Handling the Big Event
by Melissa Barreca; Kathy Callahan
Handling the Big Event
Tips for making your large-scale promotional efforts worthwhile
Melissa Barreca is communications project manager for Ameristar’s corporate officein Las Vegas. She can be reached at (636) 825-9802, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Kathy Callahan is director of communications for Ameristar’s corporate office in Las Vegas. She can be reached at (702) 567-7053, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s no secret that casinos host player events almost constantly. We all know that with our most loyal players, there’s no substitute for face-to-face networking, a warm handshake, and a fun and relaxing experience that sets your property apart from the competition.
But events can also be used to build relationships with other important constituents and accomplish your property’s important communication objectives. For example, hosting the right event can be a great tool for generating media coverage of a key milestone or development project. It can also provide a priceless opportunity to build goodwill with community leaders and public officials, all of whom can be vital to your success.
Know your goals
When you are evaluating the oppor-tunity to host a PR event, keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish and tailor the event accordingly.
If you are simply looking for media coverage of a new development or venue opening, consider hosting a simple press conference or media preview event (for example, for a restaurant opening or menu change, you could have a preview luncheon for the media; for a construction project, you might offer a sneak peak hard hat tour for a small number of reporters). If your property is undertaking a major expansion, it might be worthwhile to host a more elaborate function and go beyond your media list to invite government officials, community leaders, shareholders and other important audiences.
Regardless of the scope of your event, once you have determined the purpose and intended audience and outcomes, it’s time to get specific with planning and executing your vision.
Food for promotional thought
In the process, keep in mind these tips for effectively executing your big event:
Invest time and energy to research and compile your guest list: The guest list is the single most important piece of the event planning process. If you don’t have the right people in attendance, all of your hard work could go to waste.
Give yourself plenty of lead time: Make sure you are able to mail drop your invitations at least three to four weeks before your RSVP deadline. Work backwards from there to determine the appropriate amount of time for design, production and fulfillment. Once this timeline is established, build off of it to give yourself a comfortable amount of time to meet with and select vendors, finalize arrangements and make changes well in advance.
Make a list and check it twice: Provide checklists, timelines, budgets and an executive summary of the event to every person who will be working on the project. If the event is related to an opening, keep the construction team in the loop as a critical partner. Keep track of details in writing and regularly report updates to your special event team via meetings and e-mail. The more organized you are, the more likely your event will be a success.
Remember that quality control is key: Get samples and detailed proposals from all vendors. See, feel and smell every tangible aspect of the final event set-up, from linens and floral to lighting and food. Even if you are in a hurry to execute an event on a tight timeline, you don’t have to forsake quality for quickness. If you don’t have time to view samples from vendors or to see detailed design renderings, work with proven professionals that you trust implicitly. When your final set-up is done, there will be little opportunity for doing things differently, so remember there’s only one chance to get it right.
Communicate at every level: Make certain that your general manager and entire executive team are fully aware of your plans and progress. But beyond that, be sure to communicate with the managers and front line workers who will ultimately carry out the event plans. From valet to the loading dock, everything needs to be well-orchestrated. It’s helpful to hold multiple walkthroughs on site to ensure that managers in charge of various areas have a good understanding of where they fit into the overall plan and that they have ample opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Finally, for the front line team, consider holding special training sessions to give directions, set expectations and provide an overview of the project.
Keep ad-libbing to a minimum: It’s a given that executive remarks should be well-scripted and executives should understand the event flow from A to Z. However, the same goes for team members—whether it’s the valet staff greeting guests or those providing tours of special features. If outside guests are speaking, brief them on the event flow and their role as well as the message you would like them to convey.
Remember, the devil is in the details: It’s the little things that have a tendency to cause big problems, so invest your time and brainpower into troubleshooting every aspect of your event from start to finish. For example, you won’t be able to host that hard hat tour if you don’t have hard hats. It may sound basic and that’s because it is…and neglecting the basics can get you into trouble. Take the time to go through every possible detail to anticipate these scenarios.
When all of the planning is done, when the last cocktail napkin has been folded and guests begin to arrive, take the time to enjoy your hard work. Not only do community and media events often reap great dividends for your company, they can also be quite enjoyable for all concerned. It’s a great excuse to socialize with community leaders and other VIPs on your home turf. Plan well, plan for the unplanned, work hard and enjoy the rewards!