Tag Archives: Special Events

How to Respond to Negative Reviews About Your Special Event

TypingWhether you love them or hate them, online reviews matter to you and your special events business. As an event producer, you should always pay attention to reviews about your event because they could impact your business if you ignore them. They could also give you a view of your event that you can’t see because you are too wrapped up in the details and planning of the event. Sometimes the closer we are to things, the harder it is to see what is really happening, especially with special events.

Keep in mind when you are responding to reviews, you need to respond with care. Even responding with good intentions can make a bad review situation worse. One of the challenges with online reviews is that once it is out there, you can’t take it back, so always respond with respect and be polite.

Why Respond to Online Reviews?

There are two main reasons to respond to online reviews. The first reason, they are your customers and you want to keep them as a customer so you need to acknowledge the issues and let them know you care. The second reason, other potential customers read online reviews and then decide to choose your business or keep shopping around. Online reviews can impact your business because people tend to blindly believe everything they read in reviews.


Tips for Responding to Bad Reviews

Don’t ignore! Read the review and digest the information. Don’t rush to respond before you do your research. Check out the validity of the complaint and the credibility of the person writing the review. You want to respond appropriately by acknowledging the problem they had, but it is important to know as much as possible about the situation before responding.

Respond in a prompt and polite manner. When I respond to reviews I always think about how I would feel if I was the customer in this situation. I also try to figure out if there is something I can do to change the reviewer’s mind. One of my favorite things about responding to reviews is that you have the chance to make an angry customer come back and like you. You have a second opportunity to make a good impression. It is fun and challenging to turn these situations around, so it feels really good when you can take an angry customer and somehow make the situation better and they become one of your fans.

Some people just want to be heard. I’ve had people call me to vent about a ton of different things throughout my event planning career. One of the biggest complaints I’ve had from some of the larger events I’ve produced is the lack of parking. There is never enough parking, that is the way it goes when you have tens of thousands of people going to an event at one time. My favorite way to handle these complaints is to first listen and make sure I completely understand their complaint and pay attention to the details. I sympathize with them because I understand where they are coming from. Then I try to tell them what we’ve done to make parking less of a problem and what we want to do to solve the problem. I also give them advice on adapting to the problem. I’ve had people call me to rip my head-off about parking problems and then at the end of the phone call they thank me for listening and for the insider tips. The most important thing is to listen. We also received these types of reviews online, so I would do my best to respond the same way as I would over the phone.

No canned responses! There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to write a review and then have someone respond like a robot saying “Please email our office at wedontreallycareaboutyourcomplaint@wearelame.com so we can learn more” and then you see that same copy and paste response on all of their reviews. Nobody wants to talk to a robot, so they probably won’t bother emailing you, but they will tell everyone how bad your company sucks in their eyes, and at that point you won’t have the opportunity to respond publicly to their complaint.

Not all reviews deserve a response. It is hard to believe, but there are a lot of crappy people out there that completely make up stories and write bad fake reviews. If you see a review that is fake you should report it or flag it on the review site. Then the site moderators will have the opportunity to analyze the review and work with you to delete it if it is a fake review.

 

Special Event Yelp Review

It is hard for an event to come back from an incident where a car drives through the crowd and the driver is shot by police. It doesn’t seem fair to write a review of an event after an incident like that.

 

Hide your crazy, or don’t. There is also the case of the crazy reviewer that makes no sense or is completely belligerent. If they violate the terms of the review site with threats, personal attacks, or filthy language, definitely report them so the site administrator can analyze and remove the review. If the review is so crazy it doesn’t deserve a response and other potential customers reading the review will see that it has crazy written all over it, do not validate the review with a response. My favorite example of this was when we had a guest at the hotel I worked at that wrote a scathing review about our housekeeping employees because they only left one bottle of shampoo and conditioner on the counter for the guest. The guest went on to share they were staying for two nights and complained that there should be at least five bottles of each available to her per night. Now any normal person would see that this negative review has crazy all over it and would take it with a grain of salt, or skip past that review altogether. And if the customer isn’t smart enough to read that review and see the crazy, you probably don’t want them as a customer.

Burning Man event review

This is a spoof event review on Yelp. When you look at Burning Man reviews they are almost all snarky and written as satire.


What About Good Reviews?

Don’t ignore! Respond to the customer and thank them for their kind words, show your appreciation for their business, and don’t forget to tell them you look forward to serving them again in the future. It is always easier and more cost effective to keep a happy customer than to attract a new customer. People like to be acknowledged even when their review is not a complaint, so don’t be shy and make sure to say thank you.

Share the review with your employees. Show employees some appreciation for earning a great review. Offer extra kudos to any employee that is mentioned by name in the review because it is quite an honor for a customer to appreciate your service so much that they remember your name. Employees really take negative reviews to heart, so sharing the positive reviews is just as important, if not more important. I firmly believe that positive reinforcement and good reviews being shared with employees leads to more positive reviews from customers.

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Find Your Own Best Practices

Develop a strategy for responding to online reviews. Consider what you want to get out of responding to reviews and what your goals are before you get started. Also, determine some guidelines to make sure responses are polite and show respect for the customers. When I was looking for inspiration in handling a particularly bad review a few years ago I found a testimonial online by a restaurant owner. He said that he responded with all of his emotions and complete honesty to the negative reviewer, some very unkind words were exchanged between the parties. The reviewer ended up suing the owner of the restaurant and won. It nearly bankrupted the business owner. If that doesn’t put into perspective how important it is to have a strategy and guidelines for responding to reviews, I don’t know what could make it clearer.

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Embrace Online Reviews

Reviews can impact your business, like it or not, so I suggest you take the online reviews coming your way and embrace them. Look at it as an opportunity. If they offer good constructive criticism, use it to your benefit to make some changes. Take the time to respond. You have the chance to let your customers know that they have been heard and that you care about them. Respond in a polite and respectful way to help protect your reputation and increase customer satisfaction. Most of all, take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given to engage with your customers by embracing online reviews good and bad!

What are you doing to manage your special event reviews? Let us know in the comments below.


39 North Pole Village 2016

39 North Pole Village Returned to Sparks December 9 – December 10, 2016

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Volunteer Sweatshirt

39 North Downtown community group presented the 2nd annual 39 North Pole Village on Friday, December 9 and Saturday December 10 at Victorian Square Plaza. I have had a lot of fun with this event because I helped start it last year, and I am helping it grow each year.

The event unofficially started in 2014 with a tiny event where parents brought their kids down to Victorian Square to write letters to Santa and put them in a large mailbox. Then in 2015, we decided to add a light festival and vendors to the event and call it 39 North Pole Village. Interest in the event skyrocketed! It has been very rewarding to see the event grow and I’m proud to be co-chair of the committee that is making this happen for the Sparks community.

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Photo by: Donald Abbott

The second-year of 39 North Pole Village was at least twice as large as the 2015 event. The winter wonderland featured thousands of sparkling lights, holiday shopping booths, great food and holiday cheer. There were free pictures with Santa and a special booth where children could write letters to Santa. The highlight of the event was Engine 39, the newest member of the “Rail City” fleet. Rides are always free, so this is a great option for families that are looking to entertain the little ones.

Another new addition this year was the Veterans Resource Center of America booth run by Shane Whitecloud and crew. This booth was fully stocked with Christmas cards so event attendees could sign a card and have it sent to military folks serving overseas. It was so popular that they ran out of cards and had to find more. It was a great addition to the second annual event and nice to see our community sending holiday wishes to our military serving far from home.
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39 North Pole Village is a truly special holiday celebration. This year we added the Griswold Family Challenge. The event, inspired by Clark Griswold in the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation movie, saw families and businesses compete for the best light display. This is a really fun competition because there is cash on the line. It costs $100 to enter the competition and $50 per entry fee goes into the prize pool. The winner this year was Salon 2000 and they won $350. I’m going to try to get a lot more businesses to compete next year, hopefully the prize money is more than $1,000 in 2017.

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This was my Griswold Family Challenge display. I didn’t win, but the kiddos loved my display.

We also had a larger vendor tent in 2016. It was sold out to vendors renting space. The tent is heated so it is very popular at this winter event. The vendors said it was a great event for them and they all went home with quite a bit of extra money in their bank accounts just in time for the holidays. We hope next year to have so many vendors that we need two tents.

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Vendor tent at 39 North Pole Village – Photo by: Donald Abbott

We were happy with how the event turned out this year, but there was one big issue. Mother Nature. On the second day of the event it rained all day and all night, which put some pressure on the power grid and caused some of the light displays to go dark. We are going to need to invest in more electrical supplies and protective boxes since this is an outdoor winter event.

We also had a bit of flooding in the vendor tent because it was raining so hard. Our volunteers and board members jumped into action and we were able to save the light displays and reroute the flood waters as best as possible. Having events during the winter is challenging to say the least!

We have big plans for this event. I personally hope that over the next 10 years it continues to grow and eventually it is so big that the displays stay up the whole month of December. It is a lot of work to setup the displays so it is a bummer when you take them down after two days. The event needs to grow so that the displays can be built and left open to the public for the whole month.

We had several new sponsors this year and I’m sure that will also continue to grow next year. With the community’s help, we will grow a new holiday tradition for future generations!

I can’t wait to see what we accomplish with the 2017 event!
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For more information about 39 North Downtown click here.

If you would like to become a sponsor or volunteer for 39 North Pole Village, please email me at LisaJansenNV@gmail.com and I will send you more information.

 


Reno Lantern Fest 2016

Last October I missed the inaugural Reno Lantern Fest. I read about the event after it was already sold out. I was disappointed because I knew I missed out on something extraordinary.

Saturday I was able to finally attend my first Lantern Fest. I talked my parents and my friend Val into attending with me. They weren’t quite sure what they were in for, but I knew it would be an amazing experience.

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Mom & Dad at Reno Lantern Fest

The Lantern Fest is a celebration held out at the Fernley Raceway, about thirty minutes from Reno, NV. Thousands of people attended the event. They wrote their dreams and wishes on paper lanterns and then released them as a symbol of hope.

The floating lanterns are a beautiful tradition. It is a meaningful experience to release a lantern and the experience leaves you with a positive attitude and feeling optimistic.

Additional event information can be found at www.thelanternfest.com.

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Secret of Life…

In my humble opinion, being an event planner can drive you a little crazy sometimes. The long hours and pressure can take its toll and change your attitude. So can all the praise and misdirected appreciation when an event is a huge success.

Over the years I’ve seen ego and self-interest ruin several high caliber event executive directors. When they become bigger than the purpose they serve it is usually fatal to their careers. I understand what it is like, sometimes it is hard not to let it all go to your head. The good event planners that are capable of enjoying a long steady career in the special event industry don’t let it go to their head. They show appreciation for their team and know the importance of staying humble and kind.

You know in the movie City Slickers where Curly asks Mitch if he knows what the secret of life is?  That one thing. This is that one thing! Thank you Tim McGraw for so eloquently capturing the secret to life. If you live life this way being an event planner won’t drive you crazy.

 

Remember that scene…

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Photo Credit: Quotesgram.com

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [points index finger skyward] This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles and points his finger at Mitch] That’s what you have to find out.

 

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Reno Sculpture Fest 2016

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Reno Sculpture Fest 2016

The 2nd annual Reno Sculpture Fest was held on May 6 – 8 in downtown Reno, Nevada. The event featured 30 art installations including larger-than-life sculptures, art cars, sound stages for live performances, interactive activities, and after parties. I was really excited after the inaugural event last year. I feel like Sculpture Fest has a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing what it grows into over the next few years.

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The top two factors that make this a great event:

  • Larger-than-life sculptures – There is something so humbling about seeing an enormous piece of artwork. It gets your imagination working and inspires you. I am awestruck by the artists and their sculptures. The sculptures at this event do not disappoint!
  • Location! Location! Location! – Having the event right under the Reno Arch is perfect! This makes it easy to get to the event because there are several nearby parking options. The location also enables event attendees to take fabulous pictures with the world-famous Reno arch in the background. Every picture is like a post card promoting Reno. Great photo ops for locals and tourists alike!

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  • Go early in the day. The early morning hours are best. We went in the late afternoon and the event was awkwardly crowded. We couldn’t read about the art on the small signs and it just felt like we were in the way when trying to look at the sculptures and take pictures. We also saw more than our fair share of burners, street performers and panhandlers that afternoon. My friends that went in the morning had a much better experience. They had time to enjoy the art and the event was much less crowded. They were also able to take some really great photos with the morning lighting.
  • Bring your camera! My camera stopped working after our first twenty minutes at the event. It was operator error, but still a bummer. Thank goodness for cell phones! Don’t just bring a camera, bring a backup camera.

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I look forward to seeing what Reno Sculpture Fest has in store for fans in 2017. I like Burning Man, but I hope Sculpture Fest starts moving away from a Burning Man theme and there is IMG_4792more focus on sculptures of all sizes. The sculptures make this event truly unique, hopefully more artists are drawn to the event next year and it continues to grow.

This is a great opportunity for artists to show their work and to rally for art sculptures and culture. Potential art donors and sponsors should be drawn to this event. There is a great opportunity to build an artisan marketplace for sculptures and specialty artwork. I could see this eventually becoming a major event for people looking to purchase artwork.

 

Did you go to Sculpture Fest? Comment below about your favorite piece of artwork. Got pictures? Please share them!   

 


Reno-Sparks 2015 Citizen Special Event Survey

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Photo Credit: RSCVA & UNR Center for Regional Studies

The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (RSCVA) partnered with the City of Reno and City of Sparks to collect opinions from locals about special events. They wanted to hear from residents in particular because if they aren’t drawn to special events in the community the events probably won’t be attractive enough to draw tourists from out the area. The other goals were to share the information with event producers so they can use them to enhance their events, and use the information to solicit new events. Special events play a valuable role in our community. They add to quality of life and generate economic impact for the region. It is important to have a combination of residents and tourists to support special events.

Nina Brown, RSCVA; Francine Burge, City of Sparks; and Alexis Hill, City of Reno were the leaders for the survey project. They did a fantastic job! The survey was funded by the RSCVA, City of Sparks and City of Reno. Survey analysis was provided by Center for Regional Studies at University of Nevada. The survey responses are going to be incredibly helpful to all of us event producers in the region.

The results of the survey were shared with event producers at a meeting this week. There was a lot of good information, way too much to review in one blog post.  There were a few results that were very fascinating to me. I will elaborate in future blog posts, but for now I’d like to highlight a few results that caught my attention.

Reno…Always Tardy for the Party!

The survey asked “When you go to an event, how far in advance do you make the decision to attend?” The top two responses were when first notified of event and the week of the event. Very few responders made plans further than a week before the events they attended. Event producers constantly talk about how Reno-Sparks ticket buyers usually buy tickets the day of the event and it always makes us nervous because we can’t forecast event attendance. The survey results just proved that we were right in our theory that they don’t plan ahead. It also made me think we should boost all of our advertising big time the week of the event to get as many locals to show up as possible.

Traditional Media Isn’t Dead

Everyone is crazy about social media and e-newsletters. If you want to attract millennials that is where you should be. If you want to attract customers 35 and older, you might want to consider spending some money on periodic publications, TV or radio. In the Reno-Sparks market that seems to be where most people over 35 years old get information about events and activities to attend.

Reno-Sparks is Price Sensitive

When it comes to spending money at events or on tickets, customers in the Reno-Sparks area are very price sensitive. They want to attend free events but not pay much for them. This is a pretty hard business model to follow. I couldn’t help but wonder if this community culture was caused by the heyday of the casinos when everything was comped because gaming was so profitable. Did everyone get used to having great experiences, the best entertainment, and low cost food and beverage subsidized by gambling? Why aren’t people willing to pay for the experiences that the special events offer?  How can we make sure to price events correctly and offer enough value to keep customers coming back? This section of the report gave me a lot to ponder.

I look forward to delving deeper into the survey and applying the knowledge to the events I produce. Stay tuned for more blog posts about the survey results. There are countless morsels of good information to share that event producers can use to improve their events and give customers more of what they want. I can’t wait to apply some of the lessons learned this upcoming event season!

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The Business Cycle for Event Producers

Business Cycle - MadAboutEventsBlog.comThe business cycle is one of my boss’s favorite discussion topics. If you want to be successful in business or be a successful event producer you need to know about the business cycle. You better pay close attention to your performance and financial statements so you know your business cycle stage.

Business cycles are often described as periods of expansion and recession in the course of business. The cycle happens over and over. There are three main stages to the business cycle. The stages are growth, stability and decline.  It is important to have good accounting so you know what stage your business is in at all times. If your business slips into decline and you see the trend in your numbers it is important to find a way to grow, or you may just go out of business.

The business cycle also applies to special events. Many long term events stay in the stability stage for a long period of time. Events are able to maintain the stability stage a lot longer than most businesses. I’m in that situation with one of the events I produce. The event saw rapid growth but then over the last three years the numbers have been very stable. They are great numbers, but we aren’t seeing much growth. I don’t want to see the event get in to the declining stage, so we are trying to add more value and new experiences for event attendees.

Another event I plan, Nugget Star Spangled Sparks, is in the decline stage. This year is the 17th annual event. The event saw nice growth the first ten years. Then the event became stable. Sponsorships weren’t growing, revenue from food and beverage wasn’t growing, it was all stable but no real growth. This was pretty good considering it was the great recession. Then over the last six years revenue has slipped and the event has been hit with rising expenses. Even though the economy has improved, the event’s financial statement has not. This has pushed the event into the decline stage. The event has lost a few sponsors and seen event production expenses rise. Now we are faced with the reality the event is in the decline stage.

The decline stage doesn’t have to last long. This is the time to come up with new ideas and adapt to the business climate. That is why we are adding more daytime activities to Star Spangled Sparks. For example, this year the event will have a Patriotic Bike Parade for kids of all ages. Right now we are looking for the perfect sponsor for the bike parade. Maybe I’ll call Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys “R” Us tomorrow to see if he is interested.

Star Spangled Sparks will also feature craft vendors for the first time. We are trying to find additional sponsors and accepting donations through a GoFundMe campaign. With any luck all of these efforts will bring the event back to the growth stage and we can continue to expand the event for future generations.

The business cycle is important to consider when you produce special events. Especially because analyzing the business cycled doesn’t leave room for denial. As long as you keep good records and accurate accounting you should be able to tell what stage your event is in the business cycle. Don’t ignore the cycle and you will be able to live through the decline stage and find new growth opportunities.

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