7 Steps to a Fabulous Business Event
Recently I ran a live (in person) workshop as part of the Small Business Festival Victoria.
I have to admit it, I love running events. Throughout my corporate career I organised, managed and promoted hundreds of events, from workshops and social gatherings, to awards nights and some of Australia's most loved expos: Furnitex and Decor Design Show.
Luckily for me, over the years I have created event planners, templates and check lists which make the whole process a breeze. Luckily for you, you can grab them all here.
If you have thought about running events for your business, but are not sure about how to do it, or whether you should, this blog post is for you.
So, why should you consider running events for your business?
See, even though I’m an Online Marketing Strategist, I love live events. I think they complement online marketing beautifully because they…
· Help you connect with your audience in real life, which is very powerful.
· Boost the “know, like and trust” factor faster.
· Provide great exposure to your brand and services.
· Help position you as a leader and expert in your niche.
· Can be a source of leads and clients.
· Are a great way for your social followers to meet you in person, and have a taste of how it would be like working with you.
· Help educate your audience about what is it that you do.
· Offer opportunities to connect and collaborate with other businesses.
· Can be an extra source of income in itself.
· Help you stay relevant and get feedback on your services.
· Boost your confidence.
Alright, I think this is a good enough list of reasons to consider running events for your business. ; )
But how do you go about it? Let’s dive right in…
1- Choose the right event for you
The type of event that is right for you will depend on your business model, industry, and of course what you want to achieve.
You can run workshops, retreats, networking events, business breakfasts or evening dinners, art exhibitions, product launches, social gatherings… the list is endless.
Here’s the thing, you don’t even need to be the speaker. You can invite other people to speak or exhibit at your event, which is a great opportunity to collaborate and cross-promote.
One of my clients has a beautiful homeware shop in Melbourne. She opens her shop to local artists and organsies opening evening events to promote the exhibition every month, which gives great brand exposure for both, herself and the artists.
Be clear about your goals. It will be much easier for you to design your event if you know what you want to achieve with your event.
2- Pick the right venue
The venue for your event depends on:
1- Your budget - Some venues can be very expensive. If your event is free or low cost, you can have a look at local cafes, restaurants, council rooms or libraries. If you have a brick and mortar shop, you can also host your event at your shop, why not?
But if you are charging premium prices for your event, you can spend more and select a prime venue.
I’ve chosen the Cowork Collective for my workshop. It’s funky, vibrant, well located and it was affordable as well.
2- Type of event – If you are running a retreat you will need to have a look at private houses, or hotels and resorts. While workshops can be delivered pretty much anywhere.
Food for thought: Can you collaborate with someone and run the event at their premises?
3- Your brand – your whole event experience including your venue needs to be in alignment with your brand positioning. If you offer premium services (with premium prices), you can’t go with a cheap-looking venue. You will need to honour your brand positioning here and select an option that reflects your brand.
4- Location – The venue needs to be conveniently accessible to your guests. There is no point running a fabulous event in a place of difficult access. It will turn people off.
5- Facilities – Make sure your venue has all the facilities and equipment you need, or you will need to hire from third parties. Check whether they have adequate AV equipment, chairs, tables, screen, and you may want WIFI too. Some venues provide catering as well if you are planning to serve food.
Make sure you book your venue well in advance. Some venues are very popular and may not be available on a short notice. Grab my event planning check list here to see what you need to organise and when.
3- Plan an agenda to impress
This is the most important aspect of your event – the content.
People are coming mainly for the content (whether it is a workshop or an art exhibition) and you want them to leave feeling impressed and not underwhelmed.
Here’s where I feel I’ve done really well at my workshop in Melbourne! The feedback was fantastic, and I was really happy to have provided so much value to my guests. Can it be improved? Of course. Don’t aim for perfection, aim to improve at every event.
To get your guests raving about your event you need to prepare your best content. It doesn’t mean you need or should teach, show, give everything you know. It wouldn’t be possible and you would overwhelm your guests.
Think about one topic and break it down in sub-topics that can be easily “digested”.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to allow time for people to discuss the topics with each other, fill out workbooks, have a conversation and ask questions. It also helps people feel more comfortable and it brings an informal, friendly vibe to the room.
You may also like to allow an extra hour for networking, which is something I did. People like to meet others and have a chat. It also gives them extra time to have a one-on-one conversation with you.
If you are bringing speakers, make sure they are not only knowledgeable in their field, but are engaging speakers. I’ve seen people who are highly regarded and very knowledgeable delivering the most boring presentations ever! Yup! They know their stuff, but they are just not engaging presenters.
You will also need to brief them on what topic, format and how long they have to speak. After all, it’s your event and you want your guests to be delighted.
4- Food and drinks
If you are charging low price tickets and your event only runs for an hour, you can neglect food. Water, tea, coffee and some biscuits will be enough.
Most events with a decent ticket price and running for more than two hours will need some sort of catering. The type of catering will depend on the time of the day, type of event, location and duration.
The venue you hire may be able to provide catering, or you can outsource from a catering company. Canapés and finger food are a good alternative to a meal, unless you are running a whole day event or a retreat.
If you are going to offer alcoholic drinks, I would recommend you keep it to one or two glasses per person. The last thing you need is someone drunk stealing the show and giving all your guests something (bad) to remember.
Everything that you can organise in advance, do it. So you don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed as the event date approaches. Luckily I already had a great event planner and check list that you can now have too.
5- Details matter – a lot
Although people come for the content, little touches will enhance their experience and reinforce your brand, which is exactly what you want.
You really want to give your guests a memorable experience that they will remember long after your event is over. It will also help you promote future events and will encourage positive word of mouth.
Here some easy ways you can add those extra touches to your events:
Decoration – think flowers! Fresh greenery and flowers are an easy, yet beautiful way to decorate your venue.
If you are in the interiors industry, you may want to use your own products like cushions, vases and art. Try to use your brand colours in your décor items.
Don’t be surprised, but I’ve seen balloons being used in a very clever way. It looked beautiful!
I was lucky that the Cowork Colletive had plenty of greenery, colour and art. But in retrospect, I do regret not adding more flowers to the room.
Gift bags or gifts – gift bags and little gifts will give your guests an extra reminder of your event and will enhance your brand experience. Who doesn’t like a gift? As long as you don’t put only flyers in the gift bags, as I've seen. Make sure there is something personal that they can use later and remember your event.
Stationery and workbooks – If you are running a workshop or seminar, it’s a good idea to give your guests a workbook. It can be super simple, but it will help them follow the content, and it gives them something concrete to take away and apply to their business or life straight away.
Alternatively you can provide some fancy stationary like notebooks, journals, planners, etc. It’s all part of your brand experience. Get creative and have some fun.
I gave my guests both, a gift bag and workbooks, and I’m pretty sure they enjoyed both.
6. Photos and Videos
If you are going to run an event, you definitely want professional photos and videos. Why? Because you can use them to promote future events.
Make sure you brief your photographer and videographer well. Preferably you want to collect some testimonials on camera. How? Ask your guests and give them 3 questions to answer in front of the camera, then get your videographer to edit the video and make a really fab video for you to use over and over.
I have to admit, here’s where I’ve made a mistake. I asked a good friend of mine with a neck for photos and videos to do it for me because it can be expensive. But, you get what you pay for, just like everything else in business.
Think about it as an investment on you brand and on your future events.
TIP: Select a couple of hashtags you want associated with your event and tell your guests to use them when posting photos and videos of your event on their social media channels. This will give you great exposure without you having to lift a finger.
One of the best ways to help you promote your event, get free gifts for your guests and even help you with costs is by getting sponsorships.
Make a list of complementary businesses (same target market) who would benefit from your event and ask them if they would like to sponsor your event or partner with you.
I asked a number of companies if they would like to promote their brand by including a special offer or a product sample in my gift bags. I was happily surprised by the response. Eight businesses came on board and provided samples and exclusive offers for my gift bags. Plus, they also helped promote the event on their social media channels.
In return, I promoted their brand on my social media channels. Win-win!
Another great result from asking for sponsorship was the relationship I've developed with my sponsors. It was an extra bonus I wasn't expecting, but was hoping for. You never know what opportunities and collaborations will happen as a result of an event sponsorship.
I hope this post was helpful to you. If you haven't yet grabbed my planner, here it is again. It will save you lots of time, as I've already done the work for you.
Will I do it again? Yes, of course! In fact, I’m starting to plan my next workshop and would love your help. Could you please spare 1 minute of your time and answer 5 questions here for me? I will be so very grateful as it will help you serve you better! Take the survey here.