For anyone in any business, at some point you’ll likely find yourself with the need to put together, and successfully execute, an event. Sure, they can be a lot of fun and when everything falls into place seamlessly, it feels like it was no sweat at all. But when things go wrong, it’s like your world is crumbling around you and there’s nothing you can do to stop the avalanche. OK that was a little dramatic, but it’s not entirely pleasant.
Throwing an event is one of the best ways to physically bring out your supporters, clients and potential clients to actually meet you in person, to feel your energy, while giving you the opportunity to either sell or further cement your business in their minds.
We’ve had both overwhelmingly positive and occasional negative experiences running events in Melbourne, Australia, and Toronto and Montreal, Canada; however the principles are essentially the same almost anywhere in the world. Here are some of the key elements that will help you put together an event that will genuinely attract a crowd.
Maximize Social Media
As far as the events world is concerned, social media is one of the greatest things to ever happen to it. Most would be familiar with Facebook event pages, where you can essentially create an e-flyer for your bash with all relevant information, links and imagery, and you can even monitor attendees. Although it might sometimes feel like you’re being invited to a million of these every day, if targeted and positioned correctly, Facebook can be your number one promotional tool.
If you have more than one person setting up and running the event with you, ensure everyone is made a Host on the Facebook event. This gives your co-organizers access to the page to edit and add information as it comes, switch out imagery and post additional content, all of which shoots out a notification to attendees. Be cautious not to do this too often, however if used correctly it can be a great reminder tool. Also, everyone involved in the event should be inviting the relevant people in their friends list to attend. Nobody living in New York wants to constantly be invited to events in Sydney, so don’t do blanket blasts (unless your entire list is based in one city). It’s annoying and it can get your future events ignored quick time.
Throwing some dollars behind some simple Facebook ads is also a great paid promotional option for social media. Depending on your budget, you can stretch it out over 2-4 weeks with a few dollars a day, or give the event a solid push in the week leading up to the big day. The News Feed ad option usually performs the best, as it can be attributed to a Like page (which you should create the event from), and it appears organically in front of the targeted individuals with only a small ‘Sponsored’ in the top left to give away the fact that it’s an ad.
Other social networks like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube can be brought in as supplementary promotional options, too. You can post flyers on Instagram; start a hashtag on Twitter and get your network to spread it around; make some funny GIFs or promo images for Tumblr; and even put together a short video for YouTube. All of these should aim to push traffic to the Facebook event where relevant information can be found, and where your business can directly interact with attendees.
Give Yourself Lead Time
Apparently Abe Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” What he’s getting at is preparation is the key to success, and this most certainly applies to events. While throwing a last minute pop-up event can really work for particular companies or artists (usually those who already have a large fanbase), it’s almost always the better option to give yourself some lead time.
Depending on what kind of event you’re throwing, a solid average is somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks. Most mid-size music venues, for example, are booked out well in advance so the further ahead of time you can reach out, the better. This also allows you to prepare somewhat of a rollout and marketing plan, incorporating social media, street promotion, media and advertising.
We usually try to plan a little more than 8 weeks ahead where possible, and launch our events publicly via social media and press releases around 4 weeks out. If the event calls for it, definitely look into selling pre-sale tickets. This ensures guaranteed attendees, some upfront capital (which is always helpful) and can even help you secure some sponsors. We always use Eventbrite for pre-sales, as they have an incredibly simple backend, they let you embed purchase links on your website, their fees can be added onto the ticket (rather than being taken out of your profits) and they are very well integrated into social media.
Hire a Designer - A Good One
Technology has come a long way in the past couple decades. There’s no excuse for releasing a flyer that looks like a fourth grader made it in Microsoft Paint. Events can be expensive and shaving costs whenever possible is helpful to your bottom line, however this is never acceptable if it’s at the expense of the image of the event. A good flyer can literally - and figuratively - make or break your shindig. If you don’t have any friends who can bang out something awesome for you for cheap, there’s websites like Fiverr, 99designs or even Craigslist/Kijiji who can ensure you get something great that doesn’t break the bank.
When requesting a flyer design, ensure you receive the largest vector file possible. This is mostly in case you decide to go with some print/street promotion. You can hire companies that handle this for you, or you can hit up a print shop and do it yourself – the former is more expensive but much more thorough, while the latter is cheaper but quite the hassle. If you opt to do it yourself, just be wary of the laws in your city as there are many places where it’s illegal to put up street posters or hand out flyers, and both the promoter and the venue can be fined.
The standard poster size is 11” x 17”, while the standard flyer size is 4” x 6” (this may differ in each country or city). It’s also wise to request the designer to create not only a flyer, but a square profile pic for social media and a perfectly sized banner for use on the Facebook event. These may seem small and seemingly insignificant elements, but they very much demonstrate attention to detail that showcase your professionalism as an event planner.
Work The Angles
Sharp and precise; Dilated Peoples said it best. As with any product or service, marketing really is everything, and that especially goes for events. The name and theme of your event dictate how people will feel about it, whether they’d be interested in attending and whether the word will spread via your promotional efforts. The graphic art must represent the intended mood and vibe of the event, and using a catchy title (especially if it’s a recurring event) with relevant visuals will very much determine your success.
Before you decide on your title and theme, do some research. See what other similar companies have done in your city or region; see what worked and what didn’t. One of our personal favourites was a Montreal-based event called “Slang Rap Democracy”, which was a panel of speakers in a lecture theatre at Concordia University where members of various elements of the Hip Hop scene spoke on current issues and shared their respective stories. Hip Hop heads will recognize the title as a somewhat obscure reference to a line in Raekwon’s classic “Incarcerated Scarfaces”. They played to their audience in the nomenclature and confirmed the theme through the visuals, resulting in fantastic and memorable branding.
Remember - All Publicity Is Good Publicity
The one element of events that most promoters seem to forget is PR (Public Relations). It’s great to have a dope flyer plastered all over the streets, a tight Facebook event page with a ton of attendees and your pre-sale link on all social networks, but if nobody’s talking about it, your efforts will be in vain. If you don’t already have a mailing list – get one. You can start with your personal contacts and build from there, but (not too frequent) email blasts with event information are key. Approaching local media can also assist in obtaining some traction in your target market. Some will want you to pay for advertising and occasionally it’s worth it, however you can also invite their photographer to come along so they can post some images in the wrap up following the event.
Hire your own photographer, too; another key forgotten element is the follow-up from the promoter. Post an album of amazing photos on your company Facebook page the next day, encourage people to tag themselves and their friends (which in turn increases your exposure to their respective networks) and throw just how much fun was missed out on in the faces of those who didn’t attend. If your event is a regular one, these images are fantastic promotional material and can even be shopped to media when pitching future events.
We've thrown a dope party or two ourselves. Ask us about our Main Event Suite.