According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, there are around 285,000 conventions/conferences/trade shows per year in the US with a total of 87 million attendees ("The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy," Jan 2014). Events inside and outside the U.S. have been steadily rising, with startup conferences and conventions taking off in both B2B and B2C spaces.
Prospective event attendees have so many options available that it's important to stand out from your competition in the event space. In the B2B market, the overwhelming event options can result in business owners and managers discounting conferences/trade shows and avoiding sending their employees anywhere, in spite of an event’s potential value. On the B2C side, location and price are king. But there are a few elements universal to both audiences, and they are easy to forget in the hectic months leading up to an event.
Here are the five pieces no marketer should forget when promoting an event:
Remember that if no one can find your event online, they certainly won’t find it in person. SEO is vital to ensuring that your event appears when your potential attendees search for events in their field or locale. Make sure your event has its own dedicated landing page(s), and be sure to utilize appropriate keywords in all related titles, abstracts, and metadata. Keywords should be relevant to your event, but also have high search volume. A number of tools are available to help select the best keywords if you need a hand, or your marketing specialist can provide suggestions. Pro tip: Start your SEO campaign early; according to Leverage Marketing, it can take up to 4 weeks for Google to index your page.
Harness the ever-increasing power of social media to promote your event. According to Emma, “attendees start to share an event an average of 17 days before the event, or even as much as a month beforehand for big events… or ones that require travel” (2016). That’s up to a month of self-generated promotion! Make sure you hit all social media channels relevant to your event. If you’re working a B2C cosplay angle, be sure you’re on Instagram and Snapchat. For B2B conferences, LinkedIn groups and Facebook posts will help you gain plenty of traction. Pro tip: Attendees will also likely post from the actual event, and those who wanted to attend will be watching social media for updates. Live interaction throughout the event could mean more attendees next year. Don't get too wrapped up in the excitement of the event and forget to post. Share that excitement with the world!
“The most common topic among emails in the top 1% of viral emails was events and webinars.” (Litmus, 2015). This is because event promotions are, by nature, shareable. Inviting a friend takes nothing more than a click of a mouse, and the power of two (or more!) can sometimes really help drive attendance. Event emails are generally viewed as interesting to their audiences, which means two important things: higher open rates and lower unsubscribe rates than a vast number of other marketing emails. Don’t neglect the inbox! Pro tip: Don’t forget mobile users! Make sure that all emails are mobile-friendly and that all links you include lead to mobile-friendly pages.
Program & Signage
Just as marketing before the event is important, there’s work to be done during the event from the marketing side. It’s vital to give each attendee a program at minimum, but additional goodies are always a huge boost as well. Giving folks a handy mug or bag provides free marketing wherever they use it for years to come. From there, signage is the best way to ensure that attendees continue to have a great experience during your event. Signs that indicate where each session room is, where exhibitors are stationed, and where any meals are taking place will avoid frustration. Bathrooms, registration/help, and emergency exits are also very important to indicate, and help keep your conference or convention running smoothly. Pro tip: A few signs in key locations that lay out the entire event schedule are handy for folks who might have lost or forgotten their event program.
Don’t forget post-event surveys! It’s vital to take the pulse of your audience and find out where you went right, where you went wrong, and what you can do going forward. In order to really engage with your audience, send out a survey to attendees after your event. You certainly won’t get responses from everyone, but if you ask the right questions you'll learn quite a bit about your event and its audience. Pro tip: Formstack.com has a great blog post about how to frame your questions. Keep it short, keep it simple, and friendly. Avoid leading questions if possible. Remember - you’re looking for honest opinions here!
Planning and holding an event is a momentous task. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Planning in advance and remembering these key points can help you ensure that your convention, trade show, or conference goes off without a hitch and continues to attract attendees for years to come.