Account Executive Larissa Jaffé explains the importance of event planning to establish connections between a business, its target audience and other stakeholders.

Events are an effective way for consumer, not-for-profit and B2B organisations to promote an idea, a cause, or a project that is important and needs to be shared with its target public.

Events have a special role in public relations, due to the positive impacts they can generate for an organisation, such as:

  • Establishing a brand, cause or project and connecting target audiences and stakeholders to core values and key messages;

  • Establishing authority and thought leadership within the organisation’s industry;

  • Connecting with a wider network of people and stakeholders;

  • Creating PR opportunities and noise about a brand, cause or project;

  • Learning more about the target audience to improve data and future marketing efforts; and

  • Standing out from competitors.

With all these potential positive impacts, it is no secret that serious preparation is needed before planning a successful event, and a number of points should not be overlooked.

Securing the event date and venue

Timing is crucial with event planning. You must ensure that the event doesn’t coincide with major sporting or local events. The type of venue and location is important, depending on your target audience and the overall event message, so make sure the venue is appropriate to the theme of the event.

Start invitee outreach early

Co-CEO Alexandra Mayhew manages an event for the United Nationals Association of Australia Young Professionals.

Co-CEO Alexandra Mayhew manages an event for the United Nationals Association of Australia Young Professionals.

Once the venue has been secured and the target audience and stakeholders identified, the next step is to start distributing invitations immediately. E-invitations are the most popular form of invitation distribution as they are cost effective and easier to manage. Using programs like MailChimp is a great tool to deliver invitations to large numbers of people.

Guestlist management is key

Creating an Excel spreadsheet is the most efficient way of managing guestlist names, contact details and RSVP status. The guestlist will change every day as more confirmed RSVPs and declines come through, so the simple spreadsheet is a great way to keep organised.

Follow up

Not everyone will open the original invitation, therefore it is best practice to send a follow up invitation a week after the first distribution. Programs like MailChimp are useful for identifying invitation open rates, which is helpful for following up. The invitation could have been overlooked, sent to junk mail, or sent to the wrong email address, so calling to follow up is never a bad idea. The worst they are going to say is no.

Double check the venue

Make sure you re-visit the venue a day or two before the big event to ensure there are no major issues. Bring someone else with you, as an extra set of eyes can point out anything you may have missed. Checking out the venue a couple of days prior gives a better lead time to fix any obvious issues.

Use this opportunity to bring any equipment or materials you may need for the event, instead of bringing it all with you on the big day.

Test out the tech

Technology doesn’t always work in your favour. Allocate a couple of hours before the event for an IT person or production team to run through sound checks and testing. Familiarise yourself with where you can make sound and light adjustments, just in case there are any last-minute issues during the event.

Do a practice run

This all depends on the type of event you’re running. Before the event, ensure that the entire event team is briefed and understands their role at the event. Rehearse as much as possible – this can include practicing speeches or presentations, checking seating arrangements and amending time schedules.     

Bring extras

Again, this all depends on the nature of the event, but bring extras of anything you think you may need. If you need name tags, wristbands, pens, sharpies, paper or HDMI cords, bring extra – you can never have enough of anything.

Follow up, again

Once the event has finished, begin your call to action immediately, as engagement is just important after the event. Send out thank you letters, highlighting the key points to whatever is relevant to your cause. Record all positive and negative feedback as learnings for the ongoing campaign.