So what goes into a great tasting event?

With Fall upon us, outdoor activities slow down and our attention turns indoors. Of course, “indoors” doesn’t necessarily mean “at home,” so as more and more people seek to get out while staying in, merchants are tasked with finding new and exciting ways to draw guests to their businesses. Wineries and tasting rooms popping up all over the U.S., but you can’t simply hang a sign on the door that reads “Free Wine” and expect to attract a crowd (the right kind of crowd, that is).

We interviewed tasting room owners and entertainers to find out what features and attractions make a tasting truly extraordinary for both guests and merchants…

  1. Planning is everything.

Obviously you can’t just throw a sign on the front door that reads “Wine tasting today!” and hope for the best, but far too many tasting rooms fail to plan enough and find themselves coming up short on the day of the event.

Among the many owners we spoke to, the consensus is that you need a minimum of five weeks prior to the event to get the bare minimum of preparation taken care of. This affords you time to consult your sommelier (if you have one), select which wines you’ll showcase, prepare your food menu (or find and hire a caterer), and take care of any supplemental staffing needs. Do you need doormen? Additional servers? Cleaning staff? Your usual roster will not be enough, so make sure you’re taking that into account when setting the time, date, and size of your event, and plan accordingly.

Part of that planning, however, needs to:

  1. Offer your guests something unique.

Tasting rooms already have operating hours, and bars are everywhere. In order to draw the type of crowd you’re looking for, you have to make it an event. Music is always a good bet, but what kind? Local acts? Folk? Punk? Maybe an improv show? A stand-up comic?

Whatever you choose must reflect the brand so people make the proper connection in their heads and you attract the right audience. If you run a family-friendly tasting room offering classical wines, don’t have a raunchy stand-up act at your event (unless, of course, the event is centered around such a notion).

The element to remember is that your entertainment has to compliment the event without dominating it. Guests have to like your entertainment, but not at the expense of your wines (which is the real reason you’re having the event in the first place).

So once you know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, you need to:

  1. Advertise to your audience.

Just like your wines, your guests are unique and have their own flavors, so make sure that you’re using the right voice to reach out to them.

If you have a regular crowd or regular buyers, chances are you have at least a semi-personal relationship with them, enough to know what they do for a living and maybe some of their hobbies. This should all be kept in mind and taken into consideration when putting together your marketing content. Even the least tech-savvy people out there have social media accounts these days, so don’t neglect new media and digital marketing.

And make sure that you’re using the right words in the right tone. Weird, wacky, or offbeat content will attract a certain type of guest to your event; casual, classy, elegant language will attract a very different audience. Know who you’re speaking to, and use their words in their tones to get their attention and draw them in.

So now that you’ve meticulously planned your event, found your memorable niche or hook, and gotten the word out, it is very important to:

  1. Remember that things can and will go wrong.

It’s a fact of life. It happens to everybody, it will happen to you.

So prepare as best you can by understanding that something’s going to happen that you didn’t plan for, and handle it. Stay flexible, be willing to change on the fly, and always remember that there will always be more opportunities, and every event is a learning experience. Take what you learn and apply it to the next one, so that every event is better than the last.

That is how you throw an amazing tasting event.

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