RocketSpace’s Guide to Throwing a Great Tech Event

Events

Is your company considering throwing an event in 2013? Events can help raise your brand profile, create networking opportunities, and even generate some revenue. As Events & Sponsorship Manager at RocketSpace, I oversee the logistics of over 100 events a year. I’ve put together this calendar for you so you can host a worry-free, seamlessly run, and successful tech event!

Trying to put something together in a hurry? No worries — you can definitely condense this timeline and/or switch around the order of some of the steps. This is just my suggested calendar so that you can have as stress-free a planning process as possible!

Eight Weeks To Go: Choose an Event Format

We host many different types of tech events at RocketSpace, and no one event format is the “best” — different formats work for different objectives. Here are some of the most common ones we see.

  • Pitch events are great ways for a company to raise its profile within a targeted community. Just a few days after arriving in San Francisco, Swedish-based Omnicloud held a “Scandinavian Startup Night” at RocketSpace last year. They brought together Silicon Valley’s thriving Scandinavian tech community for an evening of discussions and Scandinavian startup pitches. Not only was it a great way to help build this community, it also helped the newly-arrived company get settled within it.
  • No one event format is “best” — different formats work for different objectives.
  • Fireside chats — or “yule log app”-side chats — let you bring in a top-notch speaker to entertain the audience as he or she answers questions around fascinating topics. Some of the RocketSpace guests have included David Hornik and Vinod Khosla.
  • Throwing a networking happy hour is a great, informal way to bring together like-minded people who are looking to forge new connections. Other, more structured ways to draw a tightly-focused crowd include panel discussions and informational seminars with carefully chosen speakers. These kinds of events allow you to foster great thought leadership.
  • Holding a product release party at a location known for assembling great crowds of techies is a wonderful way to celebrate while simultaneously spreading the word about your recent accomplishments!
  • Demo days are the go-to format for highlighting a portfolio of companies and/or products.

Seven Weeks To Go: Book Your Headliners

Once you’ve nailed down the format of your event, it’s time to decide what your event’s specific theme will be. Focused topics can help you target both a good audience and good speakers. With seven weeks to go before D-Day, you can then begin to come up with a list of potential speakers at your event. If you are assembling a panel of many speakers, it’s important to make sure you’re creating a diverse, well-balanced roster so you will foster dynamic conversation. Make sure you reach out to your speakers with plenty of time to spare to make sure that they will be able to accommodate your dates.

Six Weeks To Go: Book Your Venue

Now that you’ve booked your speakers and know their calendars, it’s time to find an appropriate venue. Last week, I got a call from a company who wanted to host a runway fashion show at RocketSpace. “You know we’re a tech accelerator, right?” I asked. They didn’t know, and quickly hung up. Do your research: venue selection can really help drive attendance. If you choose a venue best known for, say, hosting runway fashion shows, your target tech audience is less likely to find you.

Booking a venue early helps ensure that you get your pick of dates. It also allows the event planner at the venue start lining up any amenities, promotions, or staffing that you will require. Make sure you get a list of the items that the venue can take care of on your behalf so you know what action items remain on your plate. Don’t assume that the event fee includes the cost of catering, staffing, etc. or you may be in for an unpleasant surprise later!

Four Weeks to Go: Promote!

A month out, it’s time to invite guests and start to drum up some buzz for your event! For invitations, we typically use Eventbrite. It’s a one-stop-shop for all aspects of registration, from creating personal attendee lists to checking in guests the day of your event.

Promotion is key to any successful event. You have, of course, your own social media channels and know which of your connections can help amplify your message. You can also check in with your venue to see what help they can give you. For example, we often will publish announcements in Startup Digest, Meetup.com, and our own social media channels. And as a startup accelerator hosting over 120 companies on-site, we have our own internal newsletters that go directly to hundreds of people in your target audience! (This is another reason why venue choice is so important!)

A Week to Go! Make Your List & Check It Twice

Ask your venue for catering suggestions!
Ask your venue for catering suggestions!

Your event is just a week away! Are you getting a little anxious? Don’t worry — work your way through this checklist to make sure all the odds-and-ends are taken care of:

  • Catering and Drinks: Registrations have given you some idea of how many people to expect at your event. Now is the time to line up your caterer and order your drinks. Check with the venue to see if they have any recommendations.
  • Staffing: How many people will you need to help you during the event? Check to see whether the venue will provide any help and make sure you know exactly what kind of support the venue’s staff will be providing.
  • Panelists: It’s always a good idea to make sure your panelists haven’t flaked on the date. This is a good time to give them parking information, driving directions, etc. Make sure you share the event agenda with them!
  • Venue: Make sure you know what equipment and staffing will be provided and what you will need to supply on your own.

Take the time to brief all pertinent event participants on the logistics of the event. Typically, this can be done on a conference call — or you can use this as an excuse to go out to lunch!

A Day to Go: Settle the Details

With a day to go, confirm your catering and beverage orders and check in with your venue to see what kind of prep support you may have to supply. If you aren’t familiar with holding events you don’t realize all the work that goes into day-of logistics. Some of those things include: setting up the chairs, audio, mic testing, food and catering set-up, registration desk, clean-up during and after the event, and any last minute changes. Make sure you know what kind of lead time you will need for setup. When in doubt, arrive early! If you host your event at RocketSpace, of course, we take care of all day-of logistics. Talk about a burden off your back!


lkellyLaura Kelly is the Events & Sponsorships manager at RocketSpace. Are you interested in hosting an event at RocketSpace? Want to check out the vibe here and attend one? Check out our upcoming events!

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