by Jonathan Vatner | September 01, 2007

Evite, the electronic invitation company known for its usefulness in helping organize informal social events, logged more than 110,000 business events in 2006, using its software. “More people are doing most of their business online,” notes Eva Ingvarson, web editor and trend expert for the Los Angeles-based firm. “Paper invitations can get lost in the mail or on someone’s desk. There’s also a cost factor. Evite is free.”

Electronic invites are used most commonly for informal business meetings, such as networking events and hash-’em-out confabs, but a growing number of companies are using them in situations that might have required a paper invite a few years ago.

For a more personalized approach at a modest cost, CorpNote, based in Ewing, N.J., offers advertising-free e-cards, with 1,500 choices of designs, all customizable. Any e-card can be turned into an invitation or a survey, or both. The sender knows who opens the card and is notified immediately as RSVPs trickle in. Any survey data can be exported as a spreadsheet for examination. Best of all, CorpNote offers free live support.

Ingvarson and creative director Michael Miller offer the following tips for creating effective electronic invitations.

* Be clear. The subject line should include the company name, the name of the event and the fact that it’s an invitation, says Miller.

* Don’t be funny. “Avoid humor unless you know your attendees well,” warns Ingvarson.

* Give extra details. Ingvarson suggests including the agenda, whether meals are provided, the times for check-in, the dress code, etc.

* Consider the one-stop-shop. Evite is partnering with to let guests book a recommended hotel online (assuming there’s no room block involved). There’s also a carpooling feature.

* Follow up. Both services can send reminder messages to people who haven’t replied.

* Do a postmortem. Blast a survey after the event, and sweeten the pot with a coupon or small gift certificate for completing it, suggests Miller. -- J.V.

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The failures are tossed in the garbage immediately, and the successes are saved for a few weeks and thrown out after the event. Once in a blue moon, someone will hold onto one for a few years in a desk drawer. If this is how invitations are treated, why is it so important to splurge on them?

Because they’re more than invites; they’re first impressions, says Kira Evans, founder of Kira Evans Design, based in Los Angeles. “The invitation is the first time the brand is going to be seen,” she says. “Skimping on paper, printing techniques and design is a reflection of the brand.”

That’s all the more reason to create invitations splashy enough to make guests not just want to come to the event, but also admire the sponsor. To help readers achieve that goal, M&C asked five of the country’s top invite pros for a sneak peek at their latest and best work, along with a few tips for fashioning better invitations. The ultimate creations might still be destined for the trash bin, but with some careful planning, they can accomplish an impressive amount in their brief life span.

Here’s how the pros approached some creative challenges -- and ways you can apply their tactics to your own events.

Celebrating a bubbly Halloween

Halloween invitation





The company: Creative Intelligence, (323) 936-9009; Marc Friedland, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based outfit, is considered by many to be the person who invented modern invitation design. Friedland hung out his shingle in 1984 and has since catered to Fortune 500 companies and top celebrities alike. His book, Invitations (Clarkson Potter), became an instant bible in the industry when published in 1998.

The event: Veuve Clicquot Yelloween 2006, held in Miami. The Reims, France-based champagne company Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin holds a Halloween event every year, to generate buzz among VIPs in South Florida and beyond.

The invitation: The company’s brand colors are rich yellow and black, so those colors would be used in the invitation -- and then replicated throughout the event. Veuve Clicquot had a particular image in mind for the piece, that of a seductive-looking woman. Friedland superimposed the graphic on a square of mirrored acrylic. On the back, a textured black surface, the text was printed in white and yellow.

Then the invite was put into a black envelope made of treated paper that produced an almost rubbery feel and lined with yellow fabric in a moire pattern that looked like wood grain.

Tips: A simple card with a unique design and clear information can be just as effective as something glitzy. “Put energy into the envelope,” Friedland advises. “It really makes the recipients feel like they’re important.” And don’t use annoying gimmicks like confetti falling out of the envelopes, he adds. “People forget that invitations are supposed to be inviting.”