42 Tips For Producing A Memorable Small Business Event

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By Jamillah Warner

Source: Small Business Trends

Memorable events don’t just happen.  Organizing and holding an event takes planning. Whether it’s a conference, seminar or a customer appreciation day, and whether you have three weeks to plan or an entire year, your event’s success is in the details. We’ve collected 42 small business event planning tips from the experts experienced at planning for small business events.

Small Business Event Planning: What to Do First

1. Decide upon your target audience before anything else.  The first step — before you do anything else — should be to clearly define who your target audience is. From this all the other decisions will fall into place. Format, content, prices, location, etc. will all flow from the first decision. This structured approach will also help you to stay focused on achieving specific goals. That way you are less likely to allow the scope to become too broad or watered down.

2. Make a list of details — everything including lighting and public transportation, to content and refreshments.  When you decide to have an event, everything matters. From program content and lighting to transportation and parking — everything counts. And your audience will attribute everything to you and…your brand.  Making a list will ensure you don’t overlook things.

3. Have a clear business purpose for holding the event.  Before you can begin planning a successful event, be clear on why you are doing it in the first place. Why? Because every decision after that should support your main goal. Is it lead generation? Is your goal to create awareness of your company or a particular product?  Do you see the main purpose as one to  develop customer loyalty? Or do you simply want to make money (which is okay too)?  And make sure the team is aware of the purpose, so that you don’t have “scope creep.”

4. Watch out for other industry events when scheduling.  Check the calendar. Make sure you don’t schedule your event on or too close to holidays or popular vacation times. It’s just as important to check for other events that your target attendees might be going to.

5. Be flexible with changes in size, location and other details.  As you get into the event planning process, you may find that your event changes in size, location, and many other ways than you originally envisioned. This is natural and perfectly fine as long as you don’t lose sight of the reason you’re doing all this work in the first place.  Some flexibility is necessary.


 


6. Know your limitations. We all know the goal is to throw a great live event. To that end, we also have to be aware of what we can or cannot realistically do — be it budget … or time-wise. If you decide to throw a live event in a week’s time, plan for a more intimate affair. For a big event, you should prepare several months ahead. If the budget is small, you may have to counterbalance with creativity and a lot of do-it-yourself work.

7. Create SMART goals. Always start with strategy. Just like building any business, great events start with a strong, thoughtful and measurable strategy. Live events are an amazing way to share your brand, connect with your target market, get feedback on your product (and more!). But you need to know what you are trying to achieve. Stick with SMART goals and outline what you are aiming for. Then make sure that you proceed in line with reaching these goals.

Budget for event

Budget: How to Pay For Your Event

8. Develop a “financing plan” for your event, and estimate the numbers. Know how you are going to pay for the event. Most events are funded by sponsorships, ticket sales, internal marketing budgets — or a combination of all three. When you create your budget for the event, you’ll need to estimate how much money you can realistically raise from each area. Before you book your venue or sign any contracts, it’s a good idea to start signing sponsors first. Or start selling advance tickets to make sure there is enough interest in your idea to fund it.

9. Create an expense budget  – and save money through “in-kind” sponsor donations.  Events tend to cost more than the average small business owner thinks primarily in regards to the venue and food and beverage. Remember to price out all the permits and licenses you will need as well. (This is where an event planner can help you avoid headaches.)  Make a comprehensive list of all the expenses and then highlight areas where you think sponsors can play a role to offer something “in kind.” The more you work with other brands and partners to host your events, the more you can save.

10. Consider crowdfunding as a new option to raise money for an event.  If this is your first time running events, use crowdfunding platforms to ease the risk. By publishing your events on these platforms attendees will need to pledge for tickets for the event to take place. If the minimum number of attendees required is not met the event does not take place.

empty room - event attendance

Marketing: Getting People to Attend

11. You’ll need a DETAILED marketing plan. Create a marketing plan for the event. The more organized you are, the more professional your event will be.

12. Be tireless in your efforts or your event will fail.  If you don’t want to be at your event alone … then market, market, market, market … and market some more.

13. Define good reason(s) for people to show up.  What’s the draw for attendees? You need to define WHAT you’re doing at the event that will bring those target attendees in the door. For a consumer product it might be a party with entertainment and product demos and freebies. For a business crowd it might be educational content or an exciting, well-known expert speaker. Whatever it is, don’t lose the connection with why you want this particular audience clamoring to get in.

14. Lay out in writing why your target market should attend – don’t assume the benefits are obvious. When promoting an event be sure to tell your target market what they will learn, who they will meet and why they should be there. Don’t assume your friends will tell their friends. If you are using speakers, give them advertising copy so that they can promote the event to their audiences.

15. Learn how to talk to the media. Journalists are very busy and always on deadline. They don’t have time to hear a sales pitch. Let them know that the information exists and — for future stories — that you are an expert in that field. Include that information when you reach out.

16. Use Twitter hashtags and Instagram hashtags. Twitter is terrific for promoting events and for creating a sense of online community around an event. Set up a unique hashtag early on. Search Twitter first to make sure it’s not already in use. Put the hashtag right on the event website, and if you use the Tweet button for sharing on the site, work the hashtag right into the premade verbiage. When people tweet, it promotes the event automatically on Twitter.  You can do something similar with Instagram for people to share photos about the event.


 


17. Use online social pre-events to promote the main event.  To build interest in your event, trying holding a Google Hangout or a Twitter chat a few weeks before the main event. Invite a few of your speakers to participate in the online social event. Give a preview of what’s to come at the main event. In other words, discuss what speakers will cover, or highlight the activities. It generates anticipation.

18. Buy advertising on social media networks.   Buying advertising on social networks is often overlooked by small events. Social advertising platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter above all) offer in depth targeting options that can significantly help to reach our target audience in our geographical location. The good news is that no large budgets are required and ticket sales can be easily measured.

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