How to recover from an unsuccessful event

Ten tips for turning a negative into a positive when things don't go as planned.

Article supplied by Eventbrite.

The seats were empty, there was tumbleweed in the aisles…

We’ve all had that one disastrous event where hardly anyone turned up. It’s an excruciating experience, especially if you have stakeholders to answer to. But there’s no reason you should give up.

Here are 10 positive steps you can take to bounce back from an unsuccessful event — both emotionally and financially.

1. Analyse what went wrong

Failure is a learning lesson. If you can understand what you could have done differently, you won’t let it happen again.

Analyse your event data to look for answers and consider surveying attendees to find out what they did or did not like.

2. Communicate with your stakeholders

The worst thing you can do after a poorly performing event is put your head in the sand and pretend everything was fine.

If you don’t recognise the disappointing result and provide an explanation, those involved will think twice about working with you again.

Proactively communicate the results of your event with stakeholders and share findings from your post-event analysis.

If you explain what went wrong, why it happened and the steps you’re taking to ensure it doesn’t happen again, you’ll limit damage to your event brand and your personal reputation.

3. Take a break

After a financial loss, it’s necessary to take some time to regroup and restock resources. On a personal level, take some time off to avoid burnout. Too much stress is bad for your health, and some time away will give you headspace before starting your next project.

If you have vendors who are still waiting for payment, make this a priority before starting on another event.

It’s important to protect your reputation with suppliers to avoid becoming blacklisted. You need to be on solid financial footing before diving into your next event.

4. Find a mentor

It’s not unusual for an event failure to shake your confidence. If you find yourself unsure, find someone with more experience who can support you. A mentor can give you feedback at each stage of your event when you’re doubting yourself.

If you’re unable to find one person to mentor you, seek the advice of the many. You can use event industry groups or forums to reach out to other event creators. Most event professionals will have had events that didn’t go exactly how they wanted them to, so these networks can be great places to go to for moral support.

5. Reflect on what you did do well

While it’s important to face up to failure, it doesn’t mean it should overshadow everything. List out anything about your event and personal performance that you were pleased with. Maybe you secured great deals with suppliers, meaning you’re a solid negotiator.

Play to your strengths and you’ll find the motivation needed to try again.

6. Gather competitive insight

Did your event fail because attendees defected to that shiny, new competitor event? This is your chance to shake things up!

Look around you at what others are doing, conduct some research among your target audience, and get inspired. Maybe it’s time to announce upgrades you’re making that blow your competitors out of the market — or scrap the format you and all your competitors have done for something entirely new.

7. Offer an olive branch

When you start planning another event following a failure it can be embarrassing to go looking for support from the same attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors you let down last time. How can you convince them to trust you again?

The answer is to put your money where your mouth is. You can demonstrate confidence in your event by contributing your own funds towards subsidising discounts for those who lost out previously. Make them an offer they can’t refuse in order to win them over and create a feeling of goodwill.

8. Try a smaller event

You shouldn’t try to run before you can walk. So consider scaling back on your next event.

What worked with your previous events? If you were a small food festival that unsuccessfully attempted to host pop-up dinners, go back to the festival and build from there. Growing organically, little by little, can lead to long-term success and is great for building confidence.

9. Set meaningful milestones

Define what success looks like for your next event. This means setting realistic targets based on the insight you learned from your failed event.

Once your event is on sale, pay close attention to your progress along the way. Your event ticketing and registration platform should offer real-time information to help you avoid unpleasant surprises — and pivot if need be.

10. Pay close attention to industry trends

Lastly, the challenges you face aren’t always unique to your event.

What challenges do they face this year? Read Eventbrite’s The Pulse Report: 2019 Event Industry Trends to benchmark your own event and discover tools that can take you to the next level.

Eventbrite is a global ticketing and event technology platform, that allows anyone to create, share, find and attend events, from music festivals and conferences to community rallies and fundraisers.

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