RSVP Today: Making sure the right people are in the room for your event

March 25, 2019

My first article in October covered tips and tricks to help execute your event without a hitch. Nailing down those logistics can be a full-time job in and of itself, but all of that planning will mean nothing if you neglect what SHOULD be one of your first tasks: your guest list.

Consider your event’s ultimate goal: is it to thank stakeholders and donors? To enhance your organization’s public image? A paid event open to the public? Each will call for a different guest list with unique challenges. Consider these tips:

Stakeholder Engagement
Stakeholder events, like receptions or lunches, are a great way to thank corporate sponsors, board members or community partners. A little recognition can go a long way, as long as you: 1. Don’t leave anyone off the list, and 2. Make sure you’re working with up-to-date contact information.

Your organization’s stakeholders are among the most critical relationships to invest in (if not the most important). Communicate regularly, and allow plenty of lead-time for those pesky e-mail bounce-backs. It’s important to make these communications as personal as possible. If a stakeholder thinks they’re just one of a hundred on a BCC, they may not feel valued. Avoid this with a phone call, hand-addressing an invitation, or by sending a direct email.

Internal / Employee Engagement
Whether it’s an afternoon outing morale booster for a small firm, or day-long event for hundreds of employees, recognizing your internal team is as critical as recognizing any external stakeholders.

Communicating early and often will allow your team to plan for the addition to their schedules, and give them something to work toward. For internal communication, choose the outlet that works best for you. While e-mail might seem obvious, some of our clients work without company-wide email systems. So, instead of a group text or calendar invite, old-fashioned flyers in high-traffic areas like break rooms or front desks might work best.

New Audiences
If your organization is seeking to build brand awareness or expand its membership, you’re likely hosting a paid event that’s open to the public (e.g., conferences, networking event, lunch-and-learn, etc.). In this case, your guest list will help determine your program – will someone outside your organization understand the topic or speaker? If the program is too narrow or niche, it may be less appealing to new attendees. Well-rounded event programs should offer multiple industry perspectives to inform – but not overwhelm – attendees.

A final consideration: What about media?
If you’re planning on telling the world about your event, save room on your guest list for media. Pitching and securing coverage is an entirely different beast; start by listing your desired outlets and make contact a few days before your event. Media advisories with the basics are a good start, especially if you follow them up with a phone call to the outlets on the morning of the event.

While coverage is never a guarantee (and neither is a flawless event, unfortunately!), thoughtful planning and attention to your guest list will you give you a much better shot at success.

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