Hiring a specialist event amplifier can be costly. So how can you ensure that you get value for money?
We are often approached by event organisers who know they ought to be doing “some social media stuff” or live video streaming at their event, but have no clear idea why. They often lack any any sense of who they are trying to reach or what they are trying to achieve by amplifying their event. They usually just ask what we can do and simply choose the services from that list that fit within their budget and their own preconceptions. Then they leave us to get on with it.
I appreciate that a lot of event organisers don’t really understand event amplification or the associated technologies – it is a specialist area and there are lots of other things event organisers need to know about. However, after working with quite a few clients that have followed this pattern of procurement, I have come to believe that this approach to engaging an event amplifier is flawed and should be discouraged.
Firstly, if the organiser is not clear who they are trying to reach and what they are trying to achieve, there is no clear way to measure how successful the event amplification has been in order to justify the financial outlay. Secondly, if the organiser fails to put any effort into promoting the amplified materials or integrating them into the rest of the event, this can result in fairly low engagement. As we have discussed before, this is particularly true for live video streams, which are a relatively expensive to produce well and require dedicated promotion to attract a significant audience.
Failure to integrate and promote the event amplification effectively wastes money. As an event amplifier, it is not in my long term interests to help clients waste money. I want to help organisers improve their events, but this may mean changing their attitudes towards hiring me.
So how should you procure event amplification services?
Here’s how I would like to see event organisers approaching the process of hiring (or not hiring!) an event amplifier to ensure they get maximum value for money out of our time…
1. Work out what you need
If you are one of those event organisers who isn’t sure what amplification your event really needs, start by asking an event amplifier to develop a strategy for you. Don’t commit to hiring the event amplifier to perform any aspects of that strategy, but do expect to pay them for developing it. This is effectively consultancy.
An event amplifier will be able to provide you with advice about the latest trends, research your target audience’s social networking habits, and provide you with a practical plan tailored specifically to your event. They will be able to identify the resources you will require and highlight current best practices to make sure that any event amplification meets the needs of your intended audience and helps to expand the discussion surrounding your event. This should all be based upon clear supporting evidence that event amplification will help to meet your aims for the event. If event amplification is not right for your event, the event amplifier should say so.
2. Review your own capabilities honestly
Look at your event amplification plan. Are there elements can you deliver using internal resources?
It is important to be completely realistic about what you can do well internally. The available staff might not have all the necessary skills to perform certain amplification tasks or to deal with any difficulties that might arise. Equally, you may have staff who do have the necessary skills, but are likely to get swept up engaging in the event itself, making it impractical for them to take responsibility for any aspect of the event amplification. You will need to balance your organisational priorities to determine what you can do in-house, and what you need to outsource to a professional event amplifier. This needs to include the effort involved in overseeing any amplification carried out by your own staff and co-ordinating those involved.
If you do have staff available to help with some, but not all of the event amplification, this can help reduce the costs of outsourcing.
Ask your event amplifier to advise you on staff training, and to specify which roles do not require specialist skills. For instance, an external event amplifier may need a runner, or a member of staff dedicated to monitoring and blocking hash tag spam on Twitter. Internal volunteers, be they staff or students, can often perform these tasks for the event amplifier, which may be cheaper than asking the event amplifier to bring in extra external staff to perform these functions. Make sure any volunteers are fully briefed before the event and there is a clear timetable showing who should be doing what and when.
3. Negotiate on price
If you are working to a fixed budget, prioritise those areas of your event amplification plan that will deliver the most impact for your intended audience. Your event amplifier should be able to help you with this if you are unsure, so make sure you explain any budget restrictions from the outset.
Many of the tools we use to amplify events are free, so the main cost is the time involved in posting content and monitoring the different channels. Pairing down the “nice-to-have”s and focusing resources only on the absolutely key channels will allow you to deliver the maximum amount of amplification permitted by your budget. There will always be more that you could do, but in times of austerity compromises sometimes have to be made. Offering some amplification may also help to attract funding and delegates for future events!
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask about cheaper options to deliver the same benefits from these key areas. This may involve making compromises, such as offering a free, ad-supported live video stream rather than using a premium, ad-free service, or offering an audio-only live stream. It is worth carrying out a quick survey of your intended audience to check whether this will adversely affect them in any way. Given the choice between seeing advertising within a live video stream and not being able to see the event at all, most people are willing to make the compromise!
4. Take responsibility!
A professional event amplifier can deliver professional materials and services, but they cannot work magic. If you as the event organiser fail to promote what’s available, or fail to integrate it into the main event, you must take responsibility for low levels of engagement or dissatisfaction. If you want maximum bang for your buck, you have to get involved in making the event amplification a success.
Event amplification and live video streaming do not need to be expensive, but as with everything, the convenience of a professional service will cost money. As a professional event amplifier, I want to represent really good value for money with the level of service I provide. I really hope that event organisers in 2013 will help me to achieve this.
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012.