Hosting a Successful Client Event
Page Client Development Manager Sara Ibarra, AIA, focuses on connective relationships from the business side of architectural organizations. She shares a few tips on organizing a successful client event and what it takes to increase your company’s brand recognition.
Recently, Page was a sponsor of the Society for College and University Planning 50th Annual (SCUP 50) International Conference in Chicago. Sara oversaw the planning and execution of a successful conference booth presence, client dinner and cocktail event for attendees.
She explains that successful event planning takes time. On average, Sara spent approximately two hours a day every day for three months to plan the SCUP 50 conference booth, cocktail hour and client dinner.
Make your conference booth noticeable
- Prepare any physical and/or written materials well in advance and solicit input from your company’s brand and/or marketing teams.
- Use large, attention-getting banners and posters at your booth.
- Offer a draw to your booth such as a presentation or free report that is relevant to the nature of the event.
- Check with event organizers to see if you can receive an advance list of attendees and their emails through a sponsorship or purchase of booth space.
- Send out an advance e-notification announcing your presence, booth location and any scheduled events.
- Plan a schedule of posts throughout the conference on your company’s digital media accounts and encourage employees attending to use the event’s official hashtag (i.e. #SCUP50). Be sure to also tag your firm’s handle to keep everyone updated.
Organize a cocktail hour
- If it’s an open event, create an ad for inclusion in the conference program or website. Be sure to reference the proximity to the conference and how people can get there.
- Create a matrix spreadsheet of key invitees to personally reach out to.
- Promote your event in advance on your firm’s digital media accounts using the conference’s official hashtag.
- Be sure all the attendees from your firm are reminded to invite each person with whom they speak during the course of the conference.
- Arrive at the venue early to speak to key personnel from valet parkers or doormen to hosts, bartenders and managers to ensure they all understand the nature of the event. Offer yourself as a contact if someone has a question or issue and tell them how you want to be reached – in person or by phone.
- Be sure to serve appetizers to reduce overconsumption of alcohol and to close the bar on time to limit your firm's liability as host.
Coordinate a client dinner
- Be clever when choosing a restaurant – no steakhouses
- Ensure clients receive personal invitations from people at your firm with whom they have a relationship
- Limit the amount of consultants
- Scout potential dinner locations in advance. Sara isn’t located in Chicago so she started a month before SCUP 50.
- Make reservations, but continue to look for a possible better spot - previous reservations can always be cancelled.
- Create a general follow-up with the final location and time to be sent to an email distribution list a few days before the event. Don’t forget to ask about any dietary restrictions!
- Open a bar tab before the dinner to allow people to mingle without feeling rushed to be seated, and to add a little extra time for anyone coming in late.
- Handwrite assigned dinner seats, so you can make any last minute changes.
- In the United States, adding wine service during the dinner is highly recommended.
- Ensure the host(s) from your firm interact with others by visiting other tables after dinner when dessert is on its way.
- Follow up with a thank you to each attendee afterward.
Always remember to have fun!
Sara Ibarra, AIA