Events are great. They’re where you get to interact and engage with your customers and community directly, meet new people, and create lasting relationships. In marketing terms they are also good for word of mouth, awareness, and brand equity. Plus, who doesn’t like a party? However, planning an event is a beast. Especially if you’re new to the game.
The Ross Group Inc. recently coordinated an event for a total of 10 small businesses called Doors Open @ The Courtyard, part of the Doors Open event series we created to foster community for local small businesses in Conejo Valley. What started out as an exciting new project matured into a series of highs and lows before graduating to an event that was better than we could have expected.
Here are some of the lessons we learned creating our first multi-business event:
1. It Takes More Time Than You Think It Will.
Events are costly in more than one way. Even on a budget events take a lot of time to prepare and deliver. One factor that can create a tricky bottle neck in the planning process is communication. Communication between businesses that have different schedules than yours, different channels of communications, and different priorities can create a strain of the level of event related output. Being very clear and organized about what needs to get done, how it needs to get done, and when it needs be accomplished by is incredibly important. When in doubt about your messages to and between the businesses, spell it out. Go see them in person, if you can, to keep everyone on track. Plans will get changed, time will be wasted, and being able to adapt and communicate the direction to the participants is vital.
2. Getting People To Actually Attend Is The Hardest Part.
The fun factor of any event is pretty difficult to predict and even harder to plan for. It’s why the attendees, in our case community members in Conejo Valley, show up for the event. We wanted the community to feel welcome into a casual environment, but also wanted them to be able to be rewarded for their support. We decided on a Kindle Fire HD raffle to peak interest and then encouraged the participating businesses to do supporting raffles and contests as well as provide food and drinks. Be clear in your marketing about what you are offering attendees, it helps them quickly decide whether they want to give you their time or not.
3. It Is Better To Engage Than Sell.
We created the Doors Open event series to showcase the great local business community we have here in the Conejo Valley, not to wrangle people into another awkward networking event. As a company we believe that it is always better to engage with people as people and not as leads. If there is a connection between people with rapport and a need arises in one, a sale may organically be created. The businesses that participated with us in Doors Open @ The Courtyard were onboard with this concept and it led to fantastic reviews by the attendees who wanted to know when the next event would be. Be yourself with your community.
4. Don’t Let The Event Run You
You may need to improvise on the fly, and that’s okay. Have fun and relax when the event is on, there’s only so much you can control. Roll with it and remember who the event is for.
If you don’t know how to start, don’t be afraid to ask someone who does. The odds are that they would be happy to help you. We asked Danielle Borja of the Conejo Chamber of Commerce who gave us great advice on what we could be doing better and what we were missing.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments or email them to erin [at] therossgroup.com.