Hosting an event can seem like a scary proposition, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before. What if no one shows up, what if you don’t order enough sandwiches, what if the keynote speaker gets stuck in Bali by a volcano and can’t make it?
The fear of failure can be a powerful motivator to do nothing at all. But events are great ways to promote your business, meet new people and boost your own confidence. Here are a few tips on how you can easily create an event everyone will be talking about.
The goal and the guest list
First up, start thinking about logistics and consider what you want your event to achieve. Is it to launch a new product or service, to network with peers in your industry, to gather prospective investors to potentially fund your business or simply to meet and greet customers? Once you know your purpose, your guest list will flow naturally and you can start designing invitations.
Timing is everything
You need to figure out when your audience is more likely to come along to an event. Are they flexible enough to leave work during the day, is a breakfast meeting or after-work gathering more appropriate or will they take time out of their weekend to attend? Getting the maximum number of desired people to your event is your primary goal, so don’t make it harder for them than it needs to be. Also, make sure you avoid clashing industry events, long weekends and holiday periods.
A great venue
Where you host your event is crucial to its success and depends on the timing too. How much parking is available if your event is during peak times? Is it an easy-to-reach location or will they be sitting in traffic longer than they’ll be at your event? If it’s an evening ‘do where there is likely to be alcohol, you might want to make it easy for attendees to grab public transport, or even arrange for a shuttle bus to drop off at pre-organised locations.
Get great talent
Nothing has attendees walking away saying ‘that was an amazing event’ more than a great experience. And for most, that either means they were incredibly entertained (we don’t rule out using performers to warm up the crowd) or they learned something new and valuable to them. For business events, hosting experts who can speak on a range of different topics such as marketing, social media, innovations in robotics or fire twirling can be inspiring (OK, so maybe not fire twirling but that would certainly be memorable!).
Make a schedule and stick to it
There’s nothing worse than an event that runs too long or is completely disorganised. Your attendees will be annoyed, you’ll be flustered and most likely never be brave enough to host another event. The best way to avoid this is to have a great plan, and do all you can to stick to it. Create a run-sheet that includes things such as what time guests arrive, when food or drinks are served (if appropriate), what time proceedings kick off, how long speakers or presentations will last and what time it all wraps up.
Make sure there’s time to network
Humans are social creatures and there’s nothing quite like an inspiring speaker or interesting demonstration to break the ice. Giving attendees time to meet others who have a similar interest and may get even more out the event than what you’re offering is a bonus. Many businesspeople form wonderful collaborative projects after meeting at events where networking is encouraged.
Watch your budget
Planning an event doesn’t have to be expensive. Of course you could splash out on Moet and gold-flecked salmon roe canapes and have Oprah hand out your PR kits (“And YOU get a showbag and YOU get a showbag), but chances are you’ll be after a more modest soiree. Allocate a budget and try to work within it. Consider a ticket price for your event if appropriate and think about bringing a sponsor onboard to pay for the venue, catering and goodie bags in exchange for naming rights and a chance to address the crowd, aka captive audience.
Invite people online
These days, everyone is accustomed to RSVP’g to events posted online through sites such as Eventbrite or TryBooking, or even through Facebook. It’s also a very easy way for you to keep a tally of attendees, use a single tool to communicate with guests and update them about your event as well as gather valuable email addresses for future marketing. And online sites aren’t expensive to host your event either, which keeps your budget in check.
Drum up some publicity
Whether this is writing a press release for your local paper, connecting with social media influencers and bloggers to give you a shout-out or leveraging off your guest speakers’ social media following, get the word out there as much as you can to boost your numbers. If it’s a specific industry group, find out how to have your event listed on key websites or notices placed in newsletters. The longer lead time you have for your event, the more exposure you can get.
Manage the room
On the day or evening of your event, revisit your run sheet and make sure everything is ready to roll. Enlist some help – have your staff on site to manage guests, answer questions, usher in speakers, organise tables for catering, boil the kettle – whatever it takes to have everything organised and stress-free. That frees you up to converse with guests who may know only you. Keep sight of the goal of your event so you can feel as though you have accomplished it and, most importantly, have fun!