After 14 years in this crazy industry, it occurred to me the other day that I've probably collected some random bits & pieces of advice that may be helpful to you folk out there. I assume if you're reading my blog it means you're either a) working in PR b) interested in the world of PR or c) just bored out of your holyshitballs at work. So, I've conjured up some party pearls of wisdom that could assist. There's a couple of cubic zirconias of wisdom in here too, but every little gem counts...
You never get as many guests as you think you will.
This is quite simply an etched-in-stone fact, and one that couldn't be truer these days in the party-packed town of Sydney. There is ALWAYS a drop off on your RSVP list, and as one top Sydney PR put it last week - "what used to be a drop off of 10-20% on the night is now 30%, sometimes even up to half". I have always laughed when PRs freak out to me saying "OMG our RSVPs have gone way over we are going to be so slammed!" This rarely, if ever, happens. A good PR will know to keep taking RSVPs well over the capacity that it's planned for. I go to alot of events and can't remember the last time where I felt uncomfortable because it was way too crowded. (Note here: there is a big difference between a venue that is full & one that is jammed). I certainly remember the ones where there weren't enough people though!
Don't fret if you don't have enough RSVPs.
We've all gone through that panic a couple of days before an event when the RSVP list is looking thin (sometimes downright emaciated). PRs have tried all the tricks in the book: sending out another last minute batch of invitations by courier; calling people who weren't invited reminding them to RSVP and then feigning shock when they say they never received an invite; or madly calling everyone they know the day before to try and bolster numbers. I've witnessed it all over the years, and it's all stressful and often unnecessary.
Send enough & send a reminder.
Firstly, send more invitations that you think you should. Sometimes, way more if you happen to be throwing an event that may not be the hottest ticket in town (we've all had to at some time). The beauty is you can always cut off RSVPs if you do truly go over, so if you send enough out in the first place you should be fine on the other end. Secondly, it's really helpful to send an RSVP reminder at least 1 week prior to the event (NOT the day before in my opinion). If you don't send a reminder, people can forget and make other plans. Normally with RSVPs you get 2 spikes: one when they first land, then another a day before the event when people realise they've forgotten to RSVP. By sending an RSVP reminder at least a week before, you'll get another healthy spike in the middle which will make the day before the event much less stressful.
Bolstering numbers can be easy.
If you still have low numbers the day before, the easiest thing I find is to simply look at who has RSVP'd and highlight 15 of your favourite guests, the ones you know well and who love to party. Then contact each and let them know they can bring a bunch of friends along with them. You don't even need to explain why, as they will usually be thrilled to be able to bring some mates - they're coming anyway, and they'll get the double whammy of being able to party with a gang (always more fun) as well as getting some kudos amongst their friends for being given this privilege. And I'm a believer that if you like someone enough to invite them, chances are their friends will be fabulous too. AND - if they've committed to bringing a bunch of friends they're less likely to drop out on the night as well. You can get an extra 50-100 fun people very easily this way without sweating your freshly spray tanned bod about it, trust me.
Always invite media with a guest.
Speaking of people who freak out at too many RSVPs, the ones who don't allow media to bring a guest just boggle my mind. OK, so there will always be events where numbers are strictly limited where it's not possible, and media will always understand this. But over the years I've had media grumble to me MANY times about PRs who nix a guest for them, and it's always really puzzled me. Yes media are there to do their job, but they are there to potentially write about your client, so surely you'd want them to have the best time possible? And on the flipside, if you had the pleasure of having a job that involved going to parties every night of the week, wouldn't you love to bring your partner/bestie/Mum every now & again? Let them!
Find some stories.
The best PRs are the ones who don't just send a straight media release the day after the party talking all about their client and who was there. While this stuff is crucial, the really good buzzy media pieces will happen if you go out of your way to find something spicy that happened at the party. Sometimes you'll have to accept that it has nothing to do with your client but that it will achieve good press which is why you're doing the party in the first place, right? It will also improve your relationships with media if you give them something fleshy to work with. Think outside the square.
Don't do an event in another city without local help.
So you have a stellar guest list in your city, great media relationships and always throw a great bash - do you really think you'd be able to pull this off in a different city? I've seen this mistake all too often and it's SO easy to avoid. Just recently I was at an event in Sydney held by a fab Melbourne PR company - and it was perfect in every way, simply divine. Except there was barely a soul there. It SO could have been a cracking event, with the right number & mix of guests. I wouldn't do anything in Melbourne without Susie Robinson from PR Darling, who is my rock when it comes to anything there. I have always encouraged Sydney & Melbourne PRs to develop mutually beneficial connections with each other like this - everyone wins. If anyone needs to know the best PRs in all cities in Australia who can help you on the ground with guest lists & media, contact me.
The bottom line - entertain your guests.
Events are expensive whichever way you look at it, so if you're going to spend your client's money on one, make it memorable. Avoid the straight drinks-canapes-speech-gift bag routine and spice it up with unique features. I like to make something happen, a 'moment', at least every 40 minutes. It can be as simple as a singer, or as wacky as a huge noise and sudden 'reveal' down the other side of the room. Have interactive elements that will bring out the playful side in your guests and you'll have the room buzzing & flirting in no time. Rise to the occasion and make it a goal to have your guests remember the night for weeks, months, hopefully even years to come. Never forget it's a party- ~MAKE IT FUN!~