(This post is part of a 5-part series. Check out the overview if it’s your first time here.)
So you’ve got the perfect place for your event, and and you’ve seeded the story with some great VIP’s and a really intriguing hook. Maybe your VIPs are enough to fill your event with people — and if that’s true, ignore this post and get yourself a pina colada instead.
Otherwise, you now have to fill the bleachers. It used to be that all you needed was a guy with a soapbox and a megaphone to scream your event to people — but that’s illegal in many places now…
The blogs and popular media are rife with stories about how using technology and social media and text messages can convert an otherwise challenging task into the press of a few buttons. Shenanigans. While it’s true that the occasional mix of zeitgeist and personality can carry a viral campaign — its tough to engineer in a scalable or repeatable way. The vast majority of successful events that I studied for this post got their people the old fashioned way: by selling them.
Gina Jagtiani of eventiveworld.com concurs. Forget wasting time and effort on so-called “uncommon” methods, she suggests. Just promote your event in any possible way. Perhaps it’s a common way for a reason, because it works!
Run through this checklist, and see how many tickets you’ve sold by the end.
1. Ask your VIPs to spread the word. Tweet it out, post on their bookFace, blawg it. Email their newsletter or community list. Take all the easy wins first.
2. Spread the news through all your own social channels. For corporate events – include LinkedIn too.
3. Make it a great deal. If you have sponsors, give away some of their stuff. If not, get something bigger and nicer to auction off. Spice in benefits to the attendee like access to cool people or broader incentives like benefit to the community. At the end of that, if you’re selling a $10 ticket and also offering $20 in giveaways and a raffle-ticket chance at something bigger, all while helping the community — that’s a winner.
4. Pipeline and follow up. There’s nothing worse than not having sold enough tickets AND running out of people to talk to about it. How do you get people to sign themselves up for your pipeline?
When Rebecca Zhou was out promoting Raise Cache, she made sure to build her list. First, she stopped by the New York Tech Meetup — one of the largest natural gathering places for her target audience, and offered free tickets to the first 10 people who shared a message about the event online. In exchange for 10 tickets, she got 300 people posting and discussing the event — many of whom ended up buying a ticket.
Second, she set up a brilliant plan to raise money for her cause and build pipeline with the same stone. People were encouraged to teach Skillshare classes and donate the proceeds. In the process of a few people teaching great classes, hundreds more were involved as students — most of which ended up donating more to the cause or buying tickets.
When that’s not enough, renowned expert Judy Allen and author of Event Planning The Ultimate Guide is a fan of harnessing the media to bring people larger more public events. If you’re event is private, you probably don’t want to spend the effort getting onto the front of the Times.
Pitching the media doesn’t need to be expensive either, even though things that feel expensive can be sexier for the press. For example, one bridal expo used the draw of having a wedding cake covered in over a million dollars worth of diamonds at the event. The cost was minimal but the coverage was maximum. The cake designer got to showcase their talents, the jeweler got to display their wares and the major hard cover costs were insurance for the gems and security. Win-win-win.
You might be feeling pretty smug now that your event is really coming together. You got a great place, pulled in key members of your community and sold a bunch of tickets — but we still need to make sure we stay in the black. Stay tuned.
(Note: This post is part of a 5-part series on events and party planning. Jump directly into a subtopic here)
- Its all about the CUSTOMERS, baby. Venue selection & the Deal.
- This is more INTERESTING than whatever else you’re doing.
- Pound the PAVEMENT. Sell your heart out.
- More MONEY, less problems. Keep your event ROI-positive
- Event as a startup. TEAM matters.
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My many thanks for the superstars who helped me pull this together:
- Judy Allen – event guru and author of 10+ books, including Event Planning The Ultimate Guide
- Rebecca Zhou – Hackstar, UI/UX designer and self-taught event planner extraodinare behind Raise Cache
- Kelsey Recht – Founder and CEO of Instevent – making event planning easier through expertise and technology
- Gina Jagtiani – Veteran event planner in NYC and New Orleans, Founder and CEO of eventiveworld.com, and social media empresaria