During Co-Communications’ 20 years in business, we have worked on more than 500 events ranging from ribbon cuttings and tradeshows to speaker series and blogger engagement events. While each event is unique, as is the audience that it draws, there are key components and features that help an event to not only make a big splash, but build strong ties with attendees and lay the foundation for future success. When planning your next business or nonprofit event, keep the anatomy of a great event top-of-mind.
Expectation management is part of planning and marketing an event
Everyone has attended events that have fallen short of their expectations. While this can’t be helped in some instances (you don’t know that it’s going to rain when you plan an outdoor event three months in advance or that a major construction project nearby is going to pose challenges to the commute and parking), making the benefits of attending, including key takeaways, perfectly clear in all pre-event marketing is critically important. While you want to build excitement and lure attendees to an event, too much hype and overstating the facts can ultimately lead to disappointed attendees.
If you are planning a tradeshow, conference or other event where you seek to attract exhibitors and sponsors, it is imperative to be realistic about what these audiences can expect, particularly in terms of the attendee base (number of attendees, industries represented, roles of attendees at their companies, etc.). You want to lay the foundation for bringing back these supporters year-after-year as opposed to starting from scratch each year, and a large part of that equation is ensuring their expectations are met.
Add one part creativity
Let’s face it – everybody is busy. On any given day, you may have a handful of relevant networking events to choose from and the same goes for the number of nonprofit fundraisers you may be solicited to attend during a given month. So, what does it take to get the right people in the room for your event? Creatively packaging your event is a big part of the equation.
Whether it is a unique theme, renowned guest speaker or buzzworthy venue, great events offer attendees meaningful experiences to connect and learn. During the event planning process, it is critical to map out the experience that you want attendees to have and what you want them to take away from the event/experience.
Don’t forget a mechanism for sharing
How do you expand the reach and impact of your event beyond the roomful of attendees? In part, by implementing a mechanism for attendees to share their experiences.
Opportunities to share event experiences come in many shapes and size. The key is to find something that will motivate attendees to participate. This may include hosting photo contests, randomly choosing raffle winners from those who share event photos on social media, opportunities to share video testimonials during the event, etc. Add a little creativity to the mix to develop a sharing mechanism that is aligned with your overall brand and will stand out among a sea of other events.
Round it out with follow-up
Repeated exposure to a message or brand is key to fostering retention. After attendees leave the event, you want to ensure your company or cause remains on their radar. Beyond the standard “thanks for attending” e-blast or hand-written note and a post-event attendee survey, consider how you can provide lasting value to this audience. Representative ways to provide value include offering additional educational content (for example, whitepapers and webinars), inviting attendees to visit the program they just supported via your fundraiser, sharing impactful videos to strengthen connections to a cause, and sharing new data that educates/informs while demonstrating the need for a product, service or protocol.
Events can be great opportunities to bring together groups of stakeholders for networking, education and to help advance the mission of an organization. A well-executed event is also a great selling opportunity for an organization, be it to attract new clients, partner, donors or volunteers. With a finite amount of time to engage your attendee base and make a strong, lasting impression, focus on delivering a unique and impactful experience that will leave attendees craving more from your organization.