Posted: Fri 16th Sep 2022
Now that lockdown is behind us and we’ve more freedom of movement (phew!) – there are opportunities to get people out networking in your local area. Seeing them in 3D, not just on a flat screen!
So, what are some of the considerations if you are looking at hosting an in-person event?
First of all – location. Is the venue easy for people to find and is there onsite parking or, if not, local (and ideally free) parking nearby?
This is important when the weather isn’t so great - the last thing that any of your guests want is to be trudging ages through rain, snow or wind to get to the place you have chosen.
Also, consider the time of day that you are holding your event. Is your venue going to be difficult to navigate to or away from because of traffic congestion (which I know drives me nuts!)?
If you are considering regular events at the same place, develop a relationship with the venue; don’t have it just be a transactional arrangement.
Often, if the rapport is there, you may get some perks like the use of a room for longer for example (one venue used to give me a free coffee each time I happened to use them for a 1-2-1 meeting – bonus!).
It is worth shopping around for venues to get the best value (it may not be just price driven – it could be the quality or something else that has the venue stand out for you for your event).
Don’t get drawn into a contract. Try to arrange a fixed price per head to include the room, equipment, refreshments, food, etc.
It makes it simpler for you to manage and you won’t be facing any cancellation charges. Agree with the venue the latest date that you can cancel where there will be no penalty.
Make it as easy for you and your invitees to put their names down to attend your event(s) as possible.
You can go old school and email out invites and collate them on a spreadsheet - this can work if you’re managing a small event.
However, there are lots of tools available that are low-to-no cost that can make the whole process a lot easier. Eventbrite can be a good platform if you are hosting free events but can work out quite costly if you are processing payments through them.
Where possible, take payments up front for any paid-for event. This reduces the likelihood of attendees not showing up on the day as they have made this financial commitment.
As a host, be there early – 30 minutes before the start, especially if it’s your first event at a particular location. You need to make sure the room is set up in the format you wanted, and that you have all the necessary amenities (projector, screen, flipchart, etc).
Does the venue know the timings for refreshments or food? Is the room at the right temperature? Always worth checking on the day as there can be a disconnect between the booking team and those on the front line making it happen.
Simple things like: are there enough chairs in the room, or too many? You don’t want people too spread out.
Think about signage, so it’s easy to find the room(s) you are using, particularly if you’re in a larger venue with a number of different options. You don’t want your attendees wandering around lost. Sometimes the venue may provide this for you, but don’t assume.
Depending on how formal your event is, consider badges for delegates. It’s worth some investment here, especially if you are looking to run regular events. Sticky labels don’t really work, they don’t stick properly on some clothing and they make your event look tacky (pun intended).
Pin badges are not always great as people often don’t want to pierce their clothing – and the last thing you want is some stabbing themselves!
Lanyards can work but you need to be conscious of where they’re dangling (think body parts)! The best I have found are reusable, magnetic badges. A little bit more costly than other solutions but easiest for people to use. An Amazon search should give you some options.
Have some sort of registration/check-in desk. This way you can monitor who is there, issue the badges and direct them to where they need to be – the tea/coffee station for example.
Try and encourage people not to just hang around the refreshment area – for some reason, this seems to be where everyone congregates. I guess the same way you’ll always find people in the kitchen at parties?
At the end of the event, make sure you get the badges back! As the magnetic ones will cost you a few quid.
This is important leading up to the event. Joining instructions are key, giving as much information as possible: address, how to get there, parking, timings, agenda and any other relevant information.
Maybe an attendee list if relevant, so your guests can identify in advance who they may want to connect with.
As well as confirmation of booking for the event (recommended, even if it’s a free, open event), ensure that you remind registrants a week before and possibly the day before (via text if you have their mobile details). You will always get no-shows, especially if you are running free events.
Follow up after the event, maybe get feedback on what worked, what didn’t work and what could be improved.
Choosing the right venue and running it professionally and as smoothly as possible can make or break the effectiveness and success of your event.