Creating, promoting, and facilitating a marketing event can be a stressful experience, but you’ll find that the juice is worth the squeeze. Ideally, the speaker imparts battle-tested strategies and which pitfalls to avoid to a captive audience, eager to gain any advantage that separates them from the competition. Partnerships can be formed, connections made, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a free meal out of it. Marketing events are generally a win for everyone involved, but they take a decent amount of preparation. Here’s what you need to do to ensure success:

Book an appropriate venue

You need a space to before you can determine your potential headcount. You don’t need to hold your event in a huge ballroom just to impress people (though it wouldn’t hurt if you had that kind of pull). Ideally, you’ll find a place with a sound system, a projector, and enough room for people to sit. Coworking spaces are great because there’s usually a built-in audience since most people there are fledgling companies that could use some help in one form or another. But even these are not hard and fast rules — it doesn’t have to be so formal. People will go to an apartment if the speaker is good enough, that’s how Simon Sinek got his start on the public speaking circuit.

Find great speakers

If you have friends in high places, definitely call in some favors to see if they themselves or someone they know will speak at your event. If you don’t, thankfully you have the internet. Your aim should be people who are experienced and knowledgeable on topics that people are interested in.  Slideshare is a great place to find speakers and key topics that will draw an audience. It gives you the chance to see how popular your event topic is and if the speaker’s slides are visually pleasing. From there you can cross reference them on YouTube to see if they’re dynamic, charismatic speakers. While these traits and skills are nice to have, they go out the window if they’re imparting something that you can’t get anywhere else. People don’t line up to see Warren Buffett for his animal magnetism — they just want to learn from him.

Get the word out

Don’t rely on your speaker to attract an audience, they may be a draw but you have to make sure people know about it. Announce your event to your email list (if you have one) and on your social media channels. Post in local Facebook and LinkedIn groups affiliated with your topic, create a hashtag for Twitter and Instagram and seek out people in your area to connect with. Paid ads on Facebook are an effective means of promoting your event as long as you know who to target and have the goods to back it up. But even more efficient than that is retargeting the people that have paid a visit to your site, assuming you have a Facebook pixel. Last but not least, put your event discovery sites like Eventbrite and Meetup.

Have people sign in

Get the name and email of everyone who showed up to your event through a sign in software like Envoy, Convergent, VPass, or good ol’ fashion pen and paper. Ideally, you inquire about how your guest heard about the event and what they hope to get out of it; more information makes for more customization, leading to a better user experience. If you find enough people’s interests align, you can tailor your event to your audience and start creating a sense of community.

Provide food and beverages

 
Who doesn’t like tiny, free sandwiches that you can eat with toothpicks? Having a little snack station can ease the tension of strangers getting together for the first time, allowing them to break the ice in a natural way. It gives them the incentive to come earlier and leave later. Don’t forget the power of sponsorships. Asking a local business to provide food in exchange for promo can support in reducing your budget.

Assessment and follow up

 
Assess what went well and what didn’t. Did you meet your attendance goal? Were your presenters up to par? Did your audience leave with something more than what they came in with? Which of your planning methods proved themselves to be fruitful? When the event is over, send out an email to your attendees with your speaker’s notes and other resources. Finally, reach out to them again before your next event and tell them what to expect.

You might be wondering why someone would want to go through the trouble of putting one together for little to no money, and there are a few great reasons. Marketing events are fantastic for lead generation if you are showcasing your product or service. They can facilitate partnerships and business deals between you and your guests, or simply amongst themselves. Either way, you are cultivating a community of people who all have similar goals, the consequences of which will most likely bring a lot of value to not only your life but those around you.

These are the keys to throwing great marketing events and there’s so much more to go over but that’s for another time.