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A good friend was hosting an event to promote his small business to prospective customers. Without knowing too much detail about what the night was about, I was going along to support a mate.
However, from the moment I arrived, the room was jumping with telltale disaster signs. A room set up with the exact amount of chairs as the invite list. The screen and projector glowing with no presentation loaded and ready to go. The drinks were already poured and slowly setting at room temperature – before the guests even arrived. There was no food in sight.
Putting on a bad event is worse than not having one at all
Badly run events like this are damaging. Not only does it make your guests feel uncomfortable or undervalued, but it can seriously wreak havoc on your brand or small business. Its not just the temperature of the drinks that can leave your audience feeling lukewarm.
Ensuring there is an enticing spread of food will help attendance numbers
So, if you do run an event then how do you ensure that you’re providing a valuable exchange for your attendees time, and send them off feeling great about their experience and your small business?
What will your ROI be?
The first question is why would we run an event? What are we achieving by getting a bunch of people together in a room and talking to them about our small business? Your answers need to set the foundation for how you will measure the return on investment (ROI).
For some reason, when it comes to events, businesses don’t apply the same rigour to the decision-making process and often end up spending way more than other forms of marketing. You wouldn’t spend $5,000 on a newspaper advertisement without justifying how much business you expect to generate in return, right?
Welcome guests and let them know what the event is all about!
Secondly, you need to ask yourself how you’re going to convert this activity into new business? What is the process for following up with your attendees? How do you make sure they don’t forget everything from your event the minute they walk out of the door?
The best way to manage this is to have a clear outcome.
What will be your outcome?
1. Pinpoint the customers that are the ones you need to influence and think about what it will take for them to understand the value of your offering.
2. Next, consider what will make it easy for them to understand and do business with you. Following up with all the attendees after the event is a simple but important step. It may seem like a no-brainer, but businesses who wait for their guests to come back to them miss this big opportunity to reconnect.
3. Follow-up should also be with those who expressed an interest to attend, but for whatever reason couldn’t make it. Sometimes these are just as important as the people who invested their time to be there. How can you help them be more efficient or productive, or simply just making their life a little easier? Having all your data up to date before and live as you are working the event will help you come out on top during the follow up process.
4. Be really honest with yourself about whether your audience is going to attend. People may love that you’re passionate about your small business, but that doesn’t mean they will come to an event to hear about it.
Make sure the drinks are freshly poured
When we are planning professional events, we often purposely underestimate the number of guests that will attend, because having a smaller room that is full to the brim creates buzz and energy in a space. With most of us being busier than ever, there is a greater pressure on selecting where people will spend that time. You need to make the event “sticky” and entice people along. Lure people in by having an interesting speaker related to your small business or by hosting the event in a fantastic location.
How do you choose the location for your event?`
When selecting your location, choose a venue that complements your brand and works for the format and style of your event. There are lots of great bar locations that have rooms that work beautifully for a casual presentation followed by drinks. By making the location convenient for your guests, you remove one of the “too-hard” aspects out of the decision making process of attending.
If you’re short on resources, ask the venue for a list of their preferred suppliers. It will make your life easier by using vendors that are already familiar with the venue and know how to make it work best for you. Securing a great space is really important. From my experience, when you get that value – combined with the right audience – your small business event can deliver amazing results.
There is never a perfect answer for whether it is right to run a small business event, but ruthless objectivity before you spend a cent is a great start.