Ask an Expert: Mari Berends

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Mari Berends, the event manager at Virtuagym, about planning a successful event.Mari Berends

CS: Say I’m a club owner who’s never put on an event before, but I’d like to put on one to engage my members. Where should I start? MB: The first step in organizing any event is to formulate a clear goal for yourself. Who is the event for? What’s your desired outcome? Is your aim to educate your audience about recent developments, do you want to get to know them on a more personal level, or are you launching a new product? Knowing the purpose of your event gives direction to the organizational process and makes the results of your efforts measurable. As tempting as it might be to jump right into operational things like logistics and invitations, it is crucial to formulate a concrete goal first.

CS: What do you think makes an event successful? Are there key attributes or characteristics? MB: In general I consider an event successful if it added significant value for both our audience and our team. Of course, we want to inform our visitors about our product and the newest features. A main reason for organizing events like our client seminars and roadshows is to get our name out there and let people know how we can help optimize their business. However, it’s equally important for our team to meet our users personally and gain first-hand information on their experience and wishes. In an industry that’s constantly evolving, it’s crucial to know your audience’s needs.

CS: What do you think are the biggest challenges with putting on events? MB: I think the biggest challenge would be that regardless of how well you plan your actions, there will always be factors you cannot fully control. Organizing events consists out of managing relationships with a variety of third parties.  Working closely with a big amount of companies creates mutual dependencies. Everyone has his or her own way of working, and aligning all plans isn’t always easy. Since we operate internationally, cultural differences and language barriers sometimes add an extra element of challenge. However, this is what makes event management so extremely diverse and fun as well.

CS: How can you overcome those challenges? MB: It’s always good to plan with some clearance in between activities to compensate for delays or unforeseen problems. It’s also essential to keep an overview of all your deadlines, agreements and decisions. Sometimes, everything happens at once and you need your documentation to fall back on. Sharing this overview with all involved parties and managing dependencies helps a lot. Clear communication is key.

CS: What’s a key learning lesson you’ve gleaned over the years you can share with other event managers or club operators hosting events? MB: Document your way of working as transparent and detailed as possible. This way, over time, you create your own extensive best practices manual that helps you learn from your mistakes. It’s easy to get caught up in tiny details and lose sight of your overall planning, but under time pressure you have to distinguish the common thread from side issues. Learnings from previous events can help you do that. Next to that, an overview of your activities enables others you closely work with to see the status of a project within one instance.

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