Hosting An Event…

Dec 1, 2009

Whether its’ a car show, dyno day or just a customer appreciation day, hosting an event at your shop or location is a great way to drive traffic and bring people, “potential customers” to you. However, as easy as it looks there are a lot of factors and work that go into making a successful event.

We’ll touch on some of the basics using a dyno day as our example.

Plan out the entire event, before letting people know about it

When deciding to have an upcoming event, you should have a plan precisely in place, before letting anyone not involved in the planning know about it. Because if you start talking about it, everyone has an opinion and you’ll become swamped with more opinions than you need or want and it may cause you to lose focus.

Having a plan ahead of time not only keeps you on track but it will help the event stay focused and become a success.

Outline all your logistics

It has been said, that “love is in the details” and that is definitely true when it comes to having a great event. We all know you love what you do, your customers, your cars, etc. so why not show it by spending a little extra time planning out all the details of your event, no matter how big or small! Even if it goes unsaid, people will recognize and appreciate your efforts and in return respect you and your event and that’s worth a lot!

The logistics [everything from who and how the event will run to what materials are needed and who will obtain them] are the “bread and butter” of any well planned and executed event. They are a main part of your plan but yet often just tossed aside, with a “yep, I have that covered”. Outlining your logistics will not only keep everything on schedule and focused but it will help you to assign other useful members of your team, things to do to help and be accountable for. Be sure to set deadlines on each task and follow up to ensure each item is completed. A little extra planning will mean a lot less headache in the long run.

For a dyno day event, some logistics you should consider are: how many people can you dyno in one day? How many per hour? Does your machine need down time? Do you have more than one person trained to run the dyno [just in case they get sick]? Where will people park? What will people do while other vehicles are being dyno’d? Do you have restrooms? Are they stocked? Do you have extra staff in case people would like to buy things? How will you get the word out about the event? Are there prizes? What are they? When will you give them out? Will there be classes or categories? If, so what will they be and what will the rules be? Will there be food/drink? If so, will that be catered or brought in? Will there be additional vendors? If so, who will you target? Do we need any special permits? If so, how or where do we get them? Will our insurance cover this? To what extent does it cover? Do we need additional insurance?

As you can see, there are a ton of things to think about. The best way is to get together with your planning people and just list out every little thing you can think of until everyone is out of ideas. Start with those and the rest will make themselves known as you go along.

Create a timeline

Now that you have all of your logistics in place, it’s time to add your timelines to your plan. The timeline has many strategic functions. First, the planning timeline will help you keep track of due dates and get all of your logistics organized. As well as, provide order and maintain accountability. No one can do everything without a little help, but you also don’t want to be left “high and dry” at a crucial time, because the person you put in charge forgot and you never checked up to ensure they had accomplished their task.

Next, you will to prepare your event timeline. This will outline what will happen on the day of your event and at what times. When you start getting the word out, people will want to know and plan their days to include your event, so the timeline will become crucial. Be sure to stick to it, as closely has possible, so to not add any additional unwanted drama to your event.

For example: With our dyno day, our planning timeline would list out each logistical task, the date it needs to be completed by and the “drop dead date”. The “drop dead date” is the actual last minute something can be accomplished to still be included. Always, assign your completion dates at least a week before they need to be done, as problems tend to arise and complications happen. There’s no need to put yourself in an unnecessary time crunch.

As for our event timeline, determine the exact number of vehicles that can run in a day, factor in time for the dyno to cool down and the smoke to clear, factor in time for lunch, and then break down the number of vehicles into the classes that have been chosen and determine which class will run at what time. Then if there are prizes, determine when they will be given out and note that too. It’s very typical at an event for these to be the last thing of the day to get people to hang out all day waiting for them and spend more time at your event. If there will be entertainment, add the beginning and end times and so on. This way, as your customers and participants decide to come out, they too can plan accordingly to make it fit in their schedules.

Set a budget

With your plan in place, it’s time to move on to the next important factor in throwing an event, setting a budget. Based on the event you have chosen, there will be a million things you need to plan for in the budget. Keep in mind, costs of running any machinery, employees, catering, any maintenance that may need to be done to your shop, utilities, permits, prizes/T-shirts/coupons, etc. There will be lots of costs associated with your event, plan for all of them so there are no surprises and you won’t break the bank. Be sure to build a little cushion in your budget for the “Murphy’s law” factor of the possibility of what could go wrong might go wrong.  Having and sticking to this budget is crucial in making your event a success as well as helping you to measure your ROI [return on investment] to determine if this is something you would like to do again.

Using our dyno day example let’s think about all the potential factors that would go into our budget for this event: advertising, coupons, extra employees, possible training on the equipment, servicing of the dyno, increased insurance, prizes, any permits, extra utilities, extra restrooms (depending on event size and location), food and drinks, entertainment, etc. Be sure to double check your logistics list to make sure that there is nothing on there that could additionally add costs, that hasn’t been accounted for. Nothing is to say that your event has to have all of these things, but these are just some of the more common ones you might want to consider and plan for in your budget.

You have a plan, stick to it!

Ok, you have this great plan and have everything all outlined and ready to go. Unless you have forgotten a major component or factor of your event, stick to your plan, after all that’s why you made it! Just because someone offers you a suggestion or tells you what they experienced one time, doesn’t mean you have to do what they suggest. Listen to their suggestion, think it through and if it makes sense to you and your bottom line, then add it in. Otherwise, thank them for sharing with you, let them know you’ll keep that in mind and move on with your day.

Get the word out

No matter how much you plan and prepare and budget accordingly, your event won’t be a success if no one knows about it and that’s a fact. Getting the word out is of the utmost importance in having a successful event. Whether it’s running ads, handing out flyers, word of mouth, posting on forums, giving out coupons, or email blasts to your customers, without getting the word out, your attendance will be low. Then your end goal of driving traffic to your shop and building your brand while building your customer base won’t become a reality. No matter how you choose to do it, forget this step and forget your event.

Don’t forget the media

Getting the word out to your friends, family and customers is a great start for having a successful event, but how do you reach all the other people “potential customers” to get them involved? Consider the media. Whether running ads in the local paper or magazines or getting listings on forums and in calendar sections, with the media’s help, you’ll be able to reach new people. Be sure to invite the media out to your event as well. Not only will you build a great relationship with them for the future but also a little event coverage goes along way. When it comes time to have your event the following year again, you will automatically have creditability, thanks to the media, and people will be more interested than ever. That means more people to turn into customers and more business for your shop.

Prepare for the worst

With every event, there is always the inevitable that is going to happen. It rains, everyone is sick, you oversleep, etc.  Thinking about what is the worst thing that could happen, isn’t fun and when planning an event, it’s the last thing you want to do. However, be prepared for it, it will save you should anything happen to come up. So, take a few minutes, talk to your team and think about all the things that could go wrong. Really, really wrong. Then, come up with a way to deal with them. Having a back up idea and plan will make it easy to combat any problems and make your event run as smooth as silk.

Keeping in mind the dyno day example, you should consider things like: If my event is outside, what happens if it rains? What happens if the dyno breaks? What if there is an accident? What if our dyno operator gets sick? What if there is a fight or an accident between vehicles, etc. Being prepared will put your mind at ease and hopefully you never need to use any of these back up ideas, but just in case, you’re covered.

Have fun but don’t forget you’re in charge

You’ve worked hard and you’ve got a great event lined up. People are showing up and everything is going as you have planned. It’s great you’re on top of the world and want to hang out and enjoy all your hard work and you should to some extent. But, remember this isn’t a party for you; this is a business event for your shop. You’re still in charge, you’re still working and you still need to make sure everything stays on schedule. Have a good time and reward yourself but never loose sight of your objective, getting more new customers and maximizing your return on investment.

Measure your ROI

Your event’s over and it was a huge success. All done right? Wrong, now is the most crucial step of your event, measuring your ROI.

Pull out your budget and see what the final dollar amount spent to produce your event was. Then look at the media coverage you will be getting and factor in how much it would have cost for that if you had paid for it.

Next, look at your sales or profits from that day and your turn out.

Weigh all of these things against your budget and then you will be able to determine if this was a smart investment. That will make it easy when trying to decide if you will do this again.

If you’re happy and you got the return you were looking for [be sure to be realistic] then you should do this again, and now you’ve got the right formula for success.

If not, then there’s a better marketing avenue out there for you. Either way, you’ll know the truth and will be able to make the smartest business decision possible.