Events are a big part of a PR pro’s life, both as a host and as an attendee. But how can you ensure you’re going to get the most out of an event? Whether it’s the Vuelio Blog Awards or a roundtable of five, here are 10 rules to follow so you can get the most out of any event.
Check timings, the date and location to avoid missing out or accidentally turning up at a yoga class the week before. Make sure you know the dress code so you feel comfortable in your surroundings. And find out who else going so you can plan who in your team is best to attend – make sure they’re audience appropriate.
2. Set goals
Professionally speaking, this should extend beyond ‘getting boozed up and having a good time’. Do you have clients or contacts attending? Do you want to meet new people? A huge benefit of events is being able to put a face to a name and have real-life chats – something that is often lost in the social media age. Don’t know if someone is going? There’s no shame in asking people directly: ‘will I see you at the Vuelio Blog Awards next week?’ (Of course you will!). And if you’re a sponsor or host, make sure you’re monitoring event terms in association with your brand, both online and in print.
3. Plan your entrance (and exit)
Do you know your route to the event and the means that will get you there on time? Traffic, public transport delays and even slow tourists blocking your path while pointing at St Paul’s cathedral, can make the difference between attending the drinks reception (and all that valuable networking time) and just missing out. And when the event is over, how are you getting back to the office or home? A daytime exhibition is easier to manage but an evening awards? No one wants to be stranded at 1am.
4. Don’t be afraid to network
Meeting new people, meeting old friends, laughing, joking and enjoying the company of others is why you’re at the event. It doesn’t matter if you’re hosting and you feel like you’re running around like a headless chicken, you still need to make time to stop and chat. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone new. Start with, ‘hello’ and follow it up with: ‘What brings you here?’
5. Don’t just hang out with old friends
Sometimes you don’t have networking fear because you already have your buddies with you. Maybe you’re attending with colleagues, maybe you’ve planned to meet contacts on arrival, but you’ll get more value out of new connections and conversations. So, if you’re in a group and someone is alone next to you, bring them into the conversation. Chances are they’re trying to find people to talk to and the more welcoming you are, the better it’ll be for everyone.
6. Relax when it comes to sales
No one is going to be impressed with the salesperson of the year, hitting as many contacts as possible while pressing business cards into hands as they shake. Good networking takes time to know your new contact: talk about them, what do they do, why they’re at the event and share the same info about yourself. Talk about your product or service only if it naturally occurs in the conversation, and business cards are reserved for people that will want to talk to you again. If it’s an awards ceremony, you can contact finalists beforehand and wish them good luck – and then the winners afterwards, especially if you’re a sponsor!
7. Remember you’re still at work
It’s 10.30pm, you’ve had wine with dinner, the dance floor is open and the bars are flowing. It can be easy to forget that you’re still at work, and you still represent your company so should be acting accordingly. Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be a buzzkill, but maybe save the Karate Kid and/or Tina Turner performances for when your professional reputation is not on the line.
8. Follow up afterwards
For event organisers this starts with a survey; mention it at the event and send it a few times so you get as much feedback as possible. If you’re an attendee, don’t let the business cards you’ve collected go to waste – follow each one up with an email saying how excellent it was to meet the individual and then bring in the ‘sales chat’ with what you do and how you could help them. If you spoke to someone about a specific feature, make sure you note it at the time so you can easily follow up.
9. Analyse your goals
Maybe the event was a branding exercise or lead generation. Has your monitoring revealed an upswing in coverage and mentions? Do your key influencers know more about you? Have you made contacts you can now reach out to without a generic email? Present all the benefits back to the bosses, whether that’s a Canvas of the event (like this one we made for the PRWeek Awards) or a presentation of your media analysis.
10. Plan the next
Plan your attendance as far in advance as you can, maybe this means putting sponsorship in the budget or perhaps there is an early bird rate on tickets. Either way, talk to the team that went and work out how next year can be even bigger and better for you.
What rules do you follow when you attend events? let us know in the comments below.