When planning an event, one of the hardest parts is to draft a guest list. You want to make sure that you invite everyone who is supposed to be there. And you also want to ensure that the invitees actually come.
Remember this: guest list should always reflect the purpose of the event you are organising.
So the first thing to do is to define your goal: for example, is it to find more clients? Potential clients should be scouted first by investing in marketing campaigns early enough. Or is it to celebrate your company’s successes? Clients and partners that have made it possible should be your priority.
Useful tips for the perfect guest list
Ok, you know the goal of your event, then how do you compile your perfect guest list?
- Maintain your database. It is of the utmost importance. It is draining to look up for contacts when you are in the middle of organising an event. Contact information such as phone numbers, email and postal addresses should always be up-to-date, readily available and in sync. Utilise CRM software applications accordingly, and store all valuable information at one place and share it with your co-workers easily.
As an event organizer, make it sure your CRM data is updated well in advance. Start the wake-up calls with your colleagues by asking them questions like “If I needed to invite the CEOs of our 100 most valuable customers to our event by email, how much time would it take for you to compile the list?” “Can I see the list next week?” Preferably, reserve time to your organisation to comment on the list, as most likely someone detects that it is not totally correct.
Leave room for this kind of discussions, and you will save time from last-minute requests for adding some VIPs to your final list after the invitations are already out.
- Create categories. Who are they? Try to save people’s contact details per category, for example, board, retailers, investors, partners, the media, clients, volunteers, photographers, graphic designers and more. It is an efficient way of skimming the groups you do not intend to invite. Also, it will help everyone to get a sense of the whole group when you have a final guest list for the event. Nobody knows everyone by their name, so categories help to understand who is being invited (and who should be invited).
- Assign one main person for managing the guest list: Make accountability clear this way. If 10 people start fiddling with the invitee list, it will be disastrous. You need one person, who is in charge of one guest list (preferably in charge of related tasks such as sending out the invitations, reminders, making necessary changes etc.), and also be at the reception on the day of the event to check the participation.
- Make sure to address the invitation to the right person. Make sure you have the correct recipient. If you don’t have a direct email address, call the office and ask for it. Avoid sending it to a general email address: it is unlikely that it will reach the correct recipient (or that anyone even reads your email).
- Check for Duplicates. Once you have the first list of invitees, check for duplicates. No one likes receiving the same invitation multiple times.
How to invite people?
Ok, so now you have a guest list with a clear goal of the event in your mind. How do you invite people? Depending on the kind of event you are organising, there are different modi operandi. Here three to be inspired by:
1. Written invitation
For a gala night to celebrate a company anniversary or any other significant achievement, a suitably written invitation will be the best choice. The invitation card should spur the curiosity of the receiver, not to get lost among other letters. Once opened, the invitee should find the following information clearly:
- Date and time
- Location (how to get there)
- Purpose of the event
- Dress code
- Contact Person
- R.S.V.P. details with a deadline
The program of the night such as performances or activities is good to add as well. Also, if you have chosen a specific theme, your guests should be fully aware of that. We all remember Bridget Jones dressed as a bunny for the infamous ‘Vicars and Tarts’ party where the theme had been, well, changed last minute: Bridget arrives at the party only to find herself surrounded by ladies in conservative, floral dresses. How embarrassing! Be clear and specific about the theme you have chosen. And stick to it!
2. Via email
If you are organising a seminar or a workshop, you can send out the invitations via email. The up and coming event needs to be promoted well in time. If high attendance is your goal, last minute email invitations are a big no-no. If your company is sending out a monthly newsletter, start promoting your seminar already some months in advance. Details can always follow, the important thing is to get people’s attention.
3. Social Media Channels
For a public event for a company event, you may also consider using the social media channels: creating an event in Facebook is easy, and if someone expressed his or her interest in joining your event, they will automatically get a reminder of the approaching date.