According to Bizzaboo, “Most (41%) marketers believe that events are the single-most effective marketing channel over digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing. This reflects a 32% increase since 2017.” Experiential marketing [read: event marketing] is not going away anytime soon. If anything, the pendulum is swinging back to in-person (not virtual) events. Whether you attend, present, sponsor, exhibit or volunteer at an event, know that you are part of something big.
As one of our largest client’s event wrapped earlier this spring, we’re offering insight into the planning process and how to be successful in areas of experiential marketing. Here’s a quick snapshot:
Experiential marketing prep and strategy
Before we even begin to plan an event, we take a look at the strategy for why in-person is a good idea, what we’re trying to accomplish for the brand and elements that will work (and not work) as we move toward “go day”. Think about it as the 5 Ws:
- Who are you trying to reach? Think of this from both an attendee and a sponsor/partner standpoint. Consider your speakers as well. As you think about these target audiences, consider how you’ll communicate with them prior to, during and after the event.
- What kind of event do you want this event to be? Networking? Learning? Activities? Sales? A combination of all?
- Where will you hold your event (location, location, location!) Think about costs perspectives of attendees and sponsors—where are they coming from? How much space do you need? What kind of space do you need? Is it important to be in a city that offers additional activities? Will people travel to see you?
- When will the event be held? While it’s important to think about what works for you and your audience, you will also want to consider other events in the area, that your competitors are hosting, etc.
- Why are you (or your client) motivated to do this event? Define your goals, keep them S.M.A.R.T. and what success will look like.
Once you have answered these questions, you can finally begin the planning process. Keep the above list handy to make sure you are staying focused throughout the planning stages. Create a timeline that all team members abide by. Remember this timeline is not set in stone and there will be changes—but stick to the deadlines set. A helpful tool for managing this timeline is Asana. We use this every day in our office. This timeline should include as many details as possible:
- Emails to attendees/sponsors/speakers
- Print deadlines
- Recurring meetings
- Speaker deadlines (call for speakers/presentations, open and closing, when to notify, when to receive confirmation, etc.)
- Registration deadlines (early bird, online registration)
- Catering deadlines (head counts, menus)
- Mobile app creation (content + design)
- Design deadlines (program, signage, handouts, etc.)
- Print materials timing
Other items to consider as you are planning your event include:
- Event hashtags – something catchy and unique that will get your attendees excited to follow before, during and after the event, and post on your behalf.
- Twitter lists – create these based on your speakers, sponsors, partners, (even your competitors but keep that list private) and follow/interact with them accordingly.
- Website/email signature badges – these badges are handy for speakers and sponsors to display on their website, email signature, etc. and act as a marketing tool for you as well. BONUS: include specific content that these individuals can use to share about your event, whether they are presenting, sponsoring.
- Guest blog posts – if you have a blog on your site, you may want to consider offering your speakers and/or sponsors the opportunity to write a guest blog for your site. Be sure to spread the word about this article (tagging the author/company) as this is a great way to build trust with your audience before the event.
- Photo/videography –consider bringing in the professionals to capture the visual details of your event if your venue and audience allow. You will want to use these pictures and/or videos post-event in blog posts, emails, digital channels and advertising for your next event.
- Pre-event emails – be sure to communicate with your entire audience before and after the event (some events even warrant emails during the event). Plan out when these emails will be sent along with what content to include. Your frequency of email communication will increase as you get closer to the event and need to share specific on-site details with each list (speakers, sponsors, attendees, volunteers, etc.).
On-site event logistics
Much like your planning timeline, create an on-site schedule to give to ALL team members their assigned tasks throughout the event. During your initial planning stages, outline your key on-site event team and their roles. If you have event volunteers, ensure that you provide volunteer training prior to the event; have an on-site meeting and several walk-throughs of your site so that the entire team is on the same page.
Communication in real time during the event will be key. Some tools to consider:
- Slack can be a great communication tool for on-site as well as in advance of your event as it can be used as an app on your mobile device or on your desktop. You can share links, screen shots, have group and individual conversations.
- Walkie talkies are helpful for urgent communication on-site. If you have a larger event and tend to be running around a lot – invest in either renting or purchasing a set of walkie talkies for all necessary members of the team. It is much easier to hear a walkie talkie than your cell phone.
- Messaging apps such as GroupMe or WhatsApp work well for messages that need to be sent within an entire group – such as your catering team, A/V team, volunteers, etc.
Other on-site helpful tips include:
- FAQ sheet – this should include important information such as staff cell phone numbers (including everyone on your team as well as venue folks), rest room location(s), mother’s room location/process, refund/cancellation policy, on-site registration pricing, special events that may be occurring during your event (including the who, what, where, when). Distribute this ahead of time to your volunteers via email and have printed copies available on-site with at least one copy per registration station.
- Dedicated social media – assign a dedicated staff member (or team) to engage in real-time on social media throughout the event. Dedicate a hashtag and monitor the use of that in real time.
Before you have even left the office for your event, plan ahead:
- Post-event thank you emails – for all attendees, sponsors and speakers – and don’t forget your post-event survey! Using a tool like Constant Contact will help you create this email and even pre-schedule the email if necessary. You can also create the details of the email, save it, then add the necessary attachments post-event, but at least you will be one step ahead and ready to send that email.
- Event recap – create the template ahead of time so you only need to drop in the details after your event wraps.
- Recap meetings – remember to share the feedback and recap with your team and be prepared to capture the team’s feedback as well. If you are going to do this event again, there is always something to learn for future event planning (even if the event has occurred for multiple years).
- Speaker feedback – if you tracked attendee feedback of speakers, share this information with them
Did we miss anything here? Feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below. Are you planning a large event and need some additional help? We are here for you! Check out our #12monthsofmarketing template: 20 experiential marketing ideas for more ideas of what you can do to promote your brand.