On September 10, 2017, Taste of Finer, a unique wine-tasting and dining experience sponsored by Finer Women Rising and my graduate chapter of Tau Delta Zeta (Laurel, MD) made it’s successful, sold-out debut at the Romano Winery in Brandywine, MD.
As my 2 amazing co-chairs will attest, this event was truly a year-long labor of love, learning and sacrifice, but worth every bit of time and effort we put into it as evidenced by the fruits of our labor: amazingly positive feedback from our guests and the almost $10,000 in revenue raised for the event.
Now that the inaugural Taste of Finer is behind me, I can breathe, relax and reflect on some important lessons and insights gathered from the planning and execution of this event. My hope is that these 8 lessons learned will help make your next signature event a success. Enjoy!
- Never Underestimate The Power of Making Your Vision Plain
The idea for Taste of Finer was birthed at the Phi Beta Sigma (Zeta Sigma chapter) crab feast in August of 2016. The pivotal part is next – we wrote down our plan and made our vision for Taste of Finer plain as day. One year later, with team work, planning and strategizing, our vision came to fruition.
- It Helps To Have a Professional Event Planner On Your Side
To all the event planners out there – I salute you! While I think we did a great good job at planning our first major event of this size, event planning is NOT for the faint of heart. Thankfully one of our committee members (and event sponsors) is a professional event planner, and without her, many of the logistical details would not have been addressed. I’m not saying that you absolutely need a professional event planner to organize a chapter event, but I AM saying that the advice and tips you’ll receive from a good one are invaluable!
- Set Attire Expectations for Your Guests Early On
We wanted Taste of Finer’s brand to be known as classy, sophisticated and representative of a finer woman. This is why we made it our attire and color expectations (elegant, royal blue, white or combination of both) crystal clear through our marketing, & email communications to guests. And not that I ever truly doubted them, but wow, did our guests show up and show out! From the elegant white dresses to the elaborate table decor, it warmed my heart to see our guests fully embrace the Taste of Finer experience by putting so much work and pride into their attire and table decor.
- Never Underestimate The Importance of Professionally Designed Marketing Materials
We used Adobe Photoshop and Canva to easily create beautiful, striking marketing materials that effectively communicated our event concept while still adhering to Zeta Phi Beta’s National Visual Identity Guidelines. The Taste of Finer WordPress website, Eventbrite page and social media profile headers used consistent logo, colors, fonts and messaging for a unified visual theme across all mediums and platforms. This gave the event a professional touch, reassuring our guests that we meant business.
- Create and Execute a Thorough Social Media Marketing Strategy
I know for some Sorors, no matter how great the event is, selling tickets can be as painful as getting your teeth pulled. We knew that in order for this event to be successful, we couldn’t fully rely on word-of-mouth ticket sales, but instead chose to utilize the power of social media to make it work in our favor. We spent months working on our social media strategy and one of the most effective things we did was use Facebook advertising. The use of Facebook ads took some pressure off of Sorors having to sell tickets and allowed us to reach a far greater, but targeted audience than dropping a flyer in a Facebook group would have done. Additionally, we were sticklers for consistency, using the same event logo, messaging (will you be among the 200?) and hashtags (#tasteoffiner) throughout the campaign.
- Plan Your Signature Event A Year In Advance
One of the best decisions we made was giving ourselves a full year to plan Taste of Finer. 365 days of planning and strategy allowed us to thoroughly develop and implement our social media marketing and logistics plans, work with vendors and sell tickets with lots of wiggle room to recover from mistakes and pivot if necessary. recover from missteps, pivot if necessary and work out any kinks.
- Understand That Everyone Is NOT Going To Be Happy For Your Success
I’m a very sensitive soul and for a short while, I really let it get to me that not everyone was happy to see this event succeed. The side-eye, side chatter and side-comments coming from those who wore the same colors as I did was indeed disheartening at first. But I’m really thankful to my event co-chairs for reminding me to BE FINER when all I wanted to do was lash out in kind. Now in full transparency, there were times when I lost my temper (I’m still a work in progress ya’ll) but overall, I was proud of myself for transforming that negative energy into positive fuel to make Taste of Finer a success. Remembering the words of FLOTUS Michelle Obama, “when they go low, we go high”.
- Remember That Finer Women Don’t Quit
Between the early issues with having to pivot on our event theme, to guest cancellations and dealing with a crazy number of last minute requests, there were so many times that I wanted to throw in the towel. But I am so, so happy that we stayed the course. The hard work, sweat and tears truly paid off in how well our event was received and in the record amount of revenue we raised for this event.