10 Approaches to Successful Tech Event Planning
- Dec 17, 2011
Tech events can be very hard to plan especially here in the SF Tech area. I wanted to share some of our lessons learned or approaches about planning and promoting tech events. We will present it in order of approach.
1. Find Your Event Goals and Theme (Starting point)
I am big fan of goals to focus a group’s effort. Events are no different. I write down this for every event. Example: “Event to bring Japanese Start-ups to experience the San Francisco Tech Culture” or “A platform to bring start-ups to resources (capital, people)”. Also, we are very specific about event revenue goals. For example, “must break even or must make 10% profit” or “Client would like to cover the costs for the event” or budget not to exceed $XXXX.
2. Create the Event Structure (Immediately after the Goals and Theme has been determined)
Here is where you decide the type of tech event you want to hold – like panel discussion or tech demo, product launch or network event. Your event should be centered around your goals. Each one of these has a certain outline or structure. Some events like a networking event or product launch have different components than a tech demo or panel event.
3. Determining the Date, Time, and Event Venue Selection (3 months before or more)
Once the goals of the event have been settled upon, the date and event location is very important. The date and time determines potential amount of people that can attend your event. We always overlay our potential date and times against other scheduled events.
The venue will be very important because it will have a bearing on attendance as well. Venue should be convenient and also hold enough potential guests to meet your budget goals at the ticket price you want to charge. Questions you will have to ask – Is it accessible to your attendees? Is parking around the event venue good or accessible to public transportation?
4. Choosing the Participants. (After Date and Venue are finalized)
Whether it is a panel discussion or tech demo, the participants will be a good draw for your event. Centered around the event theme, we do some research on participants that can add value to our event and reach out to potential participants with a quick e-mail campaign or direct phone invite. For a panel discussion, a good MC and interesting panelists are very important. This should be finalized 1 month before your event.
5. Choosing Your Event Management Tools (Anytime after your Goals and Theme are set)
I have had good success with Eventbrite for event registration, promoting and execution. Eventbrite has many tools for creating discount codes and affiliate programs. We use e-mail/social marketing like Mailchimp, Facebook, Twitter and Eventbrite. Facebook may not be as effective depending on the size of the fan base. Facebook can be useful in creating either a fan page for the event so that you can increase the e-mail database. Eventbrite, Twitter,and Mailchimp has been our primary outreach tools.
Another tool that is useful in promotion tool is Eventasaurus in helping promote your event on multiple channels.
6. Event Production Planning (Right after the venue/date is chosen)
Here is where you detail the event. Questions you should ask here is How long should the event be? What kind of staffing do I need? Detailed Outline of Event? We use production sheets/outlines to carefully plan the events. The components of the event are decided like refreshments, food, live stream, audio, event layout is also detemined.
7. Promoting the Event (2-4 weeks before the event depending on size)
At 3-4 weeks before the event we put the event web page up or the Facebook event page. 2 weeks before the event we start with the e-mail marketing promotion of the event. We start using Social media as soon as the web landing page or Facebook page is complete. 1-2 tweets per day is adequate up till 1 week before the event. For typically do 2-3 e-mail marketing campaigns before the event and 1 week apart. We start using a special #hashtag on twitter to filter the twitter streams for use on Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or even Twitter.
8. Creating Invitations (2-3 Weeks before the Event)
Invites especially through e-mail marketing should be have an interesting subject line to increase open rate and body of the invite should have the three W’s – When, Where, What. Wording in questions help open rates over other methods like “Don’t miss”. On e-mails, we typically use a real name as a sender on the invites. We have found a short description result in better open rates.
To RSVP or not?
RSVP maybe important if you are planning a budget for food and beverages for your event or doing the final ordering for food and beverages. For some events, we just monitor attendance for our events through our Eventbrite event page. Here is a great link to Techsoup on RSVP tools.
9. Reaching Out to Media (3-4 Weeks before the Event)
You will have to target your audience. If the event is branded for start-ups, media who cover and write about these events is important. Use of Press Releases through distribution services like PRWeb, or using e-mail marketing to outreach to media work well. Providing press passes for these people through a special sign-up is also needed.
10. Closing the Event
It is good to thank the presenters, MCs or panelists through e-mail or personal notes. The day after the event it is good to get some feedback on the event. Eventbrite has a tool for that. Lara McCollach-Carter has some great advice that surveys should be short and should close the loop with follow-up. We hold a de-brief meeting to close our events. We also use the #hashtag to create a story in Storify to re-engage and thank tweeters at our events.