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Digital Strategy for Event Planners

This concise paper outlines a strategy and provides specific details on how to leverage Digital – including Social Media – to plan and execute events. (And to fill seats.) Ideas are provided for planning, promoting, during, and post-event.  Note: If you are interested in our white paper on using presentation technology (such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc), please reach out to us directly.  This paper focuses on the planning/execution/marketing.

“If you’re not Twittering, YouTubing, Facebooking, TikTokking, and LinkingIn your event, you’ve missed the boat.”

While there is some truth to the statement, too often these tools are used opportunistically, with little return on the effort.  This is even more true today when so many meetings are delivered virtually. Yet, what is the alternative?  Hint: it’s not to avoid using the tools, but rather to use them strategically, with specific intent through the stages of plan, promotion, during, and post-event.

Planning the Event

How are event themes, speakers and educational tracks determined at your association? Usually this is delegated to a committee composed of volunteers, staff and perhaps trusted advisors. If the committee chooses the right combination for the program, the perceived value of the event, and the attendance, the event rises. If the committee makes the wrong choice, your event is in trouble.

While it may seem risky to ask members directly, using social media tools to reach out to members and other potential attendees can generate buzz, collect data, and enhance affinity. People are more likely to attend if they have a say in setting the agenda. How to do this? Conduct an online survey on key issues in the industry, asking about preferred topics and soliciting speaker recommendations. Or solicit feedback in a zoom focus group.  Or start up discussions in a forum or blog. Blogs have the advantage that they are automatically syndicated across the Internet, spreading awareness even farther. Your planning committee can consider the feedback when making its decisions. The data can validate great decisions — and help avoid bad ones.

Promotion

One of the basic tenets of digital marketing is that instead of being broadcast from one point, a message should be designed so readers can pass it on. Consider these ideas:

  • Create an event blog to keep everyone up to date. In addition to posting text, ask speakers to supply value-adding content such as video clips. The blog can be easily syndicated across the Internet to promote awareness of the event, and improve the search engine rankings of the event website itself.
  • Be careful not to allow the blog to be perceived as an advertising channel rather than a preview of the great value offered by the event.
  • Announce your event on relevant discussion forums, including on LinkedIn groups.
  • Create a family of social media sites (YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter) tied together so that when one is updated, all are. Since you don’t know where on the Web your attendees spend their time, creating a broad, integrated presence ensures that attendees will find you when they come looking for you.
  • As a speaker, I spend time researching each audience to whom I present. What are their key issues? What are they hoping to learn from me? What are their challenges? Yes, the answers can be gathered through one-on-one over-the-phone interviews, which I do. But if the meeting planner establishes a forum, prospective attendees can share directly what they are looking for—and I can immediately respond. The result is in a more customized presentation by me coupled with audience pre-engagement that translates into more registrations for the event.
  • While associations use their magazines and newsletters to promote conferences, they should engage other media as well to get out the message. Mainstream media (including trade publications) can generate articles that can be linked to or cross-posted. Bloggers may want to do pre-interviews leading up to the conference. And, of course, the board, staff, and key volunteers can comment on each other’s blogs and tweets, driving interest further.

A word about the online registration process: The user interface for the process is too often designed by programmers, not marketers. While making it easy to transact is the primary goal, the opportunity to build in social media functionality — tell-a-friend, up-selling, cross-selling, access to “private” content and discussion groups — should not be overlooked. The most powerful promoter for your event is someone who has just made a purchase. Why not generate a testimonial just after a transaction by asking why the registrant decided to attend the event.

Delivering the Event

Digital (and Social media) can play five important roles during a conference:

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  • Brad Christmas

    Brad Christmas

    CIO Akin Gump

    Their methodologies have depth and are effective. We get exceptional value for every dollar spent.

  • David Berman

    David Berman

    High-level advisor on accessible design United Nations

    We're pretty deep into it, but in an hour and half I learned six or seven things that I just didn't know before.

  • Stephen Libman

    Stephen Libman

    Transformational thinker

    I learned 7 or 8 killer ideas that I need to put into action right away.

  • Brad Christmas

    Brad Christmas

    CIO Akin Gump

    Their methodologies have depth and are effective. We get exceptional value for every dollar spent.

  • David Berman

    David Berman

    High-level advisor on accessible design United Nations

    We're pretty deep into it, but in an hour and half I learned six or seven things that I just didn't know before.

  • Stephen Libman

    Stephen Libman

    Transformational thinker

    I learned 7 or 8 killer ideas that I need to put into action right away.

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