How to make your event successful
15 actionable tips you can use to make your next event successful
How to make your next event successful
15 actionable tips you can use to make your next event successful
How do you measure the success of your event? By the number of attendees? By the profit made? By the amount of press or social media coverage received?
What’s the aim of your event – is it an academic conference, an event to raise awareness of your brand, a corporate event to motivate employees, a charity fundraiser?
The type of event will determine how you measure its success, but there are some common elements to running a successful event.
#1 – Start planning early
Start planning as far in advance as possible. Venues and services get booked up quickly, so it’s vital to start your planning early, especially if it’s a larger event. We recommend starting a minimum of 6 months ahead for a small event; 12 to 18 months for a larger event.
#2 – Determine your budget
Set a realistic and detailed budget. Carry out thorough research into all of the costs likely to be involved in running the event (e.g. find out the cost of each refreshment break, whether the venue will charge you to hire an easel or a luggage trolley, whether you need to pay for the use of the loading bay or a cherry picker, the travel costs for you and your own staff, costs of marketing, entertainment, A/V, catering, and so on) and work out your ticket price and your break even numbers.
Include a contingency for unexpected costs. If you are planning an event abroad, be aware of currency fluctuations and familiarise yourself with the VAT (or equivalent tax) regulations; build these into your budget.
#3 – Select the right venue
Size: does the venue have the required space and configuration to accommodate your event? What’s the maximum number of attendees that can be accommodated? Can they be accommodated in the setup that you require – e.g. theatre style seating vs classroom style seating; banquet setup vs cocktail setup?
Consider what additional space you might require, such as space for staging and rear projection, catering, etc. (your audio visual (A/V) supplier should be able to advise you on space required for staging, often more accurately than the venue itself).
Location: is the venue easily reachable by your delegates (is it near public transport links?, is there on-site parking?, if you have an international audience, is it within easy reach of a main hub airport?)
is it in a desirable location (sometimes the draw of an event can be increased by holding it in an attractive destination – a lively city; a resort hotel; an unusual venue such as art gallery or museum)? Is it close to local attractions and amenities?
Access: Find out whether there are any restrictions on access to the venue for the setup and de-rig of the event (your A/V company will be able to advise as to how long is required for each of these).
Often an A/V crew will be able to set up through the night, but some city centre venues may have a curfew and/or additional charges for access during anti-social hours.
If setting up during the night isn’t possible or desirable, check whether you can have access to the venue the day before your event for the setup (and whether that will incur additional charges).
Cost & Terms: does the cost of the venue fit within your budget? Also look at the venue’s booking conditions – for For example, is there a deposit schedule, and what are the cancellation terms?
When booking a venue (and the same applies to all services), read the contract carefully, negotiate as much as possible (e.g. negotiate a deposit schedule that works for you, favourable cancellation terms, a freeze or a cap on incidental costs if booking significantly in advance) and don’t agree to conditions that are unreasonable or put you/your business at risk. If possible, get legal advice before signing any legally binding contract.
#4 – Define your audience
Is your audience local or international? Corporate or academic? Technical or non-technical? What’s the age range and gender mix? By understanding your audience, you will be able to cater better to their needs and provide a better experience for them, ensuring the success of your event.
If you have a very international audience, consider the impact of language and cultural differences – for example some forms of entertainment may be unsuitable. If you have a delegation made up largely of middle-aged men, a DJ and dancing may not be the best choice for after dinner entertainment.
A highly academic audience is more likely to want to listen to other experts in their field than to celebrities on the speaking circuit. Of course, these are all generalisations but give an idea of the things to consider when thinking about your audience – you can often be surprised by what decisions become clearer after having profiled your audience.
#5 – Start marketing early
Marketing of your event can’t start soon enough – as soon as you know the date of your event, let people know it. Promote your event to the right people; consider where they are most likely to find out about events – in a trade magazine, a newspaper, social media, or at another event.
Based on this you can decide whether to advertise your event in printed media, via flyers to be handed out at specific events/places, via social media, or in a combination of ways.
Make sure people know how to find out more about the event – always include a link to the event website and make sure the event website includes all the relevant information they are likely to need as well as an easy way to buy a ticket or register.
If your event has run before, is there a way of contacting previous delegates to let them know the event is to be run again? (Note: if you plan to contact former delegates always give them the opportunity to opt out of receiving communication from you and respect their wishes – this is a legal requirement as well as common courtesy.) Consider giving a discount to encourage repeat attendance or discounts for large groups.
An early bird discount is a good way to encourage people to buy tickets early.
#6 – Book guest speakers
To ensure your events successful try to book the best line-up possible of speakers and/or entertainers. Do you need to engage big-name keynote speakers or influencers? Do the speakers need to be experts in their field or seasoned conference circuit speakers? Will you invite speakers, or will you put out a call for speakers and make a selection based on the proposals you receive? Who will make the selections?
Similar considerations apply if you are selecting entertainment. Consider canvassing opinion from a handful of people from your target audience or have a selection committee made up of experts in the field. Start making your selections as early as possible – key names and/or topics and a clear outline of content will make the event easier to promote.
Communicate clearly to your selected speakers what is expected of them (content, length and format of presentation, time and date). Have a back-up plan (e.g. reserve speakers) in case speakers pull out and be aware that this can happen right up to the day of the event.
#7 – Start choosing suppliers
Don’t underestimate the importance of good suppliers – in particular, catering and audio visual (A/V)
Catering: People will be wowed by really good food; they won’t remember food that is unremarkable; they will remember mediocre or poor food for all the wrong reasons.
If you can, meet with your caterers and ask for a trial of the food they offer. Find out what size of group they are equipped to cater for. Always make sure your caterers can supply alternatives for those with specific dietary requirements and that there is a clear and easy way for those with specific dietary requirements to get the right food.
Make sure you cater for enough, while also trying to avoid wastage. Caterers are usually equipped to supply an additional 10% on the final numbers that you give them, but check this with your caterers and never leave it to chance.
Audio Visual: A good A/V company can really make the difference between an average event and an event with wow factor; an event that just about stumbles through and an event that runs smoothly from start to finish. Your A/V company can give the wow factor to your staging, lighting, and add drama and excitement.
Choose an A/V company that integrates with your team and understands your business and objectives, is proactive and comes up with ideas and solutions.
Many A/V companies have a great deal of experience in staging events of all different kinds – pick their brains, listen to their suggestions (but also set a clear budget and communicate that to them from the outset).
Ask for a project manager to oversee the technical side of the event alongside the appointed technicians. A good A/V company will provide good quality equipment that’s fit for purpose and technicians that take problems in their stride and seamlessly smooth over any unexpected technical hiccup.
These are things that can’t be underestimated – while smooth-running A/V may not explicitly be noticed by your attendees, poorly executed A/V will detract from even the most well organised of events.
When selecting an A/V company, bear in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best option – it’s always worth negotiating with your preferred supplier to see what they can provide within your budget.
With all suppliers, ask for references.
#8 – Maintain communication
Ask for a point of contact with each supplier with whom you can communicate during the run-up to the event.
Make sure they have a clear understanding of your requirements.
Both the venue and your suppliers are likely to be busy working on other people’s events right the way through the run-up to yours so make sure you keep on their radar, keep in communication with them, and don’t leave everything to the last minute.
#9 – Organise giveaways
If you are providing giveaways, commemorative bags or t-shirts, printed conference proceedings, lanyards, etc., shop around for the best deal and best service – consider not only the item costs, but also get samples of the items to compare quality.
Find out the lead time for production. If you plan to print logo(s) on items, check the print area, ask the supplier to advise on artwork and suitability.
Make sure you know the logistics of transport and delivery – will the goods be delivered to you first (which gives you the chance to check the items) or straight to the venue in time for the event (which means you don’t have to store or transport them)? If produced in advance of the event, do you know where they can be stored?
#10 – Pre-book event staff
Make sure you have enough staff to run the event smoothly. If necessary, hire in additional help (e.g. temporary staff to help with registrations). Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them and has all the information they need to fulfil their role.
If you are using staff who are unfamiliar with the event, brief them on what the event is about, its aim, the type of attendees you expect, any particular issues that are likely to arise and questions that they are likely to be asked.
Make sure all staff understand the layout of the venue, their individual tasks and responsibilities, and communicate a clear line of reporting for any problems that are encountered.
Keep communication flowing – meet with your team regularly, discuss any problems encountered; consider having walkie talkies (you may be able to hire these from your A/V supplier) for key staff members to keep in constant contact during the event as key staff will often be on the move.
#11 – Ensure a great delegate experience
In the run-up to the event keep delegates informed and engaged – let them know where they should to go to pick up their badge on arrival, what time the event will begin, where lunch will be served, what social events are planned, and any other information that will be useful to them.
A good way of doing this is by creating an app for your event which you can use to send out information and which your delegates can use to book breakout sessions, indicate their dietary requirements, book accommodation, view the programme of events, etc. After the event you can use the app to upload speaker presentations, solicit feedback, and even send marketing material for your next event.
Giving out commemorative t-shirts? Order a range of sizes so that delegates can pick the most suitable for them. Offering giveaways? Consider the profile of your audience and select promotional materials that will be appropriate to them.
Consider printing useful information (e.g. time and location of meals and social events, programme of events, a map of the venue) on the back or inside of name badges for quick and easy reference. Make sure there is adequate signage at the venue (registration desk, main conference rooms, lunchroom, toilets, etc.).
Make sure you always have members of your staff on hand to answer any queries or help with any problems. Ensure conference crew are easily identifiable, e.g. by wearing a brightly coloured “crew” t-shirt.
Always be polite, calm, helpful and friendly when interacting with attendees. People remember how they have been treated! At the end of the event, thank everyone for coming.
#12 – Plan your setup time
Expect the unexpected (deliveries not to turn up, speakers to go missing, equipment to fail…) It’s far better to be in a position to stand your staff down early at the end of the set-up day than to have them working up to the wire feeling tired and stressed. If required, build in time for rehearsals.
#13 – Stick to your timetable
Start the event on time, and as far as possible keep it on time. Attendees appreciate an event that starts on time and doesn’t overrun.
Remind speakers or entertainers of their allotted time slots and give prompts so that they know how much time they have left. Usher attendees into the room to ensure a prompt start to the event.
#14 – Encourage conversation
During the event, encourage your delegates to share news and highlights of the event on social media. Encourage everyone to use a designated hashtag that is easily recognisable as relating to the event. This way, people who weren’t able to attend will be able to see how successful your event was, increasing interest for future events.
#15 – Gather event feedback
Feedback is vital to measuring the success of your event and learning how it could be improved upon next time. Many people will happily fill out a feedback questionnaire, whether in paper form, online, or via an app, but sometimes it’s useful to provide an incentive to encourage people to do so (the more feedback you can get, the better) – for example a prize draw or the chance to win a ticket to the next event. Try not to take negative feedback personally but look on it as an opportunity to make your event even better the next time.
Review feedback shortly after the event, while things are still fresh in your mind, and have a debriefing session with your team, sharing the attendees’ feedback with them and asking them for their feedback: What went well? What went badly? How could things have been done better? What changes can be implemented to make the next event run better/please more people/attract more people?
Running an event can be an exhausting process, but by following these steps, taking time to plan ahead and being well prepared, not only will you avoid many of the potential pitfalls, but you will be well on the way to making your event a success.
If you would like some advice or more information about how we can help you.
Contact our team of experts today and let us guide you to event success.
Get in touch with us about your next event
08:00 - 17:00
(+44) (0)121 328 4777
Unit 5, 171 Lichfield Road,