If you’ve been asked to plan a company event and don’t know where to start; keep calm and master these six basics of business event planning written especially for first-timers.
Six Basics First-Timers Should Know About Business Event Planning
Virtual events and digital marketing channels haven’t replaced in-person events in the business marketer’s playbook, only enhanced them. According to 35 Statistics Every Event Marketing Should Know (EventFarm.com):
- Tradeshows and events are the second most effective tactic in a marketer’s mix, after their company website (Forrester)
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the event industry will grow by 44% from 2010 to 2020
- 79% of U.S. marketers say they generate sales using event marketing (Statista)
- 87% of consumers say they purchased a brands products or services after (and as a result of) becoming aware of it at an event (eventmarketing.com)
- 76% of marketers say their event and experiential marketing initiatives are integrated with their other marketing campaigns. (EventTrack)
With statistics like these, small wonder that the vast majority of marketers say they plan to increase their event budget this year. It’s estimated that brands spend 20-25% of the marketing budget on events and related expenses.
If you’re adding events to the marketing mix for the first time, one thing you will quickly learn is that there are many variables and details that need to be worked out if your event is going to be a success. Here are six musts for business event planning that can help you keep calm and plan events that will deliver a marketing ROI (return on investment).
6 Basics of Business Event Planning for First Timers
1. What do you want to accomplish?
Understanding the objective for the event will play a part in determining nearly every other facet of your event; including:
- Where to hold the event – the location (hotel conference or meeting room, convention center, co-working space, restaurant, etc.) that will be conducive to creating the feel or environment you want attendees to have (team structured learning, formal dinners, access to beaches, close to city for dinning or attractions, outdoor team events, etc.).
- How many people to invite or how many you want (or need) to attend for an event to be successful
- When to hold the event – your event’s timing should validate your agenda and coincide with the environment you are trying to convey and you should keep in mind that it may also affect event costs. Events held during tourist season may be considerably more expensive; however, the benefit of increased attendance could offset the additional costs.
2. How much do you want to spend?
Setting a budget is important for many reasons. Absence of a budget may result in costs getting out of hand or exceeding benefits. Without a budget you may also run the risk of finding you can’t pay for the event you need to help you grow your business.
Smartsheet.com is a great resource where you can find various templates, including event registration forms, planners and budget templates that can help you with event planning. Whether you use a template or not, as you work toward your event and analyze it afterward, your final budget report should have two columns for each line item that reflect estimated costs and actual costs.
Tracking your budget at every step can help you stay on track in terms of resources consumed and will also help you with forecasting for future events. As you’re creating the budget add a line for very detail that is associated with a dollar amount. You can always go back and delete a line item later if it’s not needed. As well with all events, nothing goes according to plan; therefore it’s important to add a line item “emergency fund” which is 10% of the total budget. This will allow you to make a last minute purchase and not be stressed about where the funds are coming from.
3. How will you pay for the event?
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If you planned ahead, you may have money in the budget already designated for your event. In some cases, registration fees will cover or even produce a profit when offset against event expenses, although it is likely that you will have to be prepared to pay most vendors and venues before all registration fees have been collected.
4. What will be on the agenda?
As it relates to business event planning, an agenda is the timeline that says what should be happening at any given time throughout the event. Having two versions of your timeline, a detailed version and an overview will be helpful; some of the people involved in planning and executing the event will need a detailed schedule while the overview schedule will be sufficient for others who are less involved (or who are merely attendees).
The detailed timeline will include: location, dates, and will account for every minute broken down per segment, name of participants within each segment, audio visual needs, audience participation pieces, food, staging, and so on. An overview timeline will still account for all of the event time but will be more general in nature, perhaps including items such as location, dates, segment titles and presenter names, meals, breaks, etc.
Inevitably, during the planning phases of your event, you will go through multiple drafts of both version, right up until the event begins. That’s okay; just make sure all parties involved have access to the most recent or final agendas.
5. Who will have a role to play?
It’s common to have multiple vendors and speakers involved in an event. Having a way to keep track of each group, their emergency contact information, copies of order details and contracts all in one place will make it easier to locate when reviewing information. Given today’s digital capabilities, everyone on your team who needs this level of detail could have access via smartphone or tablet throughout the event. setting up electronic folders per vendor plus a hard copy in a binder with dividers will allow for greater organization and help to eliminate any confusion. It’s crucial to highlight all due dates and payment on all documents within your folders, as well within your budget program or spreadsheet as you are viewing this particular document on a regular basis.
6. How will you get the word out?
When business event planning, ensuring sufficient time to execute the marketing needed to reach your desired target audience effectively is a must. As you work backwards to plan your event timeline, plan your marketing strategy by working backward from the actual event date using a 12 months, 6 months, 90 day, 30 day, 14-day, 7-day and pre-event week communication plan.
You might be able to use your credit card processing software to add event information to customer receipts and invoices. Likewise, you may be able to generated automated email marketing invitations to your event using your point-of-sale credit card processing solution. Seamless merchant services products like these make it easy to store customer contacts and reach out to them with event invitations, special offers, discounts and other brand communications.
Online programs like Eventbrite make it easy to set up a web-based event registration form in conjunction with business events. In addition to online registration, you will also want to decide whether you need to send email alerts, post cards or formal invitations to boost RSVPs and attendance – and each of these marketing tactics will need to be scheduled strategically as part of your overall event marketing and communication plan.
Once an attendee is registered, your communication plan should account for email confirmations, links to hotel or travel resources and you should plan to send a copy of the tentative agenda to registered guests shortly before the actual event. The more you stay in communication with those who register to attend, the less likely you are to have attendees drop out for no reason. Plus, keeping in communication just before the event can be a great way to get attendees to tweet out updates with your event or brand hashtag, manage expectations, create a sense of anticipation and set the stage for what you want to happen during the event.
Ready for more fascinating marketing and event stats that can help with business event planning? Check out this great slideshare from Hubspot: