It's pretty easy to gauge the quality of the event: Just look at the the people who attend. Whether it's a huge gathering, such as SXSW, with tens of thousands of attendees, or an intimate event for a handful of colleagues, getting the best guests is the first key to hosting an effective event.

But who are the best people to invite and how do you entice them to come?

Dave Welty, events leader at Maloney & Fox, a public relations firm based in New York City, says: "We're looking for influential consumers who are interested in what our brand is doing and what our brands is going to continue to do in the future." 

And, in most cases, so are you.The best crowd for your event consists of people who are invested and loyal to your brand, as well as influential potential customers or business partners. Companies that do the well can tell you that having the appropriate crowd not only fosters deeper engagement, but also turns attendees into devoted advocates for your brand. Following these five steps will help you draw in the ideal crowd for your event.

How To Get The Best Crowd at Your Event: Determine the Appropriate Audience

"You want you make sure that the audience attending any show is, at least, the right audience," says Cass Phillipps, an event producer who has worked on dozens of San Francisco Bay Area start-up events.

This might seem easy enough, but figuring out what types of people you want at your event is a step not to be taken lightly. The last thing you want is to attract a crowd that expects freebies or just wants to be pampered by a full-service party without actually becoming an advocate for your brand. There's a time and place for every crowd, but it's up to you to determine which audience is best suited for your event.

Ask yourself: what do I want to accomplish with this event? Your answer will help you determine the appropriate crowd to target.

Welty works diligently planning events for Hendrick's Gin.  He says the audience they target are eclectic, smart and vibrant people who come from all demographics.  Most of these people have heard of Hendrick's Gin, are willing to try new products from the brand and will tell their friends about it as well.

"Success for me is people walking of [the event] having a great evening and knowing that it was Hendrick's Gin they were drinking." Welty says.

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How To Get The Best Crowd at Your Event: Create Great Collaborations

If you're holding a large-scale event, you might need to think beyond your company's own customers or your natural audience to draw a significant crowd. So, enlist help. "You need to find a partner basically for the same reason that you find a partner for your start-up," Phillipps says. "If you can't find one person to dedicate their time to this idea, how do you expect to get 500?"

Ideally, whatever event you're planning, you'll want the support of other businesses or agencies; support from them usually fosters support from their customers.  This is where your list of contacts comes in. Usually you can find event partners and sponsors in your own network of industry colleagues.  But if your contact list isn't as robust as you'd like, Phillipps suggests another partnership option.

"Start small. Meetup.com is a great place to start an event idea to just acquire fresh faces, to do a small thing that you really can't lose that much money on, [such as] a lunch where everybody covers themselves," she says.

But if you've already established a solid network of contacts, this step should be pretty easy.

"When I do events, to get people to actually come in the door, one of the things that I'm always looking for is who is going to have that valuable reader or listener," Welty says. "And then I look at their general perception."

Phillipps suggests scouring your mailing list for relevant, industry-specific groups that can double as your media partners.  Having engaged partners associated with your event attracts loyal customers and adds legitimacy to your event.

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How To Get The Best Crowd at Your Event: Cast a Wide Net

"I tend to double, triple, the amount I can actually hold as far as RSVPs go because of the fickle nature of people," Welty says. "Even in a good city, where you don't have a big drop off, you lose 50 percent [of the people you invite], almost guaranteed and in New York you lose sometimes 70 plus percent."

It also depends on what type of event you're hosting, Phillipps adds. "If it's a free event, over invite by maybe 40 percent, [but] if it's a paid event, you'll have a higher percentage show up and a lower percentage sign up."

When thinking about your VIP list, identifying the leaders in your industry, who already have a large and loyal following, is key. It could be a challenge to get them to come, so offering them complimentary passes or allowing them to invite close contacts from other companies could be a good incentive for them to show.

Dig Deeper: 10 Ways to Support Your Best Customers


How To Get The Best Crowd at Your Event: Pick a Prime Location

Never underestimate the power of a place.

"That is one of the most important things, if not the most important," Welty says. "If you were to do an event, say, down on Wall Street, you are going to get a specific kind of crowd."

It's no secret that certain places attract certain crowds—so plan according. When hosting events in major cities, consider the transportation alternatives, and timing of travel from a variety of locations. Is it easy for your target guests to get to the event from their offices? What about getting home at the end of the night? Not everyone will have a car and be able, or willing, to travel far.

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How To Get The Best Crowd at Your Event: Stay Connected


If you've managed to draw in a great crowd for your event, chances are you want them to attend another one. Retention is perhaps one of the more difficult steps in event-planning.

"A lot of attendees will say they want a way to connect after the event," Phillipps says. "And when I give them one they don't act on it."

While there is not a surefire way to keep your key attendees engaged after your event, here are a few things you can do:

•    Ask for feedback about your event; take that into consideration and make changes for the event.
•    Be a facilitator by connecting guests with one another during and after your event.
•    Create a Facebook page or Twitter account for your attendees to build a community around your event and keep them excited about the next one.

The idea, Welty says, is to figure out a way to keep your attendees tied to the brand while attracting new consumers at the same time. And because most companies are still experimenting with what practice works best, you have the freedom to do the same&mdash-anything that will allow consumers to have a good association with your brand.

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