A Helpful Guide to a successful Grand Opening
Planning Your Event
What are the criteria for determining if one of these events fits your needs?
- You should be within your first year of opening your business.
- You should be an existing business in a new location.
- You should be an existing business who has recently expanded or completed major remodeling.
What type of event is right for your business
- Grand Opening – Can be formal but are mostly a casual event which lasts 1-3 hours.
- Ribbon Cutting – Formal event with a specific time for guests to be at your business. Business higher ups are present (public officials if present) greet guests and cut ribbon. Refreshments are always a good idea.
- Open House – This event is casual and lasts several hours. Guests come and look around (informally) and visit your business. Refreshments are a good idea but optional.
Selecting a date and time for your event
Selecting a date is one of the most important decisions you will make as you begin the process of planning and staging a successful event. Before you make your decision, here are some important things to consider. Allow plenty of time for preparation. If possible, give yourself at least 2-3 weeks to make your arrangements.
Be aware of major holidays and avoid planning your event for those days. Also, if you are trying to attract bankers or government officials, take note of any special holidays when their offices may be closed.
- Please try and coordinate the date with the your local Chamber of Commerce well in advance to avoid date and time conflicts with other events.
- The days of the week to get the best attendance are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Monday tends to be too busy for most people to leave the office and many people take Friday off to start their weekend early.
- Try to avoid planning your event on a Saturday or Sunday. Most people have their own recreation or business plans on those days and experience has told us your attendance could drop significantly. The Chamber does not usually participate in weekend events in consideration of their staff and volunteers.
- Unless it is a necessity, morning events should begin no earlier than 8:00 a.m.
- Luncheon events often turn out well since most people eat a mid-day meal. However, luncheons require more advance notice. Many people schedule lunch arrangements weeks ahead and they will need to be notified as early as possible to get your event on their calendars. If you decide on a lunch event, the best time is 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
- Late afternoon and early evening events seem to be the most popular and successful. This allows people to drop by after work at their convenience and doesn’t interfere with their busy workday. The best time for an evening event is 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., allowing everyone to “drop in”.
- Try to avoid mid-morning and mid-afternoon time periods. Many people are reluctant or unable to break away from their work in the middle of the day.
- Half-day open house or tours of your company are not advisable unless it’s necessary or traditional in your line of business. If you decide on a half-day event, be certain to have a designated time for a ribbon cutting or other special ceremonies to lend focus to your event.
Publicizing your event/sending invitations to those whom you want to attend
Inviting the “right” people will vary depending on the event and your business but they would normally include the following-
- Potential and current customers (your most important group)
- Your Board of Directors, if applicable
- Key government officials – the Mayor, City Council member from the district where your business is located
- Fellow business people in your area
- Your employees and their spouses
- Those who helped you get started – your banker, contractor, accountant, attorney and advisers
- Friends and family – this is a big day for you and you’ll want to share it with them
Once you’ve identified your guest list, remember when inviting them
Prepare a nice letter or very basic invitation but always keep it simple and to the point; make sure all the basic information is included –who, what, when, where and why.
- • Asking for RSVP’s does help you with deciding how much food to provide but if you ask for RSVP’s, please know that people will typically wait until the last minute or will show up without RSVP-ing.
• Allow sufficient notice –between 10 days to 2 weeks is ideal for most events, although 2 weeks would be preferable.
• Be sure to include a map or clear instructions on how to get to your event. A street address alone, sometimes, is not sufficient.
• Will parking be an issue? If so, please use the invitation to indicate where you would like guests to park.
• If you choose to do an elaborate invitation, get professional help from a graphic artist or designer.
• Send your invitation by first-class mail, if at all possible. Bulk mail can take a week or longer.
Other significant details of your event
Serving food and beverage – Although it’s an added expense that you may prefer to avoid, serving food and beverage of some kind is almost a necessity for a successful event.
- For morning events, coffee, juices, fruit and pastries are usually sufficient. A full breakfast is not necessary.
- At lunchtime events, serve some kind of sandwich or buffet meal. Remember, it’s your guest’s lunchtime and they will expect some kind of filling food.
- During the late afternoon or early evening events, light hors d’oeuvres or finger foods are appropriate. Chips, dips, cheeses, vegetable or cold-cut trays are ideal.
- For medium or large events, enlisting the help of a professional caterer saves time and manpower and lends more expertise to the preparation. Caterers can give you good, solid advice and are not as costly as you might fear.
- If you decide to provide your own refreshments, be sure to have an adequate amount of food and beverage for your guests as well as ample plates, cups, napkins, trashcans and other supplies
Planning a program/mapping out your agenda
It adds a nice touch to have a brief program for your event. It provides valuable recognition for you and your key people, allows you to explain more about your business and makes the event more purposeful.
The shorter, the better. As a rule, no program or official ceremony should last longer than 20 to 30 minutes with 10 minutes being ideal.
Prepare an agenda, even if it’s just a back-of-an-envelope kind of thing. Things run much more smoothly. Your agenda could be something like.
- Welcome Guests – done by owner, manager, president, etc.
- Introduction of the company – explain what you do, if a new business, mention your new location – if a second location or a move, announce your hours
- Introduce your staff, introduction of board members, elected officials and other dignitaries.
- Call up those who are speaking (if this is part of your program)
- Cut the ribbon – usually done by dignitaries and head company representative. Some may choose to have the employees do the cutting.
- Thank the guest for attending – by a company representative.
- Offer everyone to take a look at your facility and if large enough, you may want to offer tours.
- Limit the number of speakers and the length of their speeches.
- Set a time limit for all who take part in the program.
- Introduce only those who need to be introduced even though the temptation will be to acknowledge nearly everyone in attendance that you know.
- Conclude your program with the appropriate ceremonial or symbolic activity: a ribbon cutting for a grand opening is a good way to let guests know the formal program is over and creates good publicity opportunities for your photographer.
If your event includes an open house or tour of your facilities
- Be sure friendly and knowledgeable employees conduct group tours. Unguided self-tours are not nearly as valuable.
- Consider having some kind of door prize or drawing. Winning a sample of your product, dinner for two, etc. can add to your guest’s enjoyment and build attendance.
- Obtain a ribbon that suits your needs if planning a Ribbon Cutting – See a complete list of our florists.
- Most businesses like to get a ribbon containing their company colors and a bow professionally tied in the middle.
You should not rely on the media to give extensive coverage to your special event. It’s not that they do not view your function as significant, it’s simply a matter of lack of staffing and sufficient air time or print space to carry your story.
- Send your invitation to the news directors or city editors at least ten days ahead of your event.
- Include a brief letter or news release that contains the journalistic basics of who, what, when, where and why.
- A follow-up or reminder call the day before your event is a good idea.
- Locate company sign or banner if needed.
Miscellaneous actions to think of
- Pre-determine room layout (where to place tables, chairs, podium, etc).
- Prepare any materials needed for the event (visuals, awards, checks, documents, gifts, samples, etc).
- Schedule a photographer if you desire professional photos.