When it comes to hosting modern corporate and community events, what do you hope people gain from the experience? Over the last few years, we have seen the event world turn on its head, and it’s for the better in many instances. As I’m passionate about meaningful marketing, I also try to extend this philosophy into the events we host and are involved with as a firm.
If you’re planning events for your business, community group or law firm in 2023, here are my top ten tips for genuine engagement and event success:
1. Less. I see more and more that guests use these events to connect with their team, clients and friends. Where you can have ‘less’ on the run sheet – do so, give people time to chat, enjoy their company and be present in the moment. Review your run sheet and ask yourself – “what can I cut out or reduce?”
2. Purpose. Like everything in life, people like purpose. So why are we here? And don’t say ‘networking’. We as humans need genuine connection and more meaning – is there an important social or environmental cause we are supporting, entertainment on offer, education, or shared interest? Events need depth of purpose.
3. Get clear on the details. To allow for impressive simplistic designs, I often see event invites and flyers that really scrimp on the details. As an Event Manager, I am on the receiving end of enquiries when the invite is ambiguous. Here’s the golden list of details your guests will want to know before committing to an event (and too often need to be reminded of in the week leading up):
- What can I expect? Is it sit down or stand up? Will there be plated food service, and how many courses? Is the ticket price inclusive of all drinks? Will there be entertainment? You can generally write an overview event summary that covers all these details.
- What should I wear? Dress code questions are probably the most common.
- Will there be fundraising? How does that work?
- What time will it start and finish?
- Is this invite just for me, or is there a plus one?
In the spirit of always learning and optimising, you need to provide more information if your invite prompts the same question from several people.
4. Sense of belonging. Further on from purpose, people also enjoy a sense of belonging – their individual purpose to be in the room. This tip is most relevant for an event that has invites sent. Why am I invited? Did our organisation get a broad invite to ‘everyone’, or did you specifically want me to attend? Generally, people like to be ‘seen’ and valued as an individual.
5. First impressions. For guest arrivals at your event, having a ‘welcoming committee’ stationed at the entry can be very helpful in easing guests into the space, helping them register, showing them where to get a drink and introducing solo attendees to others to start a conversation. Feeling welcomed as soon as you arrive sets the tone for a warm and meaningful event experience.
6. Business, Smart Casual or Black Tie? If you host a number of events throughout the year, try having a mix of smart casual and black-tie affairs. Sometimes we want to dress up, and sometimes we want to roll from the office with no fuss. Selecting the right dress code for the time and day of the week is also important. For example, transitioning into black tie following a full workday can be costly on people’s time and energy; often, guests need to take the afternoon off work to allow enough time to get ready and travel to your event – consider reserving these for Saturday evenings.
7. Photos, photos, photos. Part of our modern DNA is a strong need to document moments with photos. To help your guest capture the best shot, hire a photographer and share pictures quickly post-event. Also, consider having a designated spot for group photos. This photo area is beneficial if you’re looking for more social engagement; if you provide the place to capture a unique shot that showcases your event purpose, guests will take their own photos and post throughout your event and often continue even after it’s all wrapped up.
8. Take advantage of the small stuff. I know the saying is, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but in the event world, the small stuff matters. Some of the seemingly small stuff that can impact your event for good or often for bad includes:
- Database management – keep your database up to date and personalise as much as you can in invites and communication pieces.
- Spell your guest’s names correctly on name tags and place cards – I see this all the time and have probably made this mistake myself, but having a few eyes run over your list before it’s printed is invaluable!
- For seated dinners, be mindful of the seating plan, who purchased tickets together should stay together, how many seats are at a table once it’s set, and where your guests with dietary requirements are seated.
- Table settings – is it neat, consistent and on theme?
- And when it’s all done, ask yourself, “what else can we do to improve the guest experience?”
9. Plan ahead. Being organised and planning ahead not only creates a more seamless (and less stressful) event experience, but in the post-Covid world, it’s essential, venues are booking out a year in advance, so get in quick and secure your key items and have a plan in place to deliver your event ahead of schedule. In some communities, you may also find the calendar is very competitive and you’re best to secure your event date early with your intended audience.
10. Care for your stakeholders. If you have sponsors, volunteers, or talent involved in your event, be sure to spend the time to keep them in the loop in the lead-up, cared for on the event day and acknowledged post-event. Most events are only possible with a vital group of stakeholders – be sure to show your appreciation.
If you are an event manager or pop on the event manager hat from time to time for your organisation, I hope this list helps guide your event planning for 2023 and beyond. If you have any ‘top tips’ that I should add to the list, please reach out; I’d love to hear about your experiences as a guest and as a host.
As published in Lawyers Weekly and My Weekly Preview.
Community & Brand Manager
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