There is a lot that goes into hosting any event. There is the venue, the food, the registration, and more to consider. Do you only need to attract attendees, or do you need to get sponsors to help offset the event costs? If you are in charge of your company’s next event, here are a few tips on how to host a kick-ass event.
Know who the intended audience is
This might seem obvious, but it is a very important aspect to hosting a kick-ass event. You can’t really think that anyone and everyone will want to attend your event, so define what your ideal attendee looks like.
Think about what will attract those people to your event. What is the lure that will reel them in? Consider things like:
- Date and time. Are your target audience members people who tend to work 9-5 jobs? If so, having your event start at 10:30 am on a Tuesday probably won’t attract huge crowds unless the event is a working conference.
- Expectations. Does your target audience expect certain things from your events like a free gift, or a meal?
- Type of event. Would your audience be more receptive to a wine tasting, or a more family-oriented event?
- Value proposition. What’s in it for your audience? Are they supporting a cause, or getting education or networking experience from your event?
Location, location, location
Hosting a home and garden expo in a small storefront wouldn’t work because you need a venue with lots of space. On the other hand, hosting a networking cocktail hour in a sports arena would probably be overkill.
Know about how many people your event will attract, and make sure the venue you book can handle at least that many. If you don’t have a pretty solid number of attendees in mind, try to find a venue that is flexible with their space. For example, a conference center usually has some sort of movable walls that can be opened up if your turnout is greater than expected.
In addition to the size of the venue, make sure it is close enough to your intended audience that they will be able to get to the event. If your intended audience is spread out across the country, or even across the world, you will want to find a venue that is close to a major airport with plenty of hotel options nearby.
Remember, that your event may not be the only one in town at the time, so hotel space could book up. Try to do your attendees a favor, and negotiate a group rate at one of the nearby hotels. Often times hotels will provide this reduced rate if you use their conference center.
Get to know the attendees of your event before the event happens. This will help add a little personal touch to the event by offering things you know that your attendees will appreciate.
- Do your attendees have a website?
- Are they on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc?
Collect this information and do a little light research. Maybe you can find that a number of attendees like a particular brand of refreshment. You can then make sure that you have that brand on hand during the event. This is a small touch, but it could go a long way to help make attendees feel welcome.
Plan ahead of time any equipment, prizes, or other special items that need to be at the event. Ask the venue if you can test their audio/visual equipment if they are providing you with it. Or if you have to bring your own, ask to come in a few days before to make sure everything works as expected.
Have enough extension cords to reach further outlets in the meeting space.
If you are relying on an internet connection, make sure the venue has Wi-Fi available in your designated room. Ask for any login credentials needed to access the Wi-Fi. If your guests will need to access it, try to put the login credentials in public areas like your registration desk, or even a presentation screen.
Will your event allow for last minute attendees to pay for their ticket at the registration desk? Be sure to have enough cash on hand to make change for anyone paying cash.
Get a headcount early
You want to have a solid attendee count as early as possible. This lets you address any capacity issues early on with the venue. Your venue will appreciate that you gave them time to prepare. This early headcount lets them get more tables and chairs, have additional staff working, or even upgrade you to a larger room. What they (and you) don’t want is last-minute panic about capacity or available equipment.
One way to encourage people to register for your event early is to provide an “early bird” discount. When tickets go on sale, offer a reduced rate for the first week, and then bump up the price to the normal rate. This will encourage people to sign up early on in order to take advantage of the lower price. While you will end up with a lower fee per early bird, you will also get a better headcount early on and save yourself a lot of headaches closer to the event date.
A few days before the event send out an email to the attendees saying that the event is sold out. Ask those attendees if they aren’t planning on attending so that you can give someone else their ticket. While your event may not be sold out at the time, doing this will get you closer to an actual headcount before the event begins. Certain venues will charge you per attendee, and you may be able to reduce your costs if some previously registered individuals don’t plan on attending.
Promotion of your kick-ass event
Your event isn’t going to attract people just because you open the doors. You will likely need to promote your event to get a good turnout.
A good place to start is with:
- Past attendees to your events (you collected their contact information, right?)
- Your customers
- Friends and family if the event would be of interest to them
- Influencers in your industry. Even if an influencer can’t attend, they can help spread the word about your event to their network.
Those people are easy to reach out to because you already have a relationship with them.
You’ll also need to reach out to people you don’t already have a relationship with.
- Contact the local news to see if they’ll cover the event.
- Reach out to bloggers in your industry who can help spread the word about your event.
- If your event is a local event, consider placing ads in the local newspaper or on local radio stations.
- Talk to other businesses in your industry and let them know about the event.
If you’re going to host a kick-ass event, it better be exciting!
A few years ago I played a part in organizing a charity golf tournament. While golf tournaments don’t usually scream excitement, we created the excitement by offering exciting prizes.
For example, we had a free car for anyone who got a hole-in-one on a certain hole. On another hole, we had a free television for anyone who got a hole-in-one.
That’s enough to get someone to the tournament who maybe didn’t even care about the cause we were raising money for.
If someone ended up getting a hole-in-one on one of those holes, we wouldn’t be on the hook for thousands of dollars. There is hole-in-one insurance that only costs a few hundred dollars – at that point, it was the cost of a couple golfers in the tournament. The excitement behind those prizes helped to build buzz that drew in at least a dozen or so golfers who wouldn’t have otherwise attended.