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The event WOW factor at The Business of Events

Create more wow factors, says Australian events legend

Posted on May 15th, 2019 in Event News, Experience Economy, Industry Insight, Memorable Experiences

The secret to a great event could be as simple as making sure you include a wow factor, says multi-award-winning events organiser Peter Jones.

While he’s the first to admit that might sound a bit wishy-washy, the fact that this strategy has led to Peter winning more than 35 awards in his career – including multiple lifetime achievement awards and hall of fame inductions – means he might be onto something.

How the events industry has changed

With so much experience in events management, Peter is perfectly placed to talk about the way things have changed over the past two decades. To him, the major change has come in the planning stages and understanding what a client wants.

He said, “When I started, there were two questions I would ask a client at a meeting: ‘what themes have you done before?’ and ‘what’s the budget?’ I can assure you I don’t ask those questions now. Nowadays, I will ask one question: ‘what is the experience you want from your event?’”

“The budget is secondary. You can’t create an event until you ask what the experience is the client wants.”

Peter will go about planning an event based on what the client has asked for. At times when they have multiple goals, he’ll ask for the most important option, especially if there’s a limited budget.

Planning the wow factor

Perhaps the most important factor of any event is making sure the client is happy and that normally comes through making the guests happy. One tactic to do this is to make sure there is some kind of ‘wow factor’ that makes the event memorable.

However, promising a wow factor can be difficult as it’s become a bit of a cliché in the industry and what wows one person might not wow the next.

Peter said, “I define ‘wow factor’ as a moment, or moments, that are totally unexpected but have a lasting impact.”

“The most important thing here is that the wow factor is not all about dollars. The wow factor for me is being strategic and looking for ways to be that extra bit special that doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money.“

“What the client is looking for is the experience. They want to tell everyone about it.”

Delivering the wow factor 

There’s not just one way to deliver wow factor, which allows you to be creative when you’re planning an event, especially when you have a client with specific needs.

Peter explained that the wow factor can be delivered in almost any factor of the event from the venue itself (and how you organise for guests to arrive) to the centrepieces, the interactive elements, the entertainment, the food or the technology you use.

He reeled off an extensive list of examples from his events history – using Melbourne’s iconic Block Arcade to host a dinner for Oprah Winfrey and serving dinner to a group of cricket-mad Indian delegates on the playing field of the MCG. He talked about the time he spent $2.50 on a centrepiece – a selfie stick – that gave guests and hosts the wow factor they wanted.

With more than 25 years in the industry, Peter had more than enough examples to give guests inspiration. One he seemed particularly proud of was for an awards night where there were 50 winners.

He said, “We hired a house. We took all the artwork off the walls and we got pictures of all the winners when they were babies or when they were at school and the whole house was turned into pictures of people who won awards. That was a small touch, that cost not a lot of money to do, but it was personal.”

Another win for Peter came when he transformed an average dining experience into something truly memorable. All courses were designed in the shape of something from nature – as the client was related to nature – and they had to essentially order a mystery meal.

He explained, “All the food had to be a picture from nature. The menu just had pictures, so you had to work out what you were eating. It had the desired effect because people took photos and shared them.”

What does it mean for your events?

The highlights reel of Peter’s career emphasised one thing clearly – a great event comes in many different guises so there’s no shortcut or secret ingredient that you can incorporate to make sure you’re onto a winner.

Peter said, “There is no one solution. There is no perfect. You’ve got to work out what the elements you need in your event. What is important for you? Is it important having John Farnham sing or is it important having an entree that looks like a mushroom? You can combine elements; the experience then becomes all the factors.”

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