When it comes to planning events, the little things make a big impact. After 12 years of hosting events that connect community members with great local businesses, Yelp’s community team has learned a few crucial lessons along the way. If you’re in the business of planning and hosting unforgettable events to capture your audience’s attention (and loyalty), then you’ll want to put these pro tips from Yelp’s most seasoned party people to work at your next social shindig.
1. Bar at the Back — First thing’s first: people like to drink. This is especially true if you’re gathering folks who don’t already know each other (like, every networking event you’ve ever been to). With that in mind, make sure to guide your attendees to the back of the venue, or at least away from event check-in, to grab that first glass. We’ve learned from experience: having drinks near your event entrance can create a huge bottleneck. If you’re offering more complicated drinks like craft cocktails, have your bartenders pre-batch drinks and have a dozen or so ready to go as soon as the event starts. They’ll go quick!
Have bartenders pre-batch cocktails, to avoid long drink lines
2. Hello, We’ve Been Expecting You: We agree, nametags are predictable and definitely not the hallmark of a badass party. But something as simple as pre-printed nametags can make your guests feel extra special, and happy that they made the effort to show up. Alternatively, having guests include something personal on their nametag to break the ice, like the name of their hometown or social media handle, can get conversations going. For more formal events, like a seated dinner, adding name place cards, or a customized welcome message printed on each menu, can add some personalized flair that guests will notice and love.
3. Speech! Speech! Speech! Sure, email communication and social posts are standard procedure in this digital world, but capturing your audience while they’re face-to-face with your brand is a unique opportunity not to be missed. At Yelp, we like to pause our Elite Events about halfway through for a quick speech about what the Yelp community is all about, plus a few words from the business hosting the event. Ever been to a dinner party where the host stays in the kitchen the entire time? Don’t hide in the proverbial “kitchen” of your event — put a face with the brand, and inspire a call-to-action.
4. Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Post About: Food, drinks, and music are all fine and dandy, but to amplify an experience beyond the walls of your event, you’ll want at least one share-worthy element. At Yelp, we call it the “unboring” factor. It could be a champagne tower, edible art, body-painted models, or a micro-pig petting zoo (yes, Yelp has hosted a “Pignic“). Having at least one surprise that begs for a photo-op guarantees that your guests will be sharing their experience on the wide world of social media, giving your brand an extra boost of buzz.
Yelp’s photo worthy “pignic” in London
5. Last-Minute Reminders Are Welcome: We’d love to believe that our guests are thinking about our event as often as we are, but let’s be real. Most of us will wait until the last minute to check event details (perhaps even in the Uber ride over to the event) so make sure everything your guests need to know — directions, parking/transportation, dress code, agenda — are all packaged up in one place, and easily searchable. On that note, it’s best to send or re-send important event info just a day or two before the event, so it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and inboxes.
6. Know Your “Flake Rate”: It’s unavoidable. People will no-show, no matter how cool your party. Free booze and schmoozing are no match for PJs and take-out after a long day at the office. The average drop-off rate for free events is about 50%. But instead of fighting against this fact, work with it by overbooking your guest list to strive for perfect attendance. At Yelp, we’ve got our flake rate almost down to a science, and usually pad our guest list so we don’t end up with a half-empty room.
Make event details easy to find at the last minute
7. Close the Loop: You did it! You’ve hosted your event, gathered a fabulous crowd, cleaned the glitter off the floor, and got some much needed sleep afterwards. But you’re not done yet. Timely event follow-up is just as crucial, because your guests are primed for that call-to-action. We like to follow-up with attendees the day after an event, with links to all the event sponsors and participating businesses (ready for bookmarking), photo albums on social media (ready for tagging), a blog recap, and the Yelp event review page. “I like to work with my event partners to organize a post-event surprise,” says Matt Eyman, Yelp Community Director in Portland, OR. “A special thank-you offer that is exclusive to everyone who attended. They’re already riding high off of an awesome party, delighting them with an additional perk the following day will tip them over the edge.”
At the end of the day, events are about making connections. Otherwise, why would anyone leave the house?! As event hosts, it’s our duty to help facilitate those connections, and make them feel as effortless and exciting as possible. Little details matter and can take your event from A-OK to extraordinary. We hope that these tips help you look like a pro host at your next gathering. Now, go forth & party!
Every day at Yelp, we connect people with great local businesses online and offline through our Yelp Elite Events. Interested in hosting with us? We’d love to hear from you.