Hosting your own private event can give you a level of control and client interaction well beyond what you can expect from exhibiting at someone else’s trade show.
FIRST THINGS FIRSTBefore reviewing some of the critical considerations for pulling off a successful private corporate event, be sure you have addressed these three critical questions:
- What are your business goals and objectives for doing “something?”
I work with several technology distribution companies. One holds “partner” conferences with the goal being to enhance awareness of the full range of solutions their re-sellers can purchase from themAnother tech company holds User group meetings which are a combination of training classes and occasionally morph into app development workshops. Goal = people using their stuff should do it right!
Another client manufactures tires of many types and for a new product release decided it was essential to have their retail customers fully educated so a road show was created.
- Is creating an “event” and this particular type of event the most efficient approach to achieving the goal?
By creating the event you are assuming a lot more work and responsibility than if you just attended someone else’s event or trade show. However, the benefit is you can exclude the competition and control the attendees as well as the content. Using the examples above:Tech Company 1 has its vendors fund the bulk of the expense for the partner conferences. In addition to money, they benefit from assistance in promoting the event, tapping into their vendors’ databases for attendance and receiving greater expertise for programming.
Tech Company 2 knows that at most industry related shows the attendees may be their customers’ top execs but not the users. If users don’t get the right training contracts don’t get renewed and grumbling tarnishes their image. Conversely, having a bunch of happy raving fans together on a stage (paying their money to come to your event) praising your stuff in a panel discussion as part of training is an efficient way to strengthen renewals, upgrades and reputation.
Our tire company could have done a video for consumers or even their retailers. But, the presence of a traveling display mounted inside a pop-out trailer enabled retailers to promote a local event and bring bodies to their stores. In preparation for the local events the retail staffers had a focused new product training. More knowledge, more focus, more excitement and likely better results for the manufacturer and the retailer.
- Do I have a laser focus on who participants would be, should be and will be?
Defining your business objectives and evaluating the efficiencies in your concept for the approach will reveal the players. If your event concept involves sponsors or exhibitors you’ll need time and manpower to execute that sales campaign. If everything will be handled internally you’ll want to be sure the planned time frame for your event doesn’t conflict with available internal manpower or the schedules for essential personnel.
If you’re considering organizing your own event, the following best practices will make the process smoother:
PLANNING AND SURVEYSThe success of a private event depends on understanding what your attendees expect to get out of your event. Conduct extensive surveys of your stakeholders (attendees, exhibitors, etc.) to determine why they’d attend your private event in lieu of some other show.
SPONSORS AND PARTNERSMaybe for purposes of revenue or sharing the work you don’t want to go it alone. But remember having “partners” in an event means you also have more people to answer to and possibly slow your decision making.
CREATING A REALISTIC BUDGETThe costs of sponsoring your own event can be a real eye-opener. Even if you own your own event space, all the operational expenses that would otherwise be borne by some other organizers will now fall squarely in your lap. Don’t forget to include line items for everything from booth design, setup and tear down, venue/exhibit facility rental fees, marketing expenses, insurance, and security.
ONSITE PRACTICALITIESThink carefully about your venue. Does it have the adequate space, ambiance, and amenities for audience and your programming?
Consider the varying needs of main lectures, break-out events, or accommodating your VIPs. Do you have sufficient furniture and A/V resources? Do you have banquet and janitorial help on-call? Is parking adequate? If you need ancillary hotel or contractor help, research and secure those six months in advance. You’ll want to book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel, and check to see if the hotel is willing to provide shuttle transportation to and from your venue.
EVENT PROGRAMMINGMap out a timeline for all events you hope to hold, and include a sufficient buffer to make up for latecomers, lunch breaks, technical difficulties, and other common sources of delays. Decide who will give your introductory and closing remarks, what type of programming will fill the morning and afternoons, whether you’d like to include a guest speaker or demo/product launch, and any after-the-event parties you may want to organize. Always keep in mind:
- Why are they coming to your event and what do they want to accomplish?
- What do you want to accomplish once face to face over the course of the event?
- What do you want them to take back with them (literally and figuratively)?
SIGNAGE AND DISPLAY MATERIALSThe display materials you’ve used for external trade shows will likely need to be supplemented for your private event. You will need way-finding signage, designated staff to help with attendees needs, and perhaps digital signage that you can update on-the-fly to present news and developments.
A follow-up assessment is critical in determining if you have obtained the results that justify the extra work of hosting the event. You will make some mistakes and find things to improve in your inaugural event. However, it’s when you think everything is perfect and smooth that you need to really think about shaking it up so your event doesn’t get stale in participants eyes!