Business events are very important and highly strategic activities which corporates and individuals alike, look forward to organizing and attending. The reason is not farfetched: they serve a reasonable amount of purposes with attendant rewards if they are carefully planned.
In fact, the main difference between a business event and a social event is that with the former, there is an expected Return of Investment (ROI), which may be in form of increased awareness, consequent interest of the Target Audience (TA), and a resultant call-to-action in the form of a purchase of the product or increased patronage of the service being provided.
Are you thinking of holding a business event soon? Is it a Conference, a Seminar, a Brand/Product launch, a Business Forum, an Annual General Meeting or even a staff/customer get-together? The following steps will surely get you on the right path to hosting a memorable event.
Firstly, you need to recognize that there are three important phases in the cycle of any event: before, during and after. Here are practical ways you can organize a successful event based on these phases:
BEFORE THE EVENT
This period is the busiest of all. You have to make provisions for the several resources you need for the occasion. Activities before the event consist of the following tasks:
1. Decide on the event type
First of all, you need to identify the type of event you want to organize. There are several types of event and the time at which they hold is mostly determined by industry trends.
Events like annual general meeting usually hold toward the beginning of a new financial year in the banking industry when most of the banks need to present their financials to shareholders and other industry stakeholders for the preceding financial year.
In a nutshell, make sure that the event you are organizing tallies with its industry trend so that there will be a positive response from your intended audience.
Also, if you know what type of event it is, it will be easier for you to make the right plans. You will be able to work efficiently, unlike, if you are not sure about what to do.
Common types of events include product launch, tradeshows, executive retreats, seminars and conferences, board meeting, shareholders meeting, etc.
2. Draw up a financial plan
Before you plan further, make sure you have an informed knowledge of your financial strength for the event. If you know how much you can afford, you will be making better decisions as to the number of people to invite, the amount you can spend on awareness, and other expenses.
Draw out an expense budget and a financial plan. The financial plan should include how much revenue you could make if the event is a paid one. Revenues may come in from ticket sales, sponsorships, and exhibition fees, etc.
Compare the plan with your budget to determine how much profit you will make from the event. If this process seems too complex for you, get the account department on your team and task them with the responsibility of working out the budget and financial plan.
3. Know your target audience
Your target audience are the prospective event attendees. You should research and analyze the profile of possible attendees. Are they business owners, professionals, investors, students, shareholders, etc.
If you are not sure who your exact audience is, instead of wasting resources on advertising to the wrong audience, you may carry out a survey to measure interests.
Surveys are agelong solutions to narrowing your real target from a large crowd. You may design a simple form to collect data such as name, email address, and questions asking what type of events the respondents would like to attend.
In fact, this method will help you save a lot on resources when the time comes to announce your event to the public, as you already have a database of those personas you intend to target.
4. Know your purpose
Why do you want to hold the event? Are you a small business owner who wants to generate leads? Are you your company’s event manager who is responsible for organizing a new product launch? Is it a free or paid training session? You need to answer these questions as they apply to you, in order to spell out your aim of organizing the event.
5. Choose a theme
Choosing a theme at the early stage of event planning is very important so that it becomes ingrained in you and your team. A theme can influence the color of hall decoration, it can also influence the type of outfit that attendees put on for the event. Pick a theme early, so that you can plan around it.
If you are the event manager in a big organization, you may need to work with the top management and the PR department to choose a befitting theme for the event.
6. Inform your guest speakers
This milestone can come before or after you pick the date, time and location. If you have a very busy topshot on your list of speakers who can influence the date of your event, it is better you let them know of your intention to invite them to your event as a guest speaker.
This process is crucial because the date you pick might not work with their busy schedule. So, make sure to alert them before picking a date.
Although there are some events that must hold at certain dates. In this case, you might have to drop a speaker who will be unavailable and pick another suitable person for the role.
7. Date, time and location
These three factors are largely influenced by the type of event you are organizing. If it is a statutory event, like Annual General Meetings or Shareholders’ Forums which need to be held at certain times of the year, be sure to plan your event to fall within that period.
The start and end time is also very important to put into consideration when planning your event. Pick a feasible duration that could accommodate all the programs. Do not forget to leave room for flexibility and exigencies that may arise during the program.
The location of the event may be determined by the size of attendees. If it is a private event, you may consider using the company’s conference room or any other suitable area in the premises. But if the event is planned for the public, it is better to rent a large hall with conducive environment and good parking space.
Choose a location with a good road network and visible street names and are easily accessible to your attendees regardless of where they are coming from.
8. Send out invitations and start creating awareness
You remember the audience you identified earlier, and the speakers you informed about your program? Now is the time to send them invitations. Why? They can also serve as word of mouth advertiser as you create awareness for the event. These people already know that you are organizing an event and they might mention it to their friends, colleagues or family during conversation.
You have to make use of both online and offline media for the awareness creation. If the event is to involve just the people within your organization, an internal memo or notice board placement should be sufficient as an offline means. You may then make use of email newsletter as an online medium. If you have a corporate chat group, consider using the name or theme of the event as a status update to serve as constant reminder to your colleagues.
For public awareness, make use social media and blogs that cover your industry niche. Your message should include the event name, theme, date, time, and location. You should also indicate if it is a free or paid event. List out the benefits that your audience stand to gain if they attend the event.
For proper publicity, you should list your events on listing websites such as cityevents.ng. These websites are dedicated to listing corporate events, so you will definitely be found by the person who is looking for corporate events, because they will make event listing websites their first search destination.
One other big advantages of using these websites is that some of them have automated reminder system. All you need do is provide your dates, it is left to the website to send timely reminders to your audience after they register.
A more in-depth form of awareness is to create a dedicated website for the event. You can add a countdown timer to the date, and also collect registration on the site. If exhibition is among the programs of the day, do not forget to call for exhibitors both online and offline.
Create a separate page where you explain all the terms of exhibiting. If there are certain clauses that you do not want to list on the website such as cost of exhibition, do not forget to include contact details.
Make a bold headline that says interested exhibitors should contact you for pricing and further information. Bear in mind though, that having a website solely for the event does not stop you from listing your event on other websites or social media.
There are several avenues by which you can create awareness for your event. Use the ones that are readily available and also ask for assistance from your friends and team. You may ask your colleagues to spread the word among their network too. Some awareness materials you can use include handbills, flyers, wristband, social media posters, etc.
9. Gather the event materials
This includes doing intensive research for topics and lectures to be delivered by the speakers. You might need to typeset and send them to the printer for proper design. What about the program of event? Have you listed them out with the duration of each item placed against it? What about souvenir? Are you giving out stationery material to the attendees? Will there be branding of any kind on these materials? You need to work with the PR department at this point to help you with proper branding ideas.
10. Logistics and decoration
Here I am talking about the electrical instruments such as projectors, speakers, microphone and other sound systems. Do you have them in store or are you hiring? How do you plan to bring them to the event location? Who is responsible for installations?
The decoration of your event hall is very important too. A beautiful and cozy space will make people feel relaxed and concentrate well on what you have to tell them. Get a good venue decorator to work out a unique design in line your company’s brand and the theme of the event.
Sitting arrangement is also among the important preparation. Arrange the seats in a way that allows easy and fluid movement of attendees/guests and in a manner that allows every guest, seated or standing, a good line of vision to the podium and other key areas of the event venue. Ensure that all electrical wirings are well laid and tacked down for safety purposes to avoid any accidents or bodily harm to those at the event venue.
Logistics and aesthetics go hand-in-hand as both teams need to collaborate on how best to ensure the safety of attendees and at the same time, achieve the ambience required.
11. Transportation and accommodation
If there will be out of state attendees, you may want to ease logistics by arranging transportation and accommodation. Consider providing airport pickup and hotel bookings close to the event venue. Make sure you inform the participants that they will be responsible for costs.
However, if your company will be footing the bill, you can use it as an incentive to encourage more people to attend regardless of their location.
The aforesaid is not an exhaustive list of activities you need to work on before the event but is a good guide. Remember to cross out each task from your worksheet as you complete them.
Lastly do not forget to send timely reminders to everybody involved, including the guest speakers, attendees, and those within your organization.
DURING THE EVENT
You would not really have a lot to do during the event if the pre-event activities are properly coordinated. You have to make yourself available and on hand to resolve any issue that may arise. Make sure you make provisions for the following during the event:
12. Contingencies and exigencies
Make provisions for the demands and requirements of the event. A backup for every chance occurrence should be made available. Make sure you have extras or alternatives to cover unpredictable events such as the microphone not working, electricity interruptions, etc. to avoid disappointments and time wastage. In summary, cross all T’s and dot all I’s.
Ensure that the event area is secure. If you have to hire extra security personnel, do not hesitate to do so, especially if your event involves a large number of people. There are numerous security companies that provide efficient and professional guards for all types of events.
If you are holding an event for growth purpose, lead generation especially, it is very important for you to collect the data of attendees. You can do this by way of onsite registration, whereby attendees register at the entrance of the venue.
Another use of registration is to have a list where you will send thank you notes to after the event. When you collect data like that, you can put it to several uses which includes using it as mailing list for future event invitation, and marketing updates.
Whatever you do, do not bore your subscribers with endless mails, and also provide them with means of unsubscribing from your list.
Make adequate provision for refreshments for your audience and give them out at the appropriate time. If the event is lengthy, you can consider providing breakfast and lunch. If you are not providing meals, then you should ensure that there are food vendors around the location, who can cater to the refreshment needs of your audience. You may collaborate with fast food restaurants for this purpose.
Timekeeping is salient. If it requires to use a stopwatch or any other time-keeping device, please do so. Append time duration to each program on your menu and monitor time spent diligently.
Being mindful of timing gives your audience a positive impression of your company culture. People are usually very time conscious and toying with their time, may mar all your efforts even if the event proper turns out superbly.
AFTER THE EVENT
The following are what you need to do after the event:
17. Venue cleanup
Oversee the cleanup of the venue after the event or appoint someone on your team. This will help you ensure minimal or no damage to equipment and furniture.
18. Give a social media debrief
If you had used the social media for awareness, be sure to return to it for a recount of how the event went. This is called Digital Amplification of the event and aids in keeping the conversation going long after the event has ended. This will also help create an atmosphere of familiarity among your online audience and new visitors who come across your message. A mastery of social media metrics (frequency, reach, engagement, conversion, etc.) are good strategies that can help you create a mark with Digital Marketing.
19. Send thank you mails
Send an appreciation email to everyone involved from your team to the guest speakers and also the attendees. Appreciate their efforts in making the event a success.
20. Evaluation and Measurement
Here is when you sit with your team and other stakeholders to do an evaluation of the event. Did you meet your goals? What about finance, did your expenses fall within your budget? The vendors you patronized, did they deliver up to expectations? A good evaluation will help you in decision making for future events.
21. Follow up
Ask your attendees how they feel about the event. What they like about it and the areas where you can improve. You can even go further by asking them to suggest topics for your next event. By doing this, you are connecting with them and building trust, such that when they receive the next invitation from you, they would gladly attend along with their friends.
At the end of it all, reward yourself for a job well done and by all means, take a short break to recharge…and let’s do it again soon, shall we?
SEE YOU AT YOUR NEXT EVENT!!!