From puff-puff paint nights to infused dinner parties, the cannabis industry is booming with as many gatherings and social events as strains available in the dispensaries. Everybody loves an excuse to celebrate, and experiential marketing is increasingly becoming a necessary tool in a company’s toolkit. Think of it this way: You can tell a potential customer about your brand or product or you can show it to them at a branded cannabis event.
How to Prepare for a Cannabis Event
Publicists spend a lot of time planning events for their clients. In my own background in book publicity, I’ve planned readings, panels, and the occasional party. An event, whether it’s a book launch or a cannabis product launch, takes time, money, and organization to plan and execute. Before you take on this task for you, your client, or your company, ask yourself these five questions.
Do I have the skills to do this?
It’s easy to have an idea for a fun event, but it takes a lot of work to make it come to fruition. Find a person you trust, whether a friend, colleague, or a mentor and tell them your idea. The idea to start a cannabis book club sounds great, but what are the logistics that you haven’t thought of that perhaps your friend the numbers person or social butterfly might know? You have the passion and the spark, but it’s important to be realistic with yourself and about what skills you might lack (hate spreadsheets? evites?). Then you can decide whether this was a “Wouldn’t it be cool if we started a book club called Books and Buds?” idea that passes as quickly as it came to you or if it’s an event that will make a meaningful impact on your audience.
How much time will this take?
Depending on the number of attendees and length of the event, you’ll need to give yourself months to prepare. If you’re hosting a fundraising gala, you’ll want to send invitations 4-6 months out. If you’re booking a venue, you may need at least that much time, depending on its popularity. In addition to the time you’ll need long-term to make sure you finish some tasks well in advance of the event date, you must also think about how much of your personal time is needed.
The bigger the event, the more details and tasks you and/or your staff have to accomplish. This might mean cutting back on a component of the night, like cutting a speaker who needs too much preparation for the program or changing the swag if putting together 200 gift bags is too time-consuming. There’s never enough time, and even the night of you’ll probably need to factor in a little extra for putting out unexpected fires.
What is my max budget?
If you’re throwing a party for 150 people and you’re feeding, entertaining, and sending them away with a complimentary cannabis-infused gift bag, your expenses are going to add up. Plus, there is postage and supplies if you send hard copy invitations, the fee to purchase a liquor license if you’re serving alcohol, and other administrative expenses you might not have thought of when you were dreaming up the sushi bar you wanted to splurge on. Don’t forget the money to pay everyone, yourself included!
Do I need an assistant?
You can’t do it all. Repeat: You can’t do it all. I’ve worn too many hats in a past gig for a one-night literary event that involved me taking care of the administrative tasks, hosting tasks, and performing tasks. By the time I took the stage, I realized I had spent more time that night worrying about where the programs were placed and whether the authors had shown up than I did focusing on the piece I planned to read. If you have room for it in your budget, carve a little out to hire someone to send invitations and track RSVPs, find items for the raffle, and any other small task you feel comfortable outsourcing. It will cost you a little extra, but save you your sanity.
What do I want to gain from this?
The last question to ask yourself may be the most important because it requires you to look at the big picture. Ideally, you’ll have a goal in mind for the outcome of your event. If it’s for your company, set a number for how many people you want to sign up for your mailing list. If you’re a consultant, maybe what you gain isn’t as easily quantifiable. Focus on the qualitative: What kind of connections are you hoping to make at this event? Will you add this to your portfolio? Figure out what success looks like to you and then figure out the metrics to measure it. That will help you better prepare for future events as well.
Confidence is Key
Ultimately, the purpose of an event is to bring people together. Find a way to enjoy that experience. In the midst of rushing around to make sure the caterers set up the food on the right table and the guest speaker isn’t in the bathroom when its her time to go on stage, take a moment to look around: You brought a room full of people together to learn or be entertained or simply be in community together. That’s something worth celebrating.