Planning an open house may seem like a daunting task, but with the right planning and preparation, you’re sure to host an event to remember.
Here are our 10 keys for a successful open house:
- Establish the date and time first. It’s important to do this well in advance so you have time to coordinate with key members of your staff to ensure that you are not conflicting with travel or vacation schedules. Once you have that set, begin communicating it with other members of the staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows to leave the date open on their calendar. Don’t forget to check for local events that can pull attendance away (i.e., local sporting events, big concerts, popular vacation weeks) as well.
- Apply for any permits you may need. If you’re going to serve alcohol at your open house, you’ll need to apply for a liquor license. Keep in mind that these take up to a month to process, so you’ll need to submit your application at least 4 weeks before the event takes place. Most permits require an approximate headcount – if you have hosted an event in the past, you can base that headcount on past attendance. If this is your first time hosting an event, you may need to reach out to your guest list with a save-the-date to get an idea of who will be able to make it.
- Decide if it’s an indoor or outdoor event. For indoor events, you may need to coordinate with someone for table and chair rental. For outdoor events, you may also need a tent (and possibly a permit to host it outdoors, depending where you are located). Find a rental company early to ensure that they are available the night before or day of your event. Be sure to factor in the time it takes to set-up and tear-down into your schedule.
- Choose a theme. It’s important to choose your theme early, because you’ll want to plan your invitations, decorations, and maybe even your menu around it.
- Compile your guest list. This can include customers, prospective customers, vendors, partners, employees. Have your staff go through your CRM system and mark down everyone they would like to invite. Once you have your list, make sure you save it somewhere you can easily access it for your invitations and RSVP’s.
- Determine how you will capture RSVP’s. You may direct guests to call or email with their RSVP, or you may direct them to a web form or other landing page to register online. You will need to decide how you want to collect them – and who will be in charge for organizing all of them – before you work on your invitations so you know exactly what information to include on them.
- Create and send your invitations. Make sure they clearly state the date, time, location, and who is hosting. We recommend sending initial invitations at least three weeks in advance with a couple reminders in between. That way, your guests have plenty of time to make sure they are available and to RSVP, and your staff has time to follow up with recipients that haven’t responded yet. We recommend sending a print invitation followed by an email invitation within a day or two of the mailing, with reminder emails to engage non-responders. You can also send reminder emails to those that have already registered to give them important updates like directions to your location, where to park, what to expect, etc. Tally up your RSVP’s a week before so you can give your cater an idea of how many people you are expecting. Depending on your response, it may be higher or lower than the count you originally gave them.
- Decide if you are going to be giving any tours. An open house can be a great opportunity to show guests around your building. Decide ahead of time if you want to give any tours so you can plan for additional directional signage, notes for your tour guides, and most importantly so you can ensure that the area is tidy and giving a good impression of your company or brand.
- Coordinate the production of informational signage or displays. It’s important to set up signs so guests can easily figure out where to park, how to get to the registration/welcome tent if you have one, where they can find food and drinks, and other important details. You may also want to consider setting up displays to show off your products and services. This is especially great if you are giving tours.
- Be ready for last minute changes. Emergencies happen all the time, and someone that said they would make it might have to cancel at the last minute. Have a backup plan in place so you don’t have to scramble around if something changes right before (or day of!) the event.