Picture is illustrative. Photo by Jakob Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Events can be a really important tool to reach out to key audiences (another useful resource for mapping key audiences can be found here.) Whilst they do not form part of every communications campaign – they should always be considered as part of the mix. This does not mean that you should host a several days-long conference for thousands of people, however. As with all communications activities, events should be tailored to suit:

  • The audience
  • The desired outcomes
  • Your budget


Should we organise an event? 

When deciding whether or not to host event, first of all think about the following:  

  • Is this the best way to reach the people you want to reach? There are many different communications channels and there may be one which is more appropriate. 
  • Will your target audience be interested enough to attend? In today’s time-poor world, getting people to attend an event can be a challenge. Even more so “in person”. 

Remember that as well as the costs associated with the hosting of the event, they are also resource-heavy in terms of time spent preparing for a successful event. You want to be sure to focus your energies and resources in the right place! Once you have positively answered those questions then you can go ahead and plan your perfect event. 


Types of event (just a few examples):

  • Launch event – e.g. for a study/activity/programme
  • Celebration – e.g. your organisation’s anniversary, the end of a successful programme etc.
  • Conference / round-table discussion / debate
  • Press conference 
  • Awards ceremony (e.g. SALTO Awards
  • “Open doors” 
  • Fundraising event
  • Protest/demonstration 


Online or offline? 

We’ve all been there: Zoom fatigue! As you glance down your calendar for the day: “not another online event or meeting”…  If the pandemic and home-bound working life has taught us one thing, it’s to be experts in online meetings and events. Whilst they have become the norm, online events can also all blur into one, repetitive in format and style.  And for those fed up with staring at hundreds of pixels that represent their colleagues, an “IRL” event still has its appeal. 

On the positive side, online events have become slicker, more interactive and – let’s face it – save travel time and cost! Organisations have innovated to use online events and social media to galvanize audiences and raise awareness. And as we, hopefully, emerge into a post-pandemic world, there have been some really successful examples of hybrid online-offline events

In the end, you’ll have to weigh up budgetary concerns (and, of course, current health and travel guidelines) versus the advantages of meeting face-to-face. 


A captive audience 

One strong advantage to hosting an event, is that once your audience is there – you’ve done a lot of the hard work! You know that this audience is invested in the topic/activity in order that they have made the effort to attend your event. Three-quarters of adults ages 18-34 believe that attending a live event is more impactful than taking action online

Now it’s time to engage them with the right, impactful content. This is your opportunity to communicate with a very receptive audience! Events also give an organisation the chance to put “faces to the names”, to be more personable and introduce your audiences to your organisation, its mission, values and activities. 


Tips and tricks:

  • The key to any successful event is preparation, preparation, preparation
  • Have one dedicated person in charge of the entire event who will then delegate certain aspects. 
  • A wider team, with clearly defined roles should share out the tasks and responsibilities.
  • Reach the right people: personal invitations to key people within organisations
  • Expect drop-outs: ensure you have more RSVPs than you want for a successful event
  • Make the event work hard for you in terms of communications – e.g. ensure that you are using it to as a tool for communicating to a wider audience before, during and after the event itself
  • If relevant, do live social media coverage of the event 
  • Create video/visual content to share afterwards, thereby reaching a broader audience. Engaging an event photographer and videographer is a good idea to ensure you have good quality content
  • Refreshments
  • Creative “Goodies”! People love to take things away from a physical event. This is your chance to hand out your branded promotional items and/or flyers and publications. Avoid producing low quality materials – do more with less. Keep the environmental impact in mind!
  • If your event is online – there’s no surer way to annoy people and lose your audience than technical difficulties. Invest in professional online event management.


Photo of Sarah Farndale
Sarah Farndale

Sarah is a communications specialist with 15 years' experience working in-house for a wide range of organisations and institutions, from international NGOs to EU associations and institutions. More recently, she has been advising clients as a freelance communications consultant - based in Brussels - working with organisations on enhancing their communications.