We recently went to see a potential customer who is looking to host an event to acquire new businesses. Whilst chatting about previous events they had done, which hadn’t turned out as well as they’d hoped, it reminded me of a brilliant example of how NOT to arrange an event.
About five years ago, I received an invite to a restaurant/bar in Cambridge to sample their Christmas menu for FREE with the intention of tempting me to book the company Christmas party there. It stated the date and time and to bring a colleague if I wished. Great! I wasn’t the person who booked the company party, so had no idea why the letter was sent to me, but I wrote it in my diary and had no problem finding a colleague who was equally up for dining sumptuously for free.
When we arrived at the venue, we saw that the entire restaurant (with a huge capacity) was roped off specifically for the Christmas tasting event. Around twenty waiting staff were immaculately dressed and lined up along the wall, there were at least a couple of dozen bottles of wine and champagne chilling, red wine also uncorked and lined up on the table. There was a huge table set out, laden with huge roast turkeys, roast beef and probably a pig with an apple in its mouth and a swan wearing a crown, if my memory serves me correctly. There were plates of starters, vegetable side dishes, vegetarian dishes and a table of desserts stretching as far as the eye could see.
And there was me. And my colleague. And no-one else.
We did indeed dine sumptuously that night. Our glass was always full, thanks to the team of waiting staff with nothing to do but cater for our every whim. We sampled every single dish on the menu, many times. We were then joined by a very upset lady. The lady who had organised the event.
“I don’t understand…”, she said to us. “I sent out 250 letters, each saying they could bring a colleague. We were expecting 500 people tonight and that’s what I told the manager. I’m in SO much trouble tomorrow”.
Moral of the story:
1. Make sure you send the letter to the right people. Those that make the decisions.
2. If you get a 5% response rate then you are doing very, VERY well. With 250 letters sent out, I would be looking at probably 12-13 people attending. If they bring a guest, then around 25. Not 100% of the people you mail will want to/be able to attend. Send the letters out in batches to gauge the response rate.
3. Ensure that your letter has a reply mechanism so people can RSVP. Get the name and contact details of attendee and name of their guest. Get their job titles too.
4. Phone all those confirmed attendees closer to the date to double check they are STILL coming.
5. Don’t uncork all the wine before everyone turns up.