I have been to a lot of events. I’ve been to conferences and tradeshows and expositions. I have experienced events as an attendee, an exhibitor and been honored to attend many events as a speaker.
From all that experience I have found there is one mistake so many conferences make that limits their potential more than any other: planning your event as happening in a limited space and time.
It’s a bit of an oxymoron to suggest that events should be always-on, continuous mechanisms that live on well beyond their physical space and the duration of the show.
But in every case where I have attended an event and thought “Wow. These folks really get it!” It is because the event team thinks multi-format, multi-channel and a steady and continuous promotion of great content. The event is seen more like a conversation that continues well before and long after the physical part.
This obviously extends the event. But it also allows you to source some amazing content. It engages influential speakers to become constant promoters. And this keeps the attention of attendees and exhibitors for the entire course of the year.
In order to gather some more specific and useful tips, I reached out to some of the people behind some of my favorite events.
In a twist of irony, and in full disclosure, I am speaking at all three of these, so this article itself serves as an example that this strategy can provide additional avenues for promoting the event. But these are also some of the best marketing conferences I have attended. I have attended all of them more than once. And they have delivered an amazing experience every time.
Event Advice From The Masters
Pam Kozelka, is the VP of Operations at the Content Marketing Institute, the organization that puts on the amazing Content Marketing World every fall. This year Content Marketing World will be held Sept. 8-11 in Cleveland, OH.
I asked Pam what her top tips were and she provided a ranked list of tactics that drove the most pre-show engagement
- Pre-event twitter chats (using the conference hashtag)
- Use of hashtag pre-event (#cmworld)
- Fun posts on Facebook that attendees could contribute to – such as name the drink for the event.
- Conference mobile app
- Live streaming
- Our Linkedin group discussions
- Our Slideshare channel
Pam mentioned that their Twitter chats with speakers were so successful, they were continuing them year-round. (Your truly was the honored to participate!) Pam also mentioned that post event – their Listly list “has been awesome for people to post what they blogged about from the event.”
Jo Roberts is the Senior Product Marketing Manager at MarketingProfs host of their awesome B2B Forum (Oct 8-10 in Boston).
According to Jo,
MarketingProfs benefits from a very large list of subscribers, so (frequent) email marketing comes out on top of our tactics list for direct attendee acquisition and revenue. But, B2B Marketing Forum’s real success exploded when we started looking at what would grow the event in the long term rather than relying solely on tactics deployed today. That long-term approach meant zeroing in on the complete event experience.
What you do at your event—and how you make your attendees *feel*—determines how successfully you’ll attract people to your next event. Pay attention to all the simple details like way-finding signage, badges, and even registration staff wardrobe. Create opportunities for people to interact outside the classroom, whether that’s cocktail parties or an early-morning yoga meet up. Add touches that surprise and delight (last year we featured a flash mob dance crew at the opening session). Be friendly, be welcoming, be human. *This* is what gets people to remember your event, talk about your event, recommend your event, and come back to your event in the future.
Len Herstein is CEO & President of the team who brings us Brand ManageCamp. This year’s event is September 18-19 in Las Vegas.
Len suggest some good, ‘ole fashion marketing best practices: understand your target market and provide them with the content they want. Sounds just like the basic principle of content marketing!
But Len also uses pre-taped videos of some of his speakers to provide potential attendees with a glimpse of what they’re going to see. (Check out my video here. But Jay Baer’s is my favorite.) Len explains:
One of the main issues people have with conferences is that they look great on paper (or on screen), but in real-life the speakers don’t deliver the goods. By allowing our prospective attendees the ability to see/hear from our speakers before they have to commit, they can gain a level of confidence that each session will deliver real benefits in an engaging, entertaining way.
In addition, you need to create a relationship with your audience in a way that gives you permission to converse with them. If all you do is hit them over the head with promotional messages, they are likely to turn you off. But, if you become a source of trusted and insightful information, they will welcome your messages and tolerate the more promotional ones. As one of our speakers for Brand ManageCamp 2014, Jay Baer, says – “Sell and you will have a customer today. Help and you will have a customer for life.” We truly believe that.
Len also relies heavily on word of mouth from past event attendees. I’ve attended the events first 3 years and have to admit, it was always a great experience.
So there you have it. The one secret to an amazing event and some great tips from the experts who put on some of the best marketing conferences you could attend. But now I want to hear your thoughts on the best tips for putting on a great event that delivers on the experience well beyond the show floor.
So let me know what you think in the comments below.