To get the right answers, you must first ask the right questions. There are numerous questions you should be asking to maximize the impact of your programs. Here are some of the key areas that I, as your producer, would want to explore with you.
Audience The audience is far and away your paramount concern. Even if the audience is composed of nearly the same people as attended an event in the past, the tone and substance of the current meeting usually will be different.
Questions: * Who makes up the audience? (demo/psychographics, executives, agents, clients, spouses)
* What types of things appeal to them? (past shows, surveys, input from selected attendees)
* What differentiates them from other groups? (internally and outside the company)
* What are the relative levels of importance and sophistication of the group?
* Where should the emphasis be in terms of objective? (educate, entertain, motivate, reward)
Venue This is the most overlooked area by many planners, and yet asking the right questions here can make or break an event. Even if you're planning a meeting at a location you've already been to, exactly how and where you stage the event will likely be different. I typically do a site survey to uncover the advantages and pitfalls of the ballroom well before the program is designed.
Questions: * How are the sight lines and acoustics relative to the stage and audience positions?
* What might impact the aesthetic or functional aspects of production? (glass, mirrors, concrete, chandeliers, house lights, built-in stages, ceiling height, power, points for hanging trusses, balconies, air walls)
* How does the show or meeting I have in mind work at this property and/or ballroom? (Consider both the practicality and the ambience of the setting.)
* Can I get accurate seating diagrams and room layouts drawn up for my event? (You'll want these to uncover potential problems and capitalize on opportunities.)
Budget You needn't sacrifice quality or service to get a reasonable price. Do your homework and you should find a production company that delivers all three.
Questions: * What line item allocations can I change that might yield greater value or impact? (i.e., more shrimp or more lights?)
* What are the "must haves" vs. the "nice to haves"?
* Are there any hidden costs or possible surprises?
* What expenses could I cut without negatively impacting the show?
* Am I getting fair or below-market prices for the entertainment, speakers, other elements?
Production and Staging Perhaps the first question to ask is whether you need or can afford a producer for the event. Even if you're on a low budget, some producers will be glad to help you with ideas, contacts, and so on.
Questions: * What items, state-of-the-art or otherwise, can help enhance my executives' messages and their impact on my attendees?
* What else is taking place in the room that may affect the show, setup, or tech rehearsals? (decor, centerpieces, executive rehearsals, re-setting the room)
* Can I rely on the in-house AV company or should equipment/staff be brought in?
* How do the entertainer/speaker's technical requirements fit with existing equipment?
There are, of course, a lot more questions than these that you should cover. In fact, the process of questioning itself can help lift you out of ruts or creative roadblocks that arise when you simply deal with the facts or requirements that are right in front of you.
Ask a question to take a step back and gain a better perspective. Whether you're on your own or have a producer to handle these things for you, be proactive. Make sure someone is asking the questions and getting the right answers.