The following post was written by Promo.com VP Communications Hila Shitrit Nissim, during her tenure as VP Marketing at Viola (2005-2017)
Whether you are a frequent event organizer or a first-timer, you’re always under pressure to create the perfect corporate event – one that will achieve its goals and whose ‘Wow!’ factor will generate enthusiastic feedback from participants and keep them talking about it for days (and even longer). And if you work at a startup it can be even more challenging, but if you focus on a few key aspects, you can raise your event’s level of professionalism and boost its chances for success even with limited resources.
When you’ve been organizing corporate events for over a decade as I have, you learn a thing or two along the way, like which elements are more important to focus on and which are less crucial in the overall scheme of things. If you had all the time in the world, a team of minions and a massive budget at your disposal, then you wouldn’t have to worry about prioritizing any elements at all, but in real life, there’s always a deadline and always a budget, so knowing which elements you should focus on in order to pull off an event that will win over both the attendees and your boss can make all the difference. Here are my top tips:
1. Build an interesting agenda with enticing speakers
Whether your budget is big or small, you still have the power to organize a memorable event. If your budget is big, then you have more freedom to let your imagination run wild and your guests will most likely appreciate the spectacle, but even if your budget is small, if the main part of the event is interesting and enjoyable, they will still be glad they came and will be impressed with you as the organizer.
So bearing in mind your company’s goals (brand awareness, sales, lead generation etc.), always think about your audience – why are they coming to this event and what will be most useful to them. Much like content marketing, if your speakers deliver a brilliant, insightful presentation it will reflect on your brand as the organizer of the event, even if it doesn’t involve a “hard sell” of your company. People don’t like listening to obvious marketing and sales messages, they appreciate content that adds value, be it a best-practice presentation or just purely inspirational.
As the organizer, you should select the best speakers you can and then provide them with accurate guidelines regarding your goals, expectations and length of their time slot, and specifically ask them to avoid self-promotion and focus on the audience’s interests.
2. Networking time is very important
Always think about networking time when you plan the event’s agenda. If you want people to be focused and seated during the event, allow time for networking and coffee breaks. Not only they will be more relaxed during the presentations, but networking is one of the reasons that people go to events in the first place, so let them enjoy it.
3. Personalize your invitations and offer short and user-friendly registration forms
It sounds like a ‘common sense’ best practice but many companies still forget to follow it despite the massive impact it can have on the recipients’ impression of your event.
Personalizing your invitations is a no-brainer. When you receive a personal invitation you know that someone intended to invite you and it’s much more engaging than receiving a generic invitation that was send to everyone.
Also, it’s important to highlight the RSVP button so that it will be clear to people how to register. If you want people to register via email, create a hyperlink to the email address with the relevant subject line defined in it. Having said that, email registration is the last option I would recommend. Collecting rsvp’s via email is inconvenient to all parties involved because it’s an old fashion and relatively inefficient method (unless it’s a small event of up to 20 people).
There are several free or low-cost online tools you can use like EventBrite and Meetup.com which are very popular. Splash is another intuitive and easy-to-use event management platform that offers not only RSVP collection, ticketing services and management of invitee lists but also amazing design features. You can also remove the Splash logo if you subscribe to their premium service.
A couple of other emerging event management platforms include Evolero, which focuses on repeat events, and Bizzabo (a Viola Growth portfolio company) which is more focused on social and mobile event features.
If you use free online registration tools like EventBrite or Splash (mentioned above) or any other similar service, make sure that the registration form is as short as possible so that the registration process is quick and fuss-free. Collect only the most relevant information. If you are preparing name tags for participants, be sure to collect the attendee and company names, both of which are crucial when networking.
4. The design of the invitation is crucial
A brilliantly designed invitation with a slick font, colors and a glossy visual makes me want to go and attend the event the minute I receive it (plus awesomely designed invitations make me very happy!).
Of course it’s also important to include the key details in the invitation: The name of the event and topic, venue, date, time and your contact information for inquiries.
These days, even if you don’t have an in-house graphic designer or can’t afford hiring one, you can still create impressive invitations on your own and for free (or almost free).
As I mentioned in above, Splash is such a tool, with beautiful and easy to use designs.
If you do not need a complete platform there are additional tools that provide slick design for invitations such as Smore and Canva but be warned – once you start playing with it it’s also really fun and highly addictive!
5. Make sure that your event is ‘Social’-ready (before, during and event)
Most of the online event platforms offer social features and on-site check-in options. If you want to create buzz around your event, this is a great way to do it. Don’t forget to create a #hashtag in advance to leverage the social mentions and include the hashtag in the invitation.
A flawless event requires attention to the smallest details and preparation for unexpected hiccups and problems.
6. Create a master slide deck to present the agenda, goals and speakers
Collect all presentations and videos in advance and upload them to one central laptop (preferably your own). Using the amazing design you have chosen for the event, create a slide deck that includes a “welcome” message, the event’s agenda, goals, and each of your speakers (one slide per speaker), with a hyperlink to his/her presentation. This way you can avoid wasting time on uploading the presentation files and connecting to different laptops, and achieve a seamless flow to the program.
Most importantly, put the same file with all speakers’ presentations on a back-up laptop, just in case the original laptop stops working in the middle of the event. I admit that in my 15 years of organizing events this happened to me only once, and thanks to this ‘back-up laptop trick’ we were back to the point we stopped at within 10 seconds. People were astonished that no break was required to fix the problem. Needless to say that after this incident I am even more convinced of the importance of a back-up laptop.
7. Prepare “5 Minutes Left ” and “1 Minute Left” signs
Timing is everything, and one of the signs of professionalism at events is your reputation regarding sticking to the planned agenda. Hopefully all your speakers will follow your guidelines, but just in case they are carried away and lose track of time, you can subtly show them your “5 minutes left” and “1 minute left” signs while they are speaking to remind them that they must wrap up, ensuring that your event continues to run according to your planned schedule.
8. Allow time for Q&A
Sometimes is the Q&A session is even more interesting that the presentation itself, so allow time for people to ask questions. If you want to encourage them to participate you can prepare 1-2 questions in advance and ask one of your “friends” in the audience to be the first to ask them. But again, it is important to stick to a time limit for this part in order to avoid deviating from the program.
9. Company Branding at the event
Whether you’re organizing a roundtable for 20 people at your offices or a 200-person customer meeting in an external venue, make sure that your brand is noticeable. In addition to displaying the company logo on the screen (in the agenda deck mentioned above), you can also print the event program for participants, provide your company memo papers for attendees to take notes and print signs or even your company logo on other items if your budget allows.
One item which is great for branding is the name-tag ‘string’ (or ‘lanyard’) because it appears in the event photos and helps people remember your brand’s association with the event long after it is over.
10. ‘Thank You’ Emails
It is important to send a personal ‘thank you’ email to the event speakers, but just as importantly to your audience. This email can be used for sharing event photos, presentations, media coverage, and other important messages. It’s also a good opportunity to ask for feedback, and there are some online tools for that too.
11. Plan your follow-up event/campaign
Leverage the success of a completed event and the feedback that you receive from your attendees to help plan future events and activities.