1. Understand your objective
“The most important first step when planning an event is to engage in a very detailed briefing with the client to determine what they wish to accomplish,” says Jane Shanab, Spark’s president and executive producer. Through a lengthy series of questions, Shanab and her team establish what the audience’s “takeaway” will be and determine the messages to support the desired result, which can range from a fun evening to a successful sales conference. “Only after identifying the objectives and supporting messages can we successfully develop and implement creative event options that will work hand-in-hand with these strategies,” Shanab says.
2. Think carefully about the creative
“It is crucial to develop a creative platform for an event based on the event objectives—we don’t believe in creative just for the sake of creative,” Shanab says. “For example: applying a cookie-cutter theme that has no relevance to our client’s messaging.”
At Spark, an event’s creative elements have to reflect what is right for the client’s brand and culture. But more importantly, they must consistently relate back to the event’s message.
“Effective creative is thoughtful, relevant, engaging, and fun,” Shanab says.
3. Engage in the process
Spark’s mission is to make the lives of it clients easier when it comes to corporate-event planning. The company achieves this goal by guiding clients every step of the way and always encouraging collaboration and input.
“We strive to engage our clients through consistent contact reporting, such as following up every contact with an update and establishing timeline checkpoints,” Shanab says. “Another way we make the process easier for clients is by mapping out the assigned responsibilities and needed decisions throughout the planning process so that there are no surprises.”
4. Look for added value
“Everyone wants to spend their money wisely, and with experienced event coordination you can often find opportunities to generate multipurpose creative without stretching the budget,” Shanab says.
For instance, Spark produced a sales conference that required a videographer on-site for six days. Since Spark had already contracted the videographer, during some of his downtime the firm had him shoot extra footage that was leveraged several other ways—notably as a follow-up sales tool, giving the client immediate and long-term value.
Creating exceptional corporate events while making clients’ lives easier remains the ongoing focus of Spark, a full-service corporate-communications and event-management company based in Toronto. Owned and operated by Jane Shanab, Spark has consistently delivered strategic, dynamic events, communications, and creative solutions to its clients since 2001. Regardless of industry, Shanab ensures events get underway without a hitch.
5. Remember success is in the details
Experience has shown Shanab that the difference between a great event and a mediocre one lies in the details. “Getting all the details right is the key to success,” she says. “However, the exacting needs of each client demands an approach that extends beyond technical specifications and production requirements. Your approach also should take into account the expectations of the client and the audience.”
6. Plan for the unexpected
Shanab approaches every new event knowing that the best course of action is to plan for the unexpected. “In my experience, I’ve found the most important skills involved in event management are the abilities to think on your feet, to problem-solve on the fly, and to constantly change and adapt,” she says. “Success lies in thinking ahead and being able to proactively troubleshoot.”
7. Follow through for the future
When the event is done, the process is not over. For Spark, Shanab says, it’s essential to follow through with a thorough debriefing to cover what went well, what did not go well, and start planning for the next year.
“The debriefing should focus on constructive recommendations, and all parties should be open to new ideas,” she says. “Even with more than 20 years of experience in this field, I am always challenging myself to discover something new that is better, easier, faster, or less costly—[something] that will make a difference for clients.”