Whether it's a holiday lunch for coworkers and/or customers, a workshop for business owners and entrepreneurs, a meet-and-greet with a local author or artist, or just a way to thank your community; hosting an event is a great way to meet people, attract new customers, cement relationships with existing customers, and build excitement about your business.

While planning and pulling off a great event can be stressful, the following tips should help you execute your next event like a pro:

1. Set Goals

When you decide to host an event, your first step is to define what you hope to accomplish. Once you've identified your goals and expectations you can determine what kind of event will resonate with your intended audience. Do you want to raise your business or personal profile, build your mailing list of contacts and potential customers, or sell products? Set goals first, then determine the type of event that will best achieve them.

2. Figure Out the Scope

Will you have food, refreshments, entertainment, workshops or speakers? Scale the event's scope to your budget, level of experience, and what you plan to offer to your attendees. If you've never held an event before, you probably shouldn't start by trying to host a day-long business conference for hundreds of attendees in a massive ballroom. A one-hour workshop in a smaller space can achieve many of the same goals with much less risk.

3. Plan for Everything

Timing is crucial to the success of any event. Consider key dates and other events in the community that might compete with yours. Also think about how much time attendees will need to plan ahead to attend, and how much time you'll need to prepare for the event. Mentally walk through every step of the event. Picture everything you will need - from tables and chairs to PA system and projector. Also consider anything that could go wrong and what (and who) you'll need to have on hand to handle any issues.

To keep your event on track, create a spreadsheet and use individual tabs for each event category, such as venue, speakers, schedule, agenda and travel. This way, you can list each activity or task, the people responsible for each part of the process, and all the relevant deadlines.

4. Select a Great Local Event Space

Once you decide the type of event you'd like to host, it's time to find a local event venue that allows you to bring your plan to life. It's important to find a space in a convenient area with a vibrant atmosphere so attendees feel comfortable and willing to make the commute.

CoLab's waterfront event room has been used to host business seminars and classes, wedding showers and rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, group meetings, video and photo shoots, and more. You do not have to be a CoLab member to rent our event space, although members do get a discount on the hourly rental rate. We've had numerous renters and guests tell us they "can't believe there is such a great local event space for rent," and we'd love to host your next business or personal event.

If you have a tight budget, consider lowering costs by holding the event at a less popular time when the venue is more likely to be available, such as hosting a networking breakfast on a Monday morning.

Consider involving the local community as much as you can. If possible, use local vendors for catering, rentals, and any other needs. By doing this, you are supporting the local community and giving them the opportunity to network and expand their businesses while also building up some goodwill and increasing the likelihood they will recommend you to their customers and contacts at some point in the future.

5. Set Responsibilities

Who will be in charge? Whether it's you or a coworker, you need one person to take ownership and manage all the details, and others to help with the rest of the moving parts. Making sure responsibilities are set ensures you don't end up without chairs at your conference or glasses at your wine tasting.

6. Don't Stop Marketing

Allow enough time to get the word out about your event. Your marketing plan could include email outreach, direct mail, in-store signage, and radio, print, online and television advertising. Send local reporters and bloggers a press release about your upcoming event, invite them to cover the event and send them a follow-up press release after the event. The publicity can help spread the word about your business even to those who can't attend. Use social media to get your target audience excited about the event. You can announce the event well in advance, post pictures of and news about your preparations, and invite customers to the event.

Figure out how you'll market to your attendees at the event, whether with business cards and brochures, discount coupons or gift cards, or product giveaways and contests. Be sure to gather attendees' contact information with a sign-in sheet you can use for marketing outreach after the event.

7. Stay Positive

If mistakes happen, your attitude is what matters most. If you stay positive, keep your sense of humor and make your customers feel welcome and happy they came, it won't matter so much that there isn't enough pizza for everyone. Learn from your mistakes and know you'll do better next time.

8. Follow up

Follow up with attendees to thank them and offer them something special, such as a discount, free trial or invitation to your next event. Assess how well your event achieved your goals. How many new customers showed up? How many returning customers? How many products did you sell? How many attendees do you expect to make purchases in the months following the event? Developing your own metrics and tracking them will help ensure your events pay off and improve in the future.

It's important to approach each gathering with an understanding of the five elements of event management - research, design, planning, coordination, and evaluation. Once an event is broken up into these manageable stages, it is much easier to plan and pull together the moving pieces needed to bring it to life. If you keep that in mind and follow the steps outlined above, there is no reason your next event can't be a major success.

If you are planning an event and need a great, versatile event room for rent in Rhode Island, call, email or stop by CoLab in the heart of Pawtuxet Village (Cranston, Rhode Island) anytime for a tour of our space.

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