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[Podcast] 3 Essentials to Hosting a Successful Company Event

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Season 2 Episode 23 with Mackenzie Burysek, Event Sales Manager with LEO Events.

The majority of sales and marketing leaders view in-person events as their #1 lead generation tactic. But what makes an event effective, and how can you use them to bring in the prospects and opportunities you need?

Before you can host a successful event that makes your brand look great and brings in new business, you’ll need to consider:

  • What do all successful events have in common?
  • How should you structure your event to encourage lead generation?
  • How do you enable quality relationship building?

We’ll help you answer these questions so you can walk away feeling confident in hosting your own event that builds quality customer relationships and closes new deals.

PC: Marketing Charts

1. What do all successful events have in common?

There are numerous things that need to go into an event for it to succeed, but the three absolute musts are:

1. The overall look and display

2. Communication

3. Content

Overall look and display

Whether you're hosting a huge conference, setting up a booth at one, or holding a webinar, people need to step into your space and feel that it is unique to your company and brand.

This includes everything from the choice of colors for your booth at an expo, to the type of lights placed on the tables for a networking dinner.

What is the overall feel and energy that you want to hit people with? Your decorations will give that first impression, which is why you need to put thought into things like:

  • Lighting (colorful, soft, bright, ect.)
  • Look (elegant, minimalist, futuristic, ect.)
  • Decorative backdrops
  • Digital media (social walls, monitors with videos, ect.)
  • Floor or window clings

Decorations can determine which parts of your brand stick out as soon as someone walks up to your booth or event. They encourage guests to interact with your setup and can even promote your brand across social media when people share pictures.

A great example is how Me & the Bees Lemonade draws interest at their booths by using bright, yellow honeycomb shapes to catch bypassers’ eyes and show off the bees that make their brand unique.

PC: 3D Exhibits

Communication

The best events have clear and consistent communications before, during, and after the event to keep attendees engaged and informed.

The key things you always want to share are location, time, and date. Other minor details include things like event agenda and activities, speakers and host names, and food and beverage details. You’re looking to answer general questions, like:

  • Where do you go for food?
  • How do you get to a certain event?
  • What’s there to do in this town outside of the event?
  • What happens if you register late?

You’ll want to initially announce the event an ample amount of weeks before its scheduled to take place so you have time to market it on social media and through email campaigns. If people have to book hotel rooms or flights for the event, it's best to announcement it 6-12 months out. If not, 12 weeks (perhaps even fewer) is fine.

During the event you’ll want to send social media posts, emails, and text messages to guests about updates, any helpful details they might need, and any actions you might need them to take.

People need clear and consistent communications to be engaged and have a good time.

Content

Content should always be your biggest focus, because it’s ultimately what your attendees are at the event for.

What knowledge are they going to take away, and how is it going to help them be better in their profession? And what kind of presentations or roundtables or Q&As are going to be most beneficial for their specific needs? That kind of educational content is your main purpose for holding the event.

Content at its basic level can be anything from a powerpoint presentation to an executive speaking on stage. But the important part is how you make it more dynamic for the listeners, so they can walk away knowing how to accomplish their goals (and feel like it was worth the price of admission). Knowing your audience will help you do this, which is why you’ll want to cater your content to your audience’s:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Education
  • Culture
  • Role or position
  • Problems and needs

Your audience’s role or position in their industry is probably the most important indicator of what content they’ll be interested in.

2. How should you structure your event to encourage lead generation?

You need to know your message and be prepared to share it if you’re going to convert guests into leads.

Memorize your brand’s story and what makes you an expert in your niche. You’ll want to frame this story by identifying a problem you can solve for your guests, rather than just explaining how your business was started or the things it's accomplished.

A great way to incorporate this is by opening with, "I help [industry managers] solve [common problem]." when a guest asks, “So what do you do?”

Your guests are there to learn how to solve their pain points, so only talking about yourself will be frustrating for them and prevent them from becoming leads.

Keep in mind that different kinds of events will have different effects on your audience depending on what part of the sales funnel they’re in, and you’ll need tactics to bring in leads, outside of just your opening pitch:

  • Drawings and giveaways get people to interact with you and be exposed to your brand
  • Giving guests the option to text or email for your presentation slide decks allows you to get their contact information for follow-ups
  • After hour social events let you interact one-on-one with leads who are close to potentially closing

Events may not immediately convert guests into closed deals, but they can push people further down that funnel.

You want to either have a signup sheet, collect business cards, or use a scanner to collect prospect details you can follow up with later.

That’s why it’s important to manage expectations with your team before the event, so they understand that your goal isn't to generate direct sales but to start conversations and plant seeds.

Related: [Podcast] 3 Steps to Tell Your Compelling Company Story

What about brand recognition?

Brand recognition is another perk that comes with hosting events and can generate leads when guests leave with your logo and colors imprinted in their head.

You can create memorable moments where event guests actively engage with your logo and colors through brand activations. Brand activation is the art of driving consumer action through brand interaction and experiences.

A brand activation could be as simple as setting up a VIP area with your logo to get bystanders interested in the rewards your customers receive, or it could involve setting up a complex display that encourages people to take pictures and share your logo.

PC: The Drum

Giving out free swag or having a photobooth with your logo are also great examples of brand activation. It’s always a plus when the guests keep souvenious from the brand activation with your logo on it.

The goal of these brand activations is to get bystanders to pause, participate, and then share the value your company can bring.

Just be sure to follow your brand guidelines so you perfectly match the colors, logos, and messaging at your event to the ones on your website and products. Consistency is key to getting guests to remember you and generate new business.

3. How do you enable quality relationship building?

People will naturally start conversations on their own, but it helps to set aside time specifically for networking at events, like happy hours and evening socials. Your goal is to turn these social breaks into something guests want to participate in, vs. something they just sit through.

Here are some cost effective things you can do to naturally foster connections and encourage people to have conversations:

  • Having tables dedicated to topics or displaying ice breaker question cards
  • Offering name tags that showcase attendees’ interests or expertise
  • Providing an area with food and drinks

Alcohol and food will usually help fuel building relationships. Many deals are made at the bar and not at the booth, and a good morning coffee round table can do wonders!

What’s the first thing you need to do for your event to be successful?

Whether you’re hosting a small non-profit fundraiser or a large scale conference with international attendees, the way you plan needs to be determined by your goal.

Know your endgame or goal of your event, so you can avoid getting lost in the nitty gritty details. Messaging and content, for example, always need to be prioritized first over food and venue.

Related: [Podcast] 4 Essentials to Public Speaking for Acquiring Customers