An open day is not just for house sales or universities. If you have a base of operations, holding an open day can be useful for any company or organisation, providing opportunities to:
- Introduce yourself to your local community – especially useful if you are new to the area
- Showcase production behind the scenes
- Highlight employment opportunities
- Celebrate a move to new premises
- Celebrate winning an award, or an anniversary
As we emerge post-pandemic from lockdown restrictions, we are looking to reconnect with organisations, at a time when organisations are wanting to reconnect with meet their clients.
However, if two years of disruptions, lockdowns and no in-person meetings have rendered your event management skills a little rusty, here are nine top tips to help you arrange a successful in-person open day:
- Clarify the purpose of the event
As per my list above, there can be many reasons for holding an open day. Ensuring that you and your team are laser-focused on your core objective will help you to plan the details of the event accordingly.
- Be audience-focussed
For all open days, you want your attendees to leave with a positive impression of you and your business. This starts before they step through the door:
- The guest list: Determine who you want to invite (yes, sounds obvious), but think of who else may like to attend. For example, the head of pastoral care at a school may be your target, but the head of the sixth-form may also like to attend.
- Invitations: Send your invitations out in good time. I would recommend at least four weeks in advance.
- Reminder and welcome: A few days before the event, send a pre-event briefing email. This is an opportunity to thank your guests for accepting your invitation, and saying how much you are looking forward to them joining you. Include safety and accessibility information and an outline of the running order, including the arrival time, sit-down (if appropriate) and proposed end times.
- Provide all the travel information: In your pre-event email, include all relevant travel and car parking information. A recent event I attended in a town centre had a car park nearby. It wasn’t until I got there that I learned it was for short-term parking only.
- One the day itself: Have a welcome area, with a registration table with name badges and a registration list, manned by happy, smiley representatives of your organisation.
- Triple check your technology
Practice your technical setup and operations. Then double-check, then triple-check. In addition, have a backup plan and where possible have a ‘tech’ person you can call on. We all know the plummeting, heart-stopping, sinking feeling you get when, despite all the testing, you press ‘go ’ and nothing happens!
- Plan for the unexpected
I follow Murphy’s law, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Spend some time brainstorming what could go wrong and have backup plans. At the time of writing this blog, we have been experiencing a shortage of fuel at filling stations. This meant that some of the guests at the open day I recently attended had to cancel. In addition, one of the speakers had a flat tyre, forcing her to deliver her presentation remotely, via Zoom.
- Promote your identity
At the event, make sure the organisation’s staff are easily identifiable. You have a chance to reinforce your branding; such as wearing a company uniform, matching colours, or pins/badges. You may wish to promote your association and connection with a national or bigger cause or movement, such as by wearing a ribbon. These could be offered to your audience to further build a sense of community around your cause or purpose.
Use the opportunity to reinforce your branding through the decorations you use in the room, especially if hiring a venue, by using coloured balloons and flowers. Roller banners are great for promoting your core message and contact information, and for hiding things you don’t want seen, such as storage boxes.
If you are promoting products, such as books, ensure that they are displayed in a prominent location, that you have a dedicated person manning this stand and an efficient method to take payment and donations (if you are a charity).
You want to strike balance between looking generous and not over-catering. Ensure you have options for those attendees with dietary requirements, and that these are clearly labelled.
If you are inviting local VIPs, provide them with brief information in advance about your organisation. A one-page briefing document giving details of your mission and current work, including the difference you are making, and the names and roles of key personnel, particularly those who will be at the event, will be well received.
- Manage your energy
It is hard work putting on an open day with many different elements to organise, and lots of general running about, especially on the day. You want to make sure that you have enough energy to enjoy the occasion. Your passion and enthusiasm are infectious.
- Send follow-ups and thank-yous
This is where you build on the connections you made at the event. Following up with your guests, thanking them for attending and their interest will help cement the relationships you initiated at the event.
I hope these tips have inspired you to consider if an open day is suitable for your organisation.
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Photo Credit: Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash
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