IMG_7291” by Jodi Womack is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If the thought of cold calling sends a shiver down your spine, why not consider targeting potential clients with a live event instead?

A live event will offer you valuable ‘face time’ with prospects, enabling you to get to know them and better understand their requirements. However, everyone’s busy and time is precious, so you will need to give them good reason to step away from their desks.

Here are 7 live events for lead generation for you to consider. The best one for you will depend on your industry, your company culture and your budget!

1) Take them out to eat

Everyone likes a free lunch (although we also know there is no such thing!), especially when it’s somewhere exclusive. Handpick a small group of your most wanted clients and invite them to lunch or dinner at a sought after restaurant. Hire a private dinning room for extra exclusivity.

I have been wined and dined in some amazing private dining rooms at London restaurants including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, The Rib Room at Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Zuma in Knightbridge. These were invitations that were too good to refuse, but while it was the food that lured me, these events also afforded me the opportunity to get to know some fantastic companies.

Sitting down around a table and enjoying good food, wine and conversation for a couple of hours helped forge relationships that have stood the test of time. When I need a quote for a story, my mind springs to the contacts I’ve met and had fun with.

Related: 5 Exceptional venues with a unique history

2) Entertain them

Corporate hospitality offers all the same benefits as taking prospects for dinner, but with extended ‘face time’. For example, while an average meeting lasts 60 minutes, entertaining a client at an event such as cricket can give you more than 10 hours of time together.

According to 352 corporate decision makers surveyed by corporate hospitality specialists Keith Prowse, 97% agree ‘down time’ with clients builds far stronger relationships, with 90% stating the informal atmosphere of a cultural or sporting event is conducive to stronger relationship building.

Tennis, rugby, cricket and horse racing are favourite hospitality options, with packages ranging from budget shared tables through to Michelin starred private dining with VIP sports guests. Try to do a little background research on your prospects to ascertain which sport would appeal to them most.

3) Host a cocktail reception

If your budget won’t stretch to full hospitality, why not host drinks and nibbles instead? Perhaps it’s your company’s anniversary or you have some news to announce? – there’s always an excuse for a party!

Consider bringing in some entertainment or teaming up with other businesses to add extra attractions to your event, such as wine and chocolate tasting, or mini manicures.

Be sure to invite your prospects with nice personal invitations and ask them to RSVP so they know they are a valued guest, rather than one of hundreds.

Related: The 5 keys to running a successful business event

4) Organise an educational event

If your business produces a product that would benefit from being explained or demonstrated, this is ideally combined with an informal drinks reception, as detailed above.

If your service is less tangible, consider holding a seminar, workshop or Q&A session on your area of expertise. For example, an accountancy firm might invite local SMBs to discover the latest tax efficiency strategies or a media company could make a presentation on the most successful advertising techniques.

Share your expertise for free and show prospective clients just what you have to offer. In order to win time with prospects, ask not what they can do for you, but what you can do for them!

Related: Planning an event to build your customer base

5) Piggy back on someone else’s event

Look for opportunities to reach your prospects through already established events. If there’s an industry conference they’re all likely to be attending, you could put yourself forward to speak on a panel, take an exhibition stand or become a sponsor, giving you exclusive access to the delegates.

At the very least you can attend the event yourself and take advantage of any networking sessions to zoom in on target prospects. If you’re lucky the event might even utilise an app like Spot Me, which alerts you when people you want to meet are nearby!

Related: The expert guide to better networking at events

6) Give them an award

One way to cosy up to your prospective clients is to recognise and reward the great work they’re doing. Think about setting up an awards programme that you could encourage them to enter. For example, a company that supplies vinyl to the sign making trade could give awards for innovation in sign making, or a fabric supplier could set up an awards programme targeted at interior designers.

To give your awards more credibility, set up an independent judging panel and promote the awards as widely as possible. Reading the applications will give you great insight into your prospects’ work, while organising an awards ceremony will grant you exclusive access to get to know them further.

7) Appeal to their charitable side

It’s harder to say no to a worthy cause, so why not help yourself by helping others? Can you think of a great CSR initiative that you could get your prospects involved with? If your target clients are locally-based, consider doing something for your community. Team up with a charity and pledge your support to a project such as creating a sensory garden for autistic children or refurbishing a homeless shelter. Invite your prospects to join you, by rolling up their sleeves and digging in with the work.

This is actually a much more compelling offer than asking them to purely pledge money, because the company gets to see the results of their support first hand. At the same time, working together on a charitable project offers the opportunity to network with your prospects in a feel good environment and forge a special bond.

Related: 10 Unusual, fantastic fundraising event ideas


To reach your very best prospects requires creativity, money and persistence, but the potential rewards are well worth it. Hosting a live event is the most effective way to build a rapport with decision makers and enables you to offer something of value before asking for anything in return.

Once your event is over, be sure to keep in regular contact and, even if they don’t need your services at that point in time, you’ll be far more likely to hear from them when they do.

What sort of events have been most effective for bringing in new business for your company? Let us know…