Ready to test the waters and get started with dinner events to attract and connect with more prospects? With over 1 million events completed, our team has the experience and know-how to ensure success. We’ve got you covered from your preparation for the event, to game day necessities, to best follow-up procedures. Keep reading for all the tips and tricks you need to make your first or fiftieth dinner event into your highest-yielding investment.
Before Your Dinner Event – The Prep
This is where it all starts. A good seminar with a strong call to action on a marketable topic is vital. Don’t wing it here. Effective seminar marketing is creating a message that resonates with your audience. Your topic should already be vetted and tested by other professionals or yourself. You start with the presentation because that dictates the other elements.
Choose the Right Venue:
Based on statistics compiled from more than 1 million events, dinner seminars are three times more likely to outperform all other seminar events. For dinner events, focus on restaurants. No country clubs, hotels, or banquet facilities. We see the highest returns in local American cuisine restaurants with private rooms that can comfortably fit 50 people or less. Choose a restaurant that is easy to find, has ample parking, and has a private room that is well-lit, clean, and quiet. For events without dinners, libraries are ideal.
Dates and Times:
The right time and date are crucial. Sure, you would love to have daytime events, but they only get half of the response rate as evening events. Saturday mornings typically get even less. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are best at 6:30. You could even consider later, like 7:00, but not earlier. People will not leave work early to make your event. Scheduling two separate dinner events can help ensure you get the highest possible showing for your seminar.
“Communication: 20% what you know, 80% how you feel about what you know.”
– Jim Rohn
This is a prospect’s first impression. It should always feel professional. You get what you pay for with flimsy postcards, and they don’t create a good first impression. The content is even more important. Remember that what you want to discuss isn’t nearly as important as what your potential responders want to learn about.
Direct mail marketing allows for pinpoint accuracy and has the highest open rates – nearly 90%! Compare that with only 23% of email open rates, and it’s clear that direct mail is a valuable marketing tool for dinner events.
And don’t forget about personalization! Our recent test concluded that personalized mailers receive 64% more RSVPs, money savings, and increased revenue for our clients. Plus, with LeadingResponse, personalization on all direct mail marketing is standard.
The Marketing List:
The list is the foundation of your marketing campaign. Use the freshest and most accurate data you can get. Never try to save costs by reusing a list. Targeting your ideal attendee is critical for a successful event. What are the demographical characteristics of your target audience? Think age, location, and household income.
If you are in a high-net-worth market, be very aware of the percentage of ultra-wealthy people. The ultra-wealthy may be less likely to attend events.
Do you go with digital or direct mail marketing invitations? Both have advantages and disadvantages. Whenever possible, do both.
Deciding on Quantity:
It’s better to have fewer dates with more people present. You need to have enough responders to create a buzz in the room. Having a room that seats 70 and only ten people show up just feels awkward. A packed room is the social proof people need to confirm that they made the right decision by attending.
Your Responder’s Inbound Experience:
Many people aren’t comfortable leaving their personal information on a voicemail. Most calls come in after working hours, so calls going to voicemail means abandoned calls and missed opportunities. Using your cell phone just makes you look like a one-person show. The responder’s inbound experience should be an extension of their first impression. Using a professional call center and an option to register online helps you establish a sophisticated image and gives the impression of having staff, even if you don’t.
Either you or your assistant should call 1-2 days before the event. Too early, and they forget. Too late, and they have already forgotten. You can even call when they initially make the reservation to introduce yourself and gently pre-qualify. Asking them about their food choices is a great way to get a callback.
At the Dinner Event – Game Day!
Test Your Equipment:
Technical difficulties happen to everyone, but they always take away from the experience. Test all of your equipment on location and ensure you have backups, extra batteries, and alternative supplies. If using videos, make sure they load. Get to the venue early enough that you aren’t fidgeting with your equipment as your guests come in.
Be sure everyone can see the screen from wherever they are sitting and do a soundcheck to confirm that people in the back of the room can hear. Avoid hand-held microphones – opt for a wireless lavaliere-style instead to create a more welcoming appearance.
Set the Scene:
Play music! It helps ease the awkwardness before the event and creates a more lively, social atmosphere.
If possible, have someone other than yourself do check-ins. Attendees will feel more established if you have an “assistant” who helps them. If this person helps with the reminder call process, appointments, and follow-up, even better. Some people have their spouse help.
Provide Handouts When your Guests Arrive.
Handouts also give your attendees something to do before the event starts. Include a bio about yourself. This gives you the chance to introduce yourself and tout your experience and accomplishments without potentially coming off as arrogant.
Consider inviting previous clients. After all, they are your most significant resources. It may feel counter-intuitive, but they warm up the room and create trust among your other responders. They are often your biggest advocates, may offer up testimonials, and will shut down anyone who attempts to poison their table with negativity.
Who Does the Presentation?
You MUST do your own presentation. Other people can be a part of it, but they can’t outshine you. It is critical that you are the person seen as the expert. It is better for you to do an imperfect presentation than for someone else to do a perfect presentation for you.
Want to add a touch of power to your event? Have someone introduce you. If this is your manager or an authority figure in some way, that’s great. It can even be your “assistant” that did your check-ins. It doesn’t matter who introduces you, just that it isn’t you. This person can list your experience and credibility without you doing it.
Public Speaking Skills are a Must.
We get it – over 73% of the population fears public speaking. Jitters and anxiety are all a part of getting up in front of new people. But the reality is that to be successful, we have to conquer our fears and do it. How? Know your audience, practice ahead of time, and focus on your message. Want more tips? We can help there also.
Reach Your Goals:
What’s the goal? Get your responders to know, like, and trust you enough to set an appointment with you. That’s it.
What you need is to set appointments the night of the event. This is the number one predictor of a successful event. The night of your seminar, they learned some information, had a nice dinner, had a good time, and felt reciprocity. Most people will keep their commitments, but even the best intent declines over time. Call the appointments “visits” instead of appointments or meetings to feel less threatening. Set the stage and let your attendees know early on that you or your staff will be coming by to arrange a “visit.”
Know Your Presentation Down Pat.
The best presenters don’t even have to look at their slides. Focus on the audience, not your notes. Make eye contact and avoid reading from your presentation. Slow down and use pauses effectively. Public speaking causes people to speak faster than they usually would. Reflecting and preparing for breaks in the presentation can help you stay on track.
Be human! Introduce your family, hobbies, interests, or volunteer work. Tell some of your personal stories. People want to work with people they like, and they must know you to like you. I taught yoga professionally for over a decade but now spend most of my time helping my little girl, Dylan, learn to read.
After the Seminar – The Follow-Up
Call the Next Day:
Reach out to anyone who didn’t set an appointment the very next day after your seminar. Remember the principle of declining intent. Even if they want to arrange an appointment with you, the longer that goes by, the less likely they will do so. Calling everyone, those who set appointments and those who didn’t, the next day to thank them for their time is never pushy.
Try to set appointments as quickly as you can. The sooner, the better. The further away their first appointment is, the more likely they are to cancel it.
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Send Thank You Cards:
We can all be better with that, right? Have you ever received one and not appreciated it? Find ways to be more personal and more unique. Thank you cards are so underrated. We should really listen to our grandmothers. They were right.
Invite Them to Other Events:
People who like to go to seminars like to go to seminars! When you inevitably lose touch with some, host another event on a different topic and invite them. Do this on a bi-yearly or quarterly basis and invite clients as well.
Don’t Get Discouraged:
People often attend seminars a year or more before they are ready to make a big decision. They are trying to educate themselves and make sure that they are set up for success. Expect some accounts to take time, and don’t get discouraged when they do. The larger the opportunity, the more likely this is the case. And don’t lose contact. Stay in touch and top of mind with newsletters and emails.
Dinner Event Wrap Up
We’ve covered a lot of ground on making a dinner seminar event successful. When you’re ready to take it to the next step and get started with your event marketing, LeadingResponse is here to provide the customized, data-driven insight you need to connect with more of your target audience. Contact us now to get started.
Meet our Expert
Jen Lowery DeBuhr started working in the marketing industry shortly after college. She joined LeadingResponse in 2003 and is now one of the firm’s most tenured and successful consultants. She’s helped hundreds of financial advisors and estate planning attorneys aggressively grow their practices by personally facilitating over 40,000 events. Her client list includes large broker-dealers with national footprints, regional firms, Field Marketing Organizations, and some of the country’s most elite attorneys and independent advisors.