Holding your own business event is a good way to show your product or service in a tailor-made setting, without the distraction of other competing exhibitors. Holding a private exhibition often has an exclusivity that is appealing to your invited guests.
With a custom event you control everything, from the venue to the timing. The good news is that you and your business are in the spotlight - but the bad news is, if you get things wrong, there's nowhere to hide.
Why choose to hold a custom event?
A custom event can be anything from a shop opening to an art exhibition. You can host product demonstrations in a hotel suite, or hold seminars in a meeting room. You can devise a roadshow, or hold an open house at your premises.
In short, you can create an event that exactly matches your needs and the needs of your target market.
Holding your own event enables you to reach prospective customers directly. This can be useful if your products are usually sold through a network of distributors. As well as showing off your wares, customers can meet the person behind the product, whether you're an artist, an inventor or an entrepreneur.
Tailor-made events are useful to demonstrate expertise. Law firms, accountancy firms and financial advisors, for example, can attract potential clients by holding seminars that explain issues and offer solutions.
It's a good idea to produce your own event if your customer base is predominantly local - they may not travel to established events that are further afield.
How to make your event a success
Producing your own event isn't easy and requires forward planning. It's vital to decide what you want to achieve and who you want to attend. Be realistic about your objectives and set a budget - costs can quickly escalate.
Set the tone of the event in advance. Some customers prefer an appointment-based event, giving them a chance to get a hands-on product demonstration and personal attention. Others prefer the buzz of a well-attended event where there are opportunities for networking.
You may be able to borrow good ideas from established exhibitions for your own event. If you need ideas or assistance, the International Confex exhibition is the place to meet experts and suppliers from the events industry.
Getting people to come to your event
The success of your event certainly depends on getting the right people to attend. You need to make your event attractive and convenient for your target audience. Send personal invites and customised direct mail, with compelling reasons to come along.
Exclusivity is a good incentive, and holding a private sales event or an invitation-only launch can be a good strategy.
It can be hard to attract visitors to a small event. You could run a joint event with a complementary partner to make a bigger impact and bring in more visitors.
Alternatively, you may decide that it would be more effective to take your products to your customers rather than expecting them to come to you. If your audience are young people, for example, hold your event in a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon. If they're parents, try a family-friendly weekend event in a local park or school playing field.
Sending invitations should be part of your promotion, even if your event is open to all. You should send special invitations to key decision makers and local VIPs as well as loyal customers, new prospects and the media. Distribute a press release in advance to get coverage of the event.
Managing the event on the day
The logistical challenges of running a successful business event are considerable. You have to find the right venue and organise catering. Other important issues are signage, seating, audio visual facilities, lighting, display stands and promotional literature.
If you have speakers or contributors, somebody will need to coordinate them and ensure they have all the information and facilities (such as projectors or speaker systems) that they need. Any technical equipment will need to be tested in advance, and back-up plans made in case of on-the-day hiccups.
You must establish whether you and your staff are capable of producing a successful event between yourself, or whether it would be better to use a specialist events company.
On the day, you need to be visible and make time to meet and greet. People often come to these events specifically to make contact with the person behind the product or service - so you need to ensure you speak to all the key guests. Brief your staff so they can answer queries and be ambassadors for your business.
Goodwill gestures are often appropriate. You could give guests a free sample or a branded promotional item. Offering deals and discounts can be a good way both to attract customers and make sales on the day.