June 1, 2017 by Sonia Ghag

How to Plan a Successful Marketing Event

How to Plan a Successful Marketing Event

Because it’s not as easy as you may think!

Every year $565 billion is spent around the world on meetings and events! Despite that being a huge number, I’m really not that shocked. Event planning is significant in almost every industry, as many companies have several events a year including staff parties, executive meetings, and customer appreciation events just to name a few off the list.

According to Forbes, Event Coordinator was listed as the 5th most stressful job of 2016, right behind Police Officer and Airplane Pilot. Can you believe that? I can. As an Events Coordinator I know firsthand of all the trials and tribulations of organizing a successful event, whether it be a staff BBQ or a four-day conference and trade show.

Event planning can be a roller coaster of mixed emotions. There will be times when you’re having so much fun that you lose track of time, but hours later feel agitated, anxious, and exhausted. Let’s not forget about the moment when you’re fed up, ready to give up and throw in the towel, but you don’t really have that option do you? After all, you are running the entire event and everyone is kind of relying on you – no pressure, right?

It’s the end result that makes it all worth it. That gratifying feeling when the event wraps up and the attendees are repeatedly thanking you and praising your work. Seeing everyone have a good time and knowing it’s due to your planning efforts is the best reward. So, in the end, the weeks of contemplating whether you made the right catering decision or second guessing the venue you selected really pays off. With that being said, keep in mind a positive outcome doesn’t come easy. It can take weeks, months, and for some large-scale events, even years to prepare for.

So, you ask, what does it take to ensure your event is a success? Here are my personal top 10 tips:

1) Establish Key Objectives

  • Set clearly defined goals and make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).
  • Determine your target market, so you can customize your invitation list and marketing materials to capture your audience’s interest.

2) Create an Event Plan

  • This is the most crucial part of event planning… have a plan!
  • Set deadlines or mid project status updates (this is key if you’re working with a team).
  • Consider the following elements: key action items, promotional and communications plan, venue and entertainment proposals, speaker or presentation details, logistics and catering management, registration, accommodation considerations, budgets, as well as volunteer, sponsor and partner management.
  • Check and update the plan as you go, especially when changes occur.

3) Do Your Research

  • The last thing you want to do is host a customer event on the same day as one of your competitors. Always be aware of what’s going on in your industry.
  • Explore different venue options. Aside from looking online, talk to those in your company and reach out to your network if you need help finding a place.
  • Get quotes from multiple venues and suppliers to compare and get the best deal possible.

4) Create a Budget

  • Set budget guidelines early on so you stay within your limits.
  • This will help you determine if you need sponsorship money and how much.
  • Update your budget throughout the planning process to track expenditures and predict any financial setbacks and/or outcomes.

5) Organization is Key

  • Find tools to stay organized, especially when juggling multiple events – Excel is a life saver for this!
  • Take notes of everything. This will help you keep track of the little things discussed during meetings and phone calls, which can be easily forgotten.
  • Create daily “To Do Lists”. This will ease your stress levels if you take it day by day.
  • Set calendar reminders to stay on top of tight deadlines.
  • Make an event day checklist – this way you won’t forget anything on the big day!

6) Divide and Conquer

  • Assign roles for each task. This way everyone is clear on what they're accountable for. 
  • Event planning is like a large puzzle made of many small pieces. It requires a great deal of attention to every little detail. If you split up the jobs amongst your team and co-workers (and try not to do everything on your own) you will be able to manage your time efficiently and it will help take stress of your plate.

7) Communication! Communication! Communication!

  • Transparency is key within your team. A lot of problems that arise during event planning is due to a lack of communication. It’s important everyone is on the same page and has the same goals.
  • Stay connected with every stakeholder involved, which includes your team and colleagues, sales representatives, managers, invitees, sponsors and partners. This way they know what’s going on leading up to the event.
  • Create a strong working relationship with your venue coordinator and communicate regularly to create a comprehensive event contract and to organize all the on-site logistics.

8) Do a Site Visit

  • This should be done during the preliminary stages of planning so you can decipher if the venue will be a good fit for your event.
  • It will help you gauge if it’s a good location in regards to proximity to transit, parking and how easy it is to find.
  • Photograph everything so you can go back to the office and determine how you want to setup the room and floor plan.

9) Have a Contingency Plan

  • A big part of being an event planner is being quick on your toes. Things can change on a whim, so you have to act quickly to make strategic and constructive decisions.
  • Leave extra room in your budget in case unexpected expenses arise. 
  • Have an alternative venue in mind, in case your first choice doesn’t work out.

10) Create a Post-Event Summary 

  • This will help you improve the event for the following year.
  • Ask your team and other staff that attended for constructive feedback. 
  • Send a “thank you” note to guests within 24 hours after the event, as you are 150% more likely to get clicks than an email that's sent 25 hours or more after.

Now that you’ve read my top 10 tips, here are some key questions that you should ask yourself when planning your next event:

  • What am I trying to accomplish with this event? What is the purpose?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • Do I have a detailed plan with specific timelines?
  • How will I ensure that I stay on track and follow my plan?
  • Are there any conflicting events occurring around the same time as my event (E.g. competitors)?
  • What is my plan to drive interest and attendance?
  • Is this the best deal I can get or should I keep looking?
  • Does my budget account for everything?
  • Do I need to order anything extra like A/V? If so, do I have room in my budget?
  • Does everyone on my team understand what their core responsibilities are?
  • Will this space accommodate what I am trying to achieve?
  • If this doesn’t work as planned, what’s my backup plan?
  • What was successful about my event and what is my post-event follow up plan?

These tips cover the surface of event planning. There are many other tactical things to consider like finding the right event software to create invitations and track registration, developing a social media plan, making signage, or ensuring your event is innovative and fun.

Also, there are plenty of small details to consider such as attendee dietary restrictions, parking passes, whether you need an HDMI cord or VGA for your projector, or remembering to spell check your PowerPoint or posters before the event. The list can go on and on as it depends on the type of event you're planning. But if you follow my top 10 tips you'll be off on a strong start to ensure your marketing events are successful.

Good luck and happy planning!

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