6 Surprising Challenges You Face When Your Event Gets Really Big

challenges of big event

Is demand for your event outstripping supply? Are you looking at scaling up to a bigger venue or expanding from a one-day event to a two or three-day event?

These are exciting times, indeed! However, success can also present its own challenges. As your event grows, you may hit choppy waters and unexpected obstacles.

So you can be prepared, we’ve compiled a list of the six most common issues faced by sell-out events. We also take a look at ways to navigate these hurdles and keep your event fresh and vital no matter how big it gets.

1. Increased competition

When you started your event, you no doubt identified a gap in the market. You developed this previously neglected niche and grew a thriving audience, but now others want a slice of the pie – without doing any of the hard work!

Unfortunately, when other people see there’s great business to be had, the number of competitors you face will increase and some of these competitors might have much deeper pockets than you.

They might try to do what you’re doing on a grander scale or they might try to undercut you, with cheaper ticket prices that you can’t financially compete with. What does this mean for you? You’ll have to work much harder to market your event and maintain customer loyalty.

Having a really strong brand is also really important – to be known as the original and the best will help you see off the upstarts. But if you do find your market share dwindling, you’ll need to ask why. What is your competitor offering customers that you’re not? How can you improve your own offering?

Although competition can sometimes seem very unfair, it’s not a bad thing, as it ensures your event continues to offer attendees the best possible experience.

2. More detractors

When you’re doing well there will always be those who want to knock you down. It’s one of life’s truisms that while people love to support an underdog, once they’re flying high they’re considered fair game for much harsher criticism.

Just like an underground band that suddenly finds chart success, you can expect to hear your event has ‘sold out’, ‘gone too mainstream’ or ‘lost its edge’. The detractors are often original supporters who may regard your event as ‘going downhill’ simply because it has changed.

Sadly, it is nigh on impossible to keep the character of a small, boutique event that started with 100 visitors once thousands of people are attending. Of course, you have to move with the times and you can’t keep everyone happy, but what you can do is keep a close ear to your audience.

By conducting thorough post-event surveying to monitor attendee satisfaction levels, you will be able to better understand the overall sentiment. If a significant percentage of your attendees are telling you something is wrong, for example long queues or overcrowded seminars, you’ll know it’s an issue to be tackled as a priority. Feedback can ensure you don’t go wrong with your event growth plans.

3. Growth gets harder

An event that starts with a single attendee need only attract one further guest to enjoy 100% growth, but for an event with thousands of attendees, that growth becomes much harder. You may find you reach a point of market saturation, and with no new audiences, growth begins to slow.

Continuing expansion when you have reached this level of success will be reliant on diversification; introducing new areas of focus to widen your audience. However, this comes with the risk of diluting your event and alienating your original customer base.

You may also consider co-locating with other relevant but non-competing shows or buying out your competitors. Ultimately, you might have to be prepared to put a cap on exponential growth and focus instead on improving your profit margins.

4. Innovation can suffer

One of the beauties of small events (and small event teams) is the ability to change and adapt quickly. This flexibility means you can try new things and if they don’t work out, it’s easy to bounce back. You can bring in extra staff as and when you need them and keep overheads low when you don’t.

There’s so much more at stake when large events take a risk. Get it wrong and they could lose on a large scale and that could result in the whole machine falling apart. Because big behemoths do not enjoy the agility of their smaller counterparts, it means there is a danger of becoming stale – sticking to the tried and tested formula.

Innovation, however, is vital to stay relevant and see off new competition. Staying responsive to customer feedback is a good strategy; continually making small changes that keep your audience’s attention. Don’t wait until the point you’ll have to do something radical to regenerate interest.

5. Quality control gets more difficult

For the control freaks among us, perhaps the hardest part of event growth is losing control – you simply can’t oversee everything when your event gets too big. It becomes necessary to delegate more parts of your event and bring in more outside expertise or even outsource whole functions.

Once your event has reached this size it becomes harder to keep tabs on everything and ensure everything is being done exactly as you want. If you’re not careful, some plates could spin out of control.

The key to this is developing thorough brand guidelines and a robust on-boarding process for staff, freelancers and suppliers. Good delegation is a skill that can be learned and, when everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, truly opens up the growth potential for your event.

6. Everything can get fragmented

As your organisation evolves and new departments and functions are added, things can easily become fragmented. Business fragmentation occurs when critical processes aren’t managed as an integrated system. This can result in loss of efficiency and, in some cases, the opportunity for error.

To maximise time and cost savings, and reduce internal complexity, it’s important to standardise mechanisms. Joined-up working also ensures your business enjoys full value from the data it generates. Use technology like Eventbrite (in conjunction with a partner CRM system) across your organisation to keep everything tied together and integrated.

Conclusion

Increasing the size and scope of your event is hugely exciting, but is not without its challenges. However, if you bear the potential pitfalls in mind as you scale, you can avoid becoming a victim of your own success.

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belbooker@gmail.com'

Bel Booker

Bel is an experienced journalist specialising in events. Formerly deputy editor at leading trade magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel and its website meetpie.com, she now writes for a range of publications on a freelance basis.

Interested in contributing to a future article on the Eventbrite blog? Connect with Bel on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/belinda-booker-a6a697a or Twitter: @BelBooker