Tips for getting bums on seats
Are you organising an event for your clients, customers or the wider business community?
Here are some tips for building an audience based on our extensive experience over several years of inviting thousands of people to seminars and meetings.
- Target your audience
If you want to have personal contact and build relationships with the attendees you may be better off not inviting other firms in similar businesses. Just decide if you want the event to be an opportunity for you to meet your customers or for other businesses to meet your customers.
- Tell your people
Tell them how important this event is, what the purpose of the evening is, how valuable the event is to your customers. Tell them about the speaker and how lucky you are to be able to get this person.
- Give your people something on paper
which they can hand out to their customers and contacts.
- Get every person on your Team to bring along a minimum of 2 people
This is a team effort and everyone must play their part.
- Select a quality venue
and check it out beforehand
- Provide quality food
People will remember the food and are more likely to come again if it was good. If organising a buffet you probably only need cater for 80% of the attendees. Try to avoid the usual sandwiches and crisps. You are an exciting, get up and go business. Let your audience feel it in the food.
- Evening meetings are best attended if organised for a Tuesday or Wednesday
On Mondays people seem to have other things to do (usually going to the gym to work off the excesses of the weekend). On Thursday and Friday they are already getting into activities for the next weekend.
- Be aware
Try to avoid days on which there are going to be major sporting or political events.
- Give people plenty of notice
Allow 5-6 weeks from the time of your initial invite to the day of the meeting
- Create interest
Send an invite that has impact and whets their appetite.
- Include something memorable
Send something with the invite. A packet of sweets, a tea bag, a packet of seeds ('Forget Me Not' of course!). Anything to make your letter really memorable. It's also a great talking point when you come to your telephone follow up.
- Emphasise the benefits
For example, 'This is going to be a great opportunity to network with other businesses. Don't forget to bring your business cards with you.'
- Organise a press release
Offer a small number of FREE places to the first x readers of The Local Rag to phone this number. The same press release can be sent to any number of different papers so long as each one specifically mentions the paper you are sending it to.
- Telephone follow up is crucial
Approximately 10-14 days before the meeting, telephone targets and get them to commit to coming.
- Charge a fee
People expect to pay for something that is of real value. In many ways, the greater the price the greater will be their perception of the value. This money must be paid up front when they return the reply device. This cements their commitment and means that the majority of people will actually attend.
- Put a 'market value' on the programme
even if you are then going to sell it at a reduced price. For example, 'The normal cost of this programme is £150 but we are sponsoring the evening and can offer it to you at a special price of just £25'.
- Encourage attendees to bring a guest
along completely free of charge. If they can bring their spouse they may be more likely to come. If they bring a colleague or a customer it increases the potential value for you.
- Be prepared to sell
You have invited people to this meeting because you feel that it is of real value to them. And, the meeting is guaranteed so that if they don't feel it was of value they can get their money back - no questions asked. Take the time to explain this to them if necessary. Much depends on your personal relationship and their trust in you.
- Stress that there will be food and drink
available and at which stage in the meeting. In the invite ask them to confirm their acceptance early so that you can reserve their place and be certain that you have catered for them.
- Ask if they have any special dietary requirements
This reinforces the fact that food is being served and shows that you care.
- Only provide soft drinks until the end of the programme
You want people to remain focused until the end.
- Arrange for a bar within the meeting room
at the end of the programme and invite people to stay and have a drink with you.
- Make sure that you have a presence at the meeting
A display, pads and pens, name badges. All of these things get you recognised as the heroes in the event.
- Make sure that you have sufficient people there and that they stay to have a drink with the participants at the end
Ideally one of your people to every 4 or 5 guests works well. Your people must be prepared to open up conversation with your guests and to talk positively about the event. Avoid discussion directly related to your own business unless your guest insists on it.
- Names are important
Provide name badges with the guest's name in a large clear font. Many guests enjoy the networking with other business people. You can help by providing a list of names and businesses.
- Get a testimonial
If people are really pleased with the event, ask them if they would put their thoughts in a letter to you. Use these testimonials when promoting other events.
If you need help with delivering a presentation, read our Tips for public speaking.