35 Tips for Planning Business Events
No matter its size or scope, planning your best business event involves careful strategy. As you begin, consider some new ideas, along with the tried and true. Even events with long histories can benefit from a fresh approach.
Creating the Blueprint
- Understand Your Objective - Many organizations hold annual events simply because that’s what they’ve always done. Sometimes popular events should be repeated, but not always. Be clear on why you are spending the time and money in the first place.
- Know Your Target Audience - Along with understanding why you’re planning your event, create a target guest list for VIPS, along with what you expect to gain for your business in the process.
- Create a Wish List of Attendees - Even if your event is open to the public, understand the “list” that will most benefit your end goal and target those people.
- Plan Your Budget - Keep a realistic outlook and consider the value of contingency funds. Know your per person costs and make sure they line up with your business’ other marketing spends.
- Appreciate the Value of Timing - Check on the dates of all events going on around the community that could possibly compete with or detract from your attendance.
Organize networking events with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Organizing the Building Blocks
- Choose the Right Venue - Location. Location. Location. Research hot new places in your community or totally transform your business’ space if you’re looking to save money.
- Select the Best Vendors - Seek vendors who have a proven track record with your type of business. Detailed vendor contracts can be lifesavers.
- Investigate the Benefits of a Co-host - While this option is definitely not appropriate for all events, it can be a tremendous cost saver. Think about businesses that have complementary goals where you each can benefit from the other’s customers and influence.
- Assign Specific Roles to Team Members - Regardless of the size of your event, delegate enough details to allow group ownership of your event’s success.
- Create Schedules to Review Task Progress - Follow up often to make sure all staff members and vendors are on track with their event assignments. Genius Tip: Organize meetings to review your event’s progress with an online sign up.
- Seek Sponsor Participation When Appropriate - Brainstorm ways other businesses can benefit from time in front of your key audience and potentially expand both of your client lists. Start seeking partners at least three to six months in advance — and even further out if it’s a truly large-scale event.
- Prepare a Minute-By-Minute Schedule for the Day of Your Event - Include specific team member assignments and be sure any guest speakers understand their time limitations.
Promoting Your Program
- Develop a Communications Plan - Allow plenty of time to get the word out across a variety of channels. From email outreach to direct mail, social media and more, promote your message across as many outlets as your budget will allow.
- Generate Buzz on Social Media - Build interest in your event by starting early on all your social media channels. Consider a branded hash tag if the event is large enough — award ceremonies and events featuring speakers and panels are prime candidates for this.
- Take Advantage of All of Your Organization’s Connections - Besides using your own social media channels, tap into the followers of your event’s speakers and special guests. Make it easy for others to share your message by sending them interesting photos and event announcements that are ready to post.
- Find Sources Willing to List Your Event on Their Calendars - Be sure to check out the numerous websites that specialize in listing local and national events, as well as any appropriate blogs and trade magazines.
- Invite the Media - Understand their schedules and make sure your press releases create clear value for their audiences.
- Find the Right Bloggers - Reaching out to the appropriate local bloggers with story ideas valuable to their target audiences can be a great way to gain extra attention before and after your event.
- Remember Internal Communication - Make sure everyone is on the same page at the same time. Your employees are a great resource to spread enthusiasm about your event.
- Make Lasting Impressions - Order take-home, or swag, items for guests as a reminder of your event. Brainstorm gift ideas outside of the predictable pens and tote bags that connect with your brand.
- Consider Online Registration - Depending on the type of event, preregistration can be a great way to help forecast attendee numbers and build excitement. Genius Tip: Collect RSVPs for your business event with an online sign up.
Collect RSVPs for a business seminar with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Refining the Details
- Anticipate the Plan B - Even with skilled planning, a team member may get sick, a vendor delivery may be late and the list of last-minute catastrophes starts growing exponentially. A cool head and an expert back up plan are key to success.
- Provide Shareable Copies of the Master Plan - A binder with all of your vendor contracts, venue floor plans, contact names and numbers, and any last-minute details can become an invaluable day-of reference.
- Conduct a Logistics Site Visit - Walk through every part of your event, from set up to breakdown, and be amazed at the number of last-minute tasks you discover.
- Send Out Updated Staffing Plans - This is especially important after your site visit. Even if the changes are minor, send a revised plan anyway as a fresh reminder of the details.
- Reevaluate the Budget - As the event details change (and they always do), never forget to keep the budget projections up to date.
- Assign Floaters for the Day of Your Event - Having team members with the sole responsibilities of crisis management and any unanticipated errands can really make a difference.
- Reconfirm Everything - Then check again.
- Plan for Engaging Photo Opportunities - Provide at least one spot that motivates guests to take an interesting photo and share it on social media. Depending on the type of event, consider the appeal of a classic car or a humorous photo op like a life-size photo cutout that guests can stand behind. Other photo-sharing opportunities include award and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
Organize a sales meeting for your team with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Making the Most of Your Event
- Make the Welcome Memorable - Whether it’s a registration table or simply the first contact your guests have as they enter your event, give them the red carpet treatment. The right beginning will affect the whole tone of your event.
- Take Photos Paparazzi Style - The more photos the better. Photos can become the best way to demonstrate your event’s success this year and promote it in the years ahead. You’ll likely want a mix of posed and candid shots.
- Follow Up Early - Send recaps to key clients and get the best photos circulating on social media immediately.
- Document Your Event Impressions and Feedback Right Away - Never assume you will remember the changes you want to make next year.
- Measure Your Success - Beyond the basics of overall attendance and vibe, calculate effectiveness across a variety of benchmarks. Consider satisfaction levels based on media and online coverage, traffic to your website and economic impacts.
- Never Delay in Sending Gracious Thanks to All Involved. Gratitude remains one of the best ways to build and maintain successful business relationships. Genius Tip: Try these 25 customer appreciation and client gift ideas.
Event planning requires a tremendous amount of organization and teamwork to be successful, but it remains an important tool for building awareness of your business. In a modern business climate where many of our contacts are now virtual, events still provide valuable face-to-face connection and interaction.
Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C. with her husband and two teenagers.