Dunn’s Blog: Wasn’t That a Party?

Staging an event should be approached with caution. The most important question to ask before embarking on one is,
Why am I doing this?

If you can answer – It will directly improve my company’s profile and business goals, then give yourself the green light to start party planning.
Most successful events share three attributes: a clear marketing goal, a defined budget and an experienced event planner to pull it all together.

When they work, events can boost your profile, offer media a news hook to cover your story and develop relationships with potential partners. When they don’t, they can chew up your company’s time and money like a staffer looking for a life partner on Craigslist. Events often consume resources far beyond their value, because they take so much effort to organize. Important business goals and deadlines can get lost in the froth of choosing the most appropriate beige leatherette day timer for your corporate gift.

But a good event will encourage your colleagues and business associates to spread the word about what you do (even better than Facebook). Let’s look at the case of a real estate marketer who had the goal of selling Okanagan vineyard properties to a target market of Vancouverites. Short of the serious cost of flying them up and hosting them overnight for property tours, how best to showcase her offerings?

The marketer brought the properties to the buyers, at an event at a popular city bar/restaurant conveniently located in the business district. Many invitees were intrigued enough by the invitation to meet Okanagan winemakers (and their wines) at the Wedgewood Hotel’s Bacchus Lounge to attend the after-work event, where they gazed upon alluring posters of vineyard and winery listings, and learned about wines. The spin-off benefit was a media release distributed to real estate and business journalists, inviting them to attend the event and cover the launch of the vineyard collection of properties. The event received publicity in the Vancouver Sun’s Trade Talk business column, Business in Vancouver, BC Business and various real estate columns and publications.

A word of caution here about media, who increasingly can’t attend events due to staff shortages and lack of time. If you don’t have the budget to hire Scarlett Johansson to promote the launch of your cocktail wear, then ensure you create an interesting event for news media and a compelling photo op, one that allows the media to come and go within 20 minutes, and in plenty of time to meet their deadlines. And don’t even think about staging an event outside downtown.

Speaking of budget, one way to reduce costs is to co-host the event, involving partners in a mutually beneficial “cross promotion.” At the vineyard event, a partner who shared in the cost (and the exposure) included an Okanagan winery, which dramatically reduced the event’s total bill.

One final caution: the time and respect given to the development of the guest list is critical, so you avoid the peril of excluding the president of one of your leading clients (not that this ghastly faux pas has ever happened to me). After the time and money expense, a mistake-riddled guest list can be the biggest detriment to hosting an event, and the bad PR from uninvited guests can easily trump the good.