You’ll be tired a lot and working hard, because a successful special event doesn’t just happen. It takes tremendous effort and manpower. Not counting the planning and promoting. It’s a challenging task that, if not pulled together properly, won’t go over well. And that’s pretty disappointing after all the time and energy expended.
To help make your event more successful, here are some tried and true tips.
TIP # 1: Give Them What They Want.
Your goal should be to create, promote and deliver a dynamic event that provides value to your members. Put yourself in their shoes. They want the opportunity to attend an event that will help them increase their business and learn HOW to increase their business. You must plan and deliver an event where they can network, promote their business, and learn the skills they need to help them grow their business. And, if they have fun while they’re there, you’ll hit a major home run.
TIP #2: Find a Dynamic Event Chair.
In many chambers, it is customary for the chamber president to chair the annual event. It’s an even better idea to approach the most creative and dynamic person in your chamber to chair or co-chair the event. That way you will immediately have the “support” of your membership and someone who can help deliver an event that is relevant to them. They can appoint a volunteer team of people who will work with your chamber staff to handle all the tasks involved. Better yet, consider engaging the services of a professional planner who specializes in chamber events to work with your event chair and your planning team.
TIP#3: Location. Location. Location.
The venue you select has to have a great reputation. The food must be good, and there must be ample parking. Since you will undoubtedly hold your event at a member location, arrange for a “food tasting” and view the room before you make final decisions. Ask your member host to speak with their staff prior to your event about the importance of delivering exceptional service. Also, make sure the room is appealing to the eye. Appoint a decorating chair to make sure the room is has all the right accents.
TIP#4: Look who’s talking.
Unless the public figure you are tempted to invite is a dynamic speaker who can deliver a great talk, don’t do it. Your members need information that will help them grow their business. Engage the services of a professional speaker who can deliver a dynamic business presentation with the right blend of valuable information, ideas, humor, and inspiration to help them to become more successful in their own businesses. Include your speaker’s bio and photo in all promotional materials. If your speaker is an author, include a book signing after the speech. It will increase your chances of getting a good turnout.
TIP#5: It’s never too early to promote.
An event is only successful if it is well promoted. Be creative and systematic with your promotion. Use the speaker’s photo and book cover. Prepare a brief promo piece for your publication and for potential members. Send it out early–ideally, six months in advance. Movie producers know the value of early promotion. Do the same.
TIP#6: Use E-mail.
Do monthly E-mail promotions and include a link to your site. There should be a full page on your web site about the event and a place to register online. Also include a notice to forward the e-mail to anyone who might be interested in attending.
TIP#7: Call it what you will.
Use an event theme that sounds exciting. Racing for Success, Unleashing the Power of People, Driving Business Growth in a Tough Economy, or Survival In the 21st Century are some good examples.
TIP#8: Don’t be afraid to give something away.
There are a variety of ways that you can encourage attendance. For example, offer a discounted rate for reserving a seat early. Or offer discounted registrations for three or more people from the same organization. If your speaker has clients in your area, give them a reduced “special-guest” rate. Consider involving your local college and offering discounts for faculty and students.
TIP#9: Talk it up.
From the onset of the planning, make sure everyone involved– chairs, volunteers, board of directors and staff-commits to promoting the event at every opportunity. Postcard size promo pieces can be available for distribution. It’s human nature for enthusiasm to drop-off as work progresses so do whatever you can to sustain the momentum.
TIP#10: It’s all about you.
Remind your staff that they are the secret to the overall success of the event. They are there to help members and promote goodwill, so they should greet, mingle and dine with your members and avoid congregating together.
CHAMBER EVENT SUCCESS STORIES
*Want to offer members a value added reason to buy a whole table? Here’s a great idea from the Monroe (LA) Chamber of Commerce. In addition to providing a keynote program, their speaker agreed to present an educational session. Members could to send up to five of their staff to this session if they purchased an entire table.
Since this event was an annual dinner, the seminar was held the next morning. The turnout was large. The speaker presented “How to Make Yourself Valuable to Your Company.” The program emphasized the importance of being accountable, providing excellent service, being flexible, being adaptable to change and supporting their sales staff. What business leader wouldn’t want their employees to hear these messages? To follow Monroe’s lead, you should include the offer in your promotional materials.
*For a Texas chamber, a highly effective approach is in their ad placement. The Friday before the event, they place an ad in their most popular local newspaper. Then, a second ad in the Sunday business section of the newspaper. They include the speaker’s photo and a write up in the Sunday issue. They received numerous last-minute registrations and many walk-ins.
*The Peoria (IL) Area Chamber of Commerce does it right. Every year at their local convention center, they hold a “Power Breakfast” and trade show event. They do an outstanding job of promotion through flyers, newsletters, radio and television in the months, weeks and days ahead of the event. The trade show opens after work hours and includes a cash bar and appetizers. Each booth has a theme; the exhibitors all try to out do each other with creativity trying to garner the award for “Best in Show.” It creates a fun, exciting atmosphere.
At 7:30 the next morning, a professional speaker delivers a timely one-hour presentation. After breakfast, the attendees walk to the trade show, which remains open through the evening. The average turnout is 750-exceptionally high for a city of their size. The secret? Pre-event promotion and an event designed to provide what their members want: a lot of networking, education on how to growth their business, and a lot of fun. For more ideas, go to http://www.christinespeaks.com/meeting_success.pdf – on Making Meetings Memorable.