Not all events require invitations, but if yours does, getting them out too late is the tenth event blunder on my list of 25 that we’re going to talk about this week. How will these invitations be sent–by email, by post, or both? How will people RSVP? These and many other small details are important to consider when figuring out how and when to send out the invitations.
Invitations, like promotion, have to be done creatively. Guess what? They don’t have to be expensive. Here’s a great resource I found for printing free invitations: www.makingitlovely.com. Although invitations may be cheap, one of the most expensive parts of an event is getting people there in the first place. The best and cheapest form of promotion is word of mouth. Once you know who the event is for, ask yourself what group all the people belong to, if there is one. A business, an association, a church, etc. Sometimes they belong to more than one. Jackpot! Once you know this, you can aggressively promote to group members months before the event. A few weeks before you can print and distribute small invite cards to group members. These can be dropped and distributed at their next group meeting, saving you expensive postage. The best events are those with person to person promotion. Advertising is definitely important, but people talking to their friends is the most effective form of promotion, as any restaurateur will surely tell you. Even with a ton of promotion (ﬂyers, advertising, etc.), you will never draw as many people as those who stop by out of pure curiosity.
Try to keep your event contained to the community. Who says you have to put on a pyrotechnic show to host an invitable event that draws? I have done many GREAT events on a shoestring budget (even as little as $1000). The Los Angeles Church Of Christ once put on a huge event at Victory Park in Burbank, CA that included, besides my show, a barbecue, a moon bounce for kids, balloons, various old-fashioned races and music from the church’s band.
Don’t forget enlisting co-workers to help. As we talked about in the blog on Help! Instead of hiring outside event planners to provide simple services, coworkers will often offer their help for free, and you’ll usually find that they take a more active role than outside help. There’s no cost to the company. It’s all from the heart, hoping for a great event, because it’s for them! Eliciting this help is easy if you let the company or group know what is needed to make the event great. Give them the list.
Also know your community’s interests and needs. You can often get help with invitations from those outside your company or group. Just ask yourself what issues the people of your city deal with. Personal finance, health, childcare, etc.? Does your company or group offer any help in these areas? If so, put on a free workshop and illicit invitation help this way. Such a workshop will cost your company very little money to put on, and will bring tons of people from the community together for help. You can also make the most of a city event. Pay attention to city events happening in your area and use them to inexpensively draw a crowd. A fair, festival or parade is perfect. If your company has a central location, instead of locking the doors and posting “no parking” signs when the parade comes to town, use your location to make your presence known. You can offer your parking lot for carnival activities and opens your doors for people to come in for refreshments, use the restroom or to just look around. This is a great way to get help and even distribute a few invitations.
If the event is a large gathering with 2,000 people or more, a dedicated website may be a great idea. You can easily have someone set up a WordPress site for you at an affordable price. Or you can even set up your own Wix site in less than five minutes, right now. This allows you to put the site up a year in advance and simply update it as the details develop. The obvious solution to this event blunder is to get those darn invitations out early. Send them out well in advance. A good rule of thumb is 2 months ahead of time, unless it’s a really small gathering. Even so, all events require people attending them. How you let the people know is the “invitation.” Sending them out too late is disastrous and a surefire way to mess up the event! So tell the world, and tell them soon.