Communications pros, market leaders, and meeting planners looking to connect with potential attendees and get them excited about upcoming events often turn to traditional marketing and outreach methods such as trade advertising, online banners and direct email solutions. But it also bears noting that a number of additional cost-affordable and easily implemented promotional vehicles are available that can help anyone better capture the audience’s attention and spread word-of-mouth pass-along as well. Following are several event marketing rules to help raise awareness for live events, conferences and get-togethers, none of which requires massive expenditures or effort, yet all of which can drastically boost public enthusiasm and interest.
1. Connect with your community. Want to get audiences excited and enthused about your event upfront, and hammer home why the special occasion will speak to their specific needs directly? Get attendees involved in meeting programs upfront by inviting them to help steer programs, submit comments and suggestions, or contribute multimedia content via internal, online, social media, strategic partners or other readily available distribution channels. Submissions can be used to help select program and track topics, questions and insights incorporated into speeches and presentations, and content easily saved and repurposed for other initiatives. Similarly, conducting advance surveys and polls, then revealing surprise findings at your gathering, also can be a great way to heighten interest while incorporating participants’ input. All present a wealth of potential opportunities to encourage audiences to speak up, share news about and get involved with upcoming programs, giving them more reasons to engage with your event and tell others about it.
2. Partner with program speakers. As noted thought leaders and industry personalities, speakers frequently can help drive event awareness and boost potential audience reach. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share blog posts, spread mentions on social networks or provide videos, podcasts and original articles for sharing with guests or for publication and promotion, e.g., in industry trades. Always look for ways to connect presenters with audience members and drive added learning for all parties prior to actual presentations. Meet-and-greets, breakfasts, teleconferences, group videoconferencing sessions, and other live or online programs present ample opportunity for speakers to engage with audience members, share expert insights and gain feedback that can help better shape and inform presentations. All provide a forum for experts and attendees to ask vital questions, interact and get to know each other better before, during and after the big show, helping raise ongoing interest for your programs.
3. Capitalize on content marketing. Search engines have become the new initial frontline for customer interaction. And in a world where organizations are defined more and more by their online footprint, industry pros must realize that, today, we’re all in the publishing business. Given content’s increasingly disposable nature, the Web’s explosive growth and the boom in mobile devices, content marketing efforts should be an ongoing part of every organization’s promotional efforts. Happily, not only is your own organization filled with subject matter experts who can serve as ambassadors via blogs, newsletters, podcasts or similar outreach channels, events provide the perfect opportunity to tap experts, executives and community leaders for learning, insights and advice, which can be used to generate added value and help raise awareness all year long for ongoing events and special occasions. As part of programs, workshops and events, ask all to share best practices, hints and tips, and offer support or inspiration. Quotes and commentary then can be incorporated back into newsletters, mailers, trailers and more, providing year-long benefit.
4. Create reasons for attendees to keep up with you and keep coming back. If you want to keep audiences abreast of upcoming events or sessions year-round, give them reasons to voluntarily seek out more information about your programs by giving them a constant stream of value-adding material. Luckily, there are dozens of ways to take content you’ve already been creating via your event programs to establish an ongoing thought leadership position. For example: Already been sharing hints and tips captured at meetings and conferences on your organization’s blog? Compile it into an eBook or guide as a unique takeaway that also cements your organization’s expertise. For added impact, consider updating material and adding new chapters to prior works, then promoting media awareness around the launch of new editions. You might also design an audio or video podcast series hosted on your event or organization’s website that offers new episodes on a running basis.
5. Collect and respond to fan feedback. Make a point to connect with audiences and build loyalty and word-of-mouth interest after events have concluded as well. After all, the point isn’t just to create satisfied customers, it’s also to keep them coming back. When your event is over, don’t be afraid to promote social sharing and engagement by asking how you can make the next one even better. Go beyond simple surveys and questionnaires by reaching out to participants and speakers via your wiki, Web page, email newsletters, surveys or social channels to find out what they loved and would like to see more of in the coming months. Encourage them to suggest future topics and program setups, provide feedback on their experiences, and brainstorm even better ways to share event highlights and learning. As a key part of any winning communications or event team, it bears reminding — it’s never too early to get audience members involved.
In short, a little advance planning and creativity combined with everyday off-the-shelf technologies, tools and solutions can help you create more effective ways to market and promote any event. Best of all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: Mix and match ideas, and you’ll find that many can combine to create heightened awareness before, during and after your special occasions. Communications pros and event planners are encouraged to experiment with any and all of the above ideas. When it comes to keeping audiences interested and excited to spread the word about current and future programs, you may find many of the most effective solutions hiding in plain view.