On the flip side, a poorly-conceived event can be a waste of time, or just plain awkward. An informal survey of the office revealed these dos and don’ts when planning an industry event.
An open bar & delicious snacks. Call us hedonists, but eating and drinking are two of life’s great pleasures. Enjoying them with people you’ve just met allows you to form an instant connection that you can then build on. Bonus points for fancy nibbles like oysters or really great hors d’oeuvres. Some of my coworkers recently attended the NXT City Prize awards presentation and the elevated fare did not go unnoticed.
A reason to be there. Networking should be a byproduct of an otherwise enjoyable or inspiring event. A great speaker, an activity, a really cool theme, or a fantastic venue with something to look at (our team loves the Design Exchange) will naturally spark connections. Going to an event with the singular purpose of networking can be too much pressure.
Quality presentations. If I could have had a similar experience by reading that presentation deck on my computer at work, it’s not going to spark new ideas or inspire conversations with fellow attendees. Ditto if it’s yet another talk entitled The Power of Social Media. Presentations should have a unique creative twist to make me glad I was there to see it in person. I like the casual presentation style at ProductHunt TO events; they have real people talking about what they’re working on now rather than slick professional presenters giving recycled presentations.
Cool installations. This is not to be confused with a corporate trade show booth. An installation can still be selling a product or service, but it should offer a nice takeaway, a new connection, or a great Instagram photo op. Last year’s Absolut Makerfest series is a great example.
Wearing name tags. They’re a constant reminder that you’re at a corporate networking event and you’re not actually expected to enjoy yourself. Making new connections is the most fun and feels the most natural at parties where you’re surrounded by friends. I have never been to a house party where people wore name tags. They also look bad in photos.
Uninspiring or inconvenient locations. A dingy space with no personality doesn’t make me feel like hanging out for long enough to open up. Even if the event in question isn’t meant to be a party, you are suggesting people voluntarily attend when they could be binge watching Narcos. And if your event requires a $30 cab ride, It better be amazing.
Poorly thought-out swag. Getting free stuff is great when it’s something you want. When deciding on swag for your event, think about how likely that item is to end up in a landfill within a week or a month. If people leave the event glad that they spent their day or evening there, then you don’t even need to give them a physical item at all.
Panel discussions. These aren’t necessarily bad. I’ve seen some fantastic and inspiring panels with some really smart people (The panels at FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week are a pretty good bet). But a well-prepared, engaging presentation can feel like watching a performance. It’s more work for the presenter, but well worth it.
Lack of value. Hosting in-demand speakers is going to be expensive and I think the right audience appreciates that and is prepared to pay accordingly. Nothing about putting on a memorable event is cheap. But when deciding how much to charge, think about what you as the host are getting out of it. If hosting this events puts your startup in front of 1,000 members of your target audience or some of your target investors, it may be worth taking a hit on the ticket price to make sure people don’t feel disappointed.
Feel free to let us know what you love and hate when it comes to industry events. Plus, keep an eye out for your invite to an 88 Creative-hosted event in 2016. We promise it will be awesome.