Happy Tuesday, folks!
Our last Cocktails with Claire x Ty Hunter of 2017 went down this past Saturday in Atlanta! My fellow blogging Bombshell @GorgeousinGrey hit me up, writing, “You’ve come so far with Cocktails with Claire! I wanna incorporate an event series, but I’m scared. Do you have a post with advice? Or can you offer me some?” Yep, I can! Cocktails with Claire began as a notion, or rather a demand to actually meet n greet readers in cities across the globe. It started off as a networking party with no set program, and over the past 4 years, we’ve incorporated shopping and panels, held the event in glorious environs and in lamp shops, done things on a shoe string or with no limit, and I’ve learned quite a bit in the process.
Read on for 10 tips:
1. Find the right event planner.
Finding the right event planner is the key to having a great event. Finding the best person to help you can take time, just as it takes time to build the perfect team. One of my best friends, Tara, lent her hand in helping me with my first series of events, and she was great! Since Tara, I’ve used wedding planners moonlighting as event gurus, homegirls who said they had experience, and all sorts of people!
I’d say the perfect event planner must have three key qualities: they MUST adhere to your proposed budget. They must have some sort of experience. And they must care about YOU as a person and be invested in you elevating and becoming the best version of yourself.
I used the same event planner for quite some time. She was great and she found us beautiful venues and great perks. BUT even though I told her I was trying to turn some kind of profit, she would conceal thousands of dollars of hidden costs (rental fees, deposits, and AV equipment) until the day before. It’s almost as if she was trying to sabotage me!
It’s great to have a beautiful event, but whoever you are working with in any capacity of your business must be able to understand that the budget is what the budget is. Don’t go over budget. Stay under budget. And at the end of the day, they have to make sure you are happy!
In my experience, friends that you have known for quite some time who also happen to have experience in event planning are the best. If you are trying to build and grow, take a look at your peer space and see who is in your phone who could be down to help. Continue to flourish from there!
2. The Venue is Everything; Make Sure You See the Venue Before You Have Your Event!
I’ve spent a ton of money of swanky all white spaces with expansive views of the city.
I’ve also saved and had events in fan factories in strip malls. God bless you guys for still showing up, even if the venue makes you go Hmm…
That said, the venue is key to having a wonderful experience. The atmosphere sets the tone. Of course we’ve made it work with whatever we find, but I want my events to be luxuriously transformative. So no more fan factories or strip malls!
Already have venues in mind way in advance. Step foot in them. Ask for pictures or video. Do your research. The right venue is key!
3. Plan In Advance
To be totally transparent, I’ll let you know that our most recent Atlanta event was put together in 3 weeks. We hadn’t seen the venue in person until the day before. GOD has our back, so it went well, but when I first stepped in Soho Atlanta, I thought: how is the panel going to go? Where will the VIP’s sit? Etc. Again, it all ended up working out, but a lot of last minute anxiety could have been alleviated with proper planning (this is the case for all things in life).
We have learned from our mistakes and are starting planning NOW for 2018. We have dates set in stone and are already researching venues and putting down deposits. The more far in advance you can plan, the more smoothly things will go.
In this age of social media, you know that if there isn’t a picture, it didn’t happen. Having the event itself is fine, but capturing the moment is of supreme importance.
In some cities I invest heavily in photographers and videographers. In other places, I’m able to find people who are willing to work in exchange for photo credit. With volunteer photographers, you never know what you’re going to get.
To be safe, make sure you have at least two photographers on deck and be clear with directions regarding what they should cover. If you want one to capture the sponsors, then make sure they do that.
If you want one on street style, make sure they’re on top of it!
We only had a picture disaster when we had one photographer, who unfortunately didn’t have a ton of experience. You can find people to volunteer, but if you do, make sure all your bases are covered and that you have a back up.
5. Show Love To Your Sponsors
OK, so it’s hard for an event to come to fruition without some sort of sponsorship. Everything from travel to venues to photography costs can get pricey. If a company is giving you money or product to produce an event, make sure you say…thank you.
If they paid to have an on site presence, make sure they have a presence. Mention them in your recap. Take pictures with the product. Post them on Instagram. If they are paying you, you are working for them. Make them happy.
6. Get Sponsors or Sell Tickets to Cover Costs
Some of you might wonder how to get sponsors. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Cocktails with Claire’s story of having a sponsor pledge to support us in year one and ultimately fall through. We sold tickets to cover costs, but still ended up in the red.
That said, Sponsors have to be sure you’re going to be responsible with their money. Sponsors have to be sure that your event aligns with their core goals and market. Sponsors have to see longevity, a mission and a purpose.
That said, it might be hard to find sponsors on year one. But after your first event, compile all those beautiful pictures and images, plan your future dates, and put it into a deck. Reach out to companies that make sense; companies you have worked with in the past, or companies you aspire to work with.
Know that sometimes people will give you product instead of funds. Take what you can get until you can get what you want. Prepare a presentation and keep going for it until you’ve got what you need!
7. Make Sure Your Event Has A Purpose
It’s hard for people to get behind a party whose sole purpose is to have drinks and network! Our shopping aspect was great, but we realized that readers weren’t coming to shop–they were coming to be inspired and to get advice! So we’ve cooled it with the shopping aspect (though we might have a convention one day soon), and added fuel to the fire of our panel discussions. Our panel discussions are where I feel attendees really get value from the event–so we’re excited to have more!
The goal of our events is to give an overlooked yet powerful community an opportunity to network, build, and learn, all while showing off their style. Like all things in life, if you don’t have a goal, you can’t score.
8. Promote, Promote, Promote
Any event needs at least two weeks of solid promotion in order to be successful. Don’t promote it in the same way, all the time. For CWC, we have flyers and videos; we create graphics for panelists and show pictures of food and drink. Also, our promo runs are pretty relentless. In the week before an event, you might see promos twice a day. We ask other people in the host city to post the flyer. We really go for it!
People can’t come if they don’t know an event is happening, so use all the resources available to you to make sure you spread the word. Hop on the radio, do TV, chat with local media, and invite influencers to make sure as many people as possible know what’s going on.
9. Show Love to Guests
Y’all know I love ya like cooked food! But I’ll admit, my very first Cocktails with Claire, I had a little social anxiety and ended up talking to my friends and not making the rounds around the room. Big mistake! Someone left a comment on the recap post saying I wasn’t talking to anyone and that they felt left out of the fun. I took that criticism and said: no more!
If someone is spending money and time to patronize you and uplift you, say thanks. Even if it’s a bit awkward at first (before the cocktails flow), as soon as I step into a room at Cocktails with Claire, I go around the room and greet everyone and say thank you for coming. I take every single selfie and answer as many questions as I can because I am grateful!
You want everyone who comes to leave with a wonderful feeling. And you want them to come again!
10. Have fun!
Events can be stressful and anxiety inducing, but remember…it’s a party. After all the logistics are handled, be sure to have a good time. Take note of what went wrong and plan better for the future. Everything gets better with time…