Hosting an event is a great way to promote your business. It gives you a chance to network, connect with industry leaders and promote your services. Hosting a successful event will also position your business as professional and highly credible.
But hosting an event is no small undertaking, especially for smaller businesses who don’t have much experience or a giant in-house events team to fall back on. So how do you go about throwing an event? What are the main do’s and don’ts and how can you make sure it runs smoothly?
Here’s what I’ve learnt (sometimes the hard way) about hosting an event in my fifteen years working in the events industry.
1. Outline your intention
Before you start planning your event, you should ask yourself what the purpose of your event is. Is it to convert leads? Is it to say thank you to loyal customers? Is it to network with other businesses in your industry? Is it to sell?
Whatever your intention is, make sure that it remains top-of-mind throughout your planning process. Every aspect of your event should help you achieve this goal.
2. Hire a venue
Once you’ve got your plan in place, the first thing you should do is book your venue.
The venue you choose will, of course, depend on the purpose of your event. For example, if you want to hold an intimate event where you only invite 5-10 leads, you may only need to book out a small private room at a city hotel or restaurant. Alternatively, to accommodate a larger guest list you may need to hire a bigger event space with conference facilities and amenities.
Large event spaces can get booked out months in advance, so take that into consideration before deciding on a date.
3. Line-up industry experts to speak
Having a guest speaker (or a few) is great for adding some structure to your event. If you have someone in mind (or maybe it’s one of your own team), you will need to plan ahead and give them plenty of notice to prepare an engaging speech or presentation.
4. Spread the word
If you are throwing a corporate event, the likelihood is that you already have a guest list in mind. However, if your event is more casual or open to the public (e.g. you are a fashion brand and you’re doing a flash sale at a warehouse) you will have to rely on word of mouth, social media advertising and printed marketing materials (banners and posters).
Whatever you do, don’t start distributing flyers the day before the event. Instead, raise awareness and interest in the weeks or even months leading up to the event. If you’ve hired well-known guest speakers, capitalise on their existing fan-base by asking them to promote their appearance on their own social media channels.
5. Arrange catering
No event is a success without food and drink, especially if you want to impress.
If you are unable to afford extensive catering services, check whether your venue hire offers a catering option, or perhaps work with independent food stalls to keep your guests fed and watered.
Whatever you decide, make sure you at least have water, tea, coffee and light canapés. And if the event is corporate, alcohol is appropriate but make sure you have interesting non-alcoholic options available too.
If your event lasts for more than a couple of hours, provide regular comfort breaks where people can grab a coffee, drink or a light snack. These are also fantastic opportunities for general networking throughout the day.
6. Give out freebies
Don’t let your guests leave empty handed. Gift them with something branded to solidify your message and leave a lasting impression.
People love freebies but try to think outside the box or at least make it something useful. The last thing you want is to spend money on something that ends up straight in the bin or unused in the back of a cupboard.
So whether that’s a branded mug or notepad for office use or something industry specific that is genuinely useful (like branded sun cream or water bottles for construction workers, or bluetooth earpieces for truck drivers), make your gifts thoughtful and useful.
7. Hold a Q&A
Having a Q&A segment at the tail end of your event is a great way to promote any new products/services/offerings your business has and to allow guests to connect with you on a more direct level. You should also allow some informal networking time after the Q&A for your guests to engage in conversation with each other and with you.
I won’t lie to you, throwing a successful event takes a lot of hard work and organisation. But by following these tips for hosting an event you will ensure that your hard work pays off and that your event runs smoothly.
So whether you want to showcase your new offerings, build relationships with industry professionals or network with prospective clients, make your event count with careful planning and creative gifts!