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Five essential thoughts when planning an event

We’re no strangers to planning events and understand the huge amount of work that goes into coordinating a night that’s packed to the rafters and the talk of the town. Account director Rose Hayes reveals five things you’ve got to keep in mind if you want an event to remember.

The guest list is king

This piece of advice is number one on my list of things to consider – and for good reason. Without a solid guest list, your event is going to fail before you’ve even started. Even in the social media age, don’t expect purely word of mouth to be enough.

The old school marketing adage of “you need to hear or see something seven times before you buy” might be a bit dated but I whole-heartedly believe that repetition is key if you want people to actually turn up for something. That is unless you are going to give lots away for free; which, in all honesty, no one wants to do.

Let’s face it, getting a share of people’s very precious personal or business time is a bit of a fight. We’re all under pressure to make the most of our working hours and the time we spend with friends and family.

The key, if at all possible, is to make your event inclusive. If you aren’t able to appeal to a wide range of tastes or ages, at least offer a plus one (or even more if you are able) so your guests can use the event as a chance to socialize or network. A word of warning that opening up the invite in this way means you need to keep an even closer eye on your guest list and be ready to get tough with numbers later on.

 

As an agency, we have been building and nurturing our database of potential guests for years. Keep in mind that it’s always valuable to have a strong existing list of contacts to tap into and an audience that actually wants to hear from you regarding events (so that you’re not annoying, as well as making sure you’re GDPR compliant).

Set expectations

Setting expectations at the very beginning when planning an event is an important part of successfully prizing people away from their daily routine. This includes doing a good job of building anticipation and really selling the exciting points of what you are offering in the run-up to the big day.

One of the most common questions you’ll get asked by those invited is what will they get for free. What they are really asking for is what value they will get by giving up their time. Whether the value is knowledge (if you’re organising a conference), business leads (if you’re putting together a networking event), or simply a pint or cocktail if it’s a bar opening, people want to know what they’ll get for their attendance.

Do this through whatever manner you have decided to invite people to the event or announce that it’s happening – we recommend a staggered series of invites or social media posts to keep interest alive and reach a larger number of people.

Keep checking those numbers

Yes, I’m talking about the guest list again. Hopefully mentioning it for a second time will reinforce just how important it is to a really successful event.

Probably about 60% of the time that our team spends on event management goes into the initial guest list creation and invite distribution, as well as the all-important follow up with calls and emails. In total, the first round of invites will always have a few rounds of secondary calls with email invites going out multiple times as a result.

Plus – a good guest list alone is still not enough. Proactive calls to people and businesses you’d love to come are vital. This takes a lot of time and a very determined account executive, but hey, that’s what your PR agency is for.

After all of that work, your guest list should have been nurtured, constantly updated and trimmed, to become a pristine spreadsheet ready to be used on the door.

On the door support

Another deceptively pressured and time-intensive job is actually getting the right people through the door. Although slightly less hectic at a conference for instance (although finding the right name badge with said person staring right at you can be stressful), being on the door of a new bar or restaurant opening is often a two-person job.

Take the opening of Alto in Nottingham for example – thanks to the co-owner being Nottingham boxing legend Carl Froch, and his decision to bring along some pals from that year’s season of Love Island, the door was particularly busy. Thank goodness, there was a full team of Cartwrighters on hand to keep the queue of guests moving, while the paparazzi (yes, actual paparazzi) swarmed the celebs.

Not all events are going to be like this one, but the principle of having two people on the door is still valid – whether checking off a guest list (numbers can be important for fire and health and safety) or finding a name badge, it keeps the line moving and sets the right first impression. It’s also a good way of our team keeping tabs on any press that turn up and means we can get them to the client for an interview and a photo pronto.

Social media and photography

Once everyone is through the door and you’ve breathed a sigh of relief at the happy crowd (and client/boss), it’s time to monitor your social media channels. Reposting and engaging is just as, if not more, important than posting your own shots – whatever your event, this is really key for getting the most value out of your event.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your photographer and make sure they are getting all the snaps you need for future marketing.

The beauty of having a PR team on hand is that they will do all of this for you, and if they’re anything like us, also have their own cameras and video cameras to capture some bonus footage.

Finally – don’t forget to keep communicating after the event.

Use all of your assets from the night – photography, social media posts that you’ve been tagged in, positive reviews, and video snippets – to keep in touch with those who attended, as well as those who didn’t make it.

The Cartwright team runs events throughout the year. We provide press office support at large-scale shows such as the Lincolnshire Show; run and manage bar and restaurant launches; represent the Midlands at MIPIM, the world’s largest property event; and deliver public consultations for our property and construction clients.

Get in touch with us to find out more or just to be added to our guest list for future events.

By Rose Hayes

Rose brings over 10 years' experience in PR working across the Midlands and UK for a range of clients in B2B and B2C sectors, including FTSE 100 companies specialising in building products, heating, and ventilation such as Travis Perkins plc and Tarmac.

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