Every good event planner asks themselves the same question while planning their next soiree: how do you engage attendees at every touch point of your charity event and make the experience memorable? At Powered by Professionals, we practice what we preach! Below are 9 ways to ensure attendees at your next non-profit event are engaged before, during and after the occasion:
- Theme, Theme, Theme! Establish your theme and messaging right away. Consider a décor and/or messaging theme for your charity event. A theme can help create buzz, increase synergy, promote social sharing, and generate memorable moments.
- Engage your attendees before they walk in the door! At PBP, we send a “Know Before You Go” email for every event, which includes information on the check-in process, weather, parking/directions, and attire. It is also a great way to preview your silent and live auction packages and encourage early bidding if your event software has those capabilities.
- Make a strong first impression! Today is the big day and you want to capture your guest’s attention right when they get to the venue. Start outside the door and consider a branded floor decal, captivating signage or outside lighting. In addition to a flawless check-in experience, this will engage your attendees right away.
- Creative canapes and cocktails! Don’t just go with the same old specialty cocktail when your guests enter the venue. Earlier this year, PBP planned the Two Charities, One Goal 80’s themed benefit concert supporting R Baby Foundation and Michael’s Mission. Guests were greeted with Pop Rocks cocktails such as the St. Elmo’s Sour, POPsecco and the Pretty in Pink Pop Rockspolitan. It really immersed guests into the theme and made it POP! At the Celebration of Caring Gala supporting the JFK Medical Center Foundation, for the cookie dough ice cream station, guests were given their cone by a hand that came up through the center of the table…it truly gives a new definition to the term “helping hand.”
- Décor, Décor, Décor! This is key and can be easy to pull off without breaking the bank. Reimagine your Step-and-Repeat, your bar and food presentations, and your centerpieces. For the 80’s concert, we created a giant bar that looked like a Rubik’s Cube and made it the focal point of the room and our Step-and-Repeat was in fact a mega-sized Lite-Brite. At the BeautyCares DreamBall, we kept the décor a bit simpler and played with color. From the lighting, to the floor decals, to the “red” carpet and signage, pink was predominant throughout and made the evening festive, but elegant.
- Create memorable moments that will make guests scream WOW! At the BeautyCares DreamBall this past September, PBP friend and the event’s Mistress of Ceremonies Heather Thomson danced on stage with one of the event’s honorees while presenting the award—a moment that was featured in press coverage the following day. At the Stand Up To Sarcoma Gala in May, guests enjoyed a tap dance performance from one-legged tap dancer and sarcoma survivor Evan Ruggiero.
- On-site activations! Another fun way to engage your guests are on-site activations. At the University of Maryland Alumni Association Annual Manhattan reception, we kept our guests entertained with Skee-Ball, Mini-Bowling and a giant Connect Four! Guests love to get competitive as well, so at the SFA Summer Soiree BBQ, guests played against each other to win prizes. Games included: Corn Hole and Ring Toss.
- Leave a lasting impression! As guests exited the Two Charities, One Goal concert, attendees enjoyed edible cookie shots like The Breakfast Club, Like A Virgin S’moregasm and Revenge of the Nerds! Attendees also got to make their own goody bag from our 80’s Candy Wall full of some of their totally favorite items like Pixie Sticks, Candy Necklaces and Ring Pops.
- Your event is over…but that does not mean you shouldn’t continue to engage your guests! If you have an annual event, retention of your donors/guests is key to maximize funds, as every fundraising consultant will tell you. Consider sending out a post-event survey asking guests about key elements of the event like event flow, speaking program, sponsorship opportunities they would like to see next year, etc. You could even offer participants a special discount code for early registration for next year. Also make sure your Thank You email includes photos from the event that should be housed on a social media platform where they can easily tag themselves and share to their own pages.