Six people in businesswear stand in groups of three and mingle with wine glasses in their hands at an indoor event. Their meeting space has gray carpeting and brown walls textured to look like wood. The ceiling is slanted and made of glass; yellow leaves have fallen onto it and partially obscure the view of the sky. Painted lightbulbs hang down from the ceiling, some of them low enough to be near a person's head or shoulder. The bulbs have varying amounts of gray swirling paint on them -- some bulbs have light shining through the paint, but others are completely covered.
Your main consideration for a professional event should be the audience. The people in attendance will largely shape how to market the event and what to buy for it. — Getty Images/FilippoBacci

Whether it’s a grand opening, a customer appreciation celebration, or a networking luncheon, hosting a professional event can help small businesses connect with current and prospective customers while boosting brand awareness.

While planning a corporate event requires significant time, coordination, and resources, it’s more than possible to pull it off without breaking the bank. Here’s what small businesses need to know about planning and managing an event.

How small businesses can benefit from hosting professional events

Professional events tend to have a strong return on investment: According to an UpCity survey, nearly three-quarters of SMBs reported that, for every $1 spent in event marketing, they saw an ROI of $20 or more.

One of the most compelling reasons to host a professional event is the potential to build connections. In addition to strengthening relationships with existing customers, you can also meet prospective clients and partners, which can lead to future business opportunities.

“You can make more connections in one or two days at a live event than you can in a month, or even a year, in any other format,” said Vincent Velasquez, CEO and Co-Founder of event production companies Hurricane Productions and MediaCutlet.

Hosting a professional event can also increase brand awareness and recognition, particularly within your local community or industry. Depending on your business, you may even be able to sell your products or services directly during the event for an additional revenue stream.

[Read more: 10 Popular Swag Items to Give Out at Your Next Company Event]

Considerations for small businesses in the early stages of event planning

While professional events are well worth the investment for many small businesses, they also require careful forethought. Velasquez recommended identifying your audience early in the planning process to streamline the logistics throughout.

“If you can clearly define ‘who attends,’ then it crystallizes marketing, sponsorship opportunities, and … the different teams it takes to produce an event toward one goal,” he told CO—.

You can make more connections in one or two days at a live event than you can in a month, or even a year, in any other format.

Vincent Velasquez, CEO and Co-Founder of Hurricane Productions and MediaCutlet

Other considerations for early event planning include:

  • Your budget. Establish how much money you have at your disposal for the core event — including food and drink, venue, guest speakers, and/or entertainment — as well as the costs of marketing/promotional materials and other additional line items.
  • Your end goal. Identify the reason for hosting your event; common goals include increasing revenue, boosting brand awareness, or generating leads. Set metrics that align with your primary objective and allow you to quantify success.
  • Any potential partners or sponsors. Determine if bringing in another party, whether an event partner or sponsor, can add value to your attendees while helping you meet your event goal. Event partners will work alongside you to plan and run the event, while a sponsor provides funding in exchange for exposure.
  • Necessary logistics and responsible parties. Write out each task that needs to be completed, including booking and purchasing necessary items, setup/cleanup, and internal and external communications. Then, establish which individuals or teams will be responsible for each, and create a plan to track task progress and completion.

[Read more: How to Host a Hybrid Event]

Best practices for planning and running an in-person business event

These best practices can help you and your audience get the most out of your business event:

Get the word out

A strong event promotion strategy is crucial to attracting attendees, which may include current customers, qualified leads, and those with similar profiles to your brand’s target audience. Social media and email marketing campaigns, along with event listings and web pages optimized for SEO, can be both impactful and cost-effective for businesses on a budget. If you’ve landed an event partner or sponsor, cross-promoting with them can also expand your audience significantly.

Develop a contingency plan

Bad weather, transportation challenges, and other unexpected events can disrupt your event if not accounted for. Creating a contingency plan for potential risks and worst-case scenarios, and conveying that plan to your team, can ensure your event runs smoothly — even when life doesn’t.

Provide lifetime value to attendees

The value you give attendees doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) end when everyone goes home. Velasquez encouraged small business owners to view their event as the culmination of the products or services they offer year-round and extend that value accordingly.

“If you have a newsletter, publication, digital product, or service that can give people more value throughout the year, that is how you maximize everyone’s investment, including your own,” he said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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