You’ve been to plenty of events, conferences, and meetings — to build a business, after all, you have to make connections. Some have likely been smashing successes, while others were snoozy flops — but most probably fell somewhere between the two extremes.
While the right amount of planning can prevent an event from being a total mess, it’s a little more difficult to make an event memorable. A memorable event isn’t just a bonus, either — B2B events generate more than $1 trillion of direct spending annually, and events that stand out in people’s minds are far more likely to generate cash flow than those that don’t. Events are such a large investment on your company’s part that, in most cases, you need them to literally pay off.
Whether your goal is to make money, impress others, or just entertain your audience, there are a few steps you can take to make your next event a success.
1. Make it relevant.
How do you get people to love your next event? Host an event that matters to them. Address cutting-edge issues that are on people’s minds rather than cover the same topics that every other talk or conference in your industry does. Enlisting the help of leading futurist speakers or groundbreaking thinkers can be a great way to get people engaged with relevant, yet unfamiliar, topics.
2. Stick to your goals.
You’re probably hosting an event for a specific reason — don’t lose sight of it. Nothing is worse than an event with a disjointed schedule of talks and activities that add up to less than the sum of their parts. Curate every aspect of your event with a clear vision in mind. If you can get your attendees to see and embrace that vision as well, your event will be a smash.
3. Invite the right crowd.
An event is only a success if the people attending believe it is. While planning your event, think about who would most benefit from coming. Make sure to welcome anyone who has something to add, but don’t be indiscriminate in your invitations. An overcrowded event full of people who don’t care about the proceedings is one likely to fail.
4. Select a promising venue.
The right event in the wrong place can spell doom for everyone involved. Stay keenly aware of how many people plan on attending — a space too small will feel stuffy, and one that’s too big will drain all of your event’s energy. Make sure the location works as well; you don’t want to have to make a large proportion of your attendees travel a prohibitively long distance to get there. Perhaps most importantly, choose an exciting locale. A dynamic and interesting event space goes a long way toward getting people engaged — it also communicates a heightened sense of novelty and innovation, which is great for roundtables and panels.
5. Enlist others’ help.
When planning an event, it’s easy to try to do everything yourself. As tempting as it is to execute your vision alone, doing so can spell doom down the line. Get your partners and co-workers involved in both the planning and execution — different perspectives can help refine the overall purpose of the event, and extra sets of hands never hurt in making your ideas a reality. It also underscores the real point of an event: Different people have different perspectives that others can learn and grow from.
6. Give it a digital edge.
Events have long been opportunities to get together and network in person, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the digital realm entirely. Giving your event a hashtag or live streaming a segment can increase engagement and attention beyond your venue’s walls. Additionally, keeping a digital record of your event can help you track the benefits and breakthroughs achieved well into the future.
7. Don’t neglect food.
It may sound simple, but it’s a universal truth: Good food makes events better. Plenty of event hosts will go for the bare minimum — a vegetable tray, stale bagels in the morning, possibly some pizza. If you want people to remember your event, make the food as enjoyable as the contents of your event itself. It doesn’t necessarily have to entail a fancy catered dinner. Picking a favorite local restaurant or even just a slightly more unorthodox choice can get people excited about your event as a whole, not just your culinary decisions. Street tacos, a sushi bar, or food trucks might fit the ticket without blowing your budget.
8. Ask attendees for input.
The simplest solution is also perhaps the most effective — once you figure out who you’d like to have attend, simply ask what they’d like to see. If you’re hoping to keep people engaged, one of the best ways to do that is by catering to what excites them. Surprising events are always appreciated, but it never hurts to have an understanding beforehand of what your audience is looking for. For example, your seminar on building an Etsy business might seem basic to them — but a panel on monetizing content marketing for Etsy owners might feel more exciting and niche.
There’s no mathematical equation for a great event; what makes one event great might not work for another. If you’re hoping to make your next function a smash, figure out what works for your business, your venue, and your crowd — then get to work.