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How to Plan an Event for Your Small Business

Hosting an event is an effective way for your small business to tell others about your brand while getting to know your current and prospective customers better. You must take the time to build a realistic and detailed budget, marketing strategy and agenda to hold a successful event. Learn more about why small businesses host events, explore the types of events they usually throw and discover how to plan an event.

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Why might a small business plan an event?

Planning and hosting a successful event is a great way to attract prospective customers, build relationships with current clients and show appreciation for your employees. Throwing an event with your team shows them you value their hard work and allows you and your other employees to strengthen bonds with each other outside of work. Hosting well-marketed events helps you build brand recognition and showcase your industry knowledge to attendees.

Types of events small businesses can host

There are several events available for your small business to host that don’t take an extensive amount of planning or expenses. These types of events include:

  • Award ceremonies
  • Happy hours
  • Office holiday parties
  • Fundraising events
  • Client appreciation parties
  • Seminars or workshops
  • Networking events or happy hours

How to plan your small business’ event

Planning an event takes organization and time-management skills to ensure the event fits within your budget and entertains attendees. Follow these steps to plan a successful event for your small business:

1. Determine your audience and purpose for holding the event

Before you plan, you must first establish your audience and purpose for hosting the event. Knowing why you’re hosting and who you’re throwing the event for helps motivate and guide yourself to make effective event decisions. Set a realistic goal for the event. Possible goals are to gain more leads, build more brand awareness or promote a new product.

2. List everything you’ll need for the event

Once the event and target audience are clearly defined and you have a goal in mind, build a list of items you’ll need for the event, like lighting equipment, public transportation, presenters and refreshments. Research the type of event you’re hosting to learn what else to add to your list. Use these items to help you build a to-do list and regularly check off each task as you accomplish it. Have your checklist with you constantly as you think of new items to complete during the event planning process.

3. Check your calendar before scheduling

Pick a date that is accessible for a majority of your audience to attend. Depending on the size of your event, you’ll want to plan it far enough in advance that you have plenty of time to order items, book your venue and promote it. Some event venues require you to reserve a spot six months to a year in advance, so make sure the venue you want is available before picking an official event date.

Your date should also be far enough in advance that your guests have time to free their schedules and book transportation, if needed. Check your business’ calendar to ensure you’re not hosting or attending any other events during that day. Look at your industry’s calendar to see if anything else is happening on your preferred event date to ensure guests don’t already have plans.

4. Build your budget and financing plan

Work with an accounting employee or other financial team members to more accurately estimate your event’s budget. Lay out how much money you currently have to cover certain costs. Determine how much you still need to successfully finance the event. Use these numbers to set goals for how much money you’ll need to make from ticket sales and sponsorships.

5. Develop a detailed marketing plan

Strategize how you’ll be promoting your event. Think of where you’d like to post your event details and build a marketing schedule for when you need to have content, graphics and other details ready. List the dates you plan to publish your event on different outlets. Set deadlines to complete your event marketing campaign tasks by certain days and follow through with them.

6. Create posts that emphasize why people should attend

When you have a marketing plan ready, start crafting your posts and campaign message. Determine who your target audience is and how they’ll benefit from attending your event. Your marketing material should detail what attendees will learn and any perks they’ll receive if they attend, like free products or discounts. Each post should highlight the benefits of your event in a way that stands out to your audience and makes them excited to sign up.

7. Advertise your event

When you know your target audience and the message you’d like to communicate, fit advertising into your budget. Your marketing plan should outline the free outlets to post on like social media, but you should also pay to advertise and target your event campaign to your specific audience. Use paid search advertising to have your event appear on your audience’s search engine results and on websites they commonly visit. Pay to have your social media posts appear on more people’s timelines to reach a wider audience.

Another advertising option is to rent video equipment and create promotional videos that entice people to sign up for your event. Videos are a popular outlet many users consume and are a great way to tell others about your event in an entertaining manner.

8. Post about it on event sites

Find different event sites and public calendars within your community and request to share your event material. This helps more people in the community discover your event and learn more information about attending. Other ways to share your event details include:

  • Find websites related to your industry and request to post your event on their sites.
  • Call local reporters or news stations to ask if they will promote or share additional details about your event.
  • Build a press release detailing the upcoming event and send it out to various news outlets and publications.

9. Invite attendees to register online

Using an online registration system makes it easier for both you and your attendees as they sign up for your event. Your signup form should be quick and simple for visitors to use and should include basic details like their name and contact information. This makes it easier for you to collect their information, forecast your budget and project how much seating and space you’ll need. Online signup software also stores their contact information in one place for you to easily reference and reach out to leads after the event.

10. Build an agenda and follow through with it

As the date approaches and you develop a clearer idea of your event’s itinerary, build an agenda that lists each activity or presentation and its specific start and end times. It’s best to make each activity the same length to help your audience stay focused and engaged. Talk with your presenters to see if they prefer to talk at a specific time and inform them of how much speaking time you’re allotting them. On the day of the event, make sure everyone is following the agenda closely to keep the event on track.

Types of roles that can help plan events

Depending on your budget, your options are typically to plan the event on your own or to hire outside employees to implement the event. Common roles to help plan events include:

  • Event manager:These employees specialize in organizing and executing your event from start to finish. They often handle events with many attendees, like festivals, conferences and concerts, so it’s best to hire them if you’re hosting a large event. They’re given your budget and event goals, then they find a venue and work with vendors to gather all your needed items. They may even promote it for you, depending on their expertise and compensation.
  • Event planner:Many event planners work primarily with businesses to plan both small and large events like trade shows, meetings and private parties. They outline the event, negotiate with vendors and scout out venues. Some may even attend the event to ensure it’s running smoothly.
  • Event coordinator:If you want to hire an employee to work in-house, an event coordinator is a great option. Some also work as marketing coordinators, as they use their industry and marketing knowledge to throw successful events and promote them on the appropriate outlets. Many event and marketing coordinators focus primarily on how to promote an event that will reach a wide audience.

As you plan your event, be sure to develop contingency plans in case something unexpected occurs on the day of the event. Be sure to monitor your attendee’s reactions to your presenters and activities and take notes for your next event.

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