by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | April 01, 2008

When I designed the fundraising gala for an inaugural car race in 2005, I knew the name of the event was going to be very important: Not only was car racing new to the city of San Jose, Calif., but it had a fundraising gala component to support a new nonprofit organization.

The name, therefore, needed to speak to the summer festivities of the car race and at the same time be strong enough to stand on its own. It had to be simple yet sophisticated, unique yet recognizable. It had to support the overall marketing strategy as well as unify the array of ancillary programs associated with the “More Than a Race” tagline. Plus, the name needed to underscore the coolness, edginess and speed of the cars, yet speak to the affluent individuals interested in supporting the philanthropic cause.

The concept of the gala was developed first. I envisioned very exclusive beach cabanas instead of traditional round tables that individuals and groups could buy out. After much consideration, it was clear to me that the perfect name for this event was simply “Cabana.” It says what it is and evoked the high-end beach concept that would appeal to the philanthropists we wanted to attract.

Name plan

Following are tips to help you name your own events.

* Determine legacy. The name of your event is a key factor in the overall branding process. Developing an event brand as recognizable as Comic Relief or Lollapalooza takes skill and discipline. The question arises: Should your event name evolve each year to coordinate with each fresh theme, or should you create one durable title?

If your currently unnamed event is a one-off program, you have more leeway with playful names. If you intend to hold the event for an unlimited duration, it is best to keep the name pithy while influential. If you completely change the name of your event year to year, you will merely confuse and alienate your attendees.

* Be direct. Some great names imply exactly what they are or evoke a certain feeling. A prime example: the Consumer Electronics Show.

* Make all names tie in. The overall name of your event should always retain ultimate hierarchy. Consider it the matriarch or patriarch, and subsidiary events (galas, networking mixers, ancillary/auxiliary sessions) as the individually talented and purposeful offspring. Let’s say a national investment bank calls its annual incentive program “Invest 2 Rest.” The networking welcome reception for top performers could be called “Best @ Rest,” and the closing gala award ceremony, “Conquest.”

* Keep it short. One- to three-word names are your sweet spot. Any more than that is overkill. Also, names should be no more than five syllables.

* Choose a team. If a large committee is involved in choosing the name, you are pretty much guaranteed to end up with something like “The Good Conference.” Keep the naming committee small. Consider the following fail-safe recipe for putting together an effective naming team: one creative type, one strategic type and someone completely off-the-wall. Have them submit a short list. Vote from this list with a small group of carefully selected stakeholders who understand the attendees, goals and objectives of the program and have an equally balanced respect for both engineered vision and originality.

Finally, what do you do if you inherit an event that already has a name? If a legacy event has been wildly successful in the past, but the event concept is getting significantly redesigned, should you change the name? The answer to this is almost always yes, but you do not have to change the whole title. You can keep a portion of the name and simply tweak it.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.