Veteran Organizer Shares 9 Proven Event Planning Tips
I’ll admit it. I’m an Event Junkie. I’ve planned over 1,000 events during my career and know what works and what doesn’t. Successful events just don’t happen; you make them happen. And, although I wish I could tell you to close your eyes and say “Abracadabra”, I’d be misleading you. Plain and simple, it takes planning to create a successful event and lots of it.
Whether you’re a small business owner with the task of organizing a grand opening or a mid-size company wanting to put together a conference, the success of your event is based on your ability to plan in advance and pay attention to the details. A friend of mine was right when he told me long ago, “The Devil is in the details.”
If you’re thinking of having an event in the near future, check out the helpful hints below to ensure a smooth event planning process. Follow this lead as well to expect the best ROI possible – and make your bean counters happy at the same time.
1. Know your Audience
Are you crystal clear on who you’re targeting? Will your audience enjoy the type of event you’re planning and is it relevant to them? If you’re not sure, ask a few trusted associates that you’d like to invite. If the event is geared towards Millennials, be certain to get involved on social media, engage in cause-related marketing, and prepare interesting food and/or drink. What about introverts? Do your research to make sure you’re on target (no pun intended).
2. Establish a Timeline
It’s also important to put everything in writing to keep virtual and in-house members of your team on the same page. Share online documents with Google Docs if your team works that way and designate at least one person to be the “Master Event Keeper” with an up-to-date folder of details, contracts and contacts. A successful event is one that has been properly planned with achievable deadlines and goals, so make it a point to monitor the many moving parts.
3. Offer Compelling Content
Content isn’t just the King, it’s the Emperor! Don’t give your audience a long drawn out sales presentation or put them through a pitch fest. Both are a big turn off and leave everyone with a negative impression. Create engaging activities, make your prospects and customers learn or laugh (or both) and leave room for networking within your event agenda. It’s time out of the office for your folks, so give them an opportunity to return, instead of dreading to come back.
4. Scheduling is Everything
Look at a calendar before you plan your event and pick the perfect date – that works for your company and hopefully your attendees. For the most part, avoid holidays, school vacation weeks or other industry conferences, unless of course you are piggybacking with them to ensure your target market will be there. Plan your events, like your vacations, well ahead of time and pencil them in on the calendar to share with your staff. Depending on the event, leave enough time for promotion.
5. Improve Attendance
We’re all so busy these days and often over scheduled, so it doesn’t hurt to send a confirmation letter or email reminder about the event, without being a hound. Make sure to include contact information multiple times and in various formats so if information gets lost, it can be retrieved easily. You can even add events to a calendar or send text reminders the day of. I love that!
6. Brand your Event
How are you branding your event? Your invitation online and offline needs to be compelling. What’s the draw? What are you offering? Think about the message you want your attendees to walk away with. Once you know that, you can plan collateral, promotional products and other marketing material to support your message.
7. Harness the Power of Social
Targeted marketing and publicity are key to a successful event. Spread the word using your social media platform, influencers you’re inviting, your own media channels (blog and website), industry publications and of course, word of mouth. Be sure to create an event hashtag and use it for pre-event promotion through post-event wrap up. You may also want to consider direct marketing and supplemental boosted posts on LinkedIn and Facebook.
8. Create a Budget
A budget provides you with a financial blueprint for your event. Make it as specific as possible with estimated and actual columns. Factor in printing, premiums, permits, insurance, speakers, food, supplies and security. If you don’t know what line items to add, Google it! The budget also needs to include revenue opportunities such as sponsorship, event registrations and/or donations. I always leave room (and budget) for miscellaneous items, because inevitably something comes up last minute.
It’s not over when the event ends. There’s still so much to do! Take notes on your own and with your team to evaluate the event. What went right, what went wrong. And, how can next year’s event be better? Hopefully you’ve sent an evaluation form to your guests and they’ve completed it anonymously online.
It goes without saying that every event you plan reflects your brand. When you record what works, you can build on it. But don’t be afraid to shake it up a bit too. Variety is the spice of life!