Events are back in full swing, folks. It should come as no surprise that marketers are rushing to create plans and take full advantage of this renewed opportunity. Events are a big, big component of an organization’s overarching marketing and sales strategy. They play such a large role that companies are willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to attend, exhibit, speak, dine, and schmooze attendees, all with the hopes of creating new leads. But, so often, we see companies go all in without a well-thought plan, effectively making the event…. well, not worth it from an ROI perspective. No plan = no leads. At least not quality ones.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. As seasoned event strategists, we have plenty of advice to give on how to do events well. This blog will walk you through critical considerations you need to make when developing your event strategy to ensure the event is providing value to your attendees and to your business.
1. Identify the goal.
What is the target outcome of the event? How does it align with the overarching business goals? These are questions to think about… before any planning begins.
Think strategically about the investment you’re making and what you will gain from it. The goal isn’t to throw money at an event because you think you should. Events aren’t for everyone. In fact, not every organization needs to do events. There are other opportunities that may be more beneficial like social media or organic search depending on the stage of the business and overarching goals.
Instead, ensure marketing dollars are invested strategically and in a way that will support the goals of the business. If those dollars are best spent on events, great, but make sure you have a plan, a target outcome, and alignment with the larger business goals.
2. Give yourself enough time to plan.
Events aren’t simple undertakings. Often, they require months and months of planning to get it right. The more time you allocate for planning, the more successful the event will be. Realistically, give yourself at least 6 weeks for planning.
Even more important, think about how the event planning process looks in a post-covid world. The event playbook you lived by before March 2020 may not be applicable anymore. Take the time to understand and reevaluate the market before jumping right back into action.
Use all of the tools you have at your disposal to plan. I suggest using a “workback schedule” for events. Start with the day of the event and work backward on deadlines and deliverables to give yourself a visual of where you stand, where you need to be, and how much time you have to get there.
The best piece of advice I can give is to go into planning with a flexible mindset. Live events are bound to have a few hiccups. Take it not only from myself but from Stefanie Maragna, the VP of Strategic Events & Customer Advocacy at RingCentral and former VP of Corporate Marketing & Events at Sage Intacct. She knows first-hand that the world of event marketing is zany and things constantly veer off-script without warning. She was a guest on our Marketing Gets Real podcast, and her episode is chock-full of things gone wrong, things gone right, and how she learned to roll with the punches to create widely successful events. Listen to the full episode here!
All of that is to say, plan, plan, and plan some more.
3. Know your audience and what they actually care about.
With events, user experience is key. People are busy; selecting an event to attend is a significant ask. They aren’t going to waste their time or money on something that doesn’t provide value. An event needs a differentiator – what is going to make the audience go out of their way to attend the event?
A few things to consider to provide that “wow” factor and entice attendance are:
- A well-known, highly-regarded industry speaker
- A unique experience
- An incentive offer
There are a lot of pieces that go into planning an event, but it’s the little things that matter; those are the things that will entice the audience to attend.
Once you’ve chosen that “wow” factor, ensure your invites are strategically aligned with your target audience and your company goals. Invite the key decision makers to not only make it worthwhile for them but for you, too. With the right audience, ROI is significant.
Remember, make your event personal at every step of the way, from your invite to the conversations during the event to outreach after. It’s important to be genuine and human.
Oh, and one more thing, stop using presentation slides – they’re boring. Think about it, event attendees listen to lectures and watch presentations all day. Do you want to be another boring speaker with a boring presentation? This is an excellent opportunity to capitalize on meaningful conversations. Do something different and your audience will be talking about and creating momentum for the event for years to come.
4. Do post-event evaluation.
With all of the time and energy put into planning and execution, don’t lose that momentum once the event is over. Perform a post-event analysis – what worked? What didn’t? What should be done differently next time?
The things you learn will help shape your event strategy for the following year. The more you do, the more you learn. At the end of the day, testing any marketing strategy, events included, is key to improving. So, don’t drop the ball on this final step.
How Does the Event Help Achieve Your Goal?
Pulling off a successful event is no walk in the park. It requires hours upon hours of time and who knows how much money. However, when it’s done right, events can be a key driver of lead generation and brand awareness.
Next time you think about embracing the world of event marketing, think about this question: Is the event you’re planning helping you achieve your goal?
If not, consider reaching out to our team here at UDG. We’ve got years of event strategy and planning under our belts, and we’d be happy to help guide you through the zany world of event marketing.