Catching the buzz from event marketing

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

“It’s always good to get a view from somebody outside of your main focus of work. A fresh approach is really valuable and that’s what David brought – a different way of thinking about things. He was very easy to talk with too. He has a lovely manner about him.”

Gill Perkins, CEO, Bumblebee Conservation Trust

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a charity that advocates for the protection and proliferation of bumblebees in the UK, advising government, engaging communities and enthusing everyone they can to enhance the understanding of bumblebee ecology and conservation and bring about measures that increase the quality and quantity of bumblebee habitat.

A key platform for the Trust is Chelsea Flower Show, where they won a Silver Gilt award in 2023, following a Silver award the previous year. Around 10,000 people visit their stand and they wanted to put in place some means of evaluating their presence at Chelsea and other events, and how they can turn that footfall into tangible benefits.

Having entered a competition run by our partner Charity Intelligence, they won an hour’s consultation with Action Planning’s David Saint.

Trust CEO Gill Perkins decided to use the hour’s consultation to investigate the question of evaluating their presence at Chelsea. “We’ve never done that before,” said Gill. “Never thought about how we might engage people post event.”

David divided the hour into two separate calls: the first, prior to Chelsea, to explore what would be a successful outcome that Gill could actually measure; the second to report back on how it had gone and discuss how it might be refined.

David homed in on the tricky but valuable objective of gathering email addresses from potential supporters. Once you have an email address you can start them on a journey to engage with the Trust. This would give a good idea of what percentage of those 10,000 stand visitors actually went away and took action. David proposed a competition that people would need to give their email address to enter.

Gill and her team then went away and created an auction to win one of six bee hotels in the shape of the letters that spell out CHANGE in Bee the Change – the Trust’s slogan (see pic). This was an eye-catching and memorable idea that attracted interest.

Gill reported back to David in their second call and they went through what worked well and not so well and how they could improve the process in future.

The auction idea worked really well. People did give their email addresses and the charity can now follow up with them to do more. “That was a way of very gentle way of starting a journey with people,” said Gill.

“We’ve agreed that next year we will put evaluation planning in at the beginning of the project planning, rather than getting all excited about what our stand’s going to look like and forgetting about whether it serves the purpose. It’s got us really thinking about what audience we want to get to and how we can get them engaged.”

Consultant’s insight:
​​​​​​​When it comes to events, it can be all too easy to get so caught up in the frenzy of making sure all the arrangements are in place, and that everything is looking good, that we forget those all-important questions: Why are we doing this? What would success look like? So when Gill said she’d like to use her time with me to work out a way of measuring the success of the stand – she was asking exactly the right question. But of course, being a consultant, I answered her question with a question! “Why are you doing this? What are you trying to achieve?”

If I remember correctly, Gill’s response was the one I often get from charities: “to raise awareness”. But you can’t really measure ‘raised awareness’ – and anyway, why do we want to raise awareness? To which the answer was along the lines of, “To increase engagement, so we can educate and also raise money.”

Now we are talking! If we want to increase engagement, we need a way of engaging beyond their (probably fleeting) visit to the stand at the show. We need to capture contact details. Once that becomes our clear focus – and our success measure – we can design a promotion and activity that will deliver that.

Gill was great to work with. As soon as the idea was planted she was off, designing the solution. It felt like a couple of half hours very well spent.

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