Not once, Hans van der Beek had to wait in line for an event. A journalist for the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool, he writes about networking events, openings and other events in the popular column Schuim [Foam]. The newspaper press pass makes him a popular guest. His photographs of events are accompanied with funny captions and characteristic text. Van der Beek talks about his years of experience as a visitor with event managers and shares his unvarnished opinion: “Please, never call me to invite me for your event and consider organising events on a Tuesday or Wednesday more often.”
GIFs poison your invitation
“The only thing I want, is a clear invitation. In the blink of an eye, I have to be able to see when, where, and at what time an event takes place. You’ll be surprised how often that is not stated in the invitation. I then have to click on a login link, or scroll down an entire mail, which is very annoying. Also, make sure the RSVP link works and is clearly visible. Sometimes, if I reply to an invitation, my response ends up in an unmanaged mailbox. If I do not receive a confirmation, I will not show up. So select a sender address that is actually managed.”
Sure, a GIF looks cool, but I need text
Van der Beek sees a new trend among event professionals. They send and invitation without a plain text, but with an image or GIF (moving image) instead. “Sure, it looks very cool, but I need a ‘plain text’, so I can find the invitation in my mailbox. GIFs and JPEGs needlessly complicate my work. Same goes for vague invitations, such as a save-the-date with no background information. I don’t feel like Googling what the event is about. If you want to invite me, you should make it as easy as possible for me.”
PR is an art
Inviting journalists for an opening or press is tricky. “I prefer to receive as few updates and reminders as possible, and prefer not to be called just to let me know an event will take place. Send me all the information at once, so no follow-up mails are needed. To all the event managers and PR people in the Netherlands, I would like to say: stalking people on the phone was popular once, but nowadays sending an email works a lot better.”
Business events also benefit from clear and complete communication. However, unlike press events, reminders and updates are appreciated for these events - provided they are clear and concrete - for B2B events. The goal is different: you want to stay top-of-mind. Striking invitations from event managers also don’t need to count on the enthusiasm of the journalist. ”Of course, the invitations with a key to a hotel room are creative and eye-catching, however, I still want to be able to find the invitation in my mailbox.”
Van der Beek thinks the guest list is of little value. “If half of the announced Dutch celebrities are present, this is an unexpected bonus. A guest list often means nothing more than an intention to attend. I think event organisers invite a celebrity and place them on the guest list, before the celebrity has even agreed to coming. Because you cannot count on the presence of celebs, I don’t even look at the guest list anymore. The cast of the movie will be present at the premiere, but that is about the only certainty you’ll get.” Nevertheless, it is worth it to use guest lists for other B2B events. As networking is an important aspect of many business events, many guests would like to know who is coming. Oftentimes, the guest list is an important indicator of an event.
How to get the Schuim reporter to events
Although Van der Beek is very clear about what is wrong with invitations and guest lists, his presence does not only depend on the invitation. “There must be a ‘twist’ to the event: something funny, striking, urgent or topical. Events with celebrities get more attention, I won’t deny that. That being said, I don’t really need handsome influencers. A retired sportsman that is less popular but still interesting, will also catch my attention.” Thinking outside the box is a smart thing to do when organising a business event, too. A different approach for an event might stimulate an invitee to show up.
A retired sportsman will also catch my attention
The Schuim reporter has to fill his section six days a week. “Consider organising events on Tuesdays or Wednesdays more often. Mondays are a common day for premieres and Thursdays are very popular because it is close to the weekend. I understand you want a high attendance rate, and obviously the world does not revolve around me, but there is a gap to be filled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Seize that opportunity if you want me to attend! The location of the event is crucial too. I have seen the A’dam Tower and the W-hotel by now 0 and locations that are hard to reach by public transport add an extra hurdle for your attendees.”
Always keep your target audience in mind, when sending out the invitations to your event. A popular journalist like Hans van der Beek has other selection criteria for events than a CEO or a potential customer. Think about the invitation and the text, the presentation of the event, the location, the time and day. The better this fits the needs of your invitees, the more likely they are to register.