RSVP in the A/E/P

Jun 08, 2016

234467LOGOIf you are planning an event, pay attention to the details so that your firm can reap the full benefits of publicity, business development, and old-fashioned fun. Holding an event is not something just for the big mega firms. It is a great opportunity for smaller companies to gain exposure, especially to local potential clients, and to sell itself without the pressure of an interview. Here are a few ways to make it a sure success. Planning an event takes time. Zweig Group holds a yearly event, the Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference. Planning for this event starts over a year in advance (prior to the previous year’s conference even happening). Your firm’s event doesn’t need to be elaborate and overly time consuming, but be sure to give yourself enough time. We know that every marketing dollar counts. Make your firm’s event pay off – it should eventually translate into new clients and better jobs. Open houses with bad Sam’s Club appetizers and cheap wine/beer do not usually do that. Get specific with a targeted audience. Decide who you want to come and why they should come. Hosting a new product demo, holding a seminar or educational event, or bringing in some kind of entertainment can get people together. Friendly competition such as a chili cook-off, sports teams, or a 5K run is also a powerful incentive. A local firm we work with hosts an event called “Catfish, Corndogs, & Cornhole.” In addition to the event’s catchy name, it has plenty of good food and attending businesses form teams to compete in Cornhole, which is similar to horseshoes except players throw corn bags into wooden boxes. The event benefits The Boys & Girls Club, giving it a charitable aspect that further encourages attendance and publicity. This event brings a bunch of potential and current clients together and everyone gets to interact with the dynamic leader of the company. Get help, partner up with another firm, or even bring in something/someone outside your industry. Hickok Cole Architects (Georgetown, DC), took home first place in Zweig Group’s 2015 Marketing Excellence Awards in the Special Event category for its social marketing event – Art Night. Every October, HCA transforms its four-floor offices into a huge art gallery and the proceeds from the sale of artwork are split between the nonprofit organization, Washington Project for the Arts, and local participating artists. Even though Hickok Cole foots the bill, the event brings in over 700 people and the firm estimates the press/media coverage is equal to at least $10,000 worth of advertising and exposure. Other things to keep in mind:
  • Timing is everything. Consider other area events, industry events, holidays, location and weather.
  • Alert the media (and not just through social media).
  • Charge if necessary (even if the money is going to charity or a speaker/presenter). Guests who are willing to pay the price to attend an event often anticipate that their experience will be valuable or, at the very least, they are interested and curious about what you have to offer.
  • Don’t overlook the details. Whether you are holding this event at your firm’s office or somewhere else, have appropriate lighting, music, sound, food/drink, restrooms, and whatever else will keep people comfortable and having a good time.
  • Capture the event with photo/video so it can continue to work as marketing.
  • Make sure every attendee is walking away with something of value (can just be information).
  • Keep a guest list and follow up with every attendee.
Follow these tips, get a little creative, have some fun, and you’ll be well on your way to hosting a successful event!

Christina Zweig is Zweig Group's director of research and marketing. Contact her at

This article is from issue 1148 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.