If you live here in Dublin, Ireland it seems like every day there is a conference / seminar / expo that will cater to your every need. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for the Irish economy and long may it continue. My experience of some smaller events though is that the event management experience is just not there. At times, it feels like the organisers are creating events purely for commercial return rather than with a focus on the content, the attendee and their return-on-experience.
I attended the extremely well-managed Irish Sponsorship Summit recently at which I enjoyed my experience through being intellectually stimulated and practically inspired. It made me think in general about event management and whether it is changing with the times.
Successful events are based on the founder’s rationale and the attendees’ unique experienceClick to tweet
I firmly believe that successful event management must be based on two things – a) the Founder’s rationale for the event and b) being focused on the attendee experience.
Here is a short story of what I mean of (a) above.
Alex Gibson, an ex-colleague of mine, has a passion for all things related to Augmented Reality. Unfortunately, there was no event that he could attend here in Ireland, where he could mingle with others of that ilk. So, guess what? Yep, he founded an Augmented Realty Conference in 2014.
Alex did it for a genuine reason – he wanted to provide a platform for showcasing and debating the business case for the emerging technologies of Augmented Reality. This year he has added a Virtual Reality dimension to the conference and expo and is attracting some serious speakers as a result of his authenticity and personal touch – see here ARVR INNOVATE
With regard to (b) above I believe that there are some basic questions that must be answered if your event is to be truly attendee focused.
- Who is your target audience?
- Is your founding rationale relevant to the audience?
- How and where is that audience educated, informed or entertained usually?
- Does the event footprint (activity timeframe) suit your target audience?
- Are the planned logistics user-friendly?
- Can you deliver a wow factor for your audience (will you need to outsource)?
- What results will you measure?
Attendees’ expectation of events is sky high, these days, and reinforced by all things digital. As I believe that the role of the event manager is changing, I thought it might be worthwhile to suggest some of the tools, channels and tricks that I have come across. I have split them into those for use before, during and after an event. Hopefully some of them will help people involved in any aspect of event management.
Create Event Awareness even Before You Start Formal Marketing
We would suggest that 6 weeks is the minimum time to execute a good marketing plan. Even before that, however, you can start creating awareness, for the event.
One of the first things to do is to create a website / microsite / landing page for the event. Make sure however that you have a strong call-to-action (CTA) on all online descriptions of the event e.g. click a link to sign-up.
A second step would be to create a simple flyer for the event. Once done it can be re-purposed for use online e.g. website, social media, blog etc.
A third step is to determine how people will pay for attending (registration). One method is to use EventBrite which can be embedded on your site and the info shared on social media.
Finally, I would develop a contacts list which would include previous attendees (if not a new event), influencers (use followerwonk) and industry leaders. Use a tool like MailChimp to engage your list using topics like date-in-the-diary; registration is open; special features, guests or to ask them to share the email with their colleagues.
Other awareness ideas would include:
- using a twitter chat session, google hangout or Blab to start the conversation
- preparing a short video showing your speakers (YouTube, Vimeo, Vine)
- creating a contest to increase online share-ability (rafflecopter, promosimple)
- asking your speakers to post on their own social networks
- developing a hashtag for the event and posting it often and everywhere
Times have changed from the modest press release strategy of spraying and praying. Using social media to avoid spending unnecessary money on promotion is very do-able, no matter what size your event is.
Here are some tools that might be helpful to you as an event manager:
- Before using a #hashtag as mentioned above, check it out first using tools such as Hashtagify or Tagboard.
- Use click to tweet on emails, tweets, blogs etc. (as we have above)
- Schedule a series of informative tweets using e.g. Buffer, Hootsuite or Drumup
- Use twitter lists to send messages to your twitter contacts with large followers (I mentioned the followerwonk tool above)
- Create a Facebook page and pin your event flyer to the top – all posts should have a CTA
- Use Facebook Exchange (also known as FBX ad targeting)
- Post details to your Google+ pages, and circles if appropriate
- Create a Google+ Event to discuss the event content
- Create a survey on e.g. surveymonkey or a poll on Twitter
- Use your LinkedIn account to raise awareness amongst your friends / colleagues
Event Management Tips and Timesavers
Let’s say that you have planned your event perfectly, you have a full house and now you want to ensure their participation expectations are met –
During the Event
- -Assign people to live post / retweet attendees ‘handles’ during the event
- -Use a platform like sli.do for audience participation
- -Use tools like Catchbox, Crowdmic and Cloudmic for audience interaction
- -Encourage social media interaction using the event hashtag
- -Provide proforma posts / info on speakers for attendees during the event
- -Facilitate interaction between attendees and sponsors
- -Use a screen to reflect live tweeting during the event such as Tweetwallpro or a social media wall
- -Connect a video to a large screen for live streaming
- -Use QR codes for mystery freebies
After the Event
- -Post photos / videos on the event Facebook page and tag people known
- -Distribute feedback forms by email to all attendees
- -Write summary blog post and share on social media channels
- -Share presentations on Slideshare
- -Upload event videos to YouTube
It is imperative that attendees at an event are totally immersed in a unique experience by being educated, entertained of informed in a novel way. Otherwise they will not be repeat customers or maybe worse – won’t recommend it to others.
Either way, the role of event management is changing. An event manager / planner now must become a co-ordinator of experiences. Attendees want a more immersive experience through one-to-one interaction and sponsors want more than just signage and brand awareness.
With the technology readily available and the right mind-set, there is no reason why event management can’t be better than it used to be.
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