“Just winging it” works for some events, but it’s a risky and cavalier approach. Sooner or later, unforeseen circumstances will derail your best intentions.

Owners of successful event businesses are both visionary and realistic. They know how to identify their strengths and weaknesses, seek out opportunities, and address risks up front. This goes for creators of big annual festivals and small networking events alike. Any event can benefit from a powerful tool known as the SWOT.

Enter the SWOT

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” A SWOT analysis is a powerful exercise for assessing your event’s chances of success or failure.

A SWOT analysis will tell you:

  • How well your event is positioned to succeed
  • What inherent weaknesses you have to contend with
  • The opportunities you’re poised to act on
  • All potential threats to look out for

Events don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re influenced by the market, timing, trends, weather, and plenty of other factors. A SWOT analysis helps you put your event in context and assess its chances of success.

Here’s how it works.

List the strengths of your event 

It’s not enough to have a cool idea. In the real business world, you need proof to back up your hypotheses and hunches.

Here are some ways you could describe the “strength,” (or potential), of your event:

  • An idea that hasn’t been done before 
  • An experienced, motivated team with a record of success
  • An existing social media following that will serve as a powerful marketing platform
  • A financial plan that indicates potential for healthy revenue

This is not the place to humble brag. Sell yourself with a bold list of your strengths.

Be honest about your event’s weaknesses

It’s equally important to be honest about your weaknesses. These might include things like:

  • Lack of funding and/or high expenses for things like outreach and venue rental
  • An event team that’s enthusiastic, but inexperienced
  • Lack of technology you’ll need to run an efficient event

Part of the motivation of listing your weakness is simply to acknowledge them with full transparency. Stakeholders and investors need to know what they’re setting themselves up to contend with.

But there’s also an opportunity to talk about how you’ll address these weaknesses. For instance, you don’t have much capital, but you have a plan for approaching investors. Or your team is green, but you’re enrolling them in free online event-management classes.

Outline potential opportunities

The “opportunities” part of a SWOT analysis looks at factors in the community or market that could positively impact your event. For instance:

  • There’s a huge LGBTQ population in your city, but no specifically LGBTQ-focused festival — yours would be the first.
  • With the revitalization of the urban waterfront scheduled to be finished by June, it’s the perfect timing for a block party.
  • There’s been a boost in family farms in your county, and a lot of buzz around “eating local.” The time is right to launch an annual farm tour that ends with a farm-to-table dinner.

This section of your SWOT shows that you’ve done your research to align your event plans with the reality of the world around you.

Confront event threats

Finally, “threats” — things that are out of your control. They might happen, they might not. The point is, you have a plan for them.

The threat The contingency plan
Bad weather will derail your music festival You’ve found a “rain or shine” venue where the show can go until lightning strikes. And if that happens, your PR team knows how to handle the fallout.
Another event will provide competition  You’ve got a rockstar marketing plan in place and will lock in your majority audience with early bird ticket sales.
You won’t find enough sponsors to cover the cost Your budget has some “optional” line items you can drop if the expense isn’t covered. But you also have an aggressive plan to approach impressive sponsors.

You can’t control every possible outcome, but by being prepared you can minimize the impact of unforeseen calamities.

Put your SWOT into practice

Now that you’ve aggregated all this information, use it to position your event potential. Ultimately, your SWOT should validate your event ideas and help you convince important stakeholders to support you.–

Your SWOT can be a standalone exercise or part of a comprehensive business plan. Download The Event Business Plan to Launch, Grow, and Propel Your Event for a step-by-step guide.