSMI approached me. He wanted to know if I had had a chance to eat. I told him I’d skipped lunch and assumed at this point the ship had sailed without me.

“We’ve been saving your lunch for you,” he replied. “Would you like to come up to the dining room for a few minutes or have me bring your lunch down to you?”

It was that kind of event – where people anticipate and respond to your need with personal service.

Here’s another example of how Luke anticipated and responded: after Guy Kawasaki spoke on June 15, Guy was kind enough to spend a few minutes conducting a Q&A with me for a blog post. We walked out of the main event room to find a few comfortable chairs in the foyer. The ever-attentive Luke gently approached us.

“I’ll bet you both would like to have a private room for a meeting, wouldn’t you?” he asked. He led us to a room set aside for this purpose.

You just don’t get that kind of service unless your event is staffed with people who know how to read a situation and act on it. Luke is that kind of person. During the lunch I skipped, he noticed my seat was empty at the dining room table, and he correctly anticipated that I was probably chained to my laptop in an empty conference room, hungry and heads-down. Then he took action.

Yes, it helped that the event was attended by a small number of people. But if your event is staffed with the right kind of people – people who anticipate and respond to needs – you can provide great service whether you are catering to 5,000 people or 10.

5. An intriguing location

Location can elevate an event to an experience. That’s one of the reasons why Las Vegas is a popular city for people who manage events: the best Las Vegas properties are destinations in and of themselves, not just places to sleep and eat while you’re attending an event.

The Blogging Strategies Summit was held at the Marines’ Memorial Hotel in San Francisco. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the Marines’ Memorial Club. I sure had not. When I learned the conference was being held there, I became intrigued. A hotel that serves as a memorial for Marines?

The place got good ratings on TripAdvisor, and the hotel website revealed some interesting details: I learned that the 1920s Beaux-Arts hotel was originally built indeed as a “living memorial” for Marines, that it was located near Union Square, and it hosted some pretty cool events like a special screening of HBO’s Wartorn. Being something of a student of military history, I looked forward to arriving and checking out the place.

Think about it: I had not even arrived in San Francisco, and the choice of the hotel already had me anticipating the event.

The place had me at hello. From the moment you walk into the lobby you find yourself drawn to the many artifacts from Marine history on display. This certainly must be the only hotel in the world where in the lobby you can inspect a medical kit used in the Korean war.

On every floor, a piece of American history as told through the eyes of the Marines unfolds. You might find an American flag, damaged by shrapnel in the Vietnam War, in one hallway. Or stories behind Marines who won various medals for valor. The Tribute Memorial Wall (on the 10th Floor Mezzanine) consists of thousands of black marble bricks commemorating Marines who have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Tribute Memorial Wall

I have encountered few hotels that surround you with such history. And as you might expect from a place dedicated to the Marines, the service is immaculate (the phone at the front desk is answered invariably on the first ring), and the rooms spotlessly clean.

But above all, the living history made the place an experience.

I have hosted my share of events and hold all to a high standard. This is the first time I’ve blogged about one that enchanted me.

What are the most enchanting events you have attended?


5 thoughts on “How to create an enchanting event

  1. David: Thank you so much for all the kind words. Our team definitely works hard to bring the highest quality events to our delegates. I\’m so happy to read you enjoyed the event and hope to see you at more! You were an enchanting delegate and the entire team really enjoyed your questions, comments, blog posts and of course spending time outside the event at dinner and networking.

    Thanks again for writing this post, it means a lot to me personally!

    • Hi Meaghan — the networking really was fun. The dinner we had in Chinatown was enjoyable and relaxing, especially since most of us were traveling and dealing with all the stress that comes with travel.

  2. David-
    Thank you for the awesome post! Your detailed feedback from an attendee\’s perspective on this year\’s Blogging Strategies Summit is really helpful as we continue to try to provide truly beneficial conference experiences to folks. We look forward to seeing you at a future conference. We hope it is as enchanting as Blogging!

    Byron Mignanelli
    Co-Founder & CEO
    Global Strategic Management Institute

    • Byron, the event provided so much useful content that my biggest challenge was trying to blog as much as possible while networking at the same time — a nice problem to have!

  3. Pingback: The perfect event | Freshinfrompumphouse's Blog

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