In a world where digital connections often overshadow genuine human interaction, the importance of bringing people together cannot be overstated. The very fabric of our society relies on the connections we forge, and it's time we rediscover the true value of human engagement.
In today's fast-paced and technology-driven world, connecting with others on a deeper level has become increasingly challenging. Our lives are intertwined with screens and devices, often diluting the essence of personal interactions. This makes it all the more crucial to find innovative and engaging ways to cultivate authentic connections and nurture our collective sense of belonging.
Events, whether virtual or in-person, have the power to strengthen relationships, spark innovation, and enhance our well-being. Robert D. Putnam's groundbreaking book, "Bowling Alone," shed light on the significance of social capital in fostering community resilience and personal happiness. In it, he emphasizes the importance of nurturing strong connections in the face of an increasingly fragmented society.
As someone who has run two communities and spent a considerable amount of time participating in them, I can attest to the transformative power of human connection. Drawing on this experience and supported by fascinating research, I present to you a comprehensive, intelligent, and playful guide to hosting successful events that truly matter.
Now first off...
Why the F do you want to throw an event?
Seriously, event planning can be frustrating and challenging, making you feel like a glutton for punishment. However, when it all comes together and goes well, it's nothing short of magical. There's no better feeling than successfully bringing people together and creating memorable experiences. It's important to remind yourself of this as you embark on your event planning journey.
If you have the emotional fortitude to throw an event, I can show you how to do it without breaking bank. You can take these fundamentals to easily throw a 30+ person event, and parlay this information into even bigger events.
Good luck, soldier. You're going to need it.
Decide the purpose
In the book "Get Together," community builders are urged to determine the "why" behind their gatherings. Deciding the purpose of your event helps you choose the right platform (virtual or in-person) and cater to your audience's needs. Remember, the best platform is the one that suits your audience and event objectives.
Make sure this is so abundantly clear for anyone who is going to be attending your event. Include this verbiage on your event page, make mention of it to your guests at your event, hell – tattoo it on yourself for all I care.
Furthermore, don't be afraid to pick an enemy. When we introduced LaunchPad to Grand Rapids, we made it abundantly clear that it would not be boring. This is because we had been to so many local networking events where people were trying to sell us some nonsense or kicking us useless business cards. In fact, we banned business cards.
TLDR: Pick an enemy, decide a purpose, and be loud and proud about it.
Test the waters
Before diving headfirst into planning, do a "gut-check" with friends, family, or colleagues. Gather feedback to refine your idea and ensure it's something people will genuinely be interested in attending. Plus, those who say "yes" during this stage have a good chance of showing up!
I've been to – and hosted – events that didn't have much interest. It sucks. It's not fun for anyone. Don't be afraid to share your ideas before your ready. As it turns out, some of the best feedback you can get for your ideas are before they're even well crafted.
TLDR: Check in with friends, families, prospective guests and do some brainstorming before you start.
Gather a team
Let's be real here. Hosting an event is like trying to juggle flaming torches while riding a unicycle – it's a ton of work! But you know what makes it a heck of a lot easier and way more fun? Rallying a team of passionate, energetic teammates who are just as psyched about your event as you are. Don't be afraid to join forces with like-minded groups to turn that mountain of event planning into a molehill.
With a solid squad backing you up, you'll not only make the process more efficient, but you'll also create some unforgettable memories along the way.
Here's an obvious pro tip to make teamwork even more effective: Divide and conquer! Break down the event planning process into smaller, manageable tasks and assign them to your team members based on their strengths and interests. You could have someone in charge of marketing and promotions, another person handling logistics and venue coordination, and someone else taking care of entertainment and activities. This way, everyone has a clear role and can focus on their specific responsibilities. Plus, when each team member contributes their unique talents and expertise, you'll end up with a well-rounded, exceptional event that's got something for everyone.
Keep It Kinda Fresh
To create a truly memorable event, it is essential to establish unique rules for engagement and stand for something that differentiates your gathering. For instance, consider prohibiting business cards at your first event or organizing a themed costume party – the choice is yours! Additionally, ponder the long-term potential of your event and form partnerships with local talent, such as photographers or musicians, who can enhance your event and provide valuable marketing materials for future endeavors.
Your event shouldn't feel like a chore for your guests. Incorporate interactive elements, distinctive activities, or delightful surprises to keep the experience captivating and entertaining. The ultimate goal is to craft an unforgettable experience for your guests, so don't hesitate to explore new ideas and maintain a fresh approach.
Note that I titled this section "keep it kinda fresh". That's because it is pretty easy to reinvent the wheel, which is totally unnecessary. Usually it's enough for people to know that they're meeting other like-minded individuals.
TLDR: Distinguish your event with unique rules and partnerships, and keep the experience engaging by incorporating interactive and captivating elements.
Create a clear schedule
A well-organized event is one that attendees can navigate with ease. To achieve this, create a comprehensive schedule outlining activities, speakers, and timings. Providing a clear agenda allows guests to manage their time effectively and remain engaged throughout the event. It is advisable to share the schedule with your attendees as early as possible, ideally before registration, so they have a solid understanding of what the event entails and can plan accordingly.
TLDR: Create a comprehensive and clear schedule for your event, enabling guests to effectively manage their time and remain engaged in the activities.
Broker some deals
Budget constraints are a reality for many event planners, but that shouldn't stop you from hosting a fantastic event. Look for opportunities to broker deals that can help you save on costs while still delivering an exceptional experience.
For virtual events, explore free tools like Zoom to keep expenses low. When planning in-person gatherings, reach out to local venues to inquire about hosting possibilities. Present your event's mission in a compelling manner to pique interest – after all, many people are eager to support exciting initiatives. By being resourceful and showcasing the value of your event, you can secure the support you need to make it a success.
TLDR: Save on costs by brokering deals for virtual and in-person events, and make your mission compelling to garner support and interest from potential partners.
When planning an event, it's essential to strike the right balance between leveraging technology and crafting a memorable experience for your attendees. In the initial stages, prioritize the event experience and concentrate on attracting a suitable audience. Emphasize creating an environment that is enjoyable and engaging for your guests, as this will leave a lasting impression and encourage future attendance.
For events hosting more than 15 guests, consider using user-friendly tools like Lu.ma to streamline your planning process. For smaller gatherings, simple solutions like spreadsheets, email, or text messaging can effectively manage your event's logistics. By utilizing accessible technology, you can ensure a smooth operation without sacrificing the quality of your guests' experience.
TLDR: Prioritize the event experience and use simple, accessible tools to manage logistics and create a memorable, enjoyable environment for your attendees.
Become a recruiter
Attracting the right audience to your event requires proactive promotion and a strategic approach. A single social media post won't be enough to create the buzz you need for a successful event. Be prepared to put in the effort and actively reach out to your target audience using various channels, such as LinkedIn, personal contacts, or even targeted email campaigns.
Don't hesitate to take action and begin recruiting for your event as soon as possible. Just as my accountant advised me to "run, don't walk" when I was filing a tax extension, the same urgency applies to promoting your event. The sooner you start, the more time you'll have to generate interest and attract the ideal attendees.
TLDR: Actively promote your event using multiple channels, and start recruiting for your event with a sense of urgency to attract the right audience and create a successful gathering.
Manage your expectations
When organizing an event, it's important to be realistic about attendance and maintain reasonable expectations. Recognize that some people may cancel or not show up, even if they initially expressed interest. Keep your expectations in check to avoid disappointment and make appropriate plans for your venue, supplies, and guest list.
To prevent awkward situations, such as having only a few attendees in an overly large space, consider planning for a range of possible attendance scenarios. By preparing for different outcomes, you'll be better equipped to handle last-minute changes and create a comfortable atmosphere for your guests, no matter the final turnout.
TLDR: Maintain realistic expectations about attendance, and plan your venue, supplies, and guest list accordingly to accommodate a range of possible scenarios and ensure a successful event.