How To Throw A Memorable Party At A Trade Show (Like #HRTechConf)

We know sometimes it’s easy to lean on the weight of our own importance. After all, we’re here on business. We head to a professional trade show and our first thought is that we want to throw the classiest, swankiest party we can dream up.

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But leaving the hors d'oeuvres and champagne flutes out of it might make for a more memorable brand experience than you think. You’d be surprised at how well people respond to neon glassware and light up necklaces. You’d be surprised how much fun you’ll have at a party with a dance-floor DJ versus one that plays the exclusive list of favorites you have starred on Spotify. You’d be surprised how much aiming for a high-budget college party will land you closer to a swanky “grown-up party” anyway.

We’re not recommending you go full-on frat with your business party if that’s not your brand. But remembering that all attendees — even your top prospects — are just people looking to have a good time … people who probably haven’t been invited to a lot of purely kickass parties lately … can help you throw a party that will be remembered for years to come.

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So here are a few tips, from a veteran’s toolbox, to you:

  • Nail the venue. You can’t get the venue wrong. You need space for twice as many people as you’re realistically anticipating. You need your venue to be within a reasonable walk of the conference venue — or, just like we did for HR Tech 2012 in Chicago, you need to provide limos and transportation for everyone to make their way to you with ease. If your venue has some inherent mystique or history within the city you’re in, even better.

  • Get the entertainment right. Again, don’t go wrong here. Go with something tried and true that fits the theme of your party. If you want people to dance, cut loose, and make some bad decisions, you’re gonna want a Top 40 DJ. If you want people to be entertained but you’re not as worried about a packed dancefloor, stick with a live cover band that carries a good reputation. If you’re on a major budget, you can pull this off with an iPod playlist and entertaining video working together — but we recommend having someone nimble who can respond to the vibe of the party in real time.

  • Get the word out. You can’t skimp out on promotion. Typically, shouting “free beer!” from the mountaintops is enough to pack a party if you have decent brand awareness. If this is your first time attending a particular conference, and you want to make a bang with a party, you’ll have to make sure you’re spreading the word like wildfire. Know your competition for the night of your party, and plan early so you can start getting a killer, public attendee list out there. If you’re not seeing the registration you wanted, put some money into promoting to the email list of the event, social promotion on Twitter and/or Facebook, or work with influencers in your space to get them excited about what’s to come.

  • Don’t panic. It’s a party. If planning your party stops being fun, you should reconsider some stressful details. If you had always dreamed of having jello shots at your party, but there’s a chance the only way to make it possible is to break the law — skip it. If you always dreamed of having a t-shirt cannon, but you can’t find one in budget and still be able to afford t-shirts — skip it. If a particular detail is giving you too much stress — skip it. Parties aren’t made by a detail. They’re made through thoughtful consideration of all the details, and the second one becomes a headache — it’s not worth it.

  • Feed the people. Don’t let people leave on account of hunger. Instead of offering cheesy banquet food, think of a local food (Chicago-style pizza in the windy city, an assortment of cheeses and meats in Northern California, etc.) that could offer a unique experience to your guests without going too generic (and unnecessarily pricey).

  • Don’t get too serious. It’s a party. If you can’t have fun planning and attending your own party, how do you expect your guests to? You can typically only relax at your own party if you have all of your details figured out in advance. When you know what to expect and you’re prepared for any and all party wrenches or wet blankets, you can really cut loose and set the vibe for your own party.

If you want to know something about throwing a great party, talk to the team at Virgin Pulse. Or check out the photos on Facebook or check the hashtag #PulseLaunch on Twitter for yourself.