With everything that happened in 2020, you may not be thinking about doing an in-person event anytime soon. I get it. We had to take our annual client retreat online into a virtual format last year, and it was good, but it was definitely different than being in the same room together.
Hosting an event is a great way to attract new clients, develop your reputation, and spread the word about your brand. It can also be a heck of a lot of work that takes an enormous amount of time and money to pull off. I've shared horror stories and lessons learned from both attending and hosting live events in previous show episodes. Luckily it needn't be as difficult as you might think to organize a memorable commercial event. Here are a few things to consider for even the simplest successful event.
Choosing the right location and venue is absolutely critical. You'll need to find a large enough space that can accommodate your audience which is available for your event dates. Keep in mind your budget as well, since most hotel venues have hidden "upcharges" that aren't included in the room rental rate. You should aim to choose a venue which is in an accessible location, having main roads and train or bus stops nearby to allow for easy travel.
Your venue also needs to be accessible for your attendees in other ways - chairs, stairs, elevators, sensory needs, and other considerations that make it easier for your guests to be in and get out of your meeting location. To learn more about making your events accessible, check this out from one of our Incubator clients, Riley Dwight. They are on a mission to make everything accessible to everyone.
Your venue should have a reasonable amount of facilities, including a good lighting and fast internet. take your time to look around each potential venue and meet any staff that will be working during your event. Pictures alone aren't good enough. Take the time to read a few reviews left by previous event hosts to help you decide whether or not the venue will work for you.
Once you've decided on the perfect venue, now's the time to start sourcing the equipment and materials that you'll need. That means room decor and swag, sure, but also any audio/visual gear, brand elements, and other things you'll need in the room - like tables and chairs.
You may think that you'll just use your on equipment for your event, but that's not always possible. Some venues require that you use their in-house equipment and A/V, while others have a list of authorized vendors that you'll need to connect with to get their price lists. When you are able to use your own gear, you still might not want to do it. At one events I attended, one of the keynote speakers left right after their talk to catch a flight out of town... leaving their laptop sitting on the projection table!
If you've got the budget, it might make sense to rent equipment for your event. You can usually rent a laptop or rent an iPad for events on the cheap by the day. They'll even pre-load the device for you in some cases. All you have to do is show up and do your presentation! Tables and chairs may come with the venue rental, but they may not be suitable for your attendees. Or they may just be ugly. Most party and event rental places offer a variety of tables, chairs, linens, pipe & drape, and even stages to fit your event needs.
Unless you're hosting a small, intimate gathering, you'll probably need a few helping hands to keep things moving smoothly. Finding the right team of people to staff your event makes a big difference in you your attendees feel. It also makes a big difference in how YOU feel at the end of it all.
The right team keeps everything running on time, issues are handled quickly and efficiently, and they actually help you stay focused on what you're really there to do - be the host with the most!
If you don't have the time or skills to gather a group of talented people, you may wish to explore a staffing agency. They maintain a database of suitable candidates that they can match up with your unique project, cutting out the stress of having to read through potentially hundreds of applications.
Hosting your own live event is a big commitment. To avoid having nobody show up (been there, and it's NOT pretty) you've got to market it. Developing buzz, spreading the word, encouraging the right folks to attend takes more than a little marketing.... and the sooner, the better. The more time you have to let people know about your live event, the easier it is for them to plan to attend.
Deciding where and how to market your commercial event should depend on your target audience, becuase if the right folks don't know about it, they simply won't attend. I attempted to host a live event in my hometown - even booked a famous celebrity to attend - and sold exactly three tickets. Why? We didn't have a budget to promote the event and relied on the little bit of local press and social media posts we were making in order to fill the seats. We ended up cancelling three days before the event.
Yeah, it takes a lot to put together a killer event, but when you've done it well, the results are transformational and amazing. I'm excited about hosting the Creative Freedom Client Retreat in person again this fall. After a year off in a virtual setting, it'll be nice to see each other and be able to HUG each other again!