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Successfully updating your “traditional” event

CCAeLearning webinar - September 28, 2017

John Grant, Director, Alumni Relations, Simon Fraser University

Categories: Special events, Alumni relations

Long-standing events are not sacred artifacts, says John Grant. To engage target audiences - especially younger alumni - advancement staff need to re-examine the purposes, goals and formats of events that may have become stale. Then, innovate to match event style and timing to the audience. The reward can be increased engagement and a refreshed purpose.

Top Tips

  1. Assess when and how to transform an event and strategize timing of the revitalized event’s launch. Choose a significant occasion such as a school or alumni association anniversary.
  2. Analyze current / recent attendees at your event versus your target audience.
  3. Gather data about the purpose, value, goals and target audiences of the event through analytics plus surveys of current stakeholders.
  4. Set realistic yet ambitious new goals for participation (through attendance, sponsorship, social media and other vehicles) versus past numbers.
  5. Seek champions of change among your constituents and engage in “fierce conversations” about revamping the event to guide both transformation and continuity.
  6. Solicit sponsorships to maximize reach and value of the event while providing “win - win” benefits for your school and sponsor(s).
  7. Change a staid sit-down dinner (with a hefty price tag) to a lower-cost, stand-up event and reception to attract a wider, younger audience.
  8. Shake up the format from “grip and grin” or talking head to glitz, glamour and novelty. SFU transformed its traditional dinner to a TED Talks-style evening that featured bold graphics and brisk pacing.
  9. Match recognition to your target audience demographics. SFU added a “Rising Star” award in its Outstanding Alumni categories to include younger alumni awardees who bring fresh voices.
  10. Include young alumni and students (at SFU, termed “future alumni”) in your target audience, and price the event accordingly.
  11. Assess, measure, analyze and adjust yearly. Be nimble and results oriented.

For more details, visit SFU’s Outstanding Alumni Awards page.

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