Have you ever planned a party or an event and worried about actually getting people there? Or have you just avoided planning a get together because you envision yourself as that nine year old kid at your birthday party hating that feeling of “What happens if no one comes? Then I won’t be popular.” That is a real fear, along with the usual complaints of “it’s a lot of work”, “no one really appreciates the effort anyway” and the big doozy of “If I invite them over then someone will judge me, my house, my decorating skills, my food, my kids, etc.”
Getting groups of people together can be very rewarding on many levels. The most basic is human connection. People, for the most part, enjoy social settings where they can connect deeper with others and share a common experience. As an event planner since the age of 13, I have a passion for pulling people together to enjoy themselves..and really, more selfishly, to entertain myself, as well!
Let me share with you some tips on getting people to show up for your events.
- Make the Event Enticing– People will show up to an event that proclaims itself as unique and has an element of mystery. I am currently putting on the first ever “Great Gingerbread Build” for Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii slated for December 5th. We are adding some fun elements to the event that you would see on reality TV food shows such as ways for the audience to make it more difficult to complete a task and the art of “buying back” your freedom to finish building the house. I am also working on the Halloween Journey for Kona Pacific Public Charter School slated for October 24th which includes eight theme-based skits (Rocket to the Stars) featuring participants escorted through a tropical forest at night with pumpkins to light their way while they enjoy treats and laughs with their friends and family. People also love food and holding “Taste of” events is a huge draw because the offerings change year after year.
- Do It For A Good Cause-People enjoy having the opportunity to help the community or the works of a non-profit organization. I work with many volunteers each year in putting on the Big Island Chocolate Festival, slated for May 21-22, 2016. The Festival has raised over $30,000 for both the “Equip the Kitchen’s” campaign to provide appliances and furniture to the new community college culinary program and to Kona Pacific Public Charter School, now also building a community commercial kitchen. We have had many of the top chefs on the island participate in providing expertly created chocolate desserts and savory dishes because it helps the overall culinary community in West Hawaii. The draw for the public is not just to enjoy copious amounts of chocolate decadence, but to support the education of local students. The Run for Hope, held each year at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, enjoys hundreds of runners drawn to the race to support cancer research. Think about it? Have you attended fundraising events to support something you care about? (And by thanking your volunteers with ANOTHER party, you make even more connections, much like IronMan Kona and the Kona BrewFest do for their volunteers.)
- Allow People to Network-People thrive on making new connections and by holding events to support that activity makes you a hero. Through my 365Kona blog and “365 Things to Do in Kona” Facebook page, I have made connections with many people moving to the Big Island. They come with little or no connection to the community. I started holding beach parties to bring these “newbies” together to form new friendships and support structures for each other. When you are new, especially on an island, having people to do things with or help in case of an emergency is very valuable. It has been a true pleasure to be able to hold these parties for my new friends and in return, some have joined our school community and have volunteered to help on my events! A win-win! I have also helped other friends by holding wine parties, writers workshops and even large holiday parties with new friendships being formed at each gathering.
- Make it FUN! Add an element that makes people talk and laugh AND photograph themselves. Wine usually does this for me…but, I have incorporated some fun things to do for people like bringing floaty toys to meet at a beach and tide pools. You can’t help but make friends when you find yourself floating together at sunset. I also like to take photos of people and some of my friends have done photo booths at their parties. We even brought in a professional photo booth at the Big Island Chocolate Festival last year. People pass along those photos via their social networks and then those people are clamoring to come to your next get together, too! I had everyone get together for a group shot on a beach and we jumped in the air. People were tagging themselves in the photos when I put it on Facebook, thus allowing other people at the party to “friend” those people, too. I also do White Elephant gift exchanges at my holiday parties and making a craft, like New Year’s hats, is always a hit, too.
- Make The Event Educational-Put on an event that allows people to learn something. Many people do not go to social events because they are too busy or they just don’t want to face social awkwardness. Create a way for people to connect while sharing their love of learning. In an effort to meet more local business people myself and show I had an expertise in event planning and social media, I created and implemented TechConKona in 2011 and 2012. I used County grants to help fund the event and brought business people from all over the island to learn more about technology and sustainability. The event got people talking, and exchanging ideas and business cards. We held a reception with the sponsors and vendors afterwards and everyone had a great time and it made the front page of the newspaper. If you can help facilitate someone who has something important to say with an audience who will benefit from hearing them, putting on workshops, a symposium, or a forum is rewarding for all involved.
- People Like Supporting People Who Make Things Happen-the KEY element in having people show up at your events. After living on this island for five years and putting on quite a few successful events, fundraisers, workshops and parties, people know that when you come to something I plan or host, you most likely are going to have a good time and meet cool people. This has made it easier to find sponsors, supporters, volunteers and attendees, and I have made some amazing friendships.
I may create events professionally, but even putting on dinner parties for your friends can be a chance to use some of these tips. People like to attend events, but no one wants to put one on. I used to keep waiting for an invitation from people who liked going to my parties in the 80’s and 90’s and then I realized that hardly anyone was taking the time and energy to put on events. If you look at the good karma putting people together can bring, then you can get a guest list together, make an event page on Facebook, and tell people to bring some food and beverages. That’s where it starts. Go for it. People are waiting to connect.