Current president, Max Oligario, and incoming president Grant Mehlich, of Tampa Bay Seminole Club, share with us tips and tricks of hosting a successful kickoff party.
What makes a great venue for a kickoff party and what are things to consider when choosing a kickoff party venue (e.g., budget, number of attendees, ambiance, audio/visual, etc.)?
MAX: I would say the most important attributes for a great venue would be location, size of the venue and management. Location should always be considered because you need to ensure that it’s accessible to members and in an area they are willing to travel to. Consider if it’s in a popular part of town or if it is isolated where people will be forced to stay. The size of the venue is important because you don’t want your guests to be uncomfortable. Further, you want to look at your selection for a venue from a long-term perspective and ensure that it has the ability to allow for growth of your kickoff party. Additionally, management is always my biggest factor when considering a venue. What are the values and goals of management and are they aligned with your clubs? Do they support Florida State University? Are they looking for a long-term relationship or to make a quick buck? What is the reputation of the location and management in your local area? All things to consider when determining the best venue for your kickoff party. Ideally the best venue will be well located, with sufficient room for your club now and in the future with a management team that is pro FSU and willing to work in building a long-term relationship.
How early in the year do you decide on a date for your club’s kickoff party and what factors contribute to the date selection?
GRANT: The earlier the better! We choose our date around March and by May we have the core of the event planned. It is absolutely vital to plan early whenever you are planning events! Plus this gives you even more time to sell and market the event. It is the little details that make a good event turn into a GREAT event.
What is the importance of a club taking advantage of the FSU Alumni Association’s insurance with Holmes Murphy?
MAX: It is very important. Given the number of attendees we have at our kickoff party, it’s comforting to know that the club is well protected from a liability perspective. In the past we have purchased event insurance, but given the higher level of coverage we now have through the Alumni Association, that is no longer needed.
How early do you select speakers/entertainment for the event and how does the club offset the entertainment fees?
GRANT: We try to obtain as many speakers as possible. Keep in mind that people’s schedules can change abruptly, so the more speakers you have the better. You also want to be careful about hitching your event to one specific speaker. If that person cannot attend at the last minute, then it could place your entire event in jeopardy. As far as costs go, we don’t really have the luxury of paying fees. What we have found is that most famous FSU Alumni absolutely love coming to Seminole Club events and will do so for free.
Even with the most amazing speakers or entertainment line-up, events need publicity to get people in the door. What are the club’s kickoff party marketing plans and what media channels are utilized?
MAX: Once our kickoff party date is finalized we start our marketing campaign. Facebook is our main marketing channel and we sponsor ads to continually run to drive sales. Twitter is also used to advertise the event, as well as our club newsletter, the club’s web page and the FSU Alumni Association.
How does the club determine the cost of attendance?
GRANT: It varies. When we started our block party a few years ago, we charged $5. Now we are up to $25. My advice is that if you are just starting an event, keep costs extremely low in order to build up a strong following.
What online company is used to collect registrations and is there a fee associated with using this platform?
MAX: We utilize Eventbrite to sell tickets and track sales data. Eventbrite does charge a fee.
How does the club organize kickoff party details and keep the event on track?
MAX: The president nominates a kickoff party chair that works with our event co-chair in planning the event and managing volunteers.
How does the club recruit volunteers to help with the event? Additionally, once volunteers are recruited, how does the club assign responsibilities?
MAX: The kickoff party chair assigns responsibilities for volunteers. Given the size of our event, all board members are required to work a shift. We generally also have local alumni who ask to volunteer at the event in an effort to get more involved with the club.
GRANT: Events are an excellent way to vet potential club recruits. We have them perform small tasks and help out. You really can learn a lot by working with a volunteer. For example, if they really helped out, then you know you have someone who cares and wants to be apart of the club verses someone who just wanted a free ticket.
Does the club seek partnerships and corporate sponsors to help fund portions of the event? What do they benefit from partnering/sponsoring a kickoff party? Lastly, how do you go about the process?
MAX: Yes we seek corporate sponsors. The benefit they get is a tremendous amount of exposure. Given the nature of our event, our sponsors are usually limited to beverage distributors and bars. It’s great marketing for these organizations because they get exposed to 3,000+ people in their sought after demographic. We generally solicit sponsorships through relationships that we have on the board and through the local Seminole community. We have a sponsorship packet to present to potential supporters that allow them to choose their level of support given the benefits received.
What are additional ways your club generates revenue at the kickoff party (e.g., shirt sales, door prizes, etc.)?
GRANT: Our model is predicated on ticket sales and to be honest we have not spent a lot of time for shirt sales and new revenue streams. After speaking to our friends in NYC, we are going to run a pilot program this year regarding t-shirt sales. I would also like to point out that if it were not for the Leadership Conference and meeting other club leaders, we would not be doing this. Sharing ideas with other clubs is such a powerful resource and should be used at all times.
Once the event is over, how does the club evaluate kickoff party success?
GRANT: We send out a survey link to our attendees and get their feedback. After the data is collected we sit down and have an event debrief. What worked? What didn’t work? What can we do better for next year? We also obtain feedback from our venues.
Finally, what is your best piece of advice for clubs and chapters hosting kickoff parties?
MAX: I would say know your market with regards to what your local Seminole community supports and where would be the best location to execute your plan. Further, ensure that you have the right individuals running the event and that you have plenty of support. Our kickoff party is an “all hands on deck” approach and takes the involvement of the full board. Know the strengths of your board members to see who can best handle various tasks to make the event successful. Finally, be consistent and advertise. Our kickoff party has taken years to get to where it is today. We remained consistent in what we offered and advertised. Last year we topped 3,000 people at our event. That success could only have been achieved with a strong commitment to what we do annually and making sure everyone knows about it.
GRANT: Assemble an incredible team (Tampa Bay Seminole Club board members are diverse, passionate and just awesome). Share knowledge with other clubs, use resources from the FSU Alumni Association, lay out your objectives and ask yourself a simple question… why are we doing this? What are our goals? Do our demographics support this type of event? When we started events in Ybor, people told us we were crazy and no one would ever come here! We now have people flying in from all over the country, just to attend a specific event here. Be bold, take risks and do it BIG!