Running a business is never just about the desk work or making phone calls. As your business grows, it’s inevitable that you will end up hosting an event of some kind, whether it’s a training course, a seminar, a networking event or an office party. But event hosting requires a tremendous amount of forethought and planning. At a recent class held at greenCOW Coworking, Barbara Caine went over her tips for hosting a successful business event. If you have one coming up, keep this advice in mind, and if you don’t, consider how you would apply it to an event in the future.
When it comes to planning an event, there are a few important factors to figure out right away: the topic or purpose of the event, the type of event (is it live and in person, a webinar, etc.), the pricing structure, the time and date (and whether the event is recurring or a one-time deal), and the booking location (not just the address, but any room numbers or other specific instructions). You also should note the organizers and any other panelists or presenters involved with the event, as they can help promote and support you.
Once you have this basic information covered, you need to plan out the event a bit more. Create an outline covering the three main points as far as what people will do at the event or what topics you plan on covering. From there, you develop a headline and a description. These are the two most important things you need to create to promote any business event: the headline has to be something catchy that’ll grab people’s attention, and the description has to sell them on the event itself.
For the description, write one or two paragraphs that are as detailed as possible without giving away too many specifics: if you’re promoting a class on event management, you don’t want to reveal all of your tips in the description, otherwise, no one will attend. Your description should be both exciting and generalized, and ideally, it should be written in such a way that it can be reused if you hold a similar event in the future. Barbara suggests five major points that you should cover in an event summary:
- The attention getter – something that draws their attention
- State the problem – tug at the heartstrings
- Solution to the problem – your product or service is the key to their problem
- Benefits of your services – focus on what the end result of your service will be
- Call to action – tell them what you want them to do (sign-up for the event!)
When you’ve worked out the basics of the event, it’s time for the preparation and promotional work. Social media plays a key role in promoting any business event, so be sure to utilize it effectively. Create hashtags related to the event and use them on your company’s social media accounts. You should craft at least three messages/posts to promote any given event and keep them short so they can be used across multiple accounts (remember, 280 characters is the upper limit for Twitter posts). The three messages you want to send out to potential attendees are:
- “Save the date!” – a hint that an exciting event is coming
- The Excitement – the details for the event, including how to sign-up
- The Reminder – post close to the day of the event to encourage them to sign up before seats/tickets run out.
Depending on the size of the event, you might want to create a landing page to send people to, but sometimes all you need is to do is make it a Facebook event and post about it on your website. If you do want to create a landing page, Barbara recommends Eventbrite. Once you’ve set up registration and event reminders for your attendees, do some personal preparation. Make some alerts on your phone to keep you on schedule, decide on any recording or photography plans for the event, and if possible schedule a practice session, especially if this is a first-time event for you.
Some might think that the content of your event should be planned out before it’s been announced, but Barbara always promotes her events ahead of time. If you hold off on promoting until the last minute, no one is likely to attend. Besides, knowing that there’s a set time and place and that people will be coming is a strong motivator to get that work done.
Obviously, if there’s a main speech or presentation, that should be your first priority as far as content goes. From there, consider what other content you’ll need: will there be handouts, feedback forms or other literature to distribute? Do you have a product or service that you want to promote during the event? Do you have questions or activities to keep the audience engaged? Not every event is the same, so consider what is most important (and effective) for the event you’re hosting.
The Follow Up
Even when the event is over, there is some necessary follow up work. You can look at the responses on your feedback forms or post a question on Facebook to gauge opinions. You can track how many people attended and how many potential buyers you got. You’ll often get business offers or potential testimonials from attendees, so be sure to follow through with them. Most importantly, you have to evaluate the event yourself: audience response is important, but only you know how the event was intended to go. Try to do a self-evaluation shortly after the event is over, the same day if possible so that it’s fresh in your mind.
If you need additional help with planning out your business events, Barbara has provided a handy checklist covering all of the major tasks you need to complete for one. And if you have more questions about event management, Barbara has another, more in-depth class on the topic coming soon, so be sure to check it out!