Typically, I like a long lead time of four to six months to plan a three-day event. However, in some cases I’ve had as little as one month to plan a repeat event if the website was already up and ready to go. I typically don’t like to rush the marketing plan. A much longer lead time removes the stress of getting everything done and filling the seats. Visualize your success outcome, stay on course and NEVER cancel an event because you couldn’t fill seats. The only reason you can’t fill seats is because you gave up too soon.
The more time you give yourself to plan an event, the more time you’ll have to market and promote the event. Keep in mind there is a lot of pre-event work to do. You’ll need to get your location, negotiate the contract, set up a website, create an email and video marketing campaign, develop a social media strategy and more; all this before you can even begin to market. This takes time to do it right and you can’t rush the system.
Create a detailed “To-Do” check list for your event well in advance. As you complete each event, go back and revise your check list to make it easy to follow the next time around. Developing a step-by-step system will help make your next event run a lot smoother. Keep learning and improving as you grow and expand.
The first thing you need to do is set the date(s). Once you have a date(s) in mind, you are then committed to take action. Consider adding a countdown clock to your event website. You’ll be amazing how quickly your event kick-off day comes around. To get a free download clock go to CountDownTo.com.
Next find your event location. Always do a live site inspection to see the meeting room space, hotel lobby, restaurants and sleeping rooms. Get a feel for what your attendees will experience when they arrive. Go through every detail of the event with the hotel sales and catering team in advance of signing your contract. Negotiate the contract with them to get the best hotel room rates and AV needs. Often you can negotiate great rates at high-end resorts during their slower seasons. The hotel also will waive the cost of your meeting room space if you are providing enough meals and/or fill enough hotel rooms. Always keep your minimum hotel room block at as low a rate as possible while still getting your meeting room space waived. It takes some insight and negotiating skills to pull this off. Keep in mind that where hotels make their money is by filling hotel rooms first and selling food second, not in the meeting room space. This will help you understand where they can negotiate.
If you aren’t good at negotiating, plan to hire a meeting planner that can negotiate these things on your behalf. You certainly don’t want to get stuck paying for a lot of extra hotel rooms out of your own pocket. Another thing to ask for is a free hotel room for yourself and/or your staff, or an upgrade to a suite at no additional charge. I always get amazing upgrades to luxurious suites. Often I use my suite to host “client only” receptions, host meetings with my staff or have private group consultations.
Also, keep your food and beverage to a minimum. The cost of food and coffee alone can kill your profits! For example, to cover your minimum food and beverage costs at a three-day event, you can host a VIP reception one evening of the event that would typically cost you less than offering lunches each day. For a one-day event you may want to do lunches for VIP guests only who have paid a higher ticket price to attend. This helps you reach your negotiated minimums and it also adds more value for attendees.
There are so many details I can share with you on how to host a successful event. I’ve learned a ton from hosting events for more than 10 years, and I’m still learning.
I could write another book just on how to host your own events alone. But for now, this is enough to get you started.