As a business or individual, you may find yourself throwing an event. A lot of energy gets put into the preparation and actually hosting the event, so by the time it’s over, most of us don’t want to do anymore work. But, to take your event from “good” to “great,” consider some of these ideas for following up with attendees after the “party.” Start with a “Thank You,” maybe a survey for feedback, and see where it goes from there!
Note: This might be our last broadcast from our current office. Next week, we may have a different wall behind us!
Most businesses have some sort of scheduling aspect (we tried to think of examples of businesses that don’t need scheduling, and it was surprisingly difficult).
When it comes to adding an online scheduling or booking program to your website, you want to consider a few things before committing:
1) How often does the event occur? Is it a regularly occurring event (i.e. once a week) or One and Done (i.e. a conference)?
2) Do want people to pay online or hold payment (a la hotel)?
3) Is this for internal use (scheduling employees) or customer use (i.e. booking a room/provider)?
4) What is it you’re scheduling? A place (room, seat, etc), person (doctor, hair dresser), or a time slot?
And, finally, remember to test out your scheduling software before launching it to the public, or whoever is going to be using it. You want to make people feel smart and make sure they understand what they’re booking, after all!
While most booking software costs money, think about a) how much time you’ll save by having a program handle this aspect of your business for you and b) utilizing the free trial period (a good 95% of these programs offer a 1 month free trial period, so you can really determine if it’s the best fit for your business needs).
If you have any topic requests for us, send us an email, comment on the video, or visit our website at www.breakingeveninc.com!
In our first couple blog posts of the series, we discussed the basics of online sales and what to consider when selling products. Selling tangible objects seems pretty straightforward, but what if your business a) is a venue, like a community center or stadium, or b) puts on a certain amount of events (or, as I like to call them, funtivities) each year? It’s not the same as selling a physical product on an ecommerce site. I only recently began to appreciate the many considerations of online booking when working on booking for Anchorspace this past month.
1) How does booking work?
There are two ways we can think about online scheduling. Option 1 is a “Class” event (there is a set number of attendees in one space). Say you’re a higher education institution or a local YMCA. You have multiple instructors offering all sorts of classes at various times, or just one or two classes going every six months. Or, maybe you’re a business like us, and offer a workshop once or twice a year that has roughly 30 spaces open. With this type of scheduling, you want the registration to stop once you reach the desired number of participants. At Anchorspace, for instance, there are 4 desk spaces available to daily users. It’d be inconvenient (and not to mention confusing) to have people signing up for the space even after the four person limit.
The other event type is a “Booking”- perhaps a “book now” situation for car maintenance or a haircut, or renting a bowling alley for a birthday party. This is more about attributing a certain time slot with a certain place/person, regardless of numbers. As the business, you don’t need to sell a ticket to each individual coming to the bowling alley birthday party- you just need to indicate to others that it’s already being used at that time. An example: the conference room at Anchorspace is available for booking every hour. We don’t need to know how many people will be using it (I mean, after 10 people elbow room becomes a concern), just whether or not it’s available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Discerning between these types of events will help narrow down the scheduling software that makes the most sense for you (some handle “class” types better than “booking” types).
2) How many people can attend?
Selling tickets for a rural high school’s prom is a slightly different experience than selling tickets to a Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
If you have tens of thousands of people purchasing tickets through your website, you’ll want to invest some money in a program that can handle that amount of traffic. A smaller venue probably doesn’t need quite as much attention, and can get by without all the complex bells and whistles.
3) How often does this event occur?
Is this a “one and done” event (sports game, New Year’s Eve Party) or recurring (a horse drawn carriage tour that leaves every two hours)? Certain plugins, like Tickera, are intended solely for “one and done” events. Maybe you’ve seen this in action, like a Bonnaroo 2015 site or Wordcamp Boston 2015. These events happen once a year, and often have their own website (though it may be linked to something larger).
Other plugins, like Events Manager, are made for recurring events, or businesses that host multiple events. With Events Manager, you can display a calendar in the widget area in the sidebar, along with your top 5 (or so) upcoming events. The example below is from the Grand Ole Opry. As you might guess, they have an event almost every day, and they have a vast number of users to accommodate in a buyer experience. Their event software is pretty robust and offers different viewing options to cater to the needs of many.
4) How does payment work?
Do you want to require people to pay in full at the time of booking, or just hold their card information? (Remember, if you decide to take payment through your website, it’s important to have SSL and a payment gateway in place). Not all plugins integrate with all payment gateways- but there is something called Mijreh, a PCI compliant plugin that links ecommerce systems with payment gateways. As a disclaimer, I’ve never used this plugin, but have seen it referenced in my travels online and thought it worth pointing out.
(Some places may have free events, but since this series is about selling stuff, I’m going to save myself some sanity and neglect such events for now).
All of these questions should help narrow down what you need to look for in event management software. This will also determine how much moneyu you’ll throw down. Most online scheduling software will give you a free month trial to decide whether it’s a good fit for your company’s needs. After that, the pay structure varies. Full Slate, for instance, is around $30/month, but increases an extra $15 for each additional staff member. TicketTailor and Events Manager have a flat yearly rate. Some plugins will take out a certain percentage for commission, so be mindful of that as you’re looking around. Bonus: many offer discounts for non-profits,
Next week, we’ll explore the topic of E-products!
No matter what kind of business your in, chances are you’ve had to host an event. Or will at some point.
Most of us like the actual event more than the stuff leading up to it, myself included. After hosting at least 20 workshops, here are some high and low tech ideas we’ve learned to make hosting your next event less painful.
Put event information everywhere.
For our last workshop, we created a Facebook event on our business Facebook page, put a snippet on the ‘Events’ page of our website, sent out a press release, emailed the local Chambers of Commerce to promote it, tweeted out the registration link a few times, and sent out notice of it in our last two email newsletters. (We still got messages about people not hearing about it, and you will too. You can’t win them all!) But put all the information for the event in every place you chose to advertise it you can so that people can note the day, time, location, etc. from wherever they first find the information. Because while it doesn’t make your life easy, it makes theirs easier.
Send an information email to who is going before the event.
People like having a lot of information, myself included. Sending an email (blind copy all the recipients) with directions, the internet password at the venue, etc. will save you at least a dozen emails or phone calls to answer. Bonus is the people in the know can forward it on or tell the people who don’t know, meaning you won’t have to have those conversations either.
If you want people to show up and pay, let them pay online.
You know what’s not fun? Managing 100 checks, trying to note who paid and who didn’t while you try to set up for your event. Having online payment/registration means less day of event headaches and gives you a fairly firm head count. We use Eventbrite and even though they take 3% of ticket sales, the lack of hassle is well worth it.
Create a hashtag for your event.
If you are at an event with social media types, at the beginning let everyone know they can use a specific hashtag so you can follow Twitter, Instagram, and other event related shares. For example, at the Joomla World Conference, we all used #jwc12 so we were able to follow what was going on with different speakers, when lunch was being served, and other important information. Even if the conference isn’t big, hashtags can let you follow the conversation and questions during the event.
If your event participants aren’t social media savvy, consider text messaging.
The makers of Mailchimp have a mass texting app called Gather. (Thanks to Matt at Svaha LLC for that find!) Attendees of your event can get text alerts related to your event (sudden location change or weather cancellations for example) at a very low cost to you.
Cohost the event.
Having an event cohost means you get double the exposure while doing the same amount of work. Find an event partner that makes sense. For the last workshop for example, we partnered with the Maine Crafts Guild who promoted the workshop to their email newsletter recipients and Facebook fans. We were then able to gear the workshop towards artists, so it was a win-win. We got a full room and they got a workshop specifically for them.
Don’t overlook the little things.
Nametags help shy people talk to each other. Coffee and treats make people happy. Good background music as people come in can set a tone. Comfy chairs mean people will sit a little happier for two hours. Think about the little things that don’t cost a lot that you can provide to make your attendees have a bit more fun.
So while we aren’t the perfect event hosts, a mixture of internet and in person efforts, you can fearlessly host your next event.
What are your favorite event hosting tricks?