Is a big event worth it?

I am the managing director of an £8m-turnover software company, and my senior management team is keen to hold an event to boost the company’s profile, showcase our latest products and create business opportunities going forward. My main concern is that we could spend a considerable amount of money and have little to show for it at the end. I’d be interested in gaining some advice from experienced event planners on how to attract footfall, gain publicity and ensure we can get a return on the time and effort that we put in.

A. Victoria Jayne writes:

Put yourself in the mindset of a customer. What is going to attract them to your event? Why would they take time to see your product? When you know what makes your customers tick, you can then start to look at the event and its format. You might want to hold this at your offices, but an interesting or unusual venue is more likely to attract an audience.

Another important factor is timing. While events can be put together quickly, the more lead-in time, the better, as this gives you scope to ensure you have exactly who you want in the room. Of course, all of this comes at a price, and you will need to set a realistic budget to deliver it – bearing in mind that venue hire, catering, audio visual and marketing costs can spiral out of control.

Assuming you don’t have a dedicated in-house events manager, you must find someone to take overall responsibility. PAs often fit the bill due to their strong organisational skills and unflappability.

You’ll need to draw up a marketing plan to promote the event and attract an audience. Consider direct mail, email, phone and web campaigns. Send press releases to trade magazines along with an invitation, as this could get you in their events diaries. Invite long-standing customers, as they could be one of your biggest assets – first-hand testimonials are a great sales tool. Also invite those customers who have not purchased your products for a while, as this could be just the time to re-acquaint yourself with them.

Make sure you communicate the rationale behind the event to your staff. You need to get their buy-in as they’ll be representing you and your company and making those all-important sales. Finally, follow-up is just as important as the event itself. This is where you can assess your return. If it has worked, guests should know about your new products and be happy to take your call.


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