Being active in your industry is critical to success, especially for small businesses. To build lasting relationships with consumers, you need to get more personal than an email or social media connection.
"Events provide businesses a personal way to build relationships with their target audiences [as well as] build brand recognition and loyalty," added Myke Nahorniak, co-founder and CEO of Localist. "LinkedIn messages, Facebook status updates and tweets cannot replace the meaningful connections made through in-person communication."
Hosting a corporate affair allows you to connect with current clients and attract future ones. Here are some tips on how to plan an event that your customers won't soon forget.
Choose an appropriate location
According to J.J. Schambow, vice president of marketing and business development at enVista, "location is key to attendance." Book a venue in a convenient area with a vibrant atmosphere so attendees feel comfortable and will to make the commute.
Be sure to involve the local community as well, said Gina Argento, president and CEO of Broadway Stages.
"We always use local vendors for catering needs, various rentals and many other crucial aspects to planning a business event," Argento said. "By doing this, we are supporting the local community and giving them the opportunity to network and expand their businesses."
Understand the purpose of your event
Once you decide you want to host something, your first step is to determine what kind of event will resonate with your intended audience.
For example, coordinating a client event with an industry expert, such as a guest speaker, can position your company as a trusted adviser instead of just a vendor, said Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels, a career mentoring group.
Schambow stated that enVista focuses on peer-to-peer learning with client panels, keynotes, roundtables and breakout session speakers.
"Always offer up opportunities for attendees to do something fun, memorable and entertaining that they wouldn’t typically do anywhere or anytime else," she said. "This might include hearing from a famous speaker, comedian or band; playing on an incredible golf course; or trying something new, thrilling, or exclusive for the first time."
Invest in the right areas
Hosting a corporate event requires a big budget, and knowing where to invest most of your money is essential. If you spend more money on fancy decorations than you do on a skilled tech crew or personable speakers, your event will be lacking.
"Choosing an A/V and technology team can make or break an event, so we always put a focus on hiring an experienced firm to manage live presentations … breakout session technology and photography, pre and post event," said Schambow.
She also noted that enVista provides their sales team with the registration list so they can schedule appointments and private meeting spaces during the conference.
"People do business with people they like and trust," Schambow said. "We have found it’s very important throughout the conference to strategically weave in several long breaks and opportunities to network with clients, partners and prospects."
Additionally, don't skimp on food or beverages. You want to treat your audience like the valuable consumers that they are and build connections with them through respect and consideration.
Promote your event
Of course, if people don't know about your event, no one will show up.
"In today's digital age, a variety of promotional methods are required to generate attendance," said Schambow. "We typically start by emailing our database, placing ads in industry enewsletters, add our event to industry listings and directories, and encourage our sales teams to promote [our conference] when visiting clients or partners on-site."
From there, promote on your social media and allow your team to spread the word.
"Last, we partner with media sponsors to speak at our event," she added. "It's a win-win situation as they receive 'free' publicity and mindshare in return for publicizing our event."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.