As we have a relatively short "good weather" season in the Pacific Northwest, I've been planning and hosting a number of client media events. These gatherings are undoubtedly "the fun part" of my job given the chance to connect in person with clients, journalists and of course enjoy delicious foods and wines I love. My goals are almost always the same: 1) to offer a compelling story which will hopefully result in relationship building and coverage; and 2) to provide a little extra special enjoyment with relaxed connection that reminds us all why we love the wine industry.
Here is a list of steps I take each and every time I plan and event:
1. First, make sure an event is warranted and give yourself enough time to plan effectively. Define what will be a draw for invited guests including newsworthy information, a special experience and/or a truly unique wine. No one is looking for a "free meal" or a way to waste time. There must be a point. After you have a raison d'être, then give yourself a minimum of one month to coordinate all details and ensure maximum attendance.
2. Then prepare an outline of the event flow with a timeline. Details are very important. It is very important to identify the presenter(s) and primary messages -- who will share information, how it will be shared and why anyone should care. Bullet points allow you to work through your main messages without becoming robotic.
Date, time, location and wines and food to be served are obvious. Perhaps less obvious is the need to plan for timing of wines being poured, number of glasses, back up bottles needed, and when food will arrive so as not to interrupt the flow. No one wants to listen to a client talk for 20 minutes without a glass of wine in hand, so I plan to intersperse tastings and stories.
Create a special or unexpected welcome. Also, ensure that it's not a run-away event where guests begin wishing they could escape by giving a rough timeline to each portion. For example, if there's a vineyard walk and tasting, figure that will take XX minutes and add 10. If the event flow estimate is running over two hours, you need to cut something. I recommend that clients leave people wanting more versus try to stuff in too many messages.
3. Book event location and/ or caterer. I never invite guests before we have a "real event" meaning a date, time, location and food. Doing so risks wasting the precious time of your media guests. I heard from a media friend that a PR firm had invited, then uninvited her to an event because they "ran out of space." Not professional.
I also discuss the event flow outline with the restaurant or caterer so all involved are aware of the overall goal of the gathering. If I get the feeling that the selected vendors are not interested in the details, I move my business elsewhere.
4. Create a realistic guest list and send personal invitations. Determine who might be interested based on your knowledge of each journalist's interests, work schedule, etc. Then reach out to each person you'd like to attend with a personal note; no Evites or other automated systems for media. Note responses in a spreadsheet and when you receive a yes, inquire about any food allergies or preferences.
5. Confirm all details with vendors a week beforehand. I prefer to do this via email then follow up by phone versus only emailed as it's too easy to miss the details without voice to voice connection.
6. Reconfirm guests with all details two to three days beforehand. Include time, address, phone number for location and host, parking and/or attire instructions, and reiterate any food allergies or preferences. Send the final numbers to the restaurant or caterer.
7. Show up early the day of the event, enjoy and keep your promises! Be sure to thank guests for coming. Send any promised follow up information after the event. C Conduct an internal event debrief using a simple "did well, do better" format which will be helpful for planning future events. Monitor attendees' sites for coverage and thank them when/if it appears.
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