Are you looking for ideas on how to deliver a superior event experience to your audience? A big part of that experience comes from how you position and market your event.
Here are some event marketing tactics to set you on the path to creating memorable and successful programs. They would work whether your event is new or existing, and equally well for conferences, conventions, educational sessions, sales meetings or just about any gathering.
Think total experience.
Your attendee’s total event experience begins before your event and lasts (if memorable) long after it. Think how you can improve your event at each step along the way – before, during and after. Think about all aspects of your event and your five senses –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch – so that you can communicate as much about the sensory experience they will have as possible. For instance, are your materials visually engaging? Are you tapping into local color and the local environment?
Think about all aspects of your event and your five senses –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Put yourself in your attendee’s shoes when reviewing your marketing collateral and web content. Better yet, have someone unfamiliar with your event take a look at your materials to provide fresh perspective. Are you anticipating and addressing their questions? Think about including a paragraph for first time attendees – what do they need to know? Do all your marketing efforts – print, email, and social media – contain the same messaging? Do you speak to the various needs and concerns of younger attendees or other special groups? Are you taking full advantage of social media to start creating online the kind of experience you hope to deliver in person?
Be a better sleuth.
When you’re looking to deliver the best event possible, you need to play detective. If your goal is to grow event attendance, get better market intelligence by surveying those who don’t attend your events, as well as those who do. Knowing why your attendees come is important, but so too is finding out why others did not. What would get them there? Craft a good survey that asks the right questions so you can learn more about prospective attendees and their pain points. Better data driven can help you create better – and better attended – events.
Establish credibility (and claim credit) as the event host.
I’ve been to a number of events where this was a lost opportunity instead of a slam dunk. Poor signage and incomplete introductions can leave some of your attendees unaware or unclear about how your event ties into the broader work and mission of your group.
A successful event allows you the chance to showcase your organization and its brand and to demonstrate credibility in the subject areas covered. You can do this effectively with solid messaging and good signage that includes not only the names of the session and sponsors, but your group’s name as well. Don’t miss out on valuable opportunities throughout the event property to prominently feature your organization’s name and logo. Use branded signage in every meeting room.
A successful event allows you the chance to showcase your organization and its brand and to demonstrate credibility in the subject areas covered.
Remind attendees about who is hosting and why they should care. To educate people about the work your group does, mention it in brief verbal remarks when you kick off the event, at the ending wrap-up and throughout the course of the event. Ask your speakers to do likewise. For first timers or repeat attendees alike, this reinforces your important role in planning and designing the event, selecting speakers and convening participants. It also highlights your subject matter expertise and strengthens your reputation as a “go to” source.
Connect the dots for your attendees to what outcomes they can expect. Articulate some specifics about how your event sessions will help them attain their goals or solve a problem. Explain how and where else they can apply what they learn, as well as who they will meet at your event. Facilitate connections wherever possible.
What’s in a name?
The title and theme of your event is an important part of its branding and appeal. Giving your event a title or label requires some creativity. Banish the boring titles and themes. Instead communicate the benefit of excitement behind why you are holding the event. As you brainstorm conference or event series titles, think about movies, books and popular trends. Use phrases that make you think or unusual twists on common turns of phrase. Use verbs and action words to position your event and stand out from the competition.
Create enticing session descriptions.
When an attendee is considering going to your meeting, they look at the sessions. If only a few appeal, they may not find your event worth attending. If on the other hand, as they read your brochure, they want to attend every one (or in the case of concurrent sessions, more than physically possible), you have done a very effective job convincing them that this event is right up their alley.
Now it’s up to you to over deliver on every promise your session description make. Anything less is false advertising and likely to result in unhappy customers. Make sure the content of each session is accurately reflected in its title and description. Work with speakers to insure they cover the items you promise. Be as specific as you can about expected outcomes for attendees – and put this in your marketing materials.
Make sure the content of each session is accurately reflected in its title and description.
Another effective way to boost attendance is to use attendee incentives. There are hundreds of ways to do this. One is to use a sampler program where you give out a limited number of free guest passes as an investment to drive attendance at future events. You can give these complimentary passes to key members, prospects, sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers and/or frequent attendees. This kind of program, properly executed, can build loyalty and drive awareness. Potential new audiences learn about your organization and its events and gain a positive experience. It’s also an excellent way to acknowledge and reward your most ardent supporters.
Get people talking.
Remember that word of mouth is one of the most powerful drivers of event attendance. Foment the buzz. Make it easy for people to share information about your event, on social media or in conversation. Make a clear and compelling argument about why someone should attend. Where appropriate, share who is coming, as further social proof that your event is a good investment of someone’s time and energy. Create short social media posts that people can easily share, along with direct links to more information and/or registration details. Where possible, start conversations using social media, about the theme, topics, speakers and location. If applicable, whenever a prospective attendee contacts your organization, ask them if they are planning to attend your event. Create a short invitational video, ideally featuring organizational leaders, to deliver a visual enticement to attend.
Make it easy to register.
Once you have attracted a potential attendee, think through the registration process. It deserves some special attention. Do a test drive to see how easy it is and how it might be streamlined. Be sure your confirmations and other communications impart the right kind of professional, informative, but always welcoming tone.
Start and end strong.
Perform a mental walk through of your event. Consider what it will be like for arriving attendees. Are they warmly greeted and provided with all the information they need to maximize your event? Is signage clear and well placed? Does the event start on time and run on schedule? How about flow between sessions? How about meals and breaks? Are you using social media during your event in a way that builds engagement?
During your event, your goal is to create a positive, high value experience that makes attendees want to recommend your event and attend it again. What are you doing to make sure attendees will do that? What is the feeling that event attendees get from your event? Do they feel you are meeting their needs and that you care about their experience?
During your event, your goal is to create a positive, high value experience that makes attendees want to recommend your event and attend it again.
Do you have a strong and powerful start to your event? This should be one that creates positive energy and momentum that carries through until you adjourn the meeting, be it a single day or multiple day meeting.
As your event concludes, think about how you wrap-up your event proceedings – with a bang or with a whimper? Make sure you have a strong ending to maintain the energy of your event and to keep the meeting room filled. As your attendees depart, they should be feeling positively about the event and your organization.
Finally, post event, what do you do to keep up the relationships and momentum that have been created. Do you email out a short questionnaire asking for their feedback and how your event might be improved? Do you communicate via email or social media with your attendees to capitalize on potential new opportunities for your attendees and organization? Consider these and other activities to add even more value to each event you host, as well as to help set the stage for your next gathering.
These are just a few event marketing ideas about how to create a great experience for participants of your events. What ideas do you have to share? Please share them. Thank you.
© 2016 Anne Doherty Johnson
About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations. She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals. Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.
This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.