Will's Week

The 10 Event Commandments

The 10 Event Commandments

We all start the year (each and every year) with good intentions. But like the diaries I kept as a teenager, these good intentions tend to fizzle out somewhere towards the end of January...it's almost like falling at the first hurdle in a twelve hurdle race! So, here's the plan for 2015...

Forget the impulsive good intentions of gym membership, less drinking, giving up smoking and being generally nicer to people. If you really, really want to do all that, you'll do it anyway. Plus, you'll be boring, which is far worse than any of the side effects of any of the above. So how about you relax, and focus on a more tangible, long lasting and lucrative plan - make your events programme pay! That's right, your events are your most powerful asset and they could be so much better! 

Last year, events were back on the corporate agenda. And, by 'back' I mean 400% up, back! What's more, they were scientifically proven (so to speak) to be the second most effective way to promote a brand or product, after your own website. However, because this is a relatively new concept to most, there are several things we can do (or maybe just do differently) to make our events more effective and more lucrative this year.

So, if you just follow these 10 simple steps, tips and (evangelical) words of advice, your events programme will pack more of a punch, from dinner to brunch, in 2015. 

Invite1. Thou shalt make your invitation sensational (and don't send it out too early either). It's all in the wording. And in the headline image, of course, because an image speaks a million words (that's a statistical fact). It's very important that your event sounds at least as spectacular as it's going to be or you'll be selling yourself short and your guests will go to that other event in that really awesome (sounding) venue. Tell them (in a tweet length sentence, if at all possible) how cool your venue is, how much food there's going to be, how they're going to be blown away by that unique act you've booked and how they're going to meet some really amazing like-minded people. Oh, and it’s important they feel they’ll learn something too, of course. People don't like to miss out – especially on knowledge. And then afterwards, make sure anyone who didn't make it, really wishes they did. Social media is the vehicle for this...(Instagram, Twitter and facebook in particular). 

2. Thou Shalt get a social media campaign together from the outset. This is the best and most authentic way to get your target audience engaged. My advice would be to use an image or series of images to really encapsulate the theme of your event. If your venue is genuinely awe inspiring, then use the most radical picture to draw your A list in. You can also use snippets of your (already well thought out and beautifully scripted) invitation to drip feed information on different aspects of your event. Perhaps run a competition, for which the winners can be announced on the night? More boringly, but arguably more usefully, you can use the social networks for travel updates or logistical issues. We once masterfully ensured we had a full house despite a dastardly tube strike by keeping our guests informed and confident about their prospects of getting home afterwards. A guy who built haunted houses for theme parks (seriously) once told me that “Communication is the key”. And he was absolutely right… 

Social media at events3. Thou Shalt make sure you have a social interaction mechanism live and visible at your event. Ok, so your event sounds amazing, you're all over the social networks and everyone is buzzing about it. But that's still not good enough.You need to ensure that everyone who didn't make it, and everyone who didn't make it on to your guest list in the first place, are really, really upset about it and desperate to be at your next event. This is all about REACH and the best way to encourage constant interaction is to have a series of (preferably big) screens strategically placed around your venue so people can see what other people are saying about aspects of the event you're all experiencing. And who’s in the room. Of course, this opens the door to the jokers who think it's funny to make outrageous comments and offensive statements (it is!) but don't worry, they've thought of that too. There's software out there (via great products such as Thinkwall) who can engineer a delay on the live feed, enabling a designated team member to censor inappropriate posts before 'authorising' their publishing. This is one rare example of where censorship is a good thing… 

4. Thou Shalt book the photographer and videographer before you send your invitations out. What's the point of doing anything unless it's on Instagram? Right? Well, we've already established that authentic social interaction is essential because it publicises your event exponentially, in real time. But that's a million miles away from what you can achieve for your brand with beautifully composed, professional shots which can be used for your official publicity. Video is increasingly powerful too, especially in the age of short, powerful, high impact sound bites. Vine is a great way to convey your core message (and the funnier the better of course) to a mass market audience who don't have the patience to waste more than seven seconds on you. It’s like Twitter on speed but so captivating and instantly engaging. Check out this brilliant article about precisely that, by leading event photographer, Rick Bronks.

5. Thou Shalt have an invitation A list and a back up B list. (Try to avoid ever stretching to your C list - if you have to do this, your event might not be good enough!). This is easier said than done in a marketplace which is so crowded with great event opportunities and in a world where going home for a bowl of pasta and an intimate evening with Netflix is increasingly appealing...Of course, the way to ensure a good A list turnout is to ensure that your event content matches their wants and needs from the outset. And then communicate that via your invitation. Content is king, remember? If a high percentage (over 50%) of your A list 'can't' make it, then your event isn't quite right. Even if they have three other events to go to (which you have to presume they do on any given night Monday to Thursday) they'll come to yours, if it's a better prospect. For this reason (amongst a few others) you don't need to worry about hugely premature 'save the date' emails (go too early and people will forget anyway). In my experience, three weeks is the best lead time for a corporate event because it leaves enough time for your guests to schedule it into their diaries whilst not leaving enough time for something better to take over. Of course, there are exceptions. If you have a major global conference or summit which involves international travel or even just a whole day out of the office, a little more notice may be required. The more A listers you can attract, the less B listers you'll have to invite. And if you have to ever reach for your C list, then your invitation probably isn't good enough! 

Catering 6. Thou Shalt focus on the catering. Quality and quantity are both equally important. Ok, so I've mentioned this a lot recently because catering is very much back on the menu for corporate events in 2015. With food (and cooking in general) more popular than ever, celebrity chefs are increasingly embracing the outside catering field, as well as marketing their restaurants for corporate group bookings. Heston Blumenthal is working closely with Rhubarb and Jamie Oliver is popping up all over the corporate and commercial events scene to name a couple. Needless to say, if you feed your guests heartily, healthily (to a point - everything in moderation) and plentifully, chances are they'll be happy and in a positive frame of mind. Catering formed a major part of my predictions for 2015 which you can see in this short video. I’m also hosting a talk on Summer Food and Event Design at the Summer Event Show on the 27th and 28th January. Register for your free ticket here

7. Thou Shalt think about creating a vibrant and inclusive environment. There's nothing worse than a cavernous empty space. In fact, there is, and that's a space filled in inanimate, boring, unenthusiastic guests. If one guest looks like they're really not enjoying themselves, it's alarmingly infectious. Likewise, it works the other way round. So, get your lighting right, get the temperature right and get the audience right. All the little big things! Whatever the event, make it a party. Even if it's not technically a 'party'. After all, the definition of a party is 'a gathering of invited guests typically involving eating, drinking and entertainment'. Well, that sounds like a conference to me. One worth attending anyway. There are subtleties too. Don't have the music too loud too early (or too quiet later on if you want people to dance), for example. If you want to be really sure, you can go to a reputable entertainment agency (such as Sternberg Clarke, At Your Service or Atmosphere) and hire some 'atmosphere'. By that, I mean some cool (good looking) people who can dance and infiltrate your audience posing as guests with the simple brief to be fun, vibrant, effervescent and generally exciting. To be fair, I've only ever seen this done in America, but it works brilliantly well and sets the tone perfectly... 

8. Thou Shalt entertain your guests but make sure it's seamless, relevant and representative of the brand or the event itself. Make it tweetable rather than just loud and annoying. And never forget, as long as you've set the right tone and environment, people actually like to talk to each other and there will never (ever) be any substitute for that - especially not in the digital era when keeping in touch means mostly ‘liking’ a photo. Pepper the event with short, sharp, fun entertaining interludes too. A beat boxer for five minutes, a breakdance group for ten minutes and an inspirational keynote from Dale Carnegie for fifteen minutes and you've got a thirty minute variety performance which punctuates a vibrant, well catered, warm, perfectly lit, buzzing party. Do the simple stuff well and your event will be a success. 

Travel in style9. Thou Shalt make it easy to get there - even if it's not. Of course, there are plenty of centrally located venues in London but that doesn't mean you have to restrict your choice to the West End or the City. These days, there are so many ways to help your guests get to your event. And unique, off piste venues are more accessible than ever. What's more, going a little further afield can actually add to the adventure! Take Harrow School, for example. They have a stunning array of beautifully classical event spaces, all steeped in rich history and all exactly ten miles from The Strand (not many people know that all measurements to and from London culminate with the monument at Charing Cross, right outside the Amba Hotel, making that particular venue the most central venue in all of London!). So, talking about venues which are actually more accessible that they first seem, if you head north east you'll soon arrive at the stunning Blackwater Estuary and therefore the magical Osea Island. By combining a short train (or executive coach ride from Liverpool St with an invigorating speedboat ride to the island itself, he levels of exoticism and anticipation are off the scale compared to other less ambitious destinations! If you're really worried about your location you can always keep the exact location secret and make a thing of it by really playing on it and by giving your guests a rendez-vous point in a central location, followed by a coach ride, perhaps even in The Vault Party Bus! This builds a real buzz amongst guests and you could even have some social media fun with it, dropping hints and getting your guests to speculate as to where they might be going. This will guarantee a good turn out, believe me! P.s you'd be suprised at how affordable exectutive jet travel can be these days - particularly if you know about 'empty legs'. Find out what this is and if you can afford it by visiting Air Partner or Shy Aviation.

10. Thou Shalt have a definitive and specific agenda and a follow-up plan. There's no shame in it. After all, you're not a charity (well, if you are it's even more important that your guests know why they're there and act accordingly/respectfully). Events are there for a purpose and it's usually commercial, so don't try to hide that fact. Be upfront, open and bold with your goals, agenda and messaging. We stage lots of events to showcase new venues, so the overriding purpose of inviting guests is that they book venues on a regular basis and so we are introducing them to a venue and demonstrating what it's like in full swing. An event not followed up is like a date not followed up. A huge disappointment and a massive waste of money. Whatever the event, it's very important you get a return on your investment, depending what your initiate agenda was of course! A lasting legacy can be upheld by professional photographs, a cracking two minute (max) video and your social media connections. 

In 2015, make sure that face to face events are top of your agenda, follow our top ten fundamental tips outlined above and you won't go far wrong. And remember, people will remember how you made them feel, long after what you told them on the night... 

Will Broome CEO