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Special Events - January 2017

How to Develop Successful Special Events

by Michael Switow

Are you thinking about creating a new event to drive attendance and generate revenue, particularly during off-peak times? Here are 10 tips to keep in mind:

1. Know your audience. Some events are meant to attract new guests; others provide value to annual pass holders.

2. Successful events become traditions. “When you create a compelling experience for guests to have with their family, they’ll want to come back and visit time and time again,” Nancy Hutson, corporate vice president for events & entertainment at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said.

3. Tailored events are a good opportunity to attract new and different demographics.

4. Watch out for team burnout. Longer hours preparing and running an event can be grueling. Be sure to reward staff for the extra effort.

5. Don’t prepare an event at the last minute. It might happen once, but it’s not sustainable. And when working with an external vendor, allow 18-24 months for development.

6. Planning early makes it easier to attract sponsors. Incorporate their products into event attractions.

7. Consider adding VIP and behind-the-scene tours. “There’s a portion of the market willing to pay for the bespoke experience,” noted Todd Hougland, Ocean Park Hong Kong executive director for operations and entertainment.

8. Conduct guest surveys—not just once, but at the beginning, middle, and end of the event to ensure its consistency.

9. When evaluating success, engage frontline staff. They know what guests are saying and how they responded to the event. Plus, the action cultivates the staff’s respect by letting them know their feedback is valued.

10. While attractions often think about producing seasonal events—for Halloween, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, etc.—consider creating something new. It could be as simple as celebrating an anniversary, or anything which could become a must-attend event.