In my business, there’s an art and science to creating a great event experience. As the co-founder of a New York-based, women-owned brand experience agency, I’ve produced over 250 events. In the last six years, we’ve created everything from rock walls in co-working spaces, to multi-day activations at SXSW, and private dinners in art galleries. We’ve done it all and seen how the sausage is really made. Through this experience, here’s what I’ve found can help set your event apart from the rest:
- Determine your purpose for creating the event. The biggest mistake people make when planning events is not defining a strategy around its purpose. It certainly does not need to be on the same level of an Oscars-type event, but even for a small breakfast gathering of your industry peers, you need a strategy. Is it to network? Get new clients? Show off the new office space? Whatever it is, define your purpose first.
- Decide how much money you really have to spend. Yes, everything always costs more than you think it will. If you have a budget in mind, then you know what/where you can actually spend. This goes for big brands and small ones. We once worked with a large technology company that decided it wanted to host happy hours every day because the first one was such a success. We had a feeling that might happen, so luckily we set aside some of the budget for extra happy hour supplies. It’s always smart to order extra food and drink ahead of time so that when the rush comes, you’re prepared.
- Never underestimate the power of connection. One thing that has come back to help our agency again and again is our network. I bet if you checked on your Facebook wall right now, you probably know someone who works at a coworking space and can get you in contact with the people who rent it out, has thrown a wedding/birthday party and knows a good caterer, or owns a camera and could take quality photos. My point is, you’re never going to know unless you allow your network to be a part of your event planning. And when you do, it often leads to some of the best possible and often, the most cost-effective partnerships. Keep your asks short, simple and friendly.
- Create the full experience. Remember the time you went to that terrible event? How did you feel when you walked in? Now think of the time you went to an event and it was truly amazing: How did you feel when you entered that event? Notice the difference. The real key to making an event a success is how you make your guests feel when they get there. What does that all mean? The little things count, including a friendly check-in experience and setting up an open bar/offering food (even if it’s coffee and bagels). We’ve built a successful networking event series for five years with inexpensive wine and Swedish Fish candies.
- Treat people the way you want to be treated. Are you shy? Hire TaskRabbits and brand ambassadors who can be warm and friendly to greet people at the event. Hate public speaking? Hire someone to emcee. Introduce people and make sure no one is left in a corner by themselves.
When you create an event, always remember: It’s about the people who walk through the doors, and how you treat them, that will act as the key to lasting success.