How to run a successful event

Running an event can be an excellent way to raise your business profile. Whether it be informative workshops, training programmes, an exhibition, a charity fund-raiser etc, there are some simple steps common to all events that if stuck to will give it the best possible chance at success.

The first thing you must do is be clear in your own mind what the purpose of the event is. As with all objectives, having a clear vision of the event and its purpose will make it much easier to focus your efforts and help ensure resources are not wasted. Keep in mind that this step needs to be completed well in advance so that you have time to organise the event successfully; nine months before the proposed date is a good rule of thumb.

How to run a successful eventHaving gained that clear vision, I would always recommend a sanity check with someone you trust. Go through your thought processes and plans with a colleague or friend and just make sure that you haven’t missed something glaringly obvious. In preparation for this conversation, make sure you have done some local market research so that, for example, you are aware of any similar events taking place, you have gauged the appetite for what you plan with the various target audiences (delegates, exhibitors, sponsors) and have checked your proposed pricing levels are appropriate.

The next step is to source the venue. Many a good idea has fallen short because an appropriate venue was not available at the required date/time/location. Talk through your plans with the venue and make sure that you share all aspects of your vision and that you gain their buy in. For example will there be enough parking at the times you require, do you need refreshments and if so who will be providing them, how many rooms do you want and when could you set up. A helpful venue with a positive attitude will make the task so much easier.

Run a Successful Event

Once you have your clear idea and a suitable venue, it’s time to get marketing. Make sure that you leave enough time to let people know about the event as it will take multiple messages and channels to get responses from your target audiences. As with any marketing, define your target markets and then aim your efforts using the channels that will reach them. This may include email shots, leaflet drops, a website, multiple social media platforms, networking, word of mouth and all forms of advertising.

It is vital to understand that you will be marketing to more than one audience and that they will require different messages. Attracting exhibitors for example is very different from gaining delegate foot fall yet both are needed if the event is to be successful. There is nothing worse than having a room full of exhibitors with no one walking around to view their products and services.

Ensuring good delegate numbers is generally more difficult than securing exhibitors and sponsors so it can be helpful to synergise with other groups. If you are running a charity event, ask the charities you are supporting to help with the marketing; ask exhibitors and sponsors to spread the word about where they will be and when; join with a networking group to bring in their membership. There are many ways to spread the load of gaining visitors.

As you commence your marketing campaign you will begin to obtain feedback about the likely success of the event. Make sure that you have contingency plans in place for both more than expected numbers wishing to attend and also fewer. What additional marketing can you implement? Do you have an alternative venue? Are there other organisations you could link with? Have alternate plans in place to cover all the different scenarios you can think of.

Contingency plans are also needed for what happens during the event. For example if a speaker doesn’t show – what will you do? If caterers let you down – how will you provide refreshments? Always have alternate options that can be called upon if required. This is why you must ensure you have enough people to help run the day so that if someone has do a supermarket run for example, it still appears seamless to delegates, exhibitors etc.

A simple follow up after the event to thank exhibitors, sponsors, organisations and individuals as appropriate is a good way to close and enables you to gain feedback about what was good and where you can improve next time (if there is a next time planned). After all, if this one was a resounding success why wouldn’t you do it all again?

So by keeping to some simple planning steps, starting in good time, understanding the different target markets you are working to attract and by spreading the work load, running a successful event need not be too onerous. The benefits in terms of credibility and profile raising can be huge and you can provide a valuable service to the community, assist a charity fundraise, help local businesses – the potential wins are numerous and very significant.


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