Earlier this month I took a week’s vacation. During that break, I decided it was time that I commit myself to write this post. I  am not a writer and had been putting it off. I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment from doing this,  and, I am hoping, that for the event planners out there, I can share some of the things that I’ve learned along the way so you don’t have too.

As the Marketing and Events Manager for the Richmond Hill Board of Trade (RHBOT), one might say my job is exciting, fun and, maybe, even glamorous. Year round, I plan events, market our activities, promote our benefits and attract people to us. A word that doesn’t come up when I think about my job is easy.

Planning an event is so much more than it seems to the outsider

Sure other people may think it, but that’s not the reality. I constantly have to have my mind fully functioning in the present and future (at the same time) while being mindful of the past and every other ball I have in the air at the time. At any given moment, I have to make sure that the details of our current events are being solidified while the venues and speakers of our future events are being nailed down and then these events are being promoted properly. 

In the first six months of 2018, I planned over 20 events. Three of these were our signature events, which means that they were larger than average. Four of those events required me to sit committees while I was also planning events for the next six months. No, easy is not a word I would use to describe the job of an event planner.

If you build it, they still may not come

While most of our events had record attendance, others did not. And so, my message to you is this: If you build it, they may not come. I know you’ve put your heart and soul into something that you think is awesome. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to arrive on the big day with a packed house.

The most important step in planning your event is targeting the right people and getting them to register. This can also be your greatest challenge.  You can get around this by putting yourself in your target audience’s shoes and keeping these things in mind when you are going through the planning process:

  • Offering a variety of events types at different times of the day: One of our mandates was to engage with the Persian culture, and, this year, one of our most successful events was our Persian New Year Event. This event brought out members from many different communities. It was a fun and relaxed morning. Filled with dancing and music; an environment that enabled many of us to let our walls down and connect as we explored a different culture.
  • Offer a variety of topics, speakers and locations: Look at who your audience is. I spent five years planning events for HR Professionals, and every year we would host an employment law session based on the latest legislation. This event was always a sellout.  At RHBOT, we will often poll our members to find out what they are looking for in terms of event topics. In our latest survey for our Women In Business community, we discovered that they are really looking to connect with their peers and found out ways they can help each other, which means we’ll be looking at doing more interactive activities for the upcoming season.

How will you get out there and spread the word?

I rely on many different ways of attracting attendees. There are the usual approaches: Facebook events, posting on our website, word of mouth, marketing to our email list, and my own network. However, the most powerful approach is to attend other networking events local to where you are offering your event to meet people in that market, let them get to know you and the sort of events you offer, and help spread the word on the event you are trying to sell tickets to.

It is not an exact science. It’s a combination of a few things. Namely, going with your own instinct, asking your audience and finding a reason that will attract a crowd.