Great business events can be a huge boost to a small company looking to make their mark, tell their story, and reach out to the world at large. But brilliant events don’t just spontaneously happen – they are the product of careful planning, attention to detail and a lot of hard work. A lot of small business owners have gone into doing what they do because they have a passion about a particular topic.
Although this passion is exactly the fuel needed to power a brand, it doesn’t necessarily translate into events management experience. In fact, many business professionals will have attended many events without ever having to organise one themselves. This means you could find yourself requiring a crash course in events planning as you prepare. So, how do you make sure that you build a brilliant, buzzworthy event that will get people talking?
What Type Of Event Are You Hosting?
There are all sorts of reasons that you could be choosing to hold a customer facing event. But those reasons will determine your audience and the type of event you should be running. Everything from festivals to charity fundraisers, product launches or informational events can have an impact, but they all have the best fit for your purpose. Set out your stall, and the foundation of your events plan by creating a mission statement.
This is a short paragraph which describes the purpose of your event and what you’re hoping to do. It will help you to communicate your vision for the event to anyone you may need to help you run it and helps ‘sell’ what you’re doing to important stakeholders along the way. It will also give you the foundation for what you’ll use when it comes to marketing your event.
Spend some time crafting and refining your mission statement and getting it right, because each decision that you make from now on should ultimately be able to be traced back to it. It’s a high-level statement which succinctly captures what you’re aiming to achieve.
Decide On Your Target Audience
Once you know what you’re aiming for, it should be easier to understand who exactly you need to be there. The next step is to define a target audience that you will be marketing your event to. This is the second part of your foundation, and from this decision, others such as the format, the content, your location and prices will all flow. In this way, it also becomes easier to stay focused on the goals that you want your event to move you closer towards.
With so much going on and with so many exciting possibilities at the planning stage, it can be extremely easy to get carried away, and end up actually diluting the impact and the message unless you stay focused. Think about the needs of your intended audience – what is the sell? Why should they care? What value will your event add to them?
Play devil’s advocate and think through what you’re pitching to them – is it ways to develop their own business? Give something back to the community? The chance to network with other similar companies? If you have found a business mentor, it’s a good idea to run your ideas past them at this early stage – they could be a valuable source of feedback on what has worked well for them in the past.
Create SMART Goals
So now you have a mission statement and an idea of who your audience are. It’s now time to set some clear deliverables for the event, and these are usually best articulated as SMART goals – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. Vague goals without clear parameters are not helpful and won’t help you get the most return on the resource investment you’re making by holding your event. Specific is already encapsulated by your mission statement – you just need to add what resource and limits are involved.
For Measurable, this is usually easy to achieve with events – attendance numbers or lead generation tend to be good parameters, depending on the purpose of your event. Achievable is highly important. It’s very easy to get carried away in the blue sky thinking phase, but your event needs to be something that you can pull off in time and in the budget – you’ll have to save the circus performers for another time.
When you set an achievable goal, you can then identify opportunities you may have overlooked or resources that you can use. Relevant involves asking questions such as – is this the right time? Does this match our other needs as a business? What is happening in the wider business community which could impact this event positively or negatively?
Finally, Timebound is hugely important – events are very time-driven and involve all kinds of deadlines along the way – for invites, marketing materials, ordering staging and catering, inviting speakers – it can easily get overwhelming. Setting target dates will help you in your events plan and keep everything on track.
Outline Your Requirements
With the overarching framework and goals for your event set, now it’s time to think about what practical requirements you’ll have for your event. Selecting a venue generally starts things off – sometimes the place will have their own events planner who can work with you and will already have a contact book bursting with useful providers. In other cases, you’ll be needing to go it more alone and work out those connections for yourself.
Once you have viewed and secured a venue, you’ll have a clearer idea of what additional items are needed for staging your event. These could be things such as IT support – a PA system, a screen for showing presentations, staging and backdrops or lighting. Consider promotional items such as banners, stands and flags that promote the company and dress the venue There are usually a fair amount of logistics to consider – you could have a motivational speaker that you need to fly in, so travel arrangements and schedules would need to be considered.
If you’re hosting an event with guest speakers, there are bound to be special things which need arranging. You also need to consider catering arrangements, drinks provision and timings. An events management checklist is a good thing to pull into your project plan, and the specifics can easily be adapted to what you’re trying to create. You also want to make sure to check your industry calendar – make sure that there are no other important events or conferences taking place in the sector that your target audience may already have planned to go to, and it’s also wise to avoid popular holiday periods as you’ll find attendance much lower.
Learn To Be Flexible
Event planning is all about having a vision, and a good grasp of the details – but it’s also about being flexible with exactly how things proceed. As you get deeper into the planning process, it’s common for the parameters to change – size, location, format – and the trick is to be okay with that. Sometimes you can’t know going into it what you discover along the way.
And although it’s a must to have an overall vision for your event, don’t become so wedded to it that you can’t change anything. Flexibility doesn’t mean not honouring your original vision – it just means adapting it for maximum success based on new information. Using collaborative project planning software will allow you to make changes as you go along and communicate these easily to everyone affected.
Generate A Buzz About Your Event
Part of your event planning will be to create a marketing strategy for your event, but think of it as an opportunity to get people excited about what you are doing. Marketing doesn’t just have to be limited to the event attendees – you can create a halo effect where it gains you good currency outside of the group of people who come along. It’s all about creating a pre-event buzz, which can also help you with registrations for the event of course.
Define some solid reasons for attendance and make sure that you reference them in all of your posts. Use hashtags and exciting content geared around thought leadership to draw people in and create a discussion – or join in an existing one – around topics that you’ll be tackling as part of your event. Any promotion needs to feel organic and authentic, especially with a business led audience.
Set up an event hashtag that you can include in any discussions and leverage the power of your groups on LinkedIn to achieve endorsement from your event from influential people. You could even look at hosting a pre-event with a Google Hangout or on Twitter to give a preview of what is to come at the main event.
YouTube can also be a helpful channel, with video providing a convincing sell – plus it’s the world’s most searched platform after Google. Include some paid-for social promotions alongside your organic activities for best results. There’s nothing better than the feeling that you event is being hotly anticipated to get you off to a brilliant start.