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We’ve now reached the fourth stage of the event management cycle – hosting the event:
- Planning the event: From idea to action plan.
- Organising the event: From action plan to execution.
- Promoting the event: Spreading the word and selling tickets.
- Hosting the event: Making sure things run smoothly on the day.
- After the event: Thank yous and follow ups.
By now, you know where to find inspiration for an event, how to put an event together and how to get the word out. It’s time to look at how to host an event on the day.
Hosting your event
This is the moment you’ve been building up to for weeks or even months. You have the perfect team, a great event agenda, and—judging by the ticket sales—lots of guests showing up.
It’s time to sit back and relax!
Oops, no. You’ll have time for that later. Today, you’ve got to step it up one last time and make sure that the day of the event lives up to the hype. After all, you want the event to do justice to all of that planning and organising.
Let’s look at how to host the event now that the day has arrived.
10 things you can do right now
Here are the 10 steps you can take to ensure you host the event successfully.
1. Prep the venue
Before anyone shows up, you’ll want to have your venue set up and get ready to welcome the guests. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to run around getting the last things in place in the middle of the event.
Arrive early with your team and get the venue ready. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
- Place the furniture (registration tables, sitting arrangements, and so on)
- Decorate the venue
- Check that all IT, audio, and video equipment is functioning
- Prepare the stage and any props your speakers or performers might need
- Make sure the external caterers (if any) have arrived and started their preparations
- Ensure that any refreshments—like welcome drinks—are in place
- Set up the banners and other materials from your sponsors
- Double-check your safety & security arrangements (first aid kits are in place, fire escapes aren’t blocked, etc.)
If you have a team of volunteers helping you out, make sure they’re briefed on their assigned duties and know the layout of the place.
Do a final walk through the venue shortly before the first guests or performers are due to arrive to catch anything you might have missed.
2. Accommodate your performers / speakers
If your event relies on any performers or speakers, make sure you have people taking care of welcoming them and attending to their needs. You don’t want them hungry, thirsty, or confused about their roles in the event.
In many cases, you’ll get a prep list from these performers with “must have” equipment, props, and other requirements. Go through the list and check that you have everything they might need.
If you haven’t met then in person before, make sure to introduce yourself. You want to show your appreciation and make yourself approachable in case they have any questions or feedback during the event.
3. Take care of guest registration
You should have a team of people manning the doors to take care of things like registering new arrivals, scanning their tickets, serving welcome drinks, handing out name tags, and so on.
Check that your barcode or QR scanners are set up properly. If you’re using an event platform that offers a free ticket scanning app (like Billetto), make sure that the relevant members of your team have the app installed in advance. It’s a good idea to do a few test scans and check that everything is working as intended.
If you’ve printed out a guest list and are crossing people off by hand, keep track of how many have showed up and adjust your staffing accordingly.
4. Help guests navigate
Have you ever arrived to an event and ended up roaming around the building to look for the entrance? Then you know just how frustrating that is. Don’t ever put your guests in the same situation. This is your chance to make a good first impression instead of starting off on the wrong foot.
Make sure there are sufficient signs around the venue and that the paths are clearly marked. If your event has reserved seating, check that every row and seat are clearly marked and easy to read. Here are the typical items that require clear signage:
- Main entrance(s)
- Primary event location (whether it’s the conference room, exhibition hall, or the dance floor)
- Rooms for workshops and breakaway sessions
- Food & beverage facilities
- Designated smoking areas (if any)
- Emergency exits
- Charging stations for people’s smartphones, etc.
It’s best to have at least a few volunteers be exclusively responsible for helping guests navigate your venue. Make sure they are easily identifiable via unique uniform, special badges, and so on.
5. Encourage participation
You didn’t work so hard on getting everyone here only to have your guests become bored and quickly lose interest. The last thing you want is them being glued to their phones or checking their watches.
If it’s a conference or speaker-focused even, the program should be built around audience participation. Your speakers might consider a Q&A session at the end of their speech and maybe incorporate interactive quizzes into their presentations.
If it’s a casual event, try to arrange for an ice-breaker game or a friendly competition among your guests. Prepare some areas with activities they can engage in on their own time while walking around the venue.
Don’t forget your virtual participants, either. You can consider live streaming your event on Facebook or even go high-tech and jump on the virtual reality bandwagon and let people “attend” your event from a remote location.
6. Inspire social media shares
Your social media promotion doesn’t stop on the day. In fact, now is the perfect chance to create some buzz about your in-progress event.
Get people to use your event hashtag when posting about it on their social media channels or sharing photos and videos from the event. One way to do that is to ask people to tweet questions at the current speaker with a hashtag attached so you can quickly find and sort through them.
Another idea is to have a photobooth or another designated photo location with your event name and hashtag highly visible. Whenever people take and share pictures of themselves, they’ll automatically be promoting your event to their followers.
This will also help you crowdsource great visual material for marketing your future events.
7. Capture the highlights
To your guests, the simple memory of a fun event may be more than enough. As the organiser, you want to make sure you have a record of how the day went.
Your best move is to hire a photographer and/or videographer to capture the event highlights. Not only is this a fantastic source of future marketing material, but you’ll also be able to share something tangible with guests and other participants.
The speakers will surely love having a recording of their talk and your live band won’t pass up a video of themselves performing. Your team and volunteers may appreciate reliving a successful event via photos and videos. After all, they’re too busy during the event to truly feel the vibe.
Besides, seeing someone walking around with a camera can get people excited. It may just be another way to encourage guest participation as they pose for photos.
If you’re hosting a high profile event, you may even consider inviting journalists to cover it and get the word out.
8. Gather ongoing feedback
Use this opportunity to ask for feedback from both your performers and the guests.
While you can get a lot of information by sending out a post-event survey (we’ll cover that in the next chapter), you really won’t have a better chance to hear what people really think about the event. The event is unfolding and people’s feelings about it are fresh in their minds. Don’t wait for these impressions to fade.
The way you do this will depend on how formal your event is and your needs. For instance, you can consider formalising this process and handing out a printed feedback form that guests can fill out in exchange for a perk (free drink, goodie bag, and so on).
Alternatively, you may opt for socialising with your guests and picking up their thoughts while making small talk. Getting people’s input first hand will let you understand not only their rational arguments but their true emotions.
Ask your performers and speakers about how you can do better and what they’d change about the setup. You may not be able to accommodate their needs this time, but you’ll be better prepared for your next event.
9. Keep track of time
Most events will involve at least a few time-sensitive activities and deadlines. Your speakers probably have an allotted time slot. Your DJ might need to take the stage at exactly 11PM. Food and drinks should be served at a certain time. And so on.
On top of that, many venues will have a hard deadline for when your event should wrap up. You definitely don’t want to be rushing through the later parts of your agenda in order to hit this curfew.
Keep track of time and make sure everyone sticks to the programme. Gently remind the speakers how much time they have left to complete their presentations. Check with the ballet dancers to confirm they’re all ready for their big entrance. Help usher the guests to an appropriate room shortly before the next performance is due to take place.
Making things run on time without disrupting the flow of the day might be tricky, so it’s best to have a good plan for how to communicate the deadlines and timing to all participants.
10. Be the last to leave
Once it’s all over, it’s on you to close down and tie up any outstanding tasks.
Say goodbye to and see off the remaining guests.
Make certain that your speakers and performers have no grievances and receive all the attention they need to wrap up (help with equipment, transportation, etc.).
Work with your crew to clean up and dismantle any physical equipment, sponsorship banners, signage, etc. Unless your contract specifies otherwise, you should be leaving your venue in the same condition it was in when you first arrived.
Settle any practical and financial issues with the venue representatives, catering, and any other vendors you may have hired.
Take stock of any items your guests and other participants may have accidentally left behind, as well as any missing equipment and props you might need to find or replace.
Once everything is in order, ensure to reward your team and volunteers for a job well done. Maybe consider a small celebration to mark the successfully completed event. Make arrangements for everyone to get home.
Guess what? You did it! All that planning, administration, and stressful days of last-minute preparations have resulted in a memorable event. Pat yourself on the back.
Now you can finally slow down and catch your breath. The only thing left to do is follow up with everyone involved to leave things on a high note. But that’s a topic for our last chapter.
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