The word prestige has many meanings from “high esteem” to the name of a now defunct record label. The meaning I want to tackle today comes from the world of magic. Prestige, when it comes to magic, refers to the final portion of the trick.

Last week my team landed an 8-month long experiment with our largest annual event in Ann Arbor, MI which is a celebration of the amazing business culture there. With a new team comes new ideas and as this was my first time organizing this event there were a lot of things to look at. We did what I did when I put on concerts at WSNX, created and then commit to a budget.

This step is important because it allows you to know what you can spend where and no matter how “fancy” you want to get, once you are out of money the project needs to ship.

After 8-months, we were ready to launch and when it comes to event management this is the part where you need to excel and why the prestige is so important. We spent time walking through the spaces and understanding what it would be like to be a guest, but even that level of preparation cannot prepare you for the things that will go wrong.

If you have put on an event, you know things go wrong. This isn’t unlike magic, in a trick magicians can miss a transition or botch the set-up without the audience knowing and as long as they hit the prestige – the crowd goes wild. Much like the magician, when it goes wrong you have to keep your cool, no matter what.

As a team we worry about every detail, this can be the placement of a vase, estimated time to get a cocktail, to how many people will want vegetarian dinners who have not said so prior or the placement of topiaries in a lobby. Incremental additions and subtractions that add up to a great whole. When you are hosting an event, not unlike a party at your house, you want everyone to feel at home and leave thinking the event was a smashing success – the prestige.

But as a team you need to think about what could be better.

What were the things the audience missed that didn’t work and how can you avoid them? Where were the choke points in the spaces and how can you direct the flow of people around them? How was the timing of the event? And most importantly what worked flawlessly and how do you scale that?

If you hit the prestige, you still need to look at these questions. My friend Pat did a podcast this week where he talked about failure forcing you to do an after-action report, I think it is more important to do when it was a success.

You need to get in a room, ask the hard questions and if you are lucky, get some answers.

The thing about successful events is that businesses like to scale them, so what may seem like a “small” problem with 500 people becomes a catastrophic one at 5000. You need to plan for that and correct as you go.

It may seem like you aren’t “celebrating the win” but I would argue that is hardly the point. The point of the event is that your customers have a good time which means you may not have a good time, understand that is the gig and the reason you are in marketing – to make an impression on your audience by all means.

All this gives the impression that event management is far from the most romantic arm of a marketing team. That may be true, but it might create the best goodwill among your audience. Experiences create moments in the mind that serve as bookmarks that they look back fondly on:

“We had such a good time last night”

“Remember that party we went to last year”

“I have not had that much fun in a long time”

They hardly (I dare say NEVER) say: “I loved that magazine ad I saw last month” or “I can’t get enough TV commercials.”

Event management is a great way to scale those 1:1 relationships that your sales team is looking to make. It is a way to market to an audience without selling, make an impression without pushing, create a relationship out of thin air, but you have to hit the prestige.



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