Event Management

How To Convince Your Boss to Support Event Innovation

Skift Take

Don’t get mired in the old ways of doing things with a conservative board, client, or employer who’s fearful of change. Present your ideas to innovate with confidence by following these tips.

You’re stuck, or rather, the people you work for are. Those behind your event just can’t seem to embrace this century. They don’t want to adopt new technology. They’d rather run two consecutive marathons than raise ticket prices and they think “change” should be done only as a last resort. How do you innovate, or bring an event into this century, with a group like that? You do it by using basic principles of change management.

Most of the hesitancy in embracing change is based on fear. Fear causes people to act irrationally. This can bring about very tense situations and good communication is necessary to navigate these challenges.

  1. Explain the Necessity of Change, Particularly Now

Life is rapidly changing these days. Your attendees are waking up nearly every morning to expanding technology, new features, and things that make their lives easier. These new things have become their expectations in all areas of their lives. For instance, Siri and Alexa have made voice-operated assistance commonplace, not something out of a space odyssey. Wearables at resorts like Disney have transformed your attendees’ expectations on personalization.

Your attendees are not compartmentalizing, expecting only Disney and Amazon to cater to their needs. These expectations transcend every area of their lives and if your event isn’t keeping up, at best they’ll think of you as nostalgic. At worst, they won’t think of you at all.

You need to communicate these expectations to your non-profit board or client. It’s essential they understand that while they personally may not want to embrace tech, others are doing it at alarming rates. Only two percent of American iPhone users have never used Siri, while only four percent of Android users have never used “OK Google”.

2. Address and Assuage Fears

Some people who fear technology envision a time similar to something out of a Terminator movie when the machines will rise up and take over critical thinking and then the world. In the case of your board, their technology fears may be more along the lines of adoption and cost. That’s why it’s critical to have a marketing plan in place of how you will encourage adoption, as well as show them ways to mitigate the cost.

You may be able to negotiate a discount with the tech vendor or show them how an increase in attendees (thanks to better tech) will cover the cost of the event tech quickly. Keep in mind in your technology marketing plan that what drives adoption is usability (it has to be easy to use) and utility (it has to make their event lives easier or more enjoyable).

3. Time Your Suggestions Well

In your personal relationships, you probably know your close friends and family well enough to understand when to bring something up and when it’s best to avoid a suggestion. The same is true of your board or your client who’s hesitant to embrace change. The best time to bring up innovative ideas is when you’re celebrating a minor win, not a major one. This is critical. You don’t want to bring it up when you’ve just broken a major attendance record. By doing so, your board may not see the importance of change. Why fix what isn’t broken?

Wait for a minor success that is remotely tied to your innovative idea. For instance, if you’re looking to increase technology usage at your event, bring it up when you’re reporting on the fact that you just scored your largest email open rate to date. This will show your board that attendees are into tech, even if the board isn’t.

4. Get Sign-offs for Specifics Not Ideas

Don’t waste your time trying to get your change haters to agree to nebulous concepts of change. Present exactly what you want to do, how you plan on executing it, and as mentioned earlier, what effect you believe it will have on the event. Use stats and data instead of guesses whenever possible. I never saw Facebook as a place to “do” business. It was a place to have fun and reconnect. I have since had to eat my own words but that came from seeing proof of business relationships built and conversions made, not because someone told me.

5. Don’t Skip the Downside

Be transparent when presenting change. If there’s a downside, or a potential for one, share it. Talk about the obstacle and how you will avoid that happening to you and the event. For instance, in a presentation to introduce event technology to your board beat them to the argument by admitting you will need to work on adoption because that’s essential to your success. But don’t stop there. Share your plan to ensure you have a large percentage of attendees using the new tech. This will show them that you’ve considered the argument fully and you’ve come up with a strong solution.

If you wait for them to bring it up and you stumble in your argument in any way, your lack of confidence will feed into their fear and they will have difficulty supporting it.

6. Bring in the Specialist

“No prophet is accepted in his own town.” You may have done all the research necessary to prove your point. You may have an impeccable plan to drive success with your ideas but there are some people who fail to see the brilliance of those in front of them. They need an “expert” to tell them what to do. In these cases, if you have a sizeable budget or a consultant friend who owes you a favor, bring in the “stranger with the briefcase” (or in today’s terms, the iPad).

If your budget doesn’t support expensive expertise, line them up virtually through Skype calls, videos, or articles you assemble agreeing with your suggestions. If they won’t believe you, they’ll likely believe pundits who know nothing about your organization. No, that isn’t sarcasm. That is sadly what many event planners experience.

In Conclusion

If you’re dealing with a non-profit board or client that is extremely conservative or unsupportive of change, you needn’t just figure that’s the way it will always be. Understand the root cause of their fear of change and address those issues from the beginning, admitting how you plan on overcoming obstacles. “Be prepared” shouldn’t just be the slogan for the Boy Scouts. It should be yours too, if you plan on implementing change.