Why is this one of the most important stages of the event planning process?
By the time you come to arranging the finer details of the event itself and promoting your corporate event, or inviting your guests to your private ‘do’, you will be very familiar with all aspects of the event: the venue, catering, drinks you are going to offer, entertainment or DJ and so on. There is a fair chance that by now you are also finding the whole thing very stressful; however, it is vital that you put as much effort into promoting your event as in arranging all the finer details; there is really very little point in organising a fantastic event if there is no one there to enjoy it or – more importantly, for a business – to pay for it! Indeed, if you are planning a corporate event, then your sales and marketing activities must be very well planned and executed in order to achieve your sales targets and any other required outcomes, as determined at the outset.
Tips on inviting guests to a private event
The joy of receiving an invitation in the post
As outlined in our previous blog, whatever the event, people always like to receive an invitation in the post so it really is worth going the extra mile if you can stretch to it. (A quick note here that the correct word is ‘invitation’ and not ‘invite’ which is a particular bugbear of ours here at DRIVE!)
Choosing a supplier
There are lots of providers online through which you can design your own flyer or postcard-style invitation, add images or photos and then print them very cost effectively. However, if you want something a bit more creative and bespoke and want your invitation to really stand out, then perhaps ask for a recommendation on social media or if a particular invitation you have received has impressed you, request the designer’s details. If you are getting your invitations printed professionally and you just need to write the envelopes, then you can either handwrite them (which is a nice personal touch depending on your handwriting and choice of pen of course!) or produce labels on your printer and stick them on to save time. If doing the latter, then perhaps play around with the font so they are a bit different from corporate direct mail that comes so regularly through our letterboxes!
Emailing your invitations
If you are emailing an invitation, then it is still important to make it stand out; we all get so many emails these days that in our opinion it is worth preparing or designing a stylish PDF or graphic that your guests can save or print. A word of caution here: emailing can be slightly risky, if you have not emailed your guests before, given the likelihood that they may just end up in the recipients’ junk folders. Here, unless you are planning to make follow up calls to your entire guest list, we would recommend backing up an email invitation by creating a Facebook event and monitoring it that way and perhaps call any of your guests who do not actively engage with social media.
Your invitation needs to outline clearly certain aspects of your event, including the arrival time, the time to leave (known as ‘carriages’ if for a formal event such as a wedding), and the dress code (more on this later). Also, unless you are providing full catering and unlimited drinks, you should indicate that there will be a cash bar available. The more polite term for this is a ‘pay bar’.
In order to manage the numbers most effectively – particularly if you have a back-up second list of guests – you should also include the deadline and method for replying to your invitation. It can be helpful to include an RSVP card here so that your guests can reply easily and quickly. This is also particularly helpful if you need guests to make their menu choices in advance; by including a request for this information on the reply card at this point, you will save yourself quite a big task nearer the actual event.
As mentioned in our previous blog, an additional sheet with hotel options and taxi numbers and other useful information is generally very appreciated by guests – and can save time on admin for the organiser – and therefore worth compiling.
Timing is key
Once you have decided how to invite your guests, you also need to consider when to do so. Timing can be key to the success of an event. It is usually considered appropriate to send invitations to an event two-three months beforehand. However, if you are inviting people to a Christmas wedding, or on a Bank Holiday, for example, you might choose to extend this timeframe to allow your guests plenty of notice. Alternatively, you could send a ‘save the date’ communication as soon as you have secured the date, just to ensure that there isn’t a clash down the line and to avoid any disappointment.
Corporate events – a few tips on sales and marketing a commercial event
Promoting and selling a commercial event (i.e., one that at the very least will break even in financial terms) requires very careful planning, and timing is absolutely key. There are lots of different commercial events that take place – and we have managed many different types over the years. For this blog, we are going to use the example of an industry conference.
Lock in that date!
Firstly, once the date has been confirmed, you need to inform the key people attending (speakers, organisers, etc.) via email and perhaps also make a telephone call to ensure the date is 100% in their calendars.
‘Save the date’
Depending on the style of the event, you may feel that a ‘save the date’ is also appropriate to your potential corporate delegates just to ensure that they make a note in their diaries. This can be achieved via email or social media or a combination thereof.
The event needs an identity
You then need to create the identity and branding for your event and ensure it is consistent throughout – from your website, through social media, to the signage at the venue, to the presentation and materials available to delegates on the day.
Be specific – what are the delegates getting?
Plenty of useful information should be included in the sales material for a corporate event; this must be clear and concise but, if it is an event where you are offering CPD points, then it must also be detailed enough so that delegates understand what exactly it is for which they are signing up – and paying.
You need to include session details, outlining for each who is speaking, what topic(s) they will be discussing; the level of qualification and experience at which their talks are aimed, and their credentials. It is vital here that delegates think they are getting good value for money by signing up to your event.
Be clear on timings
You need to be clear on the times of the event and make sure that people know exactly what is provided and when. If you are offering catering, then be very specific on the times the refreshments will be served.
The investment and booking system
The pricing must also be very clear. If there is a discount offered such as an early bird, are you 100% clear on the discount deadline? Also, how do delegates book their places? Is it very clear how they do so? Most importantly, if via an online booking system, have you tested this? If potential delegates go to book and they encounter difficulties, then they might assume that the event is being poorly managed, decide not to book as it’s all just too much effort and you will lose that potential income. In all these scenarios, it is always worth getting a fresh pair of eyes to check your sales material; they need to check the wording, the pricing calculations (with VAT, without VAT, with discount, without discount) and any links that are included therein.
A quick note here on your data – is it up-to-date and accurate? If the answer is ‘no’, then you must address this before sending any emails or postal invitations and implement a cleanse of your existing data, perhaps purchasing any supplementary data if budget allows.
Keep a keen eye on the numbers!
Think carefully about the sales process – from sending the initial information to the follow-up emails and the social media surrounding the event. Reviewing the sales figures regularly and tweaking your sales/marketing plan accordingly is critical to ensure that you at the very least break even with your event. If your event is a brand new one, then you will have to be very creative in attracting delegates, as the conference market is a crowded one. If you already have a good track record of delivering high quality events, then the sales process will be easier but there is still a lot of competition out there so you must never rest on your laurels!
A note on dress code
This can be the most challenging part of your event (well for your guests anyway). We have outlined some of the most common dress codes below:
White Tie – this means that the event will be extremely formal. For men, it means tails, a white vest and bow tie and black leather shoes, or military uniform. Women will be expected to wear a full-length ballgown.
Black Tie – this is the second most formal dress code for events, usually those held in the evening. After 5pm men should always wear a dinner jacket with a bow tie and black leather shoes. During the day a dark suit will suffice. For ladies, unless specified, either a cocktail dress or a ballgown are suitable.
Morning Suit – where this is specified then men should wear a black or grey morning coat, striped trousers, waistcoat, collared shirt, black leather shoes and – if they wish to – a top hat. Women should wear a knee-length dress or a skit with a jacket. Hats are usually expected with this dress code.
Black Tie Optional – though gents can wear a dinner jacket, this means it’s not compulsory – in fact a dark suit and tie are acceptable here. Ladies can wear a ballgown or a formal cocktail dress or, if the event such as a wedding is in the morning, then a tailored trouser suit is also considered acceptable.
Lounge Suit – this just means that men should wear a suit, and preferably a dark one. For ladies, a cocktail dress is as dressy as you should go. A ballgown here would be considered inappropriate.
Smart Casual – this doesn’t mean casual – and we would advise no denim – but just slightly less formal than when ‘Lounge Suits’ specified. Ties are optional here. For ladies, a nice cocktail dress or trouser suit will be acceptable.
Get in touch!
We hope that this blog has been useful. It really is worth taking the time to ensure that your invitation or sales material is an accurate reflection of how you envisaged the event at the outset.
As always, we would be very happy to help you with any event requirement, either by supporting your in-house team or managing the whole event on an outsourced basis.
Do you have an event coming up and no idea where to start?
Please get in touch and contact us here, we’d be delighted to help you!