As you begin to plan your event, ask yourself a couple of fundamental questions – what value am I providing my attendees? Why would they spend their time at my event when they could be doing something else? Those questions should always remain in focus as you proceed with the event marketing process.
What is Your Mission Statement?
Before you begin to plan an event, spend a good deal of time thinking about what you hope to accomplish by holding the event. A conference should have a mission statement stating its intent, just as every business does. Don’t just throw ideas around in your head, actually discuss it with your conference planning team and work out a written statement of purpose. Some ideas for a purpose can include networking, building community, and being social, solving a problem or discussing a current issue, forming an agenda for a future project, fundraising for an organization, or educating your attendees.
Who Are You Targeting?
Picking a specific target group is essential to your event marketing efforts. You can’t market to everyone, and while some people will be very enthusiastic about attending, others will need some convincing. Unfortunately, the more you need to convince someone to come, the more money you will end up spending on advertising to them, so you should plan your marketing strategy carefully in relation to your budget.
What Does Your Audience Want To Know?
Once you’ve determined your target audience, you can put yourself in their shoes. Your audience ultimately wants to know how the event will benefit them. After all, they will most likely be paying you to come to your event, so they want to know what they get for their money. If you have the opportunity, ask them. Set up a forum for discussion on your website, send a questionnaire, or conduct phone interviews asking them what information they hope to learn from your event. Otherwise, plan your event as if you were going to be an attendee. Why would you want to attend?
Have a Clear and Defined Purpose
As much as you may like to believe that your attendees will remember everything you told them the next day, week, or later, chances are, they won’t. They probably will only remember 5-10%, so make your message clear and concise, and repeat it several times throughout the event.
Schedule Enthusiastic Speakers
How many times have you walked out of a lecture and thought, “Thank goodness it’s finally over!” Enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers add life to your conference, keeping attendees interested and engaged. Speakers only have a couple of moments to capture your audience’s attention, and if they fail to do so in that time, your audience will become distracted and wonder what else they could be doing with their time.
Keep Attendees Comfortable
Work out the logistics of parking, food, restrooms, breaks, room temperature, and other materials beforehand. If your attendees are not comfortable, their attention will not be on you.
Mix learning events with networking events, lectures, panels, or round table discussions throughout the day. People have a hard time paying attention when they have to sit through one lecture after another, so keep them engaged with opportunities to share their opinions, meet other attendees, and ask questions to knowledgeable speakers.
Make Every Minute Count
Organize your event so that it runs smoothly and logically from one activity to the next. Have questions or topics of discussion posted on an overhead projector or written on a handout for early attendees to ponder. Schedule breaks for networking and open discussion. End activities with a Q/A session for further consideration.
Ask for Feedback
After each scheduled activity, have attendees evaluate the quality of the speaker involved, the information provided and any additional questions and comments they might have. If possible, email respondents with answers to their questions after the event or post their questions on your website for further discussion.
Provide Resources For Further Information
Give out handouts or book and website recommendations for attendees interested in more information. Post speaker notes, conference proceedings, or a summary of the key topics on your website after the conference along with a message board or forum to facilitate discussion and feedback.