Top 10 Ways to Market Your Conference/Event to Help Boost Attendance
For those of us in the meetings and events industry we know that budgets are shrinking and we’re being asked to do more with less. Often an event planner is not only responsible for coordinating all of the logistics for the event but they are charged with marketing it as well. I’ve developed the following “Top 10” list as a primer for planners to use as they prepare to promote their next conference or meeting.
- Research – Conduct research using post-show and member surveys that ask why people are — and are not — attending your events. Consider creating a conference advisory committee to gather feedback from attendees, exhibitors, etc. to create an event that everyone will benefit from attending.
- Create a unique message – You can and should market to multiple target audiences, but make sure you fully understand every aspect of your target audiences before you start your marketing campaign. Develop profiles, learn their behavior. And learn what they want to achieve from your event.
- Paid advertising – In addition to traditional ads, consider digital advertising. You can target your ads by demographic or to thegeographic area that suits your needs. It’s a very cost effective way to reach a specific market segment.
- Media Relations – News rooms are shrinking and getting the media to cover an event is getting harder and harder. Some thoughts to keep in mind as you craft a press release: What is newsworthy about the event? Is there a local connection? Are you hosting a corporate social responsibility event that impacts the local region? In addition, your press release should highlight who’s presenting, the topic being presented, and why your customers and prospects should attend.
- Utilize digital technology – Websites/Social Media/E-blasts/Blogs - Digital technology is a great affordable way to market your event. I could write an entire Top 10 list on this item alone. For the sake of brevity here are a few tips to keep in mind: Email communication is affordable but it’s difficult to break through the clutter. Ninety-five percent of all email is spam and filters are increasingly aggressive. Always use the same email address to send conference related email; ideally from the conference’s own domain and never use an obscure Gmail or Hotmail address.
Try turning sound bites and quotes from meeting sessions into tweets and Facebook posts. Seek out places where members are already congregating and join the discussion, engage, and “cross-pollinate.” It's not always necessary to create your own online communities if strong ones already exist. Make sure your website contains easy to find event content and that your site is Search Engine Optimized. You want people to find info about your conference when they Google topics related to your industry.
- Video – Whether it's testimonials, interviews, or informational pieces, video is a compelling promotional tool. Showing, rather than telling, people what it's like to experience your event is very powerful. Ask your speakers to submit short videos previewing their presentations, and you can create a steady drumbeat of promotion leading up to the conference by posting a new video every week.
- Collateral Pieces – Direct mail/Newsletters/Brochures. People are inundated with email. Try an old school approach and use direct mail to break through the clutter. Be sure to include this info in your marketing materials:
- Speaker info
- Agenda/Schedule of events
- Registration info
- Boss convincing points
- Testimonials/Inspirational message
- Include links to “invite a friend or colleague”
- Give group discounts for those that bring their “team"
- Cross Promotions – Networking/Tradeshows – Work with other like minded organizations to cross promote your events. Ask if there are networking opportunities or tradeshows where you can engage delegates to promote your event.
- Sponsors/Exhibitors/Presenters – These groups have just as much to gain by a well attended event as you do. Ask them to reach out to their database of contacts to invite them to the event.
- Use your local CVB. They can create pre-promo materials for you to use and will often times do marketing on your behalf. They can provide maps, visitor guides, a mobile app, advance mailings and e-blasts plus give you access to photos and info about the destination to use in your marketing materials. The best part? The majority of services they offer are free.
Tracy Padot, CTA
Vice President of Marketing Communications
Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tracy Padot is the vice president of marketing communications for the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB). She has worked in the marketing and communications field for more than 19 years, the last 13 years at the GLCVB.