Managing an Event (and How to Do it Properly!)

Event management is about creating and developing events and conferences to meet marketing and business objectives. There are three main types of events: product, corporate and community events.

  • Product and/or service events: focused on creating awareness, generating interest (usually through media attention) and increasing sales, typically geared to new product or service launches. Conferences and seminars are often used as the event vehicle.
  • Corporate events: designed to develop corporate relationships through entertainment such as hospitality.
  • Community events: contributing to a law firm’s local community through employee volunteering, sponsorship or making contributions. An example might be helping with reading sessions in local primary schools.

Why is event management relevant for legal services providers?

A well-executed events programme can broaden and deepen the relationship of a legal service provider with its target audiences. In particular:

  • Increasing awareness of the firm. Events can promote the firm and gain exposure in the marketplace. This is particularly beneficial where audiences associate the event with a law firm’s service lines.
  • Entertaining key clients. Events can be used to build strong relationships and nurture goodwill with existing clients. This could include hospitality at a prestigious sporting or cultural event.
  • Enhancing the image of the firm. Events are a way for law firms to advance positive perceptions among target audiences about capabilities and expertise, with a view to being positioned as a provider of choice.
  • Creating or reinforcing client perceptions. Events can reinforce a client’s perception by associating the law firm with the local business community. To achieve this you might host a reception in partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce.

Using event management as a marketing tactic.

Because of the cost involved, and due to the number of event opportunities that exist, organisations must choose carefully the events it creates. A pragmatic approach involves answering:

  • Why? What are the reasons for putting on an event? Setting objectives will provide clarity and focus to best ensure return on investment.
  • Who? Who is the target audience the event is aimed at? The clearer you are in this respect, the more effective the event will be.
  • How? How will the event achieve the desired effects with that target market?

Set objectives for the event

Possible objectives include to:

  • Communicate a key message
  • Launch a new service
  • Raise your organisation’s profile
  • Network with peer groups
  • Engage the media or wider general public
  • Celebrate an achievement, milestone or anniversary

The ultimate format and style of the event will depend on the event’s objective, so you need to be clear on this from the outset. For example:

  • Events celebrating an achievement or anniversary are likely to be held exclusively for existing and ‘special’ clients. They will usually be more formal, such as a black tie dinner, reflecting the celebratory nature of the event.
  • General PR events using seminars and presentations aimed at local businesses are less formal. They need to attract an audience, perhaps by engaging prominent speakers. The venue should accommodate the presentation element and networking before and after the ‘main’ event.
  • External promotion and PR would help to bring the event to the attention of the target audience of local businesses.

Real world example

An example of a general PR event might include an employment law seminar focusing on ‘dealing with difficult employees’. Such an event may attract a mixed audience from large and small businesses, private and public sectors and owners, managers and HR teams.

Managing an event

Identifying your audience is key to successful event management

Identifying your audience

The target audience will dictate the format of your event, including the degree of formality. For existing clients, you might look at hospitality options or maybe hosting your own formal dinner. For prospective and target clients, you might create a seminar addressing legal issues that are of interest/importance to them, with a view to providing them with value: the new knowledge gained at your event is perceived as helping them do their jobs.

It should also demonstrate your expertise.

Once you have identified your target audience, you need to create the invitation list.

Ideally you should have a current database of subscribers, from which you can categorise contacts into a list to use for the event invitation.

Real world example

Although attendees at the ‘dealing with difficult employees’ seminar may well be mixed, priority could be given to those on your database in a Human Resource capacity or a senior manager.

Planning the event

You will need to consider how many people you are hoping to attract. Is it an intimate event for a select group, a medium-sized event for up to 100 delegates, or a large-scale sector event, such as a conference? Whatever the size of the event, you should invite more people than the minimum number required to make the event feasible.

It is helpful to work to a rule of thirds: so to attract at least 100 delegates to a business event you should normally invite around 300 contacts.

Budget

Events can be expensive and without careful planning costs can exceed your budget. Research, compare and negotiate costs before you agree a final budget. Also, include in your budget a small sum for contingencies and incidental expenses that you can’t plan for at the outset.

Selecting the venue

Getting the venue right is vital. Key considerations include:

  • Budget – how much do you have to spend on your venue? What is included in the venue hire charge, and what isn’t?
  • Capacity – make sure the room or building you choose can comfortably accommodate your target number of guests. Equally, an empty venue does not give an impression of a successful event.
  • Access – think about the type of guests attending your event. Can they park close by? Do they have to pay to park? Is the room or building easily accessible and well sign-posted on entering the venue? Are lifts available for guests with disabilities? Can external suppliers access the building easily?
  • Catering and refreshments – do you need to provider catering or refreshments? If so, does the venue have catering facilities or a preferred supplier? What foods or drinks would be appropriate for the budget, style of the event and the people attending?
  • Technical requirements – does the venue have the right AV/PA equipment you need for the event? Do you need to pay extra for these? Or do you need to source a supplier to hire these from?
  • Plan your space – think about what you will need on the day of the event itself when booking the venue. Do you need breakout rooms close by? Where will you place your reception desk as guests arrive? Do you have space to serve refreshments? Where will guests put their coats and bags?
  • Creating the right impression – make sure the venue you select is right for your event. Think of the type of events your target audience are used to attending and the impression they will expect from your organisation.

Date and timings

A good date will help ensure a good audience turn-out. When setting a date, consider the following:

  • Try to avoid holiday seasons, cultural/religious dates, school holidays, exam periods, end of the financial year and busy party seasons, such as Christmas
  • Avoid clashes with high profile or major events
  • Give at least three months’ notice to guest speakers
  • Check availability of senior personnel within your organisation at an early stage
  • Audience needs e.g. avoid Mondays and Fridays for business audiences
  • The time of day that is most appropriate for your audience, and how long should the event last. For a business audience, try to schedule events that don’t interfere with the working day eg over breakfast, lunch or after work.
  • Events should be planned around three months in advance

Booking hosts and guest speakers

By preparing well in advance, you are more likely to secure your first choice speaker. Aim to make an approach at least six months before the event. Also consider the following:

  • Research and shortlist target speakers for your event, approaching them in priority order.
  • Send a formal invitation letter to the speaker(s), including a full brief about the event, and details of what you are asking the speaker to do.
  • If you are sourcing the speaker through an agency, there will be a contract and booking fee involved.
  • Request a profile and photograph of your speaker for PR purposes.
  • Agree any PR materials about the speaker – created either before, during or after the event – before circulating to the media.

Preparing invitations

Once the date has been agreed, depending on your budget, you can send out printed invitation cards or letters on official headed paper inviting guests to your event. If you have e-mail contact details for all proposed invitees then it is most cost-efficient to send details of the event or invitations via HTML e-mail. Depending on budget and the format of the event, you may want to or hire a design agency to produce creative and visually engaging invitations to capture the attention of your target audience.

Prepare your mailing data, and if invitations are going by post, ensure the recipient’s name and contact details are checked thoroughly.

If you are inviting guests by letter, this should normally go out from your organisation’s senior partners or managers. Your invitation should then include all following information:

  • Title of the event
  • Date
  • Venue
  • Time
  • Programme
  • Details of any senior hosts or guest speakers
  • RSVP details and deadline for bookings
  • A contact phone number or e-mail address for queries and questions

Ideally, you should aim to send invitations out to guests between three months in advance of the event and six weeks prior to the event at the latest.

Include a response date for event registration. This is important for planning reasons, as you need a cut-off point to be able to confirm catering numbers, prepare seating plans, produce delegate lists, name badges etc.

Depending on the type of event, you may consider other forms of communication::

  • Personal telephone call – if the event is a form of prestigious hospitality aimed at existing clients, it would be worth a telephone call being made to the invitees by a relevant senior individual within your organisation. This helps to make the invitation personal and should elicit an immediate response, be that a yes or a no.
  • Follow up email invitation – if you have sent out an email invitation at least six weeks prior to an event, and the numbers are still short of your ideal audience size three weeks before the event, it may be useful to send out a polite ‘reminder’ email to those contacts on your mailing list who have not responded.
  • PR coverage – if the event is aimed at broader audience segment such as the local business community, it would be worth contacting the local press to get a mention in the regular business diary feature.
  • Social media – again, if you are looking to gain broad exposure about the event, use your organisation’s social media tools to promote the message and engage your target audiences.

You should confirm arrangements a few weeks prior to the event, restating timings, venue details and directions, dress code, parking arrangements and other relevant information.

If catering is provided, ask delegates to advise of any dietary requirements.

Advanced preparation

Preparation goes a long way to ensuring a professional event:

  • Manage all invitation responses in one place – an Excel spreadsheet, your database event module- to avoid errors and omissions, which on the day can create confusion and a poor impression. Print copies off for the day, with at least one to use on the registration desk, and one for the venue in case of a need to evacuate.
  • Put together a ‘critical path’. This is your checklist detailing what needs to be done on the day, by whom and by when. Tick things off as they get done.
  • Agree in advance who will be setting up and taking down the room on the day. The venue? You? External support? Whoever takes this on must be briefed on the room set up eg is the layout theatre style, cabaret style, boardroom style? What about other elements such as AV/PA system, lectern, laptop, projector, screen?
  • Provide a briefing note in advance of the event to all speakers, and speak with them on the day to clarify the schedule and test them on the AV/PA system.
  • Prepare name badges in advance: title, first name and surname; position/job title; and organisation. Take a supply of spare blank badges.
  • Provide a delegate pack to all attendees. This should include any event support materials, a delegate list (with name and organisation of expected attendees), speakers’ biographies, and some brief promotional material about your organisation.
  • Advise caterers of any special dietary requirements.
  • Organise a photographer, if budget allows, for PR purposes, and brief them on what is required.

On the day

On the day, have arrangements in place to set up the event ready for guests’ arrival. Consider the following:

  • Make sure the venue is clean, tidy and presentable.
  • Provide a registration desk to greet guests and provide them with name badges and delegate packs.
  • Put up signage inside the venue directing guests to your room.
  • Make sure you have enough staff to welcome and guide guests.
  • Provide water and glasses for all speakers.
  • Test all technical elements including AV/PA system, projector etc. Upload and test speaker presentations. Have the number to hand of any on-site technical support personnel – just in case!

Events are an investment, so it is important to seek to show return on this. Do this by following up on the event. This means making contact with guests post-event, as a way of maintaining goodwill and pursuing any potential leads that arose.

What you do for a follow up will depend on the objectives and format of the event. For example, if the event was a legal seminar, it would be beneficial to send delegates any presentation or summary points from the day. Formal hospitality could require a simple ‘thank you and speak to you soon’ from a senior member of your organisation.

Prompt those employees from your organisation who attended to follow up on an individual basis with any new contacts they made, eg by connecting on LinkedIn or following on Twitter. You may also consider taking feedback from delegates. This tends to be more appropriate and well received with established contacts. For example, if your organisation is hosting a series of training seminars for HR managers, sending out a quick email feedback form could help inform and improve future sessions to ensure all elements of the event (content, speakers, format, venue, catering etc) are working for delegates.

Remember

Event management is about creating and developing events and conferences to meet marketing and business objectives.

  • There are three main types of events: product, corporate and community events.
  • A well-executed events programme can broaden and deepen the relationship of a legal service provider with its target audiences. In particular:
  • Increasing awareness of the organisation.
  • Entertaining key clients.
  • Enhancing the image of the organisation.
  • Creating or reinforcing client perceptions.
  • Because of the cost involved, and due to the number of event opportunities that exist, organisations must choose carefully the events it will host.
  • Ensure appropriate follow up action is taken following an event.
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