Please come to my party, the cast of Mad Men will be there.

This is more INTERESTING than whatever else you’re doing. (Eventology 2 of 5)

Please come to my party, the cast of Mad Men will be there.
Please come to my party, the cast of Mad Men will be there.

(This post is part of a 5-part series. Check out the overview if it’s your first time here.)

Cancel all your plans. This is going to be huge.

The single worst thing you can do for your event is make it feel missable. Hum-drum. Pedestrian. People who miss your event need to have a little dent in their life because of it. They’re going to miss business opportunities. They’re going to fall out of the know. They’re going to spend their nights alone and unhappy.

If you can convince people of any of those things, its on like Donkey Kong.

The best way to do this of course, is to have an event concept that is so unique, on-point, and surrounded by a pool of less interesting events for people to pick from. In a month where the NYC Fashion/Technology communities had some happy hour meetups and email conversation, Rebecca Zhou gave us a spectacular runway fashion show with a charity umbrella. #RaiseCacheWasAwesome #NoOffenseToAllMyOtherPplThrowingEvents

That’s not always an option. And besides, people love networking events and beer. The challenge is surviving the inbox long enough to get the yes.

That leads to this post’s takeaway: the most straightforward and repeatable way to get people to come to your events is through proper guestlisting and early press.

Guestlisting: How many lists do you make for your event? Hint: the answer is not just one.

I got a lot of different answers on this one, and I think the right answer is around 3. (Note: my favorite answer to questions with numerical answers)

1. VIP List – These are people who are so amazing, that bringing them there will make OTHER people want to come to your event. So influential that their email/tweet/fb-poke will make a material impact in your marketing. So beautiful that you want to put them on the flyer. You know what I mean. People who, in the context of your event and in the eyes of your attendee, merit celebrating.

Real VIP’s however, tend to be busy folk, and under constant barrage of fun and interesting events to go to. These guys have so many prods, pokes, and requests coming their way, that they may not even get to your VIP invite until after your event! A lot of good that will do you. You have to rise above the noise.

When Rebecca Zhou was putting together her list of favorite people for Raise Cache, she knew she wanted the most popular VC’s, hotshot entrepreneurs, and interesting bloggers to be there at the front row (or walking down the runway!). So did she send an email invite? Of course not. They hand-delivered beautiful boxes that had personalized tshirts. For novelty and fun value, the VIPs had to RSVP by tweeting a picture of themselves wearing the shirt! Whimsical, unexpected, and a source of promotion for the event as well. Crush it.

2. Primary Invite List – The people you want to invite. Chances are, this is the list you have already. Just make sure you don’t break any fire codes there champ.

3. Fallback List – This is the list you start pulling from in case too many people from your primary invite list are unable to attend. Its plan B, the bench. Judy Allen, author of  Event Planning The Ultimate Guide, notes that what is important is the timing of sending out invitations as no one wants to feel – due to the time the invitation is received – that they were on Guest List B.   More detail on this is obviously in her book.

Early Press:

Long in advance of the event, you don’t want to give away the punchline — just the trailer. Its not a strategy for everyone, but if you’ve got the hustle or contacts to sneak a hint of excitement into a news hit or popular blog, it could kickstart ticket sales in a major way.

Sell the intrigue. Who are your awesome headliners? Sexy sponsors? World-changing goal?

I’m told discounting works, but instead, how about selling tickets for more money? Early buyers are more likely to be into what you’re selling. Sell premium tickets that come with a great gift bag, exclusive access, distinguished service or some other funsies. I would pay for that at a terrific event.

Don’t get too comfortable just because you’ve locked down your venue and secured your VIPs. We still need to get everyone else to RSVP.

More unexpected promotional ideas and a whole series on PR are forthcoming.

(Note: This post is part of a 5-part series on events and party planning. Jump directly into a subtopic here)

  1. Its all about the CUSTOMERS, baby. Venue selection & the Deal.
  2. This is more INTERESTING than whatever else you’re doing.
  3. Pound the PAVEMENT. Sell your heart out.
  4. More MONEY, less problems. Keep your event ROI-positive
  5. Event as a startup. TEAM matters.

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