photo-1450609283058-0ec52fa7eac4Last week, we looked at one of the entries that had been submitted and won for this year’s Your Honor Awards for the Legal Marketing Association. I liked the concept so much that I want to take the opportunity to do it again, this time with one of my other favorite entries: K&L Gates LLP’s “Australian Open – Building Brand Awareness for a New Entry Down Under.”

I know a thing or two about events, because we put on a lot of them for the ILN, so I love getting the chance to see what other firms and organizations are doing with theirs. A lot of firms and companies tend to stick to sort of the same script, so when an event stands out like this one did, it was easy to get excited. You’ll notice if you look at the overall winners for the YHA that there was only one awarded in events, and that was first place to this entry – there was good reason for that.

It wasn’t an inexpensive endeavor – the event was a sponsorship of the Australian Open, to highlight K&L Gates’ breaking into the Australian legal market. But the two takeaways I have for you have nothing to do with having a big budget. So whether you’re a small firm or solo or a mega firm, you can take these to heart for your next event to help bring it to the next level. 

Takeaway One: Consistency

One of my favorite things about this event and the entry was the consistency throughout the entire thing – the team of professionals at K&L Gates didn’t overlook any opportunity to reinforce their message and branding.  Their theme was “determination” which was something else that I loved – there are some obvious sports metaphors that can be used when it comes to lawyers and law firms, but rather than using an old, tired one, K&L Gates chose a slightly more unique twist and went with that instead. I liked that a lot, and so did my fellow judges.

And they followed that through everywhere – commercials, print advertising, the VIP lounge, the entertainment area, social media campaign, and even including their logo on signage throughout the event. Everything connected, from the menus used in the VIP lounge, to the vouchers for free swag,  to lanyards and table numbers, to backdrops, bar signage, and more. While a lot of that involves an investment, there are ways that you can communicate your message without having to invest as much. Alternatively, it’s important to consider that one, targeted, well-done event is much stronger than several events that aren’t as well done, if your messaging is consistent throughout.

So what can you do to be consistent?

  • Make it a natural extension of your brand. When we did our first branding exercise as a network, I wanted to know what it was that our lawyers believed to be true about their experience of the ILN – whatever they are already living and breathing as a part of your brand is a more believable part of the experience. For us, it became our tagline “where lawyers become friends,” and that ultimately is translated through all of our events as well. Because our events are derived from our branding message, which is something that we live and is true, people buy into them, they believe in them, and it’s not something we have to sell or remember to make consistent – it just IS consistent.
  • Always be asking, does this communicate our message? That means you start out with solid, measurable goals (ones that are audience-driven and measurable) and develop your messaging from those goals. If your  message is clear, the execution of your message becomes MUCH easier.
  • Always be looking for how else you can communicate your message: are you using social media thoroughly enough? Have you empowered your attendees, speakers, guests, lawyers to use it? Does everything that you’re using communicate the message, from the music to the venue to the cocktail napkins to the food, etc.? It’s not necessary or possible for every single aspect of an event to underwrite your message, but you should at least ask the question of each element to ensure that you’re making the most out of it.

Takeaway Two: Brief Your Attendees

This was my absolute favorite part of the K&L Gates entry, and the real difference maker for us in terms of what put them head and shoulders above everyone else for value. Not only did K&L Gates put together a great event for clients and potential clients, in a way that was memorable and reinforced their brand, but they also identified who was going to be there, provided that intelligence to their lawyers, and created a cheat sheet of talking points for them. They told us:

Cross-selling opportunities were analyzed, and schedules were created to identify client attendance by day. K&L Gates lawyers then met internally in advance to brief their colleagues on the potential cross-selling opportunities. An educational tool, the Australian Open ‘Host Guide,’ was created for the lawyers, consisting of key message points for lawyers on critical information about the firm.”

This all speaks to their allegiance to consistency, but it’s such a point of excellence that I had to pull it out separately. No matter what the scale of your event, it’s something you can easily do – in fact, I just watched the marketing director from our firm in Boston do it at a client event last week.

Events like cocktail parties or firm receptions can often seem like they’re going to be boring, or as if the facilitator’s only job is to get some hors d’oeuvres together – so what’s the big deal, right? But they are actually a much more sophisticated and nuanced dance than that for a good planner. To really add value, you want to identify who is attending, both from within your firm and in terms of the audience. As K&L Gates did, look at the opportunities for networking AND cross-selling:

  • Identify those on the list who are not current clients of the firm, and which of the firm’s partners should be talking to those people. If you’re not sure who they are, make name tags a requirement for the event, and have the person handling registration introduce or point out the target individual to the relevant partner as they arrive. Make sure it’s coordinated so that the attendee isn’t deluged with law firm partners.
  • Identify those on the list who ARE current clients of the firm, and make sure the relationship partner meets with him/her. Discuss any cross-selling opportunities in advance, and if there are any, have those partners meet in advance of the event to discuss them, and the strategy for introductions during the event.
  • Don’t forget follow up – discuss with all of the attorneys who are attending how they plan to follow up with attendees and WHEN. Make sure to then follow up with them to make sure they’ve done what they’ve promised.

I also love the idea of a cheat sheet for the firm’s attendees – if the event is launching a new practice group, a new office, a new initiative, or just celebrating clients, ensure that the relevant facts are in a bullet point format that the attendees can reference. It helps with the consistency that we talked about above, and gives potentially nervous or shy lawyers something to fall back on when they’re not sure what to use to talk about (though they may need a little more prep so they don’t just recite firm facts).

If you’re the lawyer attendee, talk to your marketing department or the person planning the event, and ask them for the attendee list – do some due diligence through LinkedIn and Google to see what you can learn about the attendees, and identify the top three or five that you should talk to that evening. Give yourself some goals – are you looking to reaffirm relationships with existing clients? Meet one to two potential clients? Introduce your colleagues to clients for cross-selling opportunities? When you, and your colleagues, treat an event proactively, instead of reactively, you’ll find that you’re getting much more value out of it.

What are your takeaways for putting together valuable events?