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READERS' FORUM

When Is it Time to Update an Annual Event?

When attendance drops? When vendors ask for a change? Readers discuss how often they tweak their annual events.

September 10, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT

(Pictured, left to right) Brooke Murphy, Karen Hartline, Amy Young

Photos: Orange Photography (Murphy), Michael O'Donnell ShinyRedPhoto.com (Hartline), Courtesy of Amy Young

“When the calendar changes to the next year! We always suggest new concepts to keep events fresh—it's more fun for us and for the client.”
Nicole T. Samolis, president, the Events Company/Sky Armory, Syracuse, New York

“Ask your constituents. They will tell you verbally or by behavior at the event if they are still excited about the experience.”
Brianne Huot, special events coordinator, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland

“If you do the same thing every year, you're stealing money. They already paid for that experience once.”
Richard O'Malley, president, the O'Malley Project, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey

“While the event is happening, observe the interactivity and response to the entertainment, food, bar, and overall aesthetic of the event. It's often a gut feeling that says something is missing or something needs to change.”
Khalilah Olokunola, owner, A Boxed Event, Wilmington, North Carolina

“There should always be something fresh and exciting added to an annual event. It's great to keep the things that worked really well in the past, but without creating a sort of newness each year, it leaves the event feeling stagnant and stale. We want to help repeat attendees and new attendees have a life-changing experience every time.”
Blume Bauer, owner and C.E.O., Siren Song Productions, Los Angeles

“Think of it from the attendee’s perspective: Would you want to walk into the same space/feel from last year? Shake it up!”
Karen Hartline, C.E.O., Reinventing Events, Las Vegas

“It's important to maintain enough consistency that your brand is evident and your attendees know what to expect at your event, but if you aren't stretching to make things better, then you will lose people's interest. Surveys are such a helpful barometer of what is worth keeping and what is worth tweaking. If you're an event professional, you should be keeping up on technology and trends—then you'll be excited to integrate these ideas for clients.”
Erin Branham, president, Apartment Two Events, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“Before you start seeing drop-off in your multi-year attendee numbers. If you start losing them, it may be because they're bored.”
Brooke Murphy, manager of planning and administration, National Notary Association, Chatsworth, California

“Our job is to serve up fresh and relevant content, and the lure of new and exciting opportunities may be a deciding factor in attending your event. If it comes down between two events and I know one is a repeat of the previous year, I would go for the other one.”
Elizabeth Knox, director of marketing and business development, Conbop, Costa Mesa, California

“When you start to see numbers drop or start to see people who come every year stop coming. It's great to offer sponsors new opportunities to host attendees. We have moved into doing more interactive events such as shows and theatrical performances rather than just the usual dinner. It helps build relationships and engage our customers.”
Alexis Robbins, event marketing director, Nuix, Los Angeles

“At a time when so much new and innovative event technology has become available to planners, bringing enhanced engagement, interaction, networking, and added value to attendees, there's no excuse to ignore it and simply keep doing the same old, same old.”
Max Turpin, managing director, Conference Focus, Frenchs Forest, New South Wales, Australia

“Probably before you even think it needs tweaking.”
Amy Young, president, Destination Consultants, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“When your vendors from previous events ask if you really want to redo the same things again. Small changes can make a world of difference.”
Andrea C. Davis, owner, Pazzaz Group, Houston

“It's always time to tweak. The process of continuous improvement means you always see room to fine-tune and enhance. If the event ain't broke, you don't need to fix it— just do more of the good stuff! From personal wellness to learning delivery to huddle spaces, the attendee needs are more precise and eloquent than ever. That's where you should start.”
Midori Connolly, principal, AVGirl Productions, San Diego

“Because it's the day after the event.”
Sean Murphy, president, MurphGuide Entertainment, New York

“When your results are as effective as before. Your attendees come to learn not stay stagnant.”
Vernetta R. Freeney, founder, Fusion Tour, Houston

Editor's note: Some of these comments were shared by readers on our social media networks. Join our discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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