There are many factors that go into creating successful business events. The headline items include selecting an engaging topic, the right mix of speakers and having an effective marketing plan targeting the right strategy. But a smooth-running business event doesn’t happen in a vacuum: you’ll need industry, sponsor, corporate and internal company support as well as help from the right people, other convenient services and online offerings to make your life easier, and access to resources such as the best technology.
If there’s one thing you will find at the top of most business event to-do lists, however, it’s planning.
From developing financial, marketing and business plans, to booking local, international or remote venues, to lining up speakers and sponsors (sometimes from international locations) and organising travel and accommodation — there’s a lot to learn when it comes to running professional business events. And let’s not forget planning an agenda, setting up meetings, identifying the best date and time, and accessing the right services.
Successful event management comes down to a matter of logistics, so start planning early and, above all else, pay attention to the details.
If you want to browse quickly through the main points about business events, please choose from the following sub-topics in this article:
- What is a business event?
- Establish your goals
- What type of business event is best for you?
- What are the types of business events?
- How to plan your business event?
- When should you hold your business event?
- How to market your event?
- How to organise your business event on the big day?
- How to plan after your business event?
What is a business event?
If you want to get technical, a business event, according to the Business Events Council of Australia, is any public or private activity consisting of a minimum of 15 people with a common interest or vocation, held in a specific venue or venues, and hosted by an organisation (or organisations).
In practice, that covers a whole gamut of business events and meetings, both big and small, local and international. Think conferences and trade shows, sales and marketing events, stakeholder briefings, financial and corporate updates, training programs, professional development workshops, and annual general meetings.
Organisations choose to run a business event for many reasons, including to:
- communicate messages
- boost sales
- promote products or services
- build their brand
- collaborate with clients
- hold corporate meetings
- recognise and celebrate success
- train and educate people
- boost their marketing reach
- collect customer data.
A successful business event can grow your business, build brand awareness, introduce your company to new clients, improve staff engagement and company culture, allow you to control a message, market a product or services, and build client loyalty.
Most importantly, your business event should be aligned with your business goals, strategy and objectives. It should be an innovative representation of your company and reflect your corporate values.
Establish your goals
While organising a conference is going to be different from organising a training workshop, there are plenty of factors in common when it comes to overall event management.
The best place to start is to consider exactly why you’re holding a business event in the first place. Your business event should be a means to an end, so detail what you want to achieve and how it connects to the goals and strategy of your company.
Is it to launch or promote a product or service? Build your brand or the profile of your key executives, management, or expert staff? Communicate with your industry stakeholders? Meet your statutory obligations? Improve your corporate culture or motivate your people? Update your international investors?
Whatever your goal, business events can be an effective way to grow your sales, motivate your team, create an engaging experience for your clients, promote a product or service and build your brand.
What type of business event is best for you?
Setting your goals will make it a lot easier to determine what type of event will best achieve your desired outcomes, including the format, structure, location and technology you’ll need, as well as potential speakers, presenters and sponsors.
You may choose to have a theme for your event. A theme can solidify your marketing and messaging, attract attention and create anticipation.
What are the different types of business events?
The range and type of business event you can hold is really only limited by the time you have available to devote to planning and management, and the services and financial resources you can reliably access.
Let’s look at a few of the most common types of business events:
Conferences are a great opportunity to present your company, as well as your people, as thought leaders in your sector.
You can raise the profile of your own brand and your expert employees by providing quality content that offers real value to participants.
A conference usually has an overall theme which is established by one or two keynote speakers. It also includes a series of further presentations from industry stakeholders, networking events and even product launches and demonstrations.
Whether it’s a large, multi-day conference or a more intimate in-house event, conferences generally require plenty of planning.
Corporate and other company meetings
Corporate meetings can include all-staff-updates, town hall-style information briefings, strategy events, team-building exercises, board meetings, or annual general meetings.
They should be properly structured with a firm agenda, so you keep all participants engaged all of the time.
The professionalism of your meetings can be a prism through which clients and other stakeholders view your company, so it’s important your content, and the way your meetings are presented, is suitable for your audience and subject matter.
Many corporate meetings have seen a significant shift to online and hybrid events in the wake of COVID-19. Governments around the world, including in Australia, have made changes to relevant laws to allow companies to hold formal meetings, such as AGMs, entirely online rather than face-to-face.
A product launch should be an event that leaves people excited; it’s not just another piece of marketing. A launch should create a buzz, get people talking, and leave them wanting to learn more.
It’s also a great chance to play on people’s FOMO. No one wants to miss out on ‘the next big thing’ and your launch is the perfect opportunity to leave prospects and clients thinking your product is just that.
A theme that ties in with your product launch helps to create anticipation and adds chutzpah, and can also make it easier to introduce quirky and memorable aspects to your event.
Conventions, trade shows and exhibitions
Conventions, trade shows and exhibitions are your chance to reach a large number of current and prospective clients, partners, and investors, as well as media, all in the one place.
So it’s important to make the most of the opportunity by creating an inviting, interactive presence that not only highlights your brand, but also makes attendees feel included.
Workshops, training and education
Workshops are a great way to build a more skilled, motivated and appreciative workforce. They’re also an effective way to educate current or prospective clients on new services or products.
Start during the registration process, or even earlier if you already have their contact details, by asking participants about their general expectations, and what they would like to learn about at your event to ensure you cover all the key topics they expect. You can also ask them to submit their questions in advance so you can prepare responses.
How to plan your business event?
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to planning out your business event, from the budget, date and invitee list to logistical considerations such as catering, travel and technology suppliers.
Determine your budget
Your budget will have a considerable impact on what type of event you hold. Determine early on how much money you’ve got to spend and prioritise what you want to spend it on because costs can quickly add up, especially for physical events.
Your budget will not only impact on the size of your event and the number of participants you can accommodate, but also its location and venue size, your ability to attract special guest speakers, catering, travel and accommodation, entertainment, gifts, and marketing.
Before you put a deposit on a venue or sign any contracts, start contacting your sponsors and sign them up first where possible.
If your budget is really tight and it’s appropriate for the event you’re managing, find a crowdfunding platform where you can ask for a minimum number of attendees to pledge for tickets so that the event can take place.
Weigh up the costs of a physical event, a hybrid event where there is a physical location and remote facilities, or a virtual event conducted solely online.
With the opportunity to host an unlimited number of attendees from international locations, feature keynote presenters, host panels, run Q&As and live polls, utilise private chat rooms where attendees can post questions, and easily collect valuable data, digital events can often be a more efficient and cost-effective option compared to their traditional counterparts.
Finalise your invitation list
The best way to start when it comes to determining who you’re going to invite to your business event is by making a list of everyone you’d like to be there. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars because you never know who might be interested in hearing what you’ve got to say. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Then, taking your budget into account, prioritise your guests based on how important their attendance is to achieving the goals of your event.
You might have to whittle down your wish list, or revise your budget: either way remember not everyone who actually registers, let alone who you invite, will actually attend your event so take into account those that will decline your invitation and no-shows.
It’s a good idea to hang onto your original master list of all prospective guests you would like to attend, then you can invite participants you may have had to initially leave off as others decline your invitation.
If your event is going to be open to the public, you’ll need to estimate what you think attendance will be.
When should you hold your business event?
Choosing a suitable date is crucial to the success of your event. There are certain dates and periods you probably don’t want to clash with such as public holidays, school breaks or events that might compete with yours. But there are others, such as large sporting or cultural events, that you might be able to piggy-back off or even include as an add-on as part of your event.
Consider how much time you’ll need to prepare the event, and give your attendees plenty of notice to plan their diaries around it – especially if it’s a multi-day event with international guests and attendees.
Work out your agenda
As you work out your agenda, establish how you’ll cover each session or presentation. Will it include a keynote speaker, a moderator and presenter, or a panel?
Build in time for questions from the audience where appropriate. You might consider asking your audience to provide questions before the event for some sessions so your panel or presenter can plan ahead.
If you’re planning a hybrid or virtual event, this is also the time to determine if you’ll pre-record any interviews and how you will host speakers: for example remotely or in a studio.
Share the load
There can be a lot to do when it comes to making sure your business event is successful, so unless you’ve got your own in-house events team, it’s recommended that you share the load with colleagues where possible.
There are lots of little tasks that can be shared around such as managing RSVPs, taking care of catering, filling swag bags, setting up break-out rooms, and liaising with speakers and sponsors.
How to market your event?
Start by creating a marketing plan and allow plenty of time to get the word out.
Depending on the type of event you’re planning, your marketing options may include your event website (and Facebook page if you have one) and registration page, your corporate website and newsletters, social media channels, hard copy mailouts, EDMs, and radio, print and online advertising.
Investigate opportunities to promote your event through third-parties such as the marketing and social channels of your suppliers, partners, customers, sponsors, speakers, and industry bodies.
Social media is especially useful to build excitement in the lead up to an event. Decide on your hashtags early and publish event teasers, share information about your speakers and presenters, promote sponsors and post video of your speakers or previous events to YouTube.
You can also hold an online preview interview or a Twitter chat featuring one of your guest speakers in the lead-up to your event.
Ask your staff and special guests to share information about your event on their own social media and other marketing channels such as LinkedIn, and register your event with online event calendars.
Provide the media with what they need
It’s no use sending the media your event schedule and expecting them to run a story. You need to provide a journalist with a hook – something they can build a story around that’s relevant to their audience.
Try and tie in your own or other recent research, studies or survey results that are relevant to your event and the broader industry. Focus on a challenge or opportunity your business event is trying to address.
Journalists are generally very busy managing deadlines, so provide brief bios of your speakers and experts as well as their contact details and availability for interviews so your media contacts can get in touch with your talent directly.
How to organise your business event on the big day?
Before the event you’ll need to ensure your content and speakers are ready to go.
Brief your presenters and speakers
Touch base with your speakers and presenters a couple of weeks before the event to discuss talking points and check that they have at least started to think about what they’re going to say.
It’s a good idea to run everyone through the agenda, reinforce how much time they have and make them aware if there will be any questions from the floor.
You might also want to provide them with some prepared questions which will also give them an idea of the information that is important to you.
If speakers are presenting from a remote location, consider lighting, background, and the quality of their camera and microphone as well as their internet connection. Switch to audio-and-slides if the video feed is unreliable.
Plan your on-demand presence. Two-thirds of virtual and hybrid business event attendees typically watch sessions on-demand. Consider if you’ll host it on your website, or liaise with your technology provider or a third-party to host it elsewhere online. On-demand content also makes cost-effective post-event marketing content.
One week to go
Now that all the planning is done, it’s time to really get down to the finer details.
Rehearsal and content run-through
Settle on your seating plan and rehearse the structure of your business event.
Finalise your script and run through sessions with your speakers and presenters.
Pay particular attention to how you manage transitions between speakers and presenters during sessions. Whether they’re in a physical location or attending remotely, it’s important to make sure you keep your audience engaged during the whole event.
Liaise with media contacts
Touch base with any media you’ve lined up to attend and confirm any interview and photo opportunities.
If your keynote speech is finalised, share it with a particular journalist for an exclusive if possible, but make sure you inform them of any embargoes where appropriate.
Pack your business event swag bag
Don’t forget about what many people look forward to most at a business event – the swag bag.
Not only is it an opportunity to provide more value to your sponsors, a swag bag is an easy way to provide your attendees with a positive end to your business event.
Online gift cards, online vouchers, streaming service subscriptions and even non-profit donations can make great gifts. While it’s sometimes hard to know what gets used in a physical delegate bag, it’s much easier to track the effectiveness of an online offer.
If you’re running a hybrid or virtual business event, create a section on your event platform where sponsors can list or link to special offers, or attendees can redeem them or obtain codes for fulfilment on other sites.
Have a contingency plan
What if a keynote speaker pulls out at the last minute? Or the caterer misplaces your order? Have a back-up plan for every detail of your event.
For remote sessions, have a plan to deal with connectivity issues. Ensure your speakers know how to phone it in or set up a teleconferencing option that can be utilised if necessary.
Send out event reminder and login information
Ensure a reminder is sent to all attendees with attendance and/or login information a week before the event, and follow it up with another the day before, or the morning of the event.
The big day
Touch base with your team and make sure you’ve got everything covered – from copies of speeches and slide decks to directions, phone numbers, parking permits, seating charts, guest lists and key venue contacts. Check in with sponsors, catering, speakers, presenters and management.
Use social media to market your business event live
Don’t forget to nominate a team member to manage your social channels during the event itself so they can tweet and share links, photos and videos live during the event.
If this is not possible, pre-prepare your posts where possible and schedule them to appear during the event to save time and stress on the day.
Run a technical and sound test and make sure any pre-recorded videos are ready to roll.
For a virtual or hybrid event ensure your speakers’ and presenters’ internet connections are up to the job, and their webcam and audio are clear.
Remind your remote presenters to lock the door to avoid on-camera interruptions. Ask them to have a phone handy in case they need to be called into the event, but ensure it’s on silent. They may want to put a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the front door.
Have IT on standby for your remote business event
Ensure technical support is on standby and monitoring the remote experience so they are available to troubleshoot if required. Most attendees at business events don’t mind if speakers switch to slides-and-audio, as long as the stream remains smooth.
Rate your sessions
Remember to make your business event as engaging as possible throughout the day. Don’t forget to ask your attendees to rate each session and the overall event via a survey or closing poll.
How to plan after your business event?
It ain’t over when it’s over — there’s a lot to do even after your event has concluded.
Send thank you emails to attendees, sponsors, speakers, presenters, stakeholders, key management, the media, and your team, detailing your event highlights. Share links to slides and presentations, related research, and on-demand and other content you’ve produced from the event.
Send out links to your on-demand sessions for those who didn’t attend but may wish to watch your event when it’s convenient for them.
Promote and share your content
Slice and dice your content and get as much mileage out of it as possible. Share it with your presenters and sponsors and utilise your combined networks to maximise reach.
Measure the success of your business event experience
Check your attendance and engagement data. Liaise with your webinar platform provider or check your online portal to track the success metrics of the event.
Report to sponsors and management
Communicate attendance and engagement data to your sponsors and key management. Liaise with sponsors about the response they received.
Return on investment
Consider what the event cost, compared with the value generated for your business. Set a date for assessing the ROI.
If you hosted a hybrid or virtual event, bear in mind that attendance will increase over time as not everyone will view it on-demand on the day of the event.
Conduct an after-event review to gain learnings while the event is fresh in your mind. Liaise with colleagues, speakers, sponsors and attendees to get a broad perspective. Make your recommendations for how to improve your next event.
Celebrate your success
Finally — take your team out to lunch and use it as an opportunity to discuss the successes, challenges and how you can improve your next business event.
A successful business event will not only build your brand and your organisation’s standing in the market, it can grow revenues, leads and client lists, improve staff engagement and company culture, allow you to take a message product or service to market, and build loyalty. Plan ahead, take care of the details, enlist support from your team and your network — and your event will take care of itself.