Have you ever hosted an event for your customers? It can be quite nerve-wracking, but with careful preparation you can create an occasion that your guests talk about for years to come – and for all the right reasons! It is not something you want to do often but for a special business anniversary, a product launch or to introduce a new director, for example, an event can be a great way to get your message across.
You could seek the help of an event marketing expert, but if you are organised and very clear about why you are investing in an event, why not tackle it yourself? Begin by asking what it is you hope to achieve. Are there some prime movers and shakers who would give your event a buzz? Who are you trying to impress? Do you need The Mayor; Richard Branson; a particular journalist or your local MP to be there? Find out what kind of event they would be most likely to attend – lunchtime or after work; just drinks or dinner as well; a guest speaker or an activity, or simply chatting and networking?
You need to decide on a realistic budget for your event, and set aside enough time to think through the detail as there is a great deal to consider. For example, what are your options for a venue? Will there be formal presentations? Would a celebrity or high-calibre speaker work well for you, or some kind of live music? What printed material do you need and what equipment? (Whatever equipment you are using be sure to have a back up – especially if you are using a microphone.)
We recently heard a story about an event that really worked, told to us by a PR consultant who attended one of our Shake It Up Hub sessions. Years ago a daycare hospice needed her help with fundraising. Money left to the hospice instead of spent on funeral flowers would provide an easy source of income, and she realised that undertakers have a considerable influence on which charity is chosen by the newly bereaved. But what would compel funeral directors to attend an evening event after a busy working day? She asked them and it emerged that there was one man they would all turn out to hear – Dr Julian Litten, a vicar in Walthamstow who is the foremost UK authority on the history of funeral customs. So she tracked him down. He gave a riveting talk, charging only his expenses, and the forty or so undertakers attending provoked a very lively discussion before agreeing to take leaflets about the hospice and pass them on to clients. Job done! Coverage in both The Times and The Guardian, mentioning the hospice, was an added bonus.
When we formed Shake It Up Creative in 2015, we launched our new business with an event in a cocktail bar from 7 – 9 p.m. on a Tuesday. It is important to let your guests know the end time as well as the start time, so they can plan their evening. We paid for the first cocktail and our guests paid for their own drinks after that – we think this is a perfectly acceptable arrangement. Our guest list included an interesting mix of current and past clients; people from the Chamber of Commerce and other business associates; our suppliers and collaborators as well as friends and family. We had a big screen to showcase our work and filmed during the event. It was a great success and put us firmly on the map. We gained some new clients, updated others and our guests mixed and mingled forming new friendships and contacts.
A different way to create an event for your business is to tag it on to a professional conference or meeting that is already happening in your industry. Perhaps you could host a special reception for your clients and associates after an event they will already be attending, so they don’t have to make any special effort to be there. This kind of piggy-backing can be very effective and relatively inexpensive.
The golden era of lavish corporate hospitality has long gone, although boxes at Royal Ascot are still booked up years ahead by major companies wishing to entertain in style. On a more modest scale, building your event around an activity is an interesting option. You could have a ten pin bowling party, a treasure hunt, a pub-style quiz or an Easter bonnet competition! You could create a fundraiser such as an auction for your company charity. If you want to demonstrate your creative credentials, you could sponsor a local artist and host a private view of their next exhibition. It all depends on the atmosphere and impression you wish to create.
Whatever you chose to do, prepare well ahead. If you are going to consult an event marketing expert, they will need plenty of notice. If you are giving away goody bags, be sure to have them filled and ready the day before. Don’t end up frantically writing name badges as your guests arrive! Last minute panics will ruin your enjoyment and your guests will sense your unease.
As with all forms of networking the follow-up is crucial. Be sure to contact all the guests who attended and thank them for coming and those that didn’t to let them know you missed them.
We hope you enjoy your event. Don’t forget to invite us!