Six Ideas for Taking Your Events to the Next Level

I recently presented a session entitled 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes: Taking Your Events to the Next Level to an audience of association executives.  The talk included strategies and tactics that would work with either refreshing an existing event or launching a new one.

Here are a few focused on event marketing and messaging.  They show the important role of good writing and clear communications in promoting any event, and they apply equally to product and service promotion.

1.) 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. (In writing terms, you could think of this in terms of claiming “authorship” for the event.)   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.

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.  One ways to make that easier is to give speakers a branded PowerPoint template that includes your logo and the date of the event. Put your logo or website or both on everything you can, including speaker handouts.

For first time attendees and veterans alike, this reinforces your important role in planning and designing the event, selecting speakers and convening participants.  It can also highlight the subject matter expertise you bring to the table and strengthen your group’s reputation as a “go to” source.

Connect the dots for your attendees.  Articulate some specifics about how your event sessions will help members or attendees meet their goals or solve their problems.  Explain how and where else they can apply what they learn or who they will meet at your event.

2.) 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.  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?

The all important registration process deserves some special attention.  Do a test drive to see how easy it is and how it might be streamlined.

Moving on to the event itself, 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?

Craft compelling session descriptions to drive attendance at your events.

Craft compelling session descriptions to drive attendance at your events.

During your event, your goal is to create a positive valuable 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?  How ready are you to handle special requests?

As your event concludes, think about how you wrap-up your event proceedings – with a bang or with a whimper?  Think about ending your event as strong as you begin it to create a well sandwiched agenda that fosters the feeling their time and money has been well spent.  Finally, post event, what do you do to keep up the relationships and momentum created by your event?  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?

3.) 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.

4.) 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.

Here’s the one we used for the 50 Ideas Session.  The goal was to give people a flavor of what they would gain from the session, with the description itself serving as one of the ideas presented.

Attend this rapid-fire and idea packed session to hear 50 ideas that you can apply to take your events to the next    level.  Whether it’s refreshing an established item on your calendar or launching a new event, this session will equip you with some actionable tactics you can use in the year ahead.  Partly crowd sourced and curated, this session will get you thinking about how to create standout programs that fill the room, engage your members and grow revenues.  What makes an event successful?  We’ll dive deep into the ingredients that contribute to an attendee’s positive event experience, from event title, content, speakers, venue, menu, marketing and more!
 

5.) Be a better sleuth.

When you’re looking to improve your next event, you’ll need to play detective.  Get better market intelligence by surveying those who don’t attend your events, as well as those who do, if your goal is to grow your event attendance.  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.   Becoming more data driven can help you create better – and better attended – events in the future.

6.) Encourage sampling.

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, 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.

What ideas do you have to share about event marketing?  Please share them.  Thank you.

© 2015 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.

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