How to nail an event

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Ever thought about running an event for your company? Do you feel a bit overwhelmed when you think about the planning process?

We’re going to give you five steps needed to get cracking on arranging your own event. It could be a product launch, a panel discussion, a social or even a conference (eep), but these points are designed to make it easier to plan a successful event.

Then, we’ll give you the added steps to market your event and make the most out of the content!

PLANNING

1. Identify Goals and Objectives
Why are you setting up the event? What do you hope to achieve? Answer these questions before you start --you need to have objectives in mind.

Keep your goals focused and clear. Simply saying that you want to ‘increase brand awareness’ is not enough. Increase brand awareness with which demographic? Make sure you challenge yourself to be specific and avoid being vague. This will help you pin down exactly what you want.

2. Carefully Budget
Setting up an event, in theory, is easy. Making it a reality is difficult. Budgeting is the first practical hurdle.

If you’re a startup, an event really doesn’t need to cost the earth. But you do need to give yourself a little budget to have some fun with, to keep your guests happy and in order to compete with the other events of the night. (Seriously, free drinks still make a difference).

But you can minimise costs elsewhere --one way is looking to partner with other organisations such as co-working spaces who can offer space for free if you allow members to join the event.

You could see if a local boutique alcohol brand would be interested in having a stand, or offering a discount if you buy in bulk. You yourself could look at sponsoring an existing event, which brings an added audience and brand awareness value.

Be inventive, keep costs low and options open.

3. Identify your Audience
If you’ve set an objective and goals, you can set an ideal target audience. Whether it’s customers, investors, recruits or a wider audience interested in a core topic, you want the people you’re inviting to have a strong incentive to show up and to be genuinely engaged when they do.

Figure out your primary and secondary audiences. And who else would be welcome to join. Now design the content for those people and event type for those people.

The reason you pick a speaker, a time, a theme, a drink, a canape (or pizza), all ties back to these people attending and engaging, and you achieving your goals.

4. Content
You need content. And you need a network.

People come along for one reason, the value your event will give them. That value usually comes down to what they learn or who they meet.

The content and guests of your event are key. But the world we operate in is also FULL of events, so you need to be inventive. Avoid having a “Me-Too” event. You want to say something new and be memorable.

Think about themes as headlines. If you were reading a paper, would you stop and want to read that article?

Now think about how you get that headline across. Do you just want one expert, or four people with different opinions? Is it a thought leadership piece or a debate? Is it many debates? Is it a whole magazine full of content? Is it open discussion, enabling a room to mix and chat?

If you’re launching a product, what do you want people to learn about it? How should they interact? Can it be in display?

Some other key points and rules to live by when it comes to content:

  • Balance your speakers in ALL aspects. Make diversity a crucial part of your event, and don’t limit that to just race or gender, but backgrounds, organisations, popularity and opinion. No one wants to listen to a panel where 4 people look and sound the same. BORING.
  • Choose speakers/panelists that will help promote your event.
  • A moderator is normally underlooked, but critical to keeping your event flowing. An entertaining and engaged moderator can help make or break a panel.
  • NO MORE THAN FOUR PEOPLE ON A PANEL EVER (WE’RE SERIOUS ABOUT THAT ONE)
  • Keep your content concise (under 1.5 hours if you’re doing lots of talks). Keep time back for networking, don’t cut this part short.
  • If you present on your own company, keep it to under 3 minutes. No one likes an event where they feel they’ve been lured into an overly long sales pitch.

5. Set a date and time
Key factors in addressing an event date:

  • Ensure you have enough planning time
  • You have enough time to lock in key speakers
  • You don’t clash with key industry dates
  • It’s not a Friday
  • You’ve considered the best time of day to get the attendees you want to attend
  • It’s not in the Christmas period, unless you give people a lot of advanced notice

MARKETING

1. Creating promotional content
Rule one. You need to get your event out there and let people know about it. This means creating promotional content that can be used across all channels. Think about the tweets and posts you create, the language you use, the image cards you need, and whether you need photos of speaker, bios and tags.

Promoting an event requires you to share it on your own channels and on the channels of others involved in helping promotion. Make sure to give them all the material that they could possibly need so it's easy to copy, share and post.

Lastly, your content needs to be easy for you to create, and easily shareable, in order to save time. We’re all a bit time poor, so how do you take that five minute task down, to 15 seconds. Create a folder for all your event resources, and share it with those you’re collaborating with.

2. Using your channels
Create a plan for how you use your owned channels --your website, direct emails, invitations, social media, event page and blog. Start with your community first.

For example, put links in your newsletter, write a blog about your upcoming event, promote heavily on social, use an Instagram story to highlight your event and its speakers and list your event on Facebook.

Once you’ve created your promotional content, create a plan so that you’re communicating about your event everyday. If it’s a public event, post across all your social channels once a day.

Tagging in different people and using alternative hashtags, will be a big help. Build the excitement! If it’s a private event, focus on an email marketing campaign that builds excitement for your invitees.

3. Working with partners
It's rare that you're the only one involved in your event. You may have speakers, a venue partner, even sponsors. Each person you're working with has a network you can tap into.

Make sure those promotional materials you create can be easily shared with every partner and event connection, and ask for their help in spreading the word. 

For speakers, give them content that they can use which makes them look damn good. They'll be more than willing to give your event a few shout-outs.

Once you've tapped into your extended network, take a look at event listings --such as UK Tech News, Tech.London and TimeOut. Also, think about sending direct emails to co-working spaces, accelerators, and any networks that are relevant to your event. Once you start mapping out who you should be contacting and asking for help or providing an offer too, it's easy to see how far your reach can go.

Pssst --don't forget to ping influencers too!

4. Think visual
An image speaks a 1,000 words. In the CEW camp, a gif speaks 10,000, and a video, 100,000!

When you're planning an event, it's always more than just the day. It's the material you create that carries on for months after. It's the next events promotional material. It's video content for social. It's images for your website. Always be thinking about this type of content, and how best to capture and share them.

5. Planning ahead: What content can you get out of the event?
Alongside images and video, what else can you create from the event? Pre-plan what you want, so you can aim to get the best content on the day. 

This could range from speakers quotes to 10-sec videos, newsletter round-ups to full-blown articles and whitepapers. When you're thinking about content, always consider what is most likely to work for your target audience. Don't be afraid to experiment, in order to find the content that works best.

And always --be the lovely host that sends a ‘thank you for attending’ email (which also highlights a key piece of material from the night...)

6 . Event ownership
How will people know this event is your event? Make sure you take ownership. Use your logo --make it visible in photos and videos.

Create a hashtag --one that you will either use for all events moving forward OR one that is used more widely, so other people following that hashtag can discover your event content and discover you.

Own the content --be a clear voice leading the discussion, don't become reliant on guests to do the social media hard work for you.

And on the day? TALK. You have a room of people to network with, so work the room with style.

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* This post was originally published in our newsletter The Communications Workshop. Sign up to get more free tips on communications and marketing here!