Understanding Your Audience: Planning An Event For A Discerning Group
Planning a successful event means making sure that a whole host of factors all come together perfectly. You want your guests to leave talking about the great time they had. Then go and tell all their friends about your amazing event. Unfortunately that can seem like a pipe dream when you are looking down at a screen full of catering companies, venue providers and entertainers. To make it easier, the experts at Glaziers Hall have compiled the ultimate guide for planning a great event with a luxury feel.
Too many people rush into planning an event without a clear idea of what they want. So before you meet with a single supplier, work out what you want and write it down. The more detail the better.
- What is your theme?
- Do you have brand colours for a colour scheme?
- How many people will be attending?
- When is the event being held?
- What is the event about?
- What will you be doing?
These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered. You should aim to create a list of objectives that form a plan to describe the entire event. This will become your bible. Any supplier who can not meet your specific needs can be quickly eliminated. More importantly, the suppliers you do use will be better able to understand your vision and help you achieve it.
This is important for a number of different reasons. Obviously if you are holding a dinner event you need enough space for everyone to sit at the table. However, there is more to think about than seating. If you hire an airplane hanger for a 400 person event it will feel empty. You need to find a place that fits your numbers without feeling cavernous. The space you use also needs to be decorated. If you are holding a drinks reception for 20 people, a ballroom might look beautiful but it will look odd if the decorations are too sparse. Look for a venue that can accommodate your numbers but does not leave too much extra space. You also need to factor time into the equation. If your event only lasts an hour and involves lots of mingling, seating can be minimal. If you are holding a 5 hour long conference you will need lots of seating options. You should also apply a similar equation to the numbers of bathrooms, food and other necessities.
Have a Timeline
Your timeline should be as detailed as possible. Professional event planners make their timelines down to the minute. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, it helps you to let suppliers know when they are needed. If a caterer has the food ready an hour before it is needed, it will just sit there drying out in chafing dishes. Secondly, it helps you to navigate the night. A detailed plan aids you in managing where everyone needs to be, ensuring each part of the event is ready when it is needed and you have the flexibility to adjust where necessary. Finally, having a detailed plan pushes you to identify any problems before the invites and schedules go out. For instance, if you do not have anything planned for 90 minutes before dinner, what will your guests be doing? Will they be hungry? This type of problem can be identified and fixed before it ever becomes an issue.
Consider Time-Based Needs
What would your guests usually be doing at the time they will be at your event? If your event is from 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. guests will be expecting food. If the event is outdoors, will it be hot or cold at that time of year? Will you require heaters or iced drinks? Early morning events would probably benefit from some free coffee. If you ask yourself, “what would my guests be doing if they were not here?” you can get an idea of what you need to provide.
Look at Touch and Pain Points
Your aim is to make the event fun and convenient for your guests. This often means anticipating the little annoyances that will make guests grumble and setting measures to ensure everything runs as smoothly and easily as possible. Some common touch and pain points are:
- Signing up to an event
- Event reminders
- The entrance
- Finding your seat
- Being hungry
- Understanding the plan
Signing up to an event can be annoying. If you receive a physical invitation but it contains a URL to sign up, you have to manually type this in online which can be offputting. If the sign up is all online, is it too long? Does it give the right impression? You are looking to make your invite easy to accept. Sending out event reminders is a great way to ensure attendance but when do you send them and what do you send? Make sure that your reminders are quick and easy to interact with. A simple email works well, especially if it allows you to automatically add the event to your calendar. This email should also be sent out far enough in advance to make sure your guests do not miss your event or double book.
Parking is a common touch point that should be addressed. If your attendees will be driving to the venue then they will want to know where the nearest parking is beforehand. It will also be important that that parking is close enough and has the capacity to accommodate your guests. Ladies in heels and evening gowns will not appreciate a 20 minute walk to a venue. Once at the event, one of the first touch points with guests will be the venue entrance. Make sure the entrance is clearly marked and welcoming. You might also consider providing guests with a welcome drink and a cloakroom, particularly for events where guests have travelled larger distances, to secure that positive first impression.
One of the next touch points is the act of finding your seat. Often a seating chart is printed out and left on a table for guests to find their own seat, however an easier way to manage this process is to use escort cards. Escort cards work to avoid a bottleneck as guests attempt to find their seats, simplifying the process and minimising the transition time from one part of your event to the next. Another major touch point is connectivity. Almost everybody now owns an internet connected device and loss of connectivity can feel like a real imposition. To combat this, make sure you can provide free and fast WiFi. Depending on the size of the event, you may wish to go one step further and harness the connectivity of your guests. You’re in the valuable position of hosting a large number of engaged guests in one place so why not provide an event hashtag and encourage attendees to interact with your brand online throughout the night? If you are using a social media wall, have a social media person on hand to monitor the tag usage.
Food is the a pain point that affects almost every event. Usually, if your guests are hungry, they are not happy. When organising an event, consider offering some form of food to ensure that attendees are not uncomfortable. Food does not always have to be free but it should be readily available. Consider this, if your audience is hungry, you are presenting your event to a group of people with low energy, low blood sugar, and low enthusiasm. That is not a great backdrop for your special event.
The final touch point we will discuss is conveying what is happening throughout your event. If your guests understand the plan for the event, they will be happier. They know what to expect beforehand and can plan accordingly. As a species, humans hate uncertainty so share a schedule ahead of your event to ease any anxiety.
Remember that these are just some of the regular touch and pain points that event planners address regularly. Examine your individual event and guest needs to highlight any additional areas that you can plan for to maximise the success of your event day.
Everyone loves to feel special. If you want people to love your event, make them feel loved with a personal touch. This could be a little note at their table, a gift bag or even just some personal attention from one of the event organisers. A great way to start personalisation is to gather some personal information when someone signs up for the event. For instance, one question on signup could be, ‘What is your favourite drink?’ You can then deliver that drink to the guest upon arrival. You can also ask guests for personal anecdotes or little details about themselves on the invite. These can be put on the back of menus or programs. The idea is to make someone feel special, make them smile, and leave a lasting positive impression.
Don’t Focus on Just One Thing
Fine dining loses some of its lustre if you are eating in a barn. Plenty of event organisers have made the mistake of blowing their entire budget on one or two things without considering the ramifications. The best way to ensure your budget is put to good use is to think of a new Mercedes parked next to an old Nissan. There is nothing wrong with either car but one suffers by comparison. £50,000 worth of decorations will not cover up a dingy venue or other cost cutting. Divide your budget between every aspect of your event in advance so you know what you can afford ahead of approaching venues and suppliers.
Think About All of The Senses
If you really want to wow guests at an event, think about engaging all of their senses. Most people think about the visual impact of a venue and the taste of the food but how can you target smell, touch and sound. There are scent generators that can actually add a specific scent to your event. If you are running a Christmas themed event, you can pipe in the smell of baking cookies, nutmeg or fresh pine boughs. For sound you can have live music or a create an event playlist. The trick is to tie the senses to your plan. You should look for music that matches the tone of each section of your event. Touch can a bit trickier but a great way to engage this final sense is by allowing event attendees to interact with your product or provide product related items at their table. For instance, if you are in the chocolate industry you can provide some raw ingredients at each table for attendees to interact with.
Make Sure There is a Clear Leader
This is most important on the day of the event. If something goes wrong or changes must be made at the last minute, there should be one person in charge who can make the call. This provides suppliers and members of staff a clear point of contact who can oversee everything. It also avoids mixed messages or confusion. Appointing multiple leaders means you could have two people working to their own plans which may conflict.
Your Venue is Your Canvas
When you start planning your event, you should start by choosing your venue. Everything else revolves around this. Once you have the venue chosen, you know the dimensions of your space, size restrictions on furniture, staffing numbers, shape of the rooms and everything else that will affect your other suppliers. Your venue also sets a tone. If you choose a grade 2 listed Georgian manor with period decor you might have to think twice about your futuristic theme.
Transport includes the event proximity to trains and other public transport as well as transit arranged specifically for the night. You may wish to arrange for a number of cabs to be waiting outside so your guests can leave as soon as they are ready. It might also be a good idea to offer shuttle service to nearby car parking if an event is large enough.
Once the event is over, follow up with your guests. You have put on a great event and collected their details. Now stay in contact to provide an additional perk for attendees or improve your next event by gaining some feedback. You can use surveys, videos of speakers at the event, or just a thank you email to conclude your event.
If you are interested in planning your own event and need a venue, why not consider Glaziers Hall? Our event planning experts are here to help and have experience with all manner of event types. You can get in contact by calling 020 7403 3300.