How to Host a Pop-Up Event

Make the most of a temporary space with these simple tips

From retail stores to restaurants, pop-up events allow savvy entrepreneurs to capitalize on a trend, a new business idea or even a season—consider the avalanche of temporary Christmas-themed bars that sprout up come December. 

Whatever the vision, most pop-ups have a shared goal: drive foot traffic, brand loyalty and sales with a limited-time-only approach. And while the setups might appear spontaneous—that’s the point, of course—they require preparation to run smoothly. 

Pop-ups are no longer a fringe concept: The market was valued at $50 billion in 2016. Global companies such as Ikea, Shinola and West Elm are now testing alternative stores and experiences. A Dallas pop-up hosted five years ago by Gwyneth Paltrow’s elite lifestyle brand Goop saw customers lining up around the block, and following its success, it returned to Texas in March. Even nonprofits have tried the model as a new way to boost donations

So, thinking about hosting a pop-up event for your next Promote event? Here’s how to get started: 

Secure a space. Many pop-ups have thrived by finding vacant retail or restaurant spaces at a discount for a short-term lease. But those aren’t the only backdrops: An outdoor area (igloo dining, anyone?), a conference space or even a kiosk can fit the bill. Determine the intended length of your pop-up and negotiate terms from there.

Give your pop-up a purpose. Determine what business goals this effort might address. Is it to showcase a hot new product or service? Are you trying to reach a different audience or test out a new market, or do you simply want to get the right influencers talking about your brand? Let these key objectives guide the framework.

Take stock of logistics. Depending on the space, you’ll need the same basic components as any meeting: Your pop-up will need electricity, Wi-Fi, climate control and, if selling a product, a way to accept cash or digital payments. Selling food or alcohol? If the host doesn’t have permits in place, be sure to inquire about next steps. 

Decorate appropriately. Dazzling visuals offer an immersive experience that resonates in the moment and on social media. It could be a simple selfie station. But big ideas work, too: Cosmetics company Glossier used an 18th-century London townhouse for its 2017 pop-up, with each room decorated as an ornate, Instagram-ready tableau.

Market the concept. A lack of buzz could leave a pop-up sitting empty. Use your event’s digital channels to promote the concept (a Facebook Live post from inside, for instance, or tweets teasing an after-hours cocktail mixer with a DJ or special guest). Frame the space as a shared secret—one that few will want to miss. And don’t forget a hashtag.