by Laura D’Angelo
It’s exciting to think about producing an event for your business. You imagine all your important stakeholders celebrating your organization’s accomplishments and leaving energized to support your firm’s brand or invest in its future.
Before you get carried away ordering décor and canapés, stop and think about your ultimate goals, and whether an event is the best strategy to achieve them. For example, if your objective is to start building connections for a new business or to earn respect and support from key stakeholders, you might be better off focusing your time and effort on attending events and building relationships – in other words, networking.
Events are a perfect tool to celebrate and generate excitement if you are:
- Launching a product or service
- Marking a milestone
- Making an exciting announcement
If you can check one or more of the boxes above, then an event makes sense for your business. It’s time to make some important decisions. Here are three steps that will help you create a memorable and effective event.
1. Set the stage with an appropriate format and venue
Will you host on a luncheon or stage an all-out dance party with custom cocktails? To make decisions about the location and format of your event here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your brand
- Your audience
- Your goals
It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of planning a big party with all the bells and whistles. Before you hire the DJ and book a photo booth, remember, this party isn’t about you; it’s about your clients and customers.
For example, if you’re a policy-focused organization trying to raise funds for research, bringing in thought-provoking thinkers and speakers for a panel discussion over breakfast will align with your brand and attract the key decision makers you want to engage.
On the other hand, if you’re a design or advertising firm opening in a new market, creating a buzz that demonstrates your cutting-edge position in the marketplace with a trendy location and custom cocktails will bring in the right crowd.
Whatever format you choose, make sure your location is convenient for guests, with good parking, and public transit options.
2. Guest list
Even with the most on-target event, it can be hard to fill a room. In fact, for most events if you get a 25 percent return on your guest list you’re doing a great job, especially if you’re new to the market.
This means you’re going to need a long list of invitees to ensure your event’s not a flop. That said, keep in mind that a room full of friends, relatives, and co-workers isn’t going to build your business or get your message out. To build your list, try pulling some favours with your professional network who you can depend upon to work the room.
Your invitation is your first chance to draw people in. Ensure it is engaging, aligns with your brand, and has all the key information guests will need. Email blasts and Facebook events are great supporting tools, but don’t rely on them. Instead, send out a customized invite or e-invite. And don’t sit back and wait for the RSVPs to materialize. You’re going to have to pick up the phone, send personal notes, and follow up with reminders as the date gets closer.
Speaking of dates, before you finalize one for your event, research what else is going on in your city and choose a date that doesn’t conflict with other major happenings like concerts, trade shows, and sporting events. Consider the day/night of the week. In general, people don’t like attending business functions on Mondays, Fridays, or weekends. Likewise, summer and early September are not usually optimal unless your event is something that relies on good weather, like a golf tournament.
The key to getting people to come to your event is to make it easy for them, and to offer something they won’t want to miss. Whether that’s the opportunity to hear a great speaker, to dine at the hottest restaurant in town, or to get access to key contacts, make sure your target attendees know what they’ll be missing if they decline your invitation.
Finally, if you suspect your event attendance is less than you would have hoped for, get creative. If you can’t find a graceful way to cancel, then cut down the size of the space, change your format, and rework the event for a more intimate crowd.
3. Get professional help
Event production is about more than a checklist. Skilled event directors are idea and execution strategists who help you shape a cohesive, entertaining event that accomplishes your goals. Moreover, having an event director gives you and your staff a chance to network with the knowledge that the small details (and inevitable behind-the-scenes snags) will be handled professionally.
With the right approach, events can be a powerful way to build your brand, create excitement about your business, and boost company morale. It can also provide a great learning experience. Collecting post-event feedback from staff and attendees will help you make your next one even better and, more importantly, have a pulse on how stakeholders are feeling and thinking about your brand.
Laura D’Angelo is a senior associate with Wazuku. She honed her event production expertise as a student leader at McGill University and as an event producer and fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada.