Events have become one of the essential marketing elements that drive business growth. To companies, they offer a unique opportunity to connect with their existing customers, engage with their prospective clients, and interact with their brand community.
We have always had the ambition to organize our own event. After all, we’re in the events industry arena. So it was not a question of if, but when.
This June, we got to the other side of the fence and organized our first user event in London. The experience and insights we gathered along the way were priceless.
So if you are tasked with organizing an event for your company, we hope the learnings that we present below will make your life easier.
1. Learn from others to get on the right track
How do you get started when you have never organized an event? I may sound like Mr. Obvious, but the most effective way to get on the right track is to observe the experienced organizers, see the issues they face and learn how they handle them.
As for where we drew our inspiration:
- Slack and their Amazing Teams Tour inspired us on the program structure and showed us that we do not need to overcomplicate things.
- Attending the Grow with HubSpot conference in London gave me some great ideas on the event execution and things like:
What elements should we cover during the housekeeping notes?
What is the ideal length of presentations?
What should the helpdesk look like?
Also, make sure to talk with more experienced professionals and get their advice, especially if you are organizing an event outside your hometown. Expect that the things won’t work as they do at home. Therefore, chat with people to figure out all the nuances and peculiarities of the place.
2. Sweat the date and time – it’s everything
The date and time can be the deciding factor for event success, and as many event planners would concur, it’s a huge challenge to find the right date! Also, since we wanted to keep it short and organize a 2-1/2-hour event, we had to decide which part of the day would be best.
So after getting an invaluable insight from one of the London planners, we organized a lunch event. She shared with us that after holding dozens of these client events, she realized that the lunch always attracted the largest crowd.
We also received two other valuable pieces of advice:
- If you organize a morning event in London, don’t start at 9:00 a.m. as it’s too early for those living in distant areas to get in on time. Start at 10:00 a.m. or later.
- Also, in summer, people can’t wait to go out and enjoy some sun, especially in London. So organizing an evening event can drop your attendance numbers.
3. Find space that will communicate who you are
Select a space that will communicate your brand identity and underline the message you want to get across. As a growing company, we didn’t want anything too fancy. On the other hand, we didn’t want anything that looked cheap. Finally, we settled on one of the looked fresh and innovative.
Another important thing is to check with the venue if there isn’t another event scheduled before yours. If it is, make sure to leave enough buffer time for the setup before you kick yours off. From our experience, two hours is the bare minimum.
Extra tip: Many co-working centers in London offer their event spaces free of charge as long as you organize a public event available to their members. So if you’re on a shoestring budget, you might try to ask around and find a place that supports this initiative.
4. Market your event
And here comes the biggest challenge – ensuring that you get people to actually attend your event! Our main target group was our existing clients; therefore, we primarily focused our efforts on them. But we also reached out to the general public. Here is the rundown of the channels we used:
Marketing channels that WORKED
Personalized invitations to our clients
London Tech Week Directory
Twitter & LinkedIn
Marketing channels that DIDN’T WORK
Hard-copy invitations given out at the tradeshow
5. Devise a program and invite speakers
This is what our final program structure looked like:
The main component of our event program was a panel discussion with some of the London industry leaders. We felt that this format would allow our guests, who also happened to be our clients and ambassadors, to share their insights and experience in the most effective way, while leaving a lot of space for audience questions.
There were three critical points here.
- We had a wonderful moderator, Kursha Woodgate, Mexia Communications MD, with whom we worked on the overall theme, the flow and the polls. Having a full buy-in from her was the key to how our panel turned out.
- After we refined the flow and all the panelists confirmed their participation, we organized a short prep call before the event. This proved to be invaluable to get everyone on the same page and highlight the main messages we hoped to get across.
- Finally, we wanted to actively involve the audience in the discussion. So along with our moderator, we identified the interaction points and came up with two polls to gauge audience opinion.
6. Insert interaction points
We thought of interaction not as a nice add-on but as a quintessential part of our event. Our CEO, Peter Komornik, used a number of live polls in his product update presentation to get the audience involved with the content and also collect their feedback instantly.
During our panel discussion, we crowdsourced top questions with Slido to make the debate as relevant as possible. On top of that, we ran two live polls – the first to identify the main interaction challenges and the second to gauge possible solutions.
Extra tip: Coincidently, a week before our event, I had a chance to attend a moderation basics workshop with Jan-Jaap In der Maur. We did an exercise where we put the main program elements on sticky notes and then were tasked to think of all the meaningful interaction points that we could insert in between them. I found this to be a simple yet super effective way to think about interaction strategically.
7. Coordinate and divide tasks
Finally, as the date approaches, you should calculate how many staff members you’ll need and what roles they’ll hold. To coordinate easily, we created a timeline and assigned tasks to individuals.
And as event execution is a lot about the details, you might need to prioritize. As Greg Kennedy, the founder of Uncharted Minds, wrote in his recent article: “Focus on the basics first, before you put your limited time into other details. Content, speakers, and the environment are critical to success.”
Organizing a live event can be a stressful task, but we hope that the insights we got and shared will successfully set you off on your first event. As with everything else, the hardest part is to start. The rest will follow. So don’t hesitate, set the date and roll up your sleeves.