How to Organise Successful Pop-Up Events

by Harry Prince,

26 May 2021

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Pop-up event via Hubspot

Contents

One of popular culture’s favourite tropes is the homely Lemonade Stand. And why is that? It evokes a warm sense of childhood in us, sure. But in a world of cold global conglomerates, there’s something satisfying in someone setting up a stall and making a go of it. 

The pop-up event is a bit more sophisticated than the front yard lemonade stand. But its roots are intimately tied to the ancient tradition of setting up in a common space in the morning and packing up in the evening. 

The most successful pop-up events take this basic business tradition and add the finesse of professional event planning. And you can do it too. 

This guide will hold you by the hand as you learn how. Some of it you might know and some might seem perfectly obvious. But read on, and we’re sure you’ll find some interesting and practical information to take away with you. 

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What Is a Pop-Up Event? 

So, what is a pop-up event? Put simply, it’s a temporary concept or experience. The term ‘pop-up event’ is as wide-ranging as the notion of a party or a conference. From retail spaces to moving art galleries, they span a whole host of creative outputs. 

Pop-up dining events are a subcategory of their own. Underground supper clubs, spontaneous cooking contests, speakeasies, immersive dining experiences… yes, they’re all pop-up events.  

At their most cynical, pop-ups are temporary brand ambassadors for companies. At their best, they offer passers-by something unexpected and thrilling on somewhat familiar terms. 

And it’s their ethereal nature that makes them so seductive. They deploy one of the oldest and successful marketing techniques: a ‘while stocks last’ commodity. If you don’t go NOW, it will be gone FOREVER

But while these special events carry an air of spontaneity, the unplanned persona is usually meticulously planned and crafted. 

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Defining The Goals of Your Pop-up Event 

Everyone loves making a list. They give life more sense. So make a list of goals for your event. Rank them if you like. Having clear goals will determine how your event is planned and executed. 

There are so many great reasons to have a go at a pop-up. Build a brand, attract new business, launch and test a new product, experience a retail presence, or just do it for fun! 

Having goals set at the start is also the best metric for measuring your success when the last decoration is put away. 

Although you may have some happy overlap, your pop-up should generally have one or more of the following goals: 

  1. Increasing product awareness or brand awareness
  2. Gaining new customers.
  3. Providing an experience people are willing to pay for.
  4. Conducting market research. 

Create a Killer Pop-up Concept 

What came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, the concept comes before the space. It’s better to find a venue that fits your theme rather than compromising a theme to fit a space. 

It’s good to keep a running list of ideas, themes, and overarching concepts in a Google Doc. Then let them grow or minimise as you come closer to a singular vision. 

It could be as simple as doing what you do every day in a smaller, short-term venue. Alternatively, you could use it to test out a new product or celebrate a theme.

What’s cool about the pop-up concept is that you don’t have to be directly selling your product or services. It could be as simple as hosting fun activities for the public. Look at Adidas and their famed Arcade Game pop-up in Barcelona. 

Whether it’s handing out freebies in a park, doing demonstrations in semi-public buildings or offering immersive experiences in rented storefronts, make sure that your branding and concept are clear, charming, and serve one or more of your event goals. 

Choosing a Pop-up Venue 

Now that you have a dashing concept and a clear format, you should have a better idea of which venues are right for you, and maybe more importantly, which venues are wrong. 

Like any shop looking for business, it is essential to consider foot traffic. Where are you most likely to find your target audience? Where do they work, socialise, eat, relax? Meet them there! 

If you feel like you need help understanding your target audience better, please don’t fret. Just check out our expert advice article on knowing your target audience

When picking a venue, it should reflect what your pop-up is about. It’s good to know how many people you can serve and how to serve them. Going in blind is a fool’s errand. 

It’s something of a common-sense exercise. If you know your target audience, then you know where they work and where they hang out. So go there. 

If you have some new tech to show off, host your venue by known tech hubs or science university campuses. If you’re going to sell some new and exciting food, are there designated food truck venues or food halls in your cities? If not, where are the fashionable areas to explore food? 

As for the type of venue, if you’re working in the cosmetics and fashion industry, then a store-within-a-store concept could be perfect. If you’re an exciting start-up, then perhaps a university atrium or library? You could set up a tent in a busy square, or of course, rent a traditional storefront. 

Once you have settled on the area, the venue question becomes more complicated. Is it a seated occasion? A buffet? What technical amenities do you need? Is it indoor or outdoor? How much space is required? Would it be better to have a pop-up stall than a venue? 

There should be someone on your team with a talent for logistics. This is your chance to let them shine! Or consult the experts, AKA, us. We’d love to hear about the pop-up you’ve got planned. Just tell us what kind of venue you need, and we’ll come back with some glorious options.

You Don’t Have to Go Solo: The Wonderful World of Pop-up Collaborations 

Collaborations are cool. Teaming up with someone who compliments your ethos might add a new dimension to your work. It also builds on the elusiveness of your event. 

People are more likely to go out of their way to visit your pop-up if they know the collaboration you’re putting on is a fleeting, once in a lifetime event. 

The two big questions you need to consider when looking for a pop-up collaborator are: what value will this collaboration give to my brand, and what does my brand offer to top collaborators? 

As it stands, there are three main types of collaboration in the pop-up business: 

1) Store-Within-a-Store

You could have anything at all within your pop-up, e.g. a barber, a masseuse, a cheesemonger, a social gaming lounge. It can be something that enriches your brand or just a fun experience to draw customers in. 

2) Sharing a Pop-up Venue

For example, Louis Vitton and Supreme hosted shared pop-up stores in the world’s fashion capitals. And their unique concept? They announced the location of the stores 2 hours before they opened! 

3) Co-Creating a Line of Products

This one might take longer in the planning and the making, but it could be huge. From musicians to chefs, tech giants to the fashion world, people are mad for exclusive collaborative production. 

The beauty of these types of events is you can get creative and shake up the rulebook. Maybe you can think of a fourth type of collaboration? If you do, we’d love to hear about it! 

Pop-up Event Marketing

Of course, you want people to leave talking about your event. Otherwise, what was the point? Word of mouth is one of the unique selling points of pop-up events. Here today, gone tomorrow. This mystique is unparalleled, so take advantage of it! 

You need to remember the built-in marketing of the pop-up: they’re finite. If a product or experience is always there, there’s no rush to get it. 

When planning, you need to start thinking about how people will notice the pop-up when walking past. 

Social media is a must these days. To get a head start on the competition check out our guide on how to promote an event on social media. But don’t forget that the streets are billboards too. A nice poster still works.

It is a good idea to invite local influencers and bloggers to attend and talk about what you’re doing. After that, your pop-up will be known by everyone that is within a travelling distance. 

Free stuff is a tried and tested marketing strategy. Just remember to leave some branding on the goods. Another method is to promise freebies or discounts to the first x amount of customers. 

Respect the Timeline

We don’t want to teach you things you already know, but just a gentle reminder. Success is planned. So plan, plan, plan your event. An event timeline is your friend in this game. 

Over plan, if you have to. Things can, will, and do go wrong. Every day is new, and every day something changes. One moment the oven won’t work, the next the staff can’t make it. Good planning makes those scenarios just the slightest bit lighter.

Planning starts with an idea and setting concrete goals. After that, it acts as your guide until the end, when follow-up research and post-event marketing takes place. 

It’s a safety net. Nobody wants to go home with excess stock you couldn’t sell. Nor do you want to run out of things to sell to happy guests. You also need this structure to measure your success and to use it as a tool to learn from. 

Creating a Pop-up Event Budget

Our imaginations are infinite; our bank balances are regretfully not. As the saying goes, some people have eyes bigger than their bellies. Being upfront early with a concrete budget is the smoothest way to go. 

This will help you decide where to hire, how much to charge for entry, food, drinks, and merchandise. It makes decisions easier and more straightforward. 

Due to their temporary nature, accurate financial predictions in this event industry are not easy. When starting, make it your goal to break even. 

Some further advice – surround yourself with believers. Don’t be afraid to charge more money if your product is worth it. 

If you’re going to sell things at your pop-up, have a clear method for taking peoples money. When possible, accept both cash and card payments to keep everyone happy. If people can use wireless and contactless card payments, you mitigate the risk of losing business to the dreaded ATM treks. 

Keeping track of the money is an important part of organising a pop-up event. So make sure to check out our guide on how to plan an event budget for more crucial tips! 

Don’t Court Chance: Double-Check Your Double Checks

Hopefully, everything should be above board in your rental contract. If something doesn’t seem right when you’re double-checking it, ask the question. 

You don’t want to turn up on opening day to find out you don’t have access to the amenities. What if you were counting on using the sound system only to find out that it wasn’t in the agreement? 

When you have access to the WiFi, video equipment, the kitchen space etc., how will you use them? Don’t wait for something to go wrong as you open for business. 

What is going on in the area? Are there roadworks happening as you move in? How will traffic be faring? Are there shops or houses being built around you? 

And always double-check the operating hours with your landlord. This could be a sleeping nightmare when your insurance or plans are dead on the spot. 

Licencing has been the downfall of many pop-up newbies. Permits, insurance, and all the boring stuff need to be taken care of, so your creative efforts can shine. Scrambling about to get a last-minute license is never fun and takes energy you could be spending on other concerns. 

A temporary events notice (TEN) is something you’ll become very well acquainted with if you’re hosting your pop-up in an unlicensed space. If you’re hosting a whisky tasting in a local bar, then this won’t apply to you. But if you’re compelled to host it in the local church, then you’ll need a TEN. It will last you ten days, and you can apply for up to 5 a year. 

And finally, while we’re talking about double-checking things. We have to recommend our expert advice article on how to avoid common event planning mistakes. Mistakes happen all the time and we’re all guilty of them. But preparation and research is the best antidote, right? 

The Inevitable Goodbye: Winding Down Your Pop-up Event

Parting is such sweet sorrow and all of that malarkey. Use the end as a final push to keep your concept in your customers head. 

But how do you ask? A big party? An email? You can be as grand and as creative as you like. Or maybe something more minimal is your thing? Maybe you want to leave an air of mystery by slipping into the night? 

Now, here comes the sad part. Packing it all up. Cleaning can be therapeutic, but more often than not, it’s a chore. Give yourself time to clean your space, and leave it as you found it. If this means hiring private cleaners, then you’ve saved yourself a job. 

And lastly, if you can gather the email addresses of your attendees during your event, make the most of that privilege. Nurture those precious contacts with targeted post-event campaigns, share happy memories of the event, and make the benefits of continued engagement with your company clear. 

Wrapping up 

As we said again and again there, planning is so important. And part of planning is good research. Well, here’s some more research for you. Bone up now on five key event management skills

Featured image: Pop-up event via Hubspot

Harry Prince
Harry Prince

Creative Content Manager who sings to his dog.

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