December 19, 2018

Four Questions for Event Success

We are glad you have decided to host a Women of Color Research Initiative event!  That is the first step toward impacting the careers and futures of the women around you.  In order to ensure the greatest success possible for your event, the event planner(s) should know the answers to the following four questions.  Since “success” is defined differently for each event, considering these points should help you narrow your focus and plan accordingly.

1.       Whom do you want in your audience?

Usually, our program audiences and sponsors have consisted of bar associations and law firms. You may wish to present the Women of Color Research Initiative to your female employees or students, in which case marketing should be much more straightforward and you will focus more on inclusion than “curating” your audience to contain more varied perspectives. You may also wish to focus your presentation by age group, legal practice area, or type of legal workplace (large firm, solo practitioner, in-house counsel), to name a few. The benefit of a more homogenous group is that you can customize your presentation to address the needs of that specific group.  However, you will lose the more robust discussion that comes with diversity of thought. If you do wish to “curate” for diversity, meaning ensure that your attendees are well balanced by sexual orientation, age, type of practice etc, you'll need to allocate more time, money, and energy to promoting your event to each type of attendee you wish to attract.  It will also be imperative to keep intersectionality in mind.  Do your attendees need a lower price point because many of them come from low-revenue practice areas?  Would your event be more attractive if you provided a sign language interpreter or on-site childcare? Of course, your venue should always be accessible to people with mobility impairments.

2.       What key takeaways do you want your attendees to learn?

If your goal is simply to make attendees aware of the challenges some women lawyers of color face, and how to overcome them, the standard presentation materials in our toolkit will accomplish that perfectly.  But it is important to think about what beyond the basics you may hope your attendees learn.  If, for example, your event is geared towards new solo practitioners, it may be helpful to go deeper on dealing with the unique lead generation challenges she must tackle to meet revenue goals, or how to ensure she is being paid market rate for her services.  Know on what topics you would like to dive deeper at the outset of event planning, so you can keep that in mind as you solicit speakers and tailor programming.

3.       How large do you want your event to be?

Keep in mind that a larger event does not necessarily equal better, depending on your goals and resources. A ballroom full of 200 women may be an appropriate goal if you are interested in having your event covered in your local law journal, demonstrating that a significant population cares about the experience of women lawyers of color, and/or inspiring many people to join your organization. But to attain that number of attendees, it is important to have a high-profile speaker with a large audience draw.  This means you must budget more for your speaker’s expenses & may need to plan your event much farther in advance.  You will also need a higher budget for the venue, materials, et cetera.  On the other extreme, an in-depth round table of five women is an appropriate choice if you desire to invest in the growth of key women in your organization, debate new initiatives related to advancing women of color in your organization, and/or empower each woman to share her own story and ask as many questions of the speaker as she’d like. In this case you can plan for a shorter timeframe and smaller budget, but you will need to ensure that your speaker and staff are well-versed in small-group facilitation.  Along the spectrum could be events targeting twenty to 100 women, all of which will have different planning needs.

4.       How do you want your attendees to interact with you in the future?

Much meaningful work and learning can happen at a “one and done” event.  For your target audience this may even be ideal, as women lawyers on the whole tend to be extremely busy people. But if you are hoping for further engagement post-event, this is helpful to know when designing the event itself.  For example, using the Women of Color Research as a launch for a monthly brunch providing a community to women who hope to attain partnership could be an extremely attractive selling point for these women, who often report feeling frustrated with a lack of resources on how to advance to the next level.  You may also want to list your up-coming relevant events at the end of the Women of Color Research Initiative materials you hand out, or ask attendees to “opt-in” to your newsletters or promotional emails as part of the registration process.  If you do want to promote engagement, both among attendees and between your attendees and your organization, scheduling some time out from the presentation for them to network and make introductions will be great at facilitating this.

Once you have answered these four questions, if you would like some further guidance on building and marketing the perfect event for your goals, please reach out to Jennifer Sawicz, Marketing Specialist for the Commission at Jennifer.sawicz@americanbar.org