Thursday, August 12, 2010

How To Host A Party

I have a new giveaway up for a Monopoly board game here.


I've been seeing a ton of BlogHer recap posts, and I know I've got one or two in me to write. Before I get to that, I have another topic to address. One of the big areas of focus this year has been the parties - both private and not - that happen outside the conference themselves. Were they all successful? Ummm no. Are there things that organizers and brands can do to improve them? Absolutely.

An Open Letter To Brands Hosting Parties At BlogHer

Dear All,

Thank you so much for hosting the parties you put on at BlogHer (and elsewhere). It's a great idea and an excellent opportunity to showcase yourselves and your brands. Trust me, most bloggers love the opportunity to have some fun while being out and about somewhere they otherwise wouldn't (especially the mommies among us who may not have as much adult interaction as we'd like).

When you host a party, however, it's important to make sure that you're doing everything you can to make sure it's successful and that people there walk out of it talking about it - in a postive manner. And unfortunately, at BlogHer, that didn't always happen.

There were some absolutely great parties - and different things about different parties made them stand out. But there were some parties I heard about that I was glad I wasn't invited to. And some that I attended that I left early.

One important factor is to make sure that you have the right number of people there. While you don't want to have six attendees for a large space, you also don't want to be in a situation where people feel claustrophobic trying to maneuver in the party. I know people are always angling for invites, but you're better off keeping the guest list manageable and having a great party for those who can and do attend. While people might be disappointed that they weren't invited, it's better than being miserable at a party. Invite a more intimate group (and that can be 50-80 people easily) but make it a great experience for them. The 200 or 300 people parties become more about the venue and too generic.

And once people are at your party? Make sure there's something for them to do. I attended more than one party where we were completely left to our own devices - we got a drink and had some passed appetizers and chatted amongst ourselves. That isn't a great representation of a brand, especially if the attendees don't know each other at all. I had the most fun at parties where there was a diversion - be it someone cooking, some sort of a project to make, an interactive presentation by the brand, games to play, etc.

And since we're typically women attending the parties, we dress up. That involves wearing heels that aren't always the most comfortable shoes. And it's possible that we didn't wear the smartest shoes earlier in the day, either. Please please please offer us a way to sit down. I can't tell you how many parties I attended without a single chair. On the other hand, some parties had great groupings of seating that made it fun and easy to sit and chat with friends.

Working in the business world, I've heard and lived "underpromise and overdeliver" time and time again. I attended more than one party where something was touted as being at the party - from makeovers to chatting with a celebrity to br@ fittings and more - that simply didn't materialize. Either there weren't enough makeup artists to get through the attendees or the "fitting" was a chart that a rep walked you through. I would have been happy without those things if I weren't expecting them. I'd rather be happily surprised by massage chairs for five minute wakeup massages than anticipate something fun and see that it won't happen.

With BlogHer requiring all on-site parties to be by sponsors of BlogHer, that meant that many parties were held far from the hotel. I was so impressed by some of the brands that proactively communicated with attendees letting us know how to get to the location - with walking, cab and subway directions. That was a huge help and such a pleasant surprise. And the brands that set up shuttles to get attendees to and from the parties? That took so much stress away and was a really unexpected plus.

Several parties got knocked for making changes once invitations had been sent out. I know that things change, and that's how the world works. However, there were a few parties that changed venues, that mismanaged their invitee list and would only be able to get guests in first come, first served. Let's just say that's going to backfire via word of mouth. Hugely. Delay sending out your invites for a couple days if you need to, but get as much solidified as possible before you start inviting people. Perception is, after all, reality.

At the same time, give invitees enough time to respond. I was amazed hearing from friends that people were still receiving invites in the days before BlogHer started. While some invites and save the dates went out in June, others were far too late. I know I was traveling starting Wednesday morning and had gotten my schedule set a week earlier. I received a couple invites for parties I would have loved to attend, but I had already made other commitments. And once I say I'm going to do something, I won't back out.

With how BlogHer has been evolving, I think more and more people are arriving early and staying late for conferences now. I heard a lot of people say this year that they are planning to arrive in San Diego on Tuesday next year and stay until later on Sunday. Use that extra time to your advantage. Not everyone will be able to come, but it's a great way to separate yourself from the pack. And if you send out your invites early enough, people will be able to plan their travel around your event.

I also went to some events where swag was given only to those invited and their guests were given nothing. Some people weren't sure who was a guest and who was invited, but ... how does that make the guest feel? We don't need swag at every party. Sure, it's fun to get and some of it is really neat, but I'd rather have a great time at a great party and go home with nothing (as I did at a few parties) than have half the attendees feel marginalized as they're walking out - their last impression of the party.

Another issue for some parties was getting people into them. If you've invited a large number of people to that party, make sure that there is more than a single elevator that takes ten people at a time to the point that it takes over forty-five minutes to get in. If the party says it is starting on the hour, don't make people wait outside telling them you'll open the doors "in two minutes" until twenty-five minutes past the hour. If you're crossing names off a guest list, do it efficiently. Have more than one person doing it, and make sure you're going quickly. Nothing kills the vibe or buzz about a party more than having to sit around and wait for something you're anticipating. You don't just want to end on a positive note, you want to begin on one, too.

No one hosts a party not wanting it to go well. And I can only imagine the nightmares that the organizers go through trying to pull everything together - and dealing with some of the more pushy people out there - but there are simple things that can easily be done in some cases to make it a more positive experience. We all want to have fun, and hopefully some of this will help make more parties more fun next year.

And if you want some help planning those parties? Well, let's just say that I put spreadsheets together for fun. I'm a planning junkie.

Hugs and kisses,

PS For attendees, what other things did I miss that work really well and that don't work?


ConnieFoggles August 12, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

This sums private parties up very well. The issue that I had with parties is when they took place during BlogHer events, be it sessions, Keynotes, etc. I am guilty of attending one, but I won't do it again.

As a newbie to BlogHer I still don't understand how the invites are even sent out. Some of them seem to be exclusive, but I know that everyone can't be invited due to logistics.

Alexis AKA MOM August 12, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Oh girl you've summed up so many of the things I've seen and cringed at. Party planning is hard but I agree a spreadsheet can so help!!

Laura August 13, 2010 at 1:39 AM  

Michelle I hope ALL sponsors read this before BlogHer Food-it would be so nice to have your attention to detail taken in to consideration.

Jill Felska August 13, 2010 at 12:26 PM  

This is some great insight, Michelle. BlogHer is definitely evolving at the speed of light, and many brands are trying to figure out the best, most valuable way to be involved. As someone who represented a brand, and also attended as a blogger, it was interesting to experience parties from both angles. I certainly learned things from this year's event and got a lot out of your experience recap as well. Thanks!

Michelle August 13, 2010 at 7:54 PM  

Connie - It was hard when the parties and events were scheduled during sessions, but at the same time I get that the remaining time was booked. I agree with you - I'd rather not have them during sessions but before or after the conference itself (Tues-Sun).

Alexis - There's always some way to make a party better, right? But again - they're all done with the best of intentions.

Laura - Oooo are you doing BlogHer Food again? So jealous and YES I hope the parties there are perfect for you.

Jill - Thanks, Jill. I look forward to seeing how things change next year, too. I think a lot of brands and people learned a lot, but there will always been new things and new people. Fingers crossed some things go more smoothly next year.

Hyacynth August 14, 2010 at 10:37 PM  

This is why you are a marketing expert. Seriously. Brands need you to be a blogger ambassador of sorts for their parties, I think, Michelle.

Michelle August 15, 2010 at 9:52 PM  

Hyacynth - Awww, you're so sweet! I would love to help plan parties more.... I love making things go right :)

Melisa with one S August 20, 2010 at 7:07 AM  

THIS is pure genius. So many good points. I'll be interested to see what happens in SD next year, won't you? :)

Michelle October 1, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

Melisa - Why thank you! I think the parties would be much better if they followed some of these. I'd have stayed longer and gotten more out of several had they done so! :)

  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by 2008

Back to TOP