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Are you back to networking? Tasked with planning company events? With face-to-face events now back in full swing, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re responsible for organising them. We’ve been speaking to some of our networks recently, and whilst some are keen to get stuck back into events, others have lost confidence following the pandemic, finding it very challenging, time intensive and a costly experience.

Despite their challenges, events are a great way to meet and engage with your target audience. They are also an opportunity to generate valuable online content, including blogs, videos and social media posts.

If you're looking to put on your own event and don’t know where to begin, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Set a realistic budget: Before you start planning your event, you need to determine how much money you have or want to spend. If you don’t have a big budget, you could arrange an online event, such as hosting a webinar. Whilst virtual events are still very much present, they save attendees time and money and are a great way of learning; engagement can be tricky - 68% of organisers say engagement is the biggest challenge of virtual events. If your focus is to network and meet new connections, but you don’t have a huge budget, a small thought leadership seminar-style event could work well, or a more intimate drinks reception/dinner. If you are fortunate to have a big budget and the objective is to create an event that attracts hundreds and be the ‘go-to’ industry annual event, then a full-blown conference is your answer.
  • Choose a date and time: You will need to figure out the best time to have your event. It is sensible to do some research before you book your date. Are there any big events that could clash? School, national holidays? And make sure competitors aren’t hosting anything around the same time. If you are organising an online event, pick a suitable time to consider those attending from other countries, if applicable.
  • Will you be charging people to attend the event? Many events are free. However, this can sometimes mean that whilst people book to attend, they may not turn up as there is no commitment! Having some additional budget can also help with the cost of a venue, refreshments or possibly a guest speaker. Against that, having a cost to the event can create an administrative burden for those looking to book and slow down the process.
  • Consider sponsorship and collaboration opportunities: Are there other businesses and organisations keen to engage with the same target audience as you and vice versa? This creates the possibility of sharing your respective resources as well as costs and also doubling the potential audience reached.
  • Set clear objectives: What do you want to achieve by delivering the event? This will help to identify the type of activities, speakers, breaks, refreshments etc. By using SMART objectives for setting event goals, you will find it easier to track and measure.
  • Selecting a venue: Choose a venue that fits your event and budget. Consider the capacity of the space, facilities such as parking, local transport links, food options, accessibility, and tech support. If accommodation is required, is it close by? Also, are the team experienced, responsive and helpful?
  • Plan the programme: When planning the day, make sure you set your agenda as early as possible! Will there be a keynote speaker? Will there be an extra day or evening planned for exhibitors to set up? Will there be presentations and workshops, or will attendees have the choice to choose between multiple sessions at a given time? As you answer these initial questions, you can start to build your event programme. BUT don’t panic! It’s ok to start promoting your event even if you haven’t got the programme 100% finished. You can make changes as sign-ups come in. Your attendees will want to know what to expect, so it is best if you have a basic structure outlined as early as possible.
  • Promote the event: It is useful to set a plan to make sure people know about the event and can easily register for it. How do delegates sign up? Will you use a platform such as Eventbrite or simply an email registration? Are you promoting the event organically or through paid ads such as Facebook/LinkedIn? Our previous blog provides tips on how to use social media for an event. There are many things to consider when promoting your event, and this blog from HubSpot provides some ideas to help.

Top Tip! Send out a save the date 3-6 months before the event to start the engagement and to attract early interest.

  • Prepare for the event: Make sure you have all the supplies, equipment, tech support and food you need – plan and allocate plenty of time to get everything sorted from promotional materials, goody bags and badges etc. Ensure any dietary and access requirements have been considered and dealt with. Are the speakers fully briefed, will the event need someone to ‘chair’ it and is it worth having a rehearsal or run-through?
  • Making the most of the event: Remember, your event doesn’t just end when it’s finished on the day. Think about how to make the most of it and how it can potentially be ‘repurposed’ and used in the future. For example, recording your event means you have material that can be used as evergreen content for your website and social media and can be split up into separate informational videos. Don’t forget to use your event to capture future content!
  • Follow up after the event: Follow up with attendees to make sure they enjoyed the event and that all needs were met. Setting up a Survey Monkey or Google Form allows you to gain as much information as possible, including possible testimonials that you can promote online through social media, ideas for future events, and general ways to always be improving. Can you offer an incentive for people to complete the form, such as a prize or discount for your next event?

Networking and attending events

If you’re not organising your own events, attending networking events may be part of your role in business development. Whilst networking can introduce you to new contacts and help to develop business relationships and referrals, the number of networking events can seem quite daunting, and it is often difficult to identify which are the best ones to attend. Time is precious, and it’s essential to evaluate each event before you sign up. How do you know it will be of value to you and your business?

Choosing events to go to isn’t easy, but trying to identify where your target audience is going to be can help. Instead of going to a generic business networking event, if your target audience is accountants, for example, can you research networking-specific events for accountants? If you do and you’re ‘not allowed’ to attend because you aren’t an accountant, can you offer your services to speak at the event they go to?

Searching online and on the likes of Eventbrite can help to find out about local events, but it may be worth contacting the organiser to find out more about the attendees and event format to see if it’s right for you.

Here are some more tips in this blog from markletic on how to choose the right networking event for your business.

As well as attending a networking event, another conundrum that businesses are faced with is the opportunity to exhibit at an event. Are they worth it? Like everything, you need to consider the pros and cons before you decide to invest your time and money. Exhibiting at conferences and trade shows can bring benefits to your business, such as meeting directly with potential clients and generating leads. However, success is not guaranteed, and they can be expensive!

Our previous blog outlines more of the advantages and disadvantages of exhibiting and what you should consider before becoming an exhibitor.

Do you need external help?

Employing an external events company to help organise events can be very costly, but so can the time you invest if you did it yourself. What if you could get cost-effective help, taking the hassle away from either organising an event on your behalf or setting up a specific event to introduce you to your target audience? Well, we have the answer!

We’re an award-winning marketing agency with a team that has many years of experience in organising successful events. Book a chat to find out more!

About the author

Rachel Wright

Rachel is Head of Marketing Operations at Cal Partners and is a Chartered Marketer. She began working in marketing in 2007 and has a particular specialism in the professional services sector.

Marketing for Professional Services

Cal Partners

The go-to strategic marketing partner for ambitious professional services