Making Your Event a "Perfect 10"
‘Tis the season to be jolly and host holiday events! The holiday season is a great opportunity to get better acquainted with your clients or to meet potential ones—what better way than to host an event? Events, if done well, are a great way for businesses to increase their likeability. Here are 10 ways to make your event successful:
- Plan ahead and check the calendar. To maximize your attendance, check for local and industry-specific events to make sure yours doesn't conflict with a major or popular event that your guests may attend. Being aware of events in your area, and what kinds of crowds they will bring, can help you budget more accurately and find better accommodations for your guests. Typically, if there are a lot of people in town for an event, hotel rates will be higher and there will be less rooms available, not to mention traffic and parking. If you don't book early, meeting spaces will often be booked as well.
- Choose the right venue. It has been said there are three factors that influence attendance: the content, who's hosting and attending, and of course, the venue. Of those three factors, the venue is the one that is often not given enough thought. Think about the image you would like associated with your brand because your guests will associate your brand with the venue you choose. If you’re hosting high-level executives or selling a high-end product, don’t select the hotel closest to the airport just because it’s convenient.
- Select the right guests. It’s very important to make sure you’re inviting the right guests. Be sure to invite guests that can positively impact your business, but be careful when inviting guests from the same area or region. You may not want to invite two competing businesses to the same event. You should also be mindful of your guests’ positions within their companies. They will be more comfortable and interact more with their peers.
- Create an eye-catching campaign to stay in front of your guests.Use a combination of direct mail, email and even social media to communicate details and generate excitement. Try mailing your guests a poster-sized or magnetic save-the-date; a piece that will not only get their attention, but make enough of an impression that they may even keep it for a while. Use unique paper such as metallic, cotton/linen or recycled. Make sure your direct mail pieces, email and other forms of communication have a consistent look and feel so your guests know at a glance that those pieces are for your event.
- Use your content strategically to entice your guests to attend. Start with a teaser on the save-the-date piece so guests keep a look-out for the next communication. If your piece is eye-catching and interesting, but not too revealing, your guests will want to see more. Follow your save-the-date with an email to remind them of the event date and keep your brand in front of them (remember your pieces should have a consistent look). Be sure to space out your touches so that you are not bombarding them, ending up in the spam folder or trash can. On the formal invitation, include details to convince your guests they should attend. Use things such as the list of delicious items on the menu, entertainment, networking opportunities, or points of interest the location/city is known for.
- Make it easy and convenient for them to attend. Coordinate with local hotels and car services to provide your guests with a list of options and possibly offer reduced rates. If you have an event page, list local area attractions and things to do, provide a map to the event location, and instructions for parking and Wi-Fi. Be sure to display banners and signage with your branding and event name to clearly identify the meeting room and other areas your guests will be in. Send out a logistics email with final details and instructions so your guests know what to expect once they arrive. It is also a good idea to hand out event materials once they arrive so they don’t have to remember to bring it with them. For a special touch, provide personalized notepads and branded pens in a branded padfolio to each guest.
- Plan for the unexpected. Always have a back-up plan and be prepared to adjust on-the-fly. It is also a good idea to have extra supplies and handout materials for walk-ins or guests who forgot to RSVP. You should always make everyone feel welcome and included; having extra materials for those unexpected guests can achieve that. If you’ve planned for the unexpected, you’re less likely to stress. Remember, if you’re stressed, your guests will be too. So even if things don’t go perfectly, it is the manner in which you choose to handle the situation that will be noticed. The key is to stay calm and use your resources. Empower your guests to have a good time.
- Make your guests comfortable. It’s human nature to be a little nervous or anxious when walking into a new environment and meeting new people. Making your audience comfortable in the first seven minutes can impact how and if they absorb your message. Be sure to have enough signage or people to greet and guide guests so they don’t get lost. Positioning representatives at key locations to greet, direct, answer questions or just smile can go a long way. Guests will also be more comfortable with something in their hand. If you’re serving food or drinks, “pre-pour” the drinks to ensure they have something in hand quicker and to help decrease the risk of bar line-ups. However, this does not apply to handout materials. Try placing the materials in their chairs, give only what is relevant, and provide something to carry them in if you can.
- Ask for feedback. You can provide a printed survey at the event or email a survey link to the attendees to request feedback on the event. Ask what they liked most, whether the content was applicable or helpful to their business, and what they would like to see next year. A survey is also a good opportunity to gather testimonials or even referrals on who to invite to the next one. After a great event, guests are thankful and more likely to share information. If you need to include a little incentive, provide highlights of the event or a copy of the presentation.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up! This can’t be stressed enough. Personal interaction with your guests before and after the event is crucial to extending the experience and improving your ROI. The save-the-date, invitation and RSVP process make the first impression. A “thank you for attending” email with relevant information, sent soon after the event, lets your guests know that you appreciate them coming. If you really want to leave a lasting impression, make your follow-up a personalized photo or memory book with photos and highlights of the event. Don’t forget about the ones who were not able to attend. You can send them a recap of what they missed, make the event materials available to them, and let them know when the next event will be so they can makes plans to attend.