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You’ve spent years on R&D, months on fine-tuning your branding and messaging, and suddenly it’s time to plan your launch event for the best product ever — but where to begin? Whether you’re going to have a small soiree for angel investors or a full-out bash for industry tastemakers, press and influencers, you’ll need to create a plan and go from there.
As president and CEO of Tigris Events, a Toronto-based experiential marketing and staffing agency, I’ve produced events for hundreds of A-list clients running the gamut from L’Oreal to Lamborghini, and from Mastercard to MAC and Miele. I’ve learned a lot along the way about what makes or breaks a launch party.
1. Define your objective.
Do you want to dazzle attendees with the experience itself, or would you rather create a mellow vibe that encourages intimate conversation? Do you want the product itself to take center stage, or are you planning a multimedia experience that is best suited to a sparse space? Once you understand your desired outcome, you can start planning your event. And while you’re at it, don’t stand in your own way. Let the product and not the personalities behind it shine.
Pro planning tip: Try to take yourself out of the equation to concentrate on the brand and how you want it perceived. If you stop concentrating on your own ego or aspirations, you’ll better be able to choose the best possible theme, venue, menu and more.
2. Pick the right place.
While the invitation tells people what’s coming next, the venue is the blank canvas on which you’ll project your best ideas and aspirations and bring them to life. Selecting the right venue is key. There’s nothing worse than booking a venue that doesn’t have enough space for all your guests — unless it’s a space that’s so cavernous the room always looks empty. While we’re discussing the worst of venue choices, look for one with spacious and manageable entryways, comfortable exits and lots of parking. The last thing you want at your event is a logistical nightmare of guests trying to check in or leave. There’s a reason that the Governors Ball for the Academy Awards is held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom on the top level of the Hollywood & Highland Center; it’s easily accessible and events held there are consistently flawless.
Pro planning tip: Give it a whirl before signing a contract. If you love a venue, ask the management company if it’s OK if you crash the next party. You may find that the space looks better empty, or just can’t match the vibe you imagined.
3. Get creative.
Just because you’re planning a traditional launch event doesn’t mean your product needs to be represented in the traditional sense. Challenge end users to create interesting ways to use your product or hold a recipe development contest. We recently worked on the launch of Shades, a new lipstick line for Burt’s Bees. Ten artists were tasked with creating unique works of art using the product, which meant that we were able to create an exhibition of exquisite artworks made using only lipsticks. Key members of the media, bloggers and the public were invited to view the art and also place bids in a charity auction with all proceeds going towards Wildlife Preservation Canada.
Pro planning tip: Find a way to encourage event attendees or the public to become part of the event before your product even launches. Get them excited before they’ve even held your product in their hands.
Related: 5 Reasons to Host Your Own Event
4. Get the word out.
Word of mouth buzz can be priceless. Investing in a good PR plan is almost as important as ensuring that the appetizers and cocktails are unique and delicious. If you’re great at public relations, or have an internal department, share your vision for the event along with realistic follow-up. If you have the budget for it, hire a publicist to work with you on a guest list that includes influencers and bloggers. While a party is a great catalyst for promoting your new product, media and social buzz will help grow brand exposure beyond the event.
Pro planning tip: Create a custom hashtag to help people find pictures from the event. Consider adding incentives that align with your brand to encourage people to share their pictures and your hashtag. Guests are engaged on a higher level, and who knows? You could find yourself trending.