You have been given the task of creating a memorable event for your startup but have no idea where to start. Don't worry – this is the ultimate guide for you. Read on for the eleven crucial steps from an expert event organizer that will bring your startup event to life.
1. Choose your team members wisely.
First and foremost, if you are going to be able to bring your startup event to life, you are going to have to choose your team wisely to ensure that you have the best people working on it.
Before you get into the planning stage, make sure you spend a decent amount of time deciding who will be in charge of the event and managing all the essential details. Next, fill in the roles so that the rest of the moving parts are covered. In other words, you want to ensure that all responsibilities are taken care of so that you don't end up without tables at the conference or plates at the company dinner.
Once you have picked out your team, organize a brainstorming session when you can all get together and go through each step, and cover all aspects of the event.
During this time, while writing down everything that you need to organize, allow all members of the planning committee to suggest ideas and solutions. Furthermore, make sure to discuss how many workers you are going to require at the startup event itself, what could go wrong, and how you will handle those challenges.
2. Focus on the purpose.
Now that you have people in your event team picked out, it is time to focus on the purpose of your event because, without a clear purpose, it is going to be easy for everyone to get sidetracked.
Generally, when it comes to corporate events, it is best to start with a goal and then determine what type of event will help you reach that goal. For you, that may mean increased local media coverage about your new service; perhaps you want to generate awareness about your brand, boost your mailing list of possible customers, or sell slow-moving products.
By starting with your goal and then moving backward, you will find yourself in a better position to decide upon your target audience and then discern the scope of the event.
When you have a clearly defined target audience, then other critical decisions (such as entertainment, prices, location, etc.) can follow. Being structured in your approach from the get-go will aid you in staying focused on accomplishing your distinct goals and decrease the likelihood of your startup event becoming too broad or watered down – aka the opposite of bringing it to life.
3. Understand that all details are important.
There is no such thing as overplanning a business event – every single decision deserves a significant amount of thought and consideration as it is crucial to the event's success. An excellent example of this is timing the event.
To get the date and the time right, you need to check for any important happenings (like holidays or seasonal events in your community) that may be scheduled on the same day as your event.
Even if you aren't concerned with local events, you need to be aware of other industry events that are happening or will transpire. Also, don't host your event too close to holidays or popular vacation times. Consider how much time guests will need to plan to attend and how long your team needs to arrange the startup event.
Furthermore, consider the guest list and how many can be accommodated in the venue, the agenda, and the resources.
The venue, for example, requires deliberation. Aside from the financial aspect of getting the perfect venue, this is what will set the mood and tone of your event. There is an art to finding the perfect balance between too small of a space that people are crammed inside and too large that there is a noticeable amount of extra space. Neither of these scenarios will make your attendees feel comfortable, so you and your team need to do your homework by allocating time for ample research.
4. Set a budget for your startup event
Every startup would want to organize the event of the century – if they had the budget for it.
But, of course, you don't want to find yourself ruining your startup because of the event. Therefore, it is crucial that while you are envisioning and planning the occasion, you are also keeping one eye fixed on the costs that are adding up. If you start to notice the number getting too high, immediately start looking at your options for scaling back or bringing in additional money to the reserve.
Whatever you do, make sure you generate an event finance plan from the get-go with as accurate as possible numbers and a clear understanding of how the event will be paid for and where the money is coming from and when.
For some startup events, you may be able to find a backer (conceivably an associated vendor or supplier), or you could sell tickets in advance or join forces with related businesses to distribute the costs. Prior to confirming a venue or signing any vendor contracts, try to have some sponsors inline or advanced tickets on sale.
5. Plan the program.
The program is the backbone of your startup event, which is why its plan must detail all the bits and pieces of the occasion.
Obviously, depending on the type of startup you are and the type of event you are hosting, the program is going to look vastly different. After all, there is a vast array of event styles and programs; you just have to find a flow that makes sense for your company and that aligns with the purpose and goals you set at the beginning.
With the team, decide whether you are going to have refreshments, entertainment, workshops, or speakers at the event. If so, what kind of entertainment? How will the sessions be broken up?
By making a refined list of parts — everything from lighting to parking, music to goodie bags –
you can feel comfortable knowing that you have everything under control. Because, at the end of the day, the attendees are going to connect everything about the startup event to your brand and company – this is not a time for you to overlook details.
6. Know your limitations.
When it comes to events, it is far better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
Unfortunately, too many company events fail because their organizers didn't know their limitations and allowed their ego to get in the way of organizing a realistic event. Don't be like that; instead, be aware of any limitations you may have (time, budget) and consider them during planning.
On that note, in order to put on the best startup event possible in your situation, you may have to be more flexible with modifications in scope, venue, and other details.
Throughout the process, you are likely to find that things don't always go the way you initially envisioned them to which is not to be a cause for alarm. Instead, this is absolutely normal and something that happens during the planning process of (almost) every event. Being flexible and resourceful allows you to make the most of what you have to work with and is necessary for any undertaking.
7. Create a marketing plan.
Once the logistical planning is underway, and you are sure you have the budget to support and produce the startup event, it is time to start making plans for attracting attendees. Because, no matter how smoothly your event goes, it is not worth much if no one shows up or if very few people attend.
As soon as you are sure that it is going to happen, you can begin to promote it to ensure that you are able to sell all the tickets, fill all the slots, or whatever method you are utilizing. Don't ever stop marketing – be tireless in your efforts or your event will fail, and you will find yourself at the event alone or with only a few people in attendance.
Thanks to the Internet, there are a variety of cheap, efficient ways by which you can promote your upcoming event. Your marketing plan should ideally incorporate email outreach, direct mail, in-store signage, or radio, print, online, and cable advertising.
In addition to these tried-and-tested techniques, also seek to harness the influence of your speakers and other members of the team. You may also ask your vendors to promote your startup event just as you will be promoting their products and services.
8. Speak directly to your target market.
Even with an exceptional marketing plan, if you aren't defining a good reason (or maybe multiple reasons) for why people should attend your event, then you aren't going to get the turnout that you desire.
To bypass this issue, you want to be speaking directly to your target market and telling them why they should attend and demonstrating what the value is for them. It could be the entertainment and product demos at a party, or the educational speakers that will be on the plan; whatever the reason, it needs to be clearly communicated to those whom you hope to attract to your startup event.
One of the gravest mistakes startups make when putting together their event marketing plan is that they assume the benefits of attending are already apparent. Don't do this!
Don't assume that your target market realizes what they will be getting or taking away from the event, or whom they will be meeting, or why they should be there. Additionally, don't assume that everyone has heard about your event and remembers the details just because you posted them on social media once!
Keep going and hammering in the message – this is the only way to get their attention.
9. Generate buzz.
To stand out in the noisy world of marketing and event planning, you need to choose a few tactics that generate buzz about the occasion.
Social media is, of course, a fantastic way to get people excited about what is to come and to host promotions or giveaways related to the event. Don't be shy on social media; instead, use it to tease information well in advance, and to share pictures and news about the startup event.
Take your followers along on the ride while you are organizing everything in order to keep the social media energy high and to ensure they are invested in the outcome.
Another (more traditional) way of generating a buzz is to alert the media. Even with a full-on social media strategy, you should be speaking with the local media about your event to ensure there is some awareness regarding it in the community.
Send local journalists and influencers a press release about the event, and offer them incentives to cover it. By tapping into their networks, you can spread the word about your company even to those who can't attend the startup event or who are outside your immediate vicinity.
10. Have a plan in place to follow up.
Unfortunately, your work isn't done once the event starts.
For you to get the most out of the occasion and to ensure you meet your goals, you need to have a plan in place to both markets to customers while they are in attendance and also to follow up with them afterward. Think outside the box when it comes to ways of collecting information, whether it be business cards or email addresses, and consider having discount coupons, gift cards, product giveaways, or contests as part of the program.
After the event, follow up with customers to thank them for coming and to extend an offer (such as a discount, free trial, or invitation to your next event) as a token. Additionally, ask them to rate the event and to give you feedback on their experience. Use this insight when planning for your next startup event to ensure that you are always improving and refining your skills and offerings.
11. Work with a professional event planner.
After the conclusion of the event and when the excitement is over, then it is time for you and your team to evaluate how close your event came to reaching the goals that you set at the beginning of the planning process. In fact, you also need to track whether or not there were any conversions directly attributable to the event.
By knowing how many new customers came, how many units were sold, or how many attendees turned into customers in the following months, you can track the level of success of your startup event.
There is a good chance that, at this point, the whole thing is feeling a little too overwhelming; however, you don't necessarily have to do this whole thing on your own. Instead, you can enlist the services of professional event organizers in Dubai who can take on more of the responsibilities and logistical planning.
With their expertise and experience, they will have more of an idea of what ideas work and which should be avoided, as well as know what to do in case something goes awry!
Have you recently organized an event for your startup? Do you have any tips or tricks for someone who is going to start the planning process?
Alternatively, if you are in the middle of planning, what challenges are you currently facing? Let us know in the comments below!
Mahmoud Majed is the Managing Director at Level Production in Dubai. Prior to his role at Level, Mahmoud was the Regional Marketing Director for Jeetek holding group for 8 years, handling accounts such as Virgin Megastore and Man'oushe Street. He was also Division Manager for high-end luxury at Al Tayer Group.