Are You Launching a New Event? Here's Where to Start

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It’s intimidating to start anything from scratch. But in the event world, launching an inaugural event or reimagining an existing one doesn’t have to be a painful process — in fact, it can be an exciting chance to flex your creative muscles and really lean into that all-important “why.”

After all, the main key to launching a successful new event all comes down to a single question: Why are you gathering these people, at this time, for this type of event? 

The Sequence team helps answer this through our comprehensive discovery process, which we call The Discovery Phase — where we ask a lot of strategic questions. Whether it’s a first-time experiential event, something existing that’s being relaunched in a new format, a milestone celebration, or a larger conference that’s been broken into smaller gatherings, it all goes back to this discovery process, and defining the key goals and markers of success.

And now, we’re sharing our secrets! Here are some steps we always take while planning an inaugural event. 

1. Review what has been done in the past. 
Step one? Research, research, research. What can we learn from the initial RFP or from early conversations with the client? What guidelines are in the brand guide? What can we learn from past events the client has done, even if they’re completely different, about what worked and didn’t work? What are others doing in the same industry? Coming to initial client meetings thoroughly prepared helps us ask productive follow-up questions and really start isolating that “why.” 

It’s a process we followed when cloud computing and software company Unqork wanted to reimagine their user conference from a fully-virtual event. By studying the previous version carefully, and asking key questions about what they wanted to change or keep the same while shifting to in-person, we were able to create the successful and engaging “Unqork Create” conference — ultimately drawing 75+ speakers, 500+ attendees in person, and hundreds more virtually.

2. Have extensive conversations with key stakeholders.
Another key part of our discovery process, particularly for inaugural events? Listening!

Early on, we identify who needs to be involved in the vision for the new event, whether that’s dedicated brand or marketing departments, senior leadership, or others. Getting the right people at the table lets us understand the client more, and dig deep into their company culture, how they relate to each other, and what exactly they’re hoping to achieve. Through these honest conversations, we’re able to carefully identify the must-haves versus the nice-to-haves.

These types of in-depth conversations were key to planning MarketWatch’s inaugural Best New Ideas in Money Festival (BNIM). We identified that the goal of the first-time festival was to engage attendees in nontraditional ways, positioning BNIM as a creative and impactful alternative to the traditional investing conference. From there, we could study what others in the industry were doing and start thinking outside the box. 

3. Know the right questions to ask. 
For these all-important client conversations, it’s crucial to come prepared with some strategic questions. We ask things like:

  • What are some of your key goals, KPIs, and success metrics (both tangible and intangible) for this new event?
  • What types of programming and other elements need to be here? 
  • What type of audience are you hoping to draw, and how do you want to make them feel?
  • What’s your budget and timeline? 
  • Are there any past events or competitor events you’d compare this to? 

All leading to the biggest of all:
  • Why this experience, and why now?
When tech leader Thumbtack wanted to create its inaugural company-wide off-site, for example, Sequence leaned heavily into an analytical, question-driven approach to build the retro “Camp Thumbtack.” We used surveys to isolate what “camp” meant to every global stakeholder, and found recurring words like “fun” and “team bonding.” The majority said they hoped to feel “engaged” and “joyful” during the event, and to leave feeling “inspired,” “connected,” and “refreshed.” We also used surveys to identify what type of venue would be appropriate, seeing that Thumbtackers emphasized a desire for a cozy, natural, and playful space that could accommodate camp-inspired elements like communal meals and fire pits.

4. Make sure everyone aligns on the “why.”
It’s exciting to plan an inaugural event — but it’s also all too easy to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Now that you’ve identified the “why” through the discovery process, it’s key to get the full alignment of every stakeholder before getting too deep into the actual execution. At Sequence, we like to create a fully built-out Discovery Report for clients to review. This is a “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment, where everyone can understand that future changes could result in wasted time and money.

5. Find tangible ways to execute this vision. 
Then, we’re into the ideation phase! This part balances blue-sky thinking and working within logical parameters — all while keeping that mutually agreed upon “why” in our minds every step of the way. For Camp Thumbtack, for example, we knew the stakeholders wanted a nostalgic summer camp-inspired venue — but we also knew it needed to be at a hotel for logistical and convenience reasons. By leaning into our findings during the discovery process, Sequence was able to develop a unique visual identity and event design that transformed the traditional hotel into an immersive camp-like space via branding, photo ops, and activations.

Again, the key here was always tying it back to our goals. During each step of the process, we asked ourselves questions like: Do these ideas and concepts point back to the priorities we learned during discovery? Are we measuring what we need to in terms of success and results?

Planning an inaugural event — or reimagining an existing one — is an exciting opportunity to shake things up and get creative. Need some help getting started? Get in touch with our team today!