IRL Events

Tips to leverage in-person events for lead generation

We're sticking with top of funnel tactics in Jan and this week we're talking about IRL events (in real life, for those less acronym literate). 

I don't think anyone would argue that there is immense value in meeting with our prospects and customers in person. For those who need receipts - 

  • Nearly 80% of US marketers use events to boost sales. (Inc.)

  • More than half of marketers think event marketing drives the best ROI. (Splash)

  • 3 out of 4 event attendees agree that their opinion of the company/brand improved after attending. (Zippia)

...I could go on. So, don't forget to incorporate live events into your 2024 plans!

And among the event flavors, I favor the smaller more intimate ones. I've personally experienced the highest ROI on events with 10-15 (sometimes up to 30) people over the large scale events or conferences (in general). There are always a few exceptions, but we're going to focus on the intimate event type today. 

I'll give you some tips to get creative and stand out, tips to keep it cost effective, and some resources. Let's go! 

Tips for IRL Events

#1 Get creative and be consistent 

Dinners are great, but you can really pique someone's interest if you step outside the box a little and if you meet them where they are. For example, some people don't drink, or need to get home to their kids, or need to find more time to get active.

You can also get some extra traction if you are consistent. Pick something and stick to it monthly, quarterly, annually etc. You'll become known for it. 

Some ideas - 

  • I  used to host a monthly Boxing and Beers hang for up to 10 VCs when I worked at TriNet. Every month, I'd reserve 10 bags at the same boxing studio and people would actually lobby to get their name on the list. It was different, it was fun. We got a little exercise and then we'd go next door and grab pizza and beer. It worked because it was casual, unique, exclusive, and consistent (monthly). 

  • I also used to host a quarterly Networking & Nails breakfast with manicures and pedicures for Women in VC/PE. I hosted it in the Loop (Chicago) at 7am so it was easy for women to swing in before work. No alcohol (because it's 7am on a weekday lol) so that made it more approachable for some. Networking AND getting your nails done? Talk about efficiency. 

  • My friend Micah at Bolster, who lives in Colorado, hosts a monthly Startup Hike. Perfect for the Colorado vibe . Plus doing something active while getting some fresh air...Lord knows founders need a good excuse for both. 

  • My friend Casey at Lockton hosts regular events at his Country Club - like a golf or tennis clinic. It's convenient for his audience, many of whom are out in the suburbs anyway. I love that he chooses clinics over games since that allows more people to mingle and for everyone to level up their game a little too. Bonus - he usually gives away a cool gift to a 'winner' of the putting contest at the end. Another nice touch.

And if you're going to stick with a dinner, which is totally acceptable, here are some ideas to still make it standout - 

  • Pick a 'theme' of sorts. For one of my clients last year, we hosted a Jeffersonian style dinner. It was fantastic because it gave structure to the evening and allowed each person to contribute even though we were at a long table with 15  people. You can read more about it here

  • I used to host an annual Galentine's dinner in February for female founders. 

  • A friend of mine in NYC used to partner with real estate brokers to host dinner's in really high end penthouses that were on the market. He'd hire a caterer or chef to come in and serve/cook dinner for the group. Win win win - broker gets foot traffic at their listing, my friend saves on venue costs, and the attendees get a really amazing view and unique experience.

  • Pick a restaurant that is super hard to get into, or new and all the buzz to attract people. When I would get an invite to Momotaro or something bougie like that in Chicago, you can bet I was a YES. 

And another pro tip - if you can bring in an 'anchor' guest or two - that will  help you drive attendance. When I could name drop some well known VC or founder was attending (or co-hosting), it 100% helped my RSVPs.

PS - you can totally send invites to COLD leads and it works*, if you take my advice above to make it unique or attractive enough. 

#2 How to not break the bank 

There are ways to get creative with costs too. This is a newsletter for startups after all, and I got you. 

  • Partner up with another vendor (or two) who sells into your ICP and split the cost of the event. This also gives you extra help with logistics and marketing for the event. Two (or three) networks are better than one. 

  • Partner up with a venue to sponsor the space - like the residential realtor idea above, or a rooftop at a co-working space that wants more visibility, etc. Find a venue that could benefit from exposure to your audience, that can give you their space for free (or cheap). Catering in, a chef, or hiring a bartender for a few hours is a LOT cheaper than a tab at a regular restaurant. 

  • If you host events in the morning (like the Networking & Nails idea), there is no alcohol, and that is always cheaper. 

  • I'm sure Micah's hike is practically free outside of some marketing effort to promote it (and it may even now be promoting itself since he's consistent!). 

#3 Some resources to help ya with logistics

  • Check out SixPlus. It's like OpenTable for parties of...6+ 😉. It's your simplified tool to book dinners for larger parties at the best restaurants in town. Plus, it's a venture backed startup, so you'll be supporting a peer. 

  • Check out EK Events if you want high-touch end-to-end support. Erica and her team are absolutely amazing at turning your event into a memorable experience + they will handle all of the nitty gritty details if that's really not your thing. 

  •, Splash, and Partiful are free tools you can use to design a pretty event page for marketing and collecting RSVPs. 

Ok that's all for this week! Questions? Feedback? I'd love to hear it and am here to help. 

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That's all for now! 

With love and gratitude, 

Jess Schultz

Founder & CEO

Amplify Group