Did you know that we're the only PR agency within a million mile radius that was founded by a guy who spent most of his 20s hosting massive music festivals, radio shows, digital TV and now makes his own social experiments & documentaries?
"So what?" you ask.
Well, this seemingly pedestrian superpower (Marvel certainly aren't turning him into a movie franchise anytime soon) recently helped a charity break fundraising records.
Today, we're going to show you how you can do the same at your next charity dinner/fundraiser/auction/raffle/John Barnes football icon guest speaker shindig.
THE 'S.T.A.G.E' TECHNIQUE
Asked to host the annual Cash4Kids charity dinner three weeks ago, our founder, CK Goldiing, unleashed his S.T.A.G.E technique — which helped raise over £11,000 that night; a record for the charity.
But, what is the S.T.A.G.E technique?
With tea and biscuits accompanying our chat, I asked him.
Abi: Okay, so 'S'... what does 'S' stand for?
CK: 'S' is the most important letter of all. It stands for 'significance'. It baffles me how many events treat guests/attendees like farm animals with pound signs hanging over their heads.
What I'm going to say next will sound counter intuitive, but trust me, when it comes to fundraising events, the cause — i.e. the charity's beneficiaries — are not the most important thing that night, the guests are.
The first thing I do at events like this is step onto the stage, say "hi", tell everyone my first name, thank them for coming and demand they all give themselves a round of applause for caring.
Because every living human wants to feel valued, appreciated and significant. No one wants to feel like a farm animal. It horrifies me how many events open proceedings with utter nonsense, and by 'utter nonsense', I mean anything other than demonstrably recognising the guests. Stop it.
Abi: It is weird when you think about it, I mean, everyone knows that first impressions count, so what better way to make a great first impression than by appreciating the guests, recognising their effort and making them feel important?
CK: I'm afraid I can't think of a better way.
Abi: Next, 'T'...
CK: 'T' is 'target'. I learned this trick many years ago when I presented music festivals to thousands of people. I love isolating individual people in the crowd and talking to them directly, one-to-one, because ironically, it instantly captures everyone else's attention.
Humans are intrinsicly nosy — so the minute you zero-in on one person in a room of hundreds and start chatting casually with them, everyone wants to listen in. F.O.M.O. It's simple psychology.
Abi: I've seen you do this often. In fact, in your recent London PR talk video you do it. It always creates an intimacy in the room.
CK: Indeed. Depending on the duration of the event, if you target three or four people throughout it, the room starts to feel like a gathering of friends rather than an event of strangers.
Abi: Now 'A' is probably my favourite.
CK: It's one of my favourites, too.' A' stand for 'allow them in', which means cultivate extra trust and rapport by giving the guests a peek behind the curtain — share information with them that is, for all intents and purposes, 'confidential'.
During the Cash4Kids event, I realised halfway through that we'd hit the financial target. There was no official target per se, but during private conversations I had with the charity's main corporate partner, CC33, I was told that raising £5000 would be a dream scenario.
Hitting that milestone halfway through, I took a gamble and announced, without first seeking permission, that we'd already smashed our "secret target". I then cited the guests as the only reason this was achieved — demanding they once again give themselves a round of applause, which they did with satisfied glee.
Abi: Were you not worried they'd slow down their generosity during the auctions if they knew the target was met?
CK: [Reaching for a biscuit] No. Before my announcement, I read the room. I knew that everyone was engaged. I felt connected to them. By revealing this 'confidential information', I knew it would further strengthen that connection. You know what it's like when someone tells you a secret... if it's a significant-enough secret, you feel a strange bond to that person. Again, simple psychology.
Once everyone knew we were doing incredibly well financially, things switched from "how much can we raise tonight?" to "wow, how much more can we raise tonight?"
Abi: Now... 'G' is a subtle one!
CK: Subtle but effective. [Dusting crumbs off his lap] 'G' is 'get amongst them'. By that, I mean close the physical distance between the host and the guests — encourage him or her to actively walk among them while hosting the event. Think about it, everything I've said so far is, essentially, about relationship-building, but what greater barrier is there to relationship-building than physical space?
Charity fundraisers usually take place in large conference rooms or event spaces, which are great for capacity but poor for connection. Stepping off stage, walking among the tables, making eye contact and talking directly to the guests is the perfect companion for 'T'.
Abi: Finally, we have 'E'.
CK: This is where I get on my soapbox again, but I make no apologies. 'E' is 'empathy' — take time to consider things from your guests' point of view.
Most of what I've discussed so far was learned during years of hosting sweaty music nights in grotty pubs. Oh, to be 25 again! [laughs]
For reasons I'll probably never understand, I've always been obsessed with figuring out how to engage human beings and make them genuinely connect with me and whatever event I'm hosting. The one question I ask myself that has always helped me achieve this is: 'What bores you, disengages you or simply leaves you feeling like a farm animal when you're the guest at an event?'
I'm convinced that most MCs, hosts and presenters don't ask themselves this question. Baffling. Still, with these five techniques, I'm optimistic for the future of events [laughs]
Good luck everyone!
Abi: Wait! I have an idea.
CK: Go on...
Abi: Let's put your old presenter showreel in this blog.
CK: [pause] Why?
Abi: It shows you hosting those grotty music nights and big festivals you've mentioned.
CK: Yes. It also shows me asking a singer if I'm sexually attractive...
Abi: ha ha, true, but it was 2013 and you were young and excitable.
CK: I was 33!
Abi: Should we post it?
CK: Up to you. [Distracted] Did you eat the last biscuit?