While hosting an event might feel daunting to plan, the reward is often worth the effort. Why? Because these meetups offer the space for like-minded individuals to gather under one roof to share ideas and learn from one another. But it takes more than just sending out an invite to make these events a success.
To facilitate meaningful conversations and an engaged group of attendees, we talked to Peerspace’s Events Manager, Julia Bendall, who shares her expert tips on how to host a meaningful event.
Pro tip #1: Stay organized
Planning an event can be extraordinarily time consuming and stressful. The key to creating a successful event is your ability to maintain organization. Personally, my life wouldn’t function without lists. I rely on tools like Google spreadsheets to maintain my sanity when planning events.
When you start planning an event, make a running document with all of the tasks that need to be done in one column. This includes everything from booking the venue to creating the invites, locking in the catering to renting the furniture. Put due dates and notes in the next columns so you can constantly check on your progress and maintain your sanity. When you’ve finished a task, be sure to include any confirmation numbers or relevant details you may need to reference down the road. Don’t forget to write “COMPLETE” next to action items when that step is done. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than looking at a list of tasks and knowing that they’re all done.
In the week before your event, review your list and make sure there’s nothing left to be done. Create a run of the show that includes exactly when each vendor will arrive, when speeches will happen, when dinner is served, or any other major moments throughout the event. Include contact information for the vendors and organizers in case someone needs to get in touch. Finally, share the run of the show with everyone and then take a deep breath!
Pro tip #2: Transform a raw space
It can be daunting to choose a raw space that requires all elements to be brought in, however, some of the most memorable events come from the personal touch that a raw space allows you to add.
When looking for a raw space, be sure to account for things like loading zones, stairs, and permitting requirements. Having this information on hand will help the planning process run smoothly. Once the venue is booked, make a comprehensive list (there are those lists again!) of everything you’ll need to bring in. Don’t be afraid to ask vendors for advice and be sure to do a site visit with your caterer if they’re bringing in a full kitchen or any complex setup. Depending on the type of event you’re planning, many caterers can handle everything from the furniture to the florals — which will alleviate some of the pressure.
On the day of the event, make sure you book enough time for setup. Be available on site to answer any questions, direct vendors appropriately, and watch the space transform!
Pro tip #3: Go above and beyond with food and beverages
I’m a huge foodie and believe that quality catering can either make or break an event. When picking catering, be sure to consider your audience for the event. If you’re planning a dating mixer, stay away from spinach and garlic heavy foods. For networking events, you want to encourage people to mingle and move around the space. Stick to finger foods that allow guests to grab a bite and keep moving without having to sit down and focus on their food.
Be ready to spend a decent portion of your budget of getting food — it’s always better to have too much than too little. Work with your caterers to establish a menu that will really make an impression on your guests. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative too. Some of my favorite events brought in nontraditional catering like fresh shucked oysters, live sushi rolling bars, and a donut wall.
Pro tip #4: Increase attendee engagement
After putting in a ton of effort to effort to create a beautiful event, you want to make sure that people are not only excited to attend, but are also active participants. One of the worst things is showing up to an event where everyone is milling around aimlessly or sitting in a corner unsure of what to do.
I recently attended a networking event where the organizer asked every guest to complete a short bio on themselves before attending. The organizer then matched everyone with one or two other people in the group who they had something in common with. For instance, I’m originally from San Diego and had the opportunity to speak with a woman whose dream it was to study marine biology at the University of California, San Diego. Knowing that we were going to be paired with other guests helped motivated more people to attend so that they wouldn’t leave another guest companionless. It also took the stress out of going to an event and forcing yourself to make connections that may feel unnatural.
Having activities for your guests to participate in will increase engagement. Not all activities have to be as hands on as matching people. I love doing photo booths because they really help guests break out of their comfort zones. Activity stations or casino games encourage guests to interact in a casual way. It’s always a great idea to have a raffle or awards towards the middle end of your events to get guests to stick around for a while and enjoy the festivities.
Pro tip #5: Make it memorable
Being in the industry, I plan and attend a lot of different events. At some point, they all start to blend together. Avoid being one of the many by planning creative activities and don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit. Be sure to communicate regularly with attendees after the event and allow guests to opt into sharing their contact information with the rest of the group to encourage continued engagement. If you do repeat events such as monthly networking mixers, make sure every event has a slightly different feel so that they don’t get stale.
Peerspace lets you book space for all types of events, meetings, and more. Once you find a space that fits your needs, Peerspace Concierge can help organize any additional services like catering, AV, and more.