According to IEG’s recent report on What Sponsors Want and Where Dollars will Go in 2016, 46% of respondents ranked presence in digital/social/mobile mediaas the most valuable sponsorship benefit. And IEG’s report on Association Sponsorship from the previous year uncovered that:
Above all else, suppliers are seeking innovative, measurable ways to connect with corporate and individual consumers.
The challenge event planners face is finding a balance between delivering great value to sponsors and maintaining a quality experience for attendees. I.E. Making sure attendees aren’t getting a sales pitch every time they turn a corner.
With that in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you walk the line between creating irresistible benefits for sponsors and ensuring you don’t lose your attendees’ attention.
1. Don’t turn your event into an infomercial.
Definitely, sponsors want value for their investment. One of the worst strategies event designers can implement is to overuse suppliers to deliver content. Unfortunately, this strategy is growing in popularity….with event planners….not participants. If content for too many keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions is delivered by suppliers, participants simply tune them out and walk away frustrated that they were pitched endless commercials and limited content of value.
2. Use technology to create ambiance AND highlight sponsors.
Explore different methods of creating event ambiance using the latest in event technology, like digital signage that allows you to:
Build excitement by showcasing social activity around an event hashtag
Brand an environment with dramatic sponsor visuals
Check out how IncentiveWorks owned this Toronto convention centre with a dramatic floor-to-ceiling Live Display.
3. Host exclusive, invite-only receptions for VIP participants and hosted buyers.
Invite suppliers to mix and mingle with participants informally. M & I Forums uses this European concept effectively by hosting a reception the evening before their event begins. There are no sales pitches. Suppliers connect with participants on a personal level. By the time the forum begins, the ice has been broken and it is much easier to get down to business.
4. Don’t turn every meal into a wall-to-wall keynote.
One reason many participants attend events is to network. They need some airtime and white space between presentations to interact with peers. It is possible to take advantage of meal breaks without turning off participants.
One strategy is to have representatives sit with participants during meal times. Spread them out so that there is no more than one sponsor representative per table. Through informal conversations, rather than a hard sell approach, event sponsors can connect with participants on a personal level and build relationships.
Let participants enjoy most of their meal without distraction. When coffee and dessert are served, begin the presentations . Keep them short, upbeat and interactive and, when possible, use event technology to deliver some of the content.
5. Give sponsors an opportunity to gather attendee insights
Work with sponsors, presenters and facilitators to design surveys and games that can be used during the course of a session. Live polling, app quizzes, and contests are some other ways in which sponsors can get more value out of the event by gathering important insights about event attendees.
Surveys are easier to create and distribute with an event app.
6. Set up an exclusively branded- zone on the trade show floor
Give it an upbeat name and make it colorful and inviting. Event furniture suppliers may be willing to fully or partially sponsor couches and lounge furniture to ensure participant comfort. You can even provide stations for attendees to charge their phones!
In the exclusive zone, in addition to coffee, tea, and soft drinks, provide cool signature mocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and snacks that aren’t available in other areas of the trade show flow. Also, consider providing entertainment in that area.
So you’re enthusiastic about introducing event technology for your next event. Whether you are an internal event planner or an independent meeting planner working on behalf of a client, it’s important to hit the pause button.
I learned this lesson years ago when working for a wireless communications firm.
The approach to one of the management development programs I had been asked to take over was staid and boring. So, I burned the candle at both ends and did a complete makeover. The changes were received enthusiastically….except for the first time I ran the new version. Shortly after the program started, it was clear that the group was not warming up to the interactive exercises and colorful props and decorations that I had added to reinforce the theme.
I called an unscheduled break, placed all of the props on a side table, and checked in with the group before continuing. This was a group of veteran managers and directors who preferred a traditional approach to learning. So, for this group, I reverted to the old version of the program.
There were a number of takeaways from that experience that I have never forgotten. The first and most important lesson was “know your audience”. This is directly relevant to pitching innovative new technology to senior stakeholders.
1. Know your audience.
When you’re introducing event technology, remember there are at least two audiences:
Senior stakeholders with the power to make go/no-go decisions about new technology
Often, senior stakeholders and participants are from different demographic or psychographic groups. Their perceptions of technology may not be in sync. It’s not just a matter of age. It has to do with the level; of comfort level in using technology and adaptability to technological innovations.
Here’s a simple grid you can use to determine the most effective strategies to sell through technology to senior stakeholders.
Take the time to find out how much experience senior stakeholders and event participants have with the technology you want to introduce.
You can obtain this information by speaking with executive assistants, individual interviews, mini-surveys, and focus groups.
Next, create a profile for each senior stakeholder to capture the information you collect.
Design your strategy for engaging senior stakeholders based on your assessment of the technical aptitude of stakeholders and their level of comfort with risk.
2. Benchmark with the best.
Benchmarking is an important step in winning the support of senior stakeholders. Identify companies and industries that senior executives in your organization or client organization consider to be best-in-class, who are already using the event technology you want to introduce.
How can you uncover this information? Follow the steps in #1. Add a question about which organizations and executives are viewed as innovators or champions. Also, pay attention to the examples that senior stakeholders use in their own presentations. Reach out to these organizations and compare notes.
3. Do your homework.
Events that are similar to the events you are planning
The technology that is used at these events
Success stories and best practices
Pitfalls to avoid
Fortunately, we live in an age in which the process of researching examples, articles, blog posts, and videos has been simplified.
4. Pinpoint the benefits.
Benefits must be clear, specific and quantifiable. If you’re asking an senior executive to approve an investment in new technology, definitely be sure to clearly articulate benefits and provide specific examples as back up.
For example, if you are trying to sell through an event app to senior stakeholders, strong benefits might include cost savings, streamlining communication, removing bottlenecks, and timely transmission of important information to participants, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. If there are a long list of benefits, it can’t hurt to lead with the one your executives perceive to solve the most “painful” pain point.
5. Research all associated costs.
A “no surprises” approach works best when introducing new technology. This is particularly important if there has been some resistance and it has taken time to win support for new technological initiatives.
6. Build and present your business case.
It must be tight, targeted, and concise. Provide an opportunity for questions. Include facts and figures but, remember, examples and anecdotes from respected sources can be a powerful way of building support. Identify possible concerns and objections and provide information to address them.
Here is a suggested outline to help you cover all the bases with supporting data when building a business case. Wrap up by repeating the proposed solution and call to action.
This is a modified version of the model developed by Gilmore and Associates, founded by the late Blake Gilmore:
Challenge or Opportunity
Proposed Solution or Approach (technology you are recommending)
Credentials (what qualifies you to make this recommendation. Here you can include a brief overview of the process you took to arrive at the solution)
7. Book a demo.
Arrange for a customized demo to take place during an executive meeting
We’ve all felt it. The lingering adrenaline after an unforgettable event. As the meeting is coming to an end, we reflect on the new connections we’ve made, looking down at the crumpled-up business cards in hand and reviewing notebooks full of new and creative ideas. We’re craving our own comfortable beds, a hot shower and maybe a glass of wine or two! Though thoroughly exhausted, we are feeling inspired and ready to kill it when we’re back at our desks.
Planners, this is the underlying magic of your events. And while you’re a seasoned expert at creating unforgettable programs that are talked about for years to come – it can be hard to maintain the excitement when the event is over.
With an increasing number of event planners using event apps to up their game and maximize engagement during the event, we’ve pulled together a list of the top 5 ways to keep your attendees engaged after your event using your event app.
1. Encourage attendees not to miss connections: Networking is an integral component of every program but it can be difficult for your attendees to keep track of everyone they may have met.
How? Send your attendees a link back to the Attendee Directory online to encourage them to reconnect when the meeting ends. There, they can browse the attendee list and easily put a face to a name for any missed connections. From there, attendees can even send each other direct messages to connect offline if they wish to continue the conversation.
2. Ask for feedback: On the last day of the conference while your event is still top-of-mind, send a “Thank you” message to all attendees with a link to a post-event survey.
How? Consider incorporating a handful of future-focused questions to get them excited for the next meeting such as “Where would you like the meeting to be held next year?” and “If you could pick any special guest for the next meeting, who would you choose?”
3. Address outstanding questions: If you had an incredibly powerful session but not enough time for Q&A, don’t fret!
How? Have your attendees submit questions into the app and then curate a list of questions that you can address after the session in an FAQ document. Post the FAQ page on your website or share in an e-mail with your attendees so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Share the resources: Many attendees don’t realize that they can access the app through the web from their home computer.
How? Using alerts, you can remind attendees that all presentations, handouts, brochures or other reading materials can all be downloaded to their computers after the event for future reference.
5. Leverage your creative real estate: Did you know that your app is your #1 place for promoting future events?
How? The most creative planners will change up the content of their app on-the-fly to introduce a “Save the Date” image for next year, scrolling banner ads for other meetings or even embed an option to register for the next meeting. This not only keeps the look and feel of the app fresh and exciting – but it becomes a great source of buzz for the next meeting.
There are virtually hundreds of additional ways to leverage the app when the event has officially ended, but event apps are only one tool in your event planning arsenal.
To learn more about how else to maximize attendee engagement, check out these other resources:
Associations face a number of unique marketing challenges. Unlike profit-making enterprises that focus their marketing efforts on prospective (and existing) clients, associations have a number of target markets including members, exhibitors, and sponsors. Effectively marketing conferences, monthly meetings, networking events, trade shows, and annual meetings is important, however, promotion is just one aspect of marketing. No amount of promotion can compensate for offerings that are not aligned with the needs of current and prospective members.
It’s worth noting that some associations and chapters have recently ceased operation or merged. In 2014. MPI’s Utah and Rocky Mountain Chapters merged. In 2015, MPI’s Manitoba Chapter closed.
Every event represents an opportunity to reinforce the association’s value proposition in order to retain current members and grow the membership base. This will ensure:
long term survival and viability
financial stability (i.e. continual revenue streams through dues and fees for programs and events)
“According to the American Society of Association Executives – association membership is declining across the board. Social networks now provide easy and convenient ways for industry members to find each other and network, and the proliferation of online content has led to vast and often free access to the types of information, insights, and training that professionals used to be able to access only through association membership and industry conferences. Millennial workers… place less value on formal and traditional means of networking….”
1. Start event marketing efforts long before you think.
Lead times need to be longer for a number of reasons. Some companies have moved approvals to higher levels in the organizational hierarchy. It may take longer to get the required sign-offs. Budgets for conferences and professional development programs have been slashed in many organizations. It is important for prospective participants to get approval early before the budget has been earmarked for other initiatives.
As a general rule of thumb, begin marketing next year’s conference or trade show before this year’s event is over. If your conference has an app, encourage all participants to download it and send out “save the date” push notifications before this year’s event is over. Extend special rates to this year’s participants if they register for next year’s event by a specified deadline. (Family resorts have successful used this strategy for decades.)
2. Don’t put all of your eggs in the social media basket.
While online marketing has been popular for the past 20 years and there has been more and more emphasis on social media marketing during the past 12 years, it is important to use a mixture of online and off-line strategies to market association events.
A conference in Europe with major industry headliners was recently cancelled due to low ticket sales despite extensive social media promotion.
3. Identify the best channels and platforms for communicating with members.
To market association events and programs, it is important to pinpoint the best places to connect with members. It’s easy to obtain this information. On membership applications, membership renewal forms, and event registration forms, you can request information about the most popular:
social media channels
magazines and other periodicals
This information will provide a detailed picture of the best connection points and help associations determine where to invest marketing budgets and efforts.
4. Get marketing support from registered participants
For specific events, provide registered participants with email copy and PDF brochures to forward to colleagues. Hold membership drives and supply collateral support.
Post about upcoming conferences and association events on social media and other online channels that are popular with members.
Launch a LinkedIn or Facebook Group to engage members throughout the year.
Use your event app to send information about speakers and programming and reminders about early bird specials and registration deadlines.
Promotional postcards and print brochures are no longer used frequently. As a result, as a result, when they are used, they can be more targeted and strategic.
Printed collateral can be mailed directly to association members and last year’s conference participants.
It can also be used as stuffers in association mailings and magazines that are popular with members.
Be sure to include your event app URL and social media coordinates on all printed collateral.
5. Involve speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors in marketing events.
Expand your network. Ask speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors to promote association events on their social media channels, websites, and blogs. In fact, some associations include promotion clauses in speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor contracts.
Bring your subject matter experts to light. To spark interest in association events, host Twitter chats, and pre-event webinars featuring keynote speakers and facilitators for breakout sessions.
Give first-time attendees an idea of what to expect. Create a Q & A blog post after interviewing a few of last-year’s attendees, find out what they’re looking forward to this year and write a post to capture and share the excitement.
6. Drive excitement with event videos.
YouTube and Vimeo videos are underutilized but highly effective for promoting associations and their events. The videos can be embedded in blogs and on websites and the links can be shared in emails and on social media.
7. Grow your membership base by attracting emerging professionals.
With targeted strategies focusing on emerging professionals, organizations can attract new members, grow their membership base, and remain viable.
Here are some examples of initiatives that market associations directly to emerging professionals.
The Toronto Board of Trade’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) offers monthly networking and professional development events for members and non-members who are under 40.
Canadian Public Relations Society and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has student memberships. In fact, PRSA has the affiliate Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) that gives students access to local chapter events.
MPI offers scholarships for students.This is an excellent way of increasing visibility and attracting students.
The Future Leaders Forum, a joint IMEX-MPI-MCI initiative, encourages the next generation to participate in industry trade shows IMEX and association events like MPI’s World Education Congress
8. Design strategies to retain and attract members who are entrepreneurs.
Gear some marketing initiatives to entrepreneurs. When entrepreneurs pay for membership out of their own pockets, they expect to derive value in terms of lead generation and business development. If there is no ROI for their membership, they leave. As more and more professionals opt for the entrepreneurial route, this can shrink the membership base significantly.
Ensure that entrepreneurs receive value for their membership. For example, be sure to rescind any policies that prohibit members from including websites and social media coordinates on presentation handouts.
BNI-style structured networking events in which each participant gives a 60-second commercial and other members pass leads to them.
Offer mini-trade show exhibits at some monthly events. A table top format around the perimeter of the room works well.
Offer professional development programs focusing on marketing and running businesses.
For more association event marketing strategies, come meet us at ASAE 2016!
Wondering how to use drones or virtual reality at your upcoming events? Get some ideas.
Your event is in 4 weeks. The date is set, your venue is booked and your keynote speakers are confirmed. Things seem to be rolling. Cue the *temporary* sigh of relief. Plus, you’ve invested time to build an event app that includes everything an attendee would ever want to know. You’ve even written an email to your delegates promoting this year’s app and you’re ready to go. You’re about to hit send…
But wait! Because your app is a window into the event experience and the attendee’s first impression of your event — you want to make sure it’s the best it can be. So before you send that email encouraging attendees to download your app, make sure you’ve included these 5 elements in your event app.
Even if your sessions and speakers are only partially confirmed, no need to hide the schedule entirely.
Instead, include your draft agenda or session titles with buzz-building statements like “More exciting details to come” to pique everyone’s interest. You can add in the full agenda closer to the date, but this way, your attendees will have an idea of what’s in store well in advance of the conference.
As a bonus, including a Table Viewof these prospective sessions gives everyone a visual representation of the agenda and makes it easier to spot potential conflicts.
It’s easy to overlook, yet so important! Encouraging attendees to tweet in the weeks leading up to your event builds excitement and anticipation for your event.
So be sure to include your event hashtag in the app. It will serve as a visual reminder to attendees to tweet early on. By the time the event rolls around, using your event hashtag will be second nature. Incorporating the hashtag into event activities will see your engagement with social media tools spike onsite.
Directions To (and Within) the Venue
Providing directions to the event space in your app allows attendees to plan ahead for appropriate transportation. It also ensures they’ll be in the right place at the right time.
Embedding Google Maps (which your attendees are already familiar with) into your app will be especially beneficial for those travelling from out-of-town. In large, complex venues like expo halls or convention centres, you may want to include a venue floor plan to help attendees navigate the event. Adding drop pins tied to specific session rooms or exhibitor booths is an added bonus to ensure attendance at your breakouts, and prove ROI to stakeholders.
Making sure details are uploaded in the event app for all your keynote speakers or well-known subject matter experts helps amp up anticipation and gets attendees excited about the event.
They’ll have something to look forward to, plus and it can boost session interest leading up to the event. Including a brief bio on the speaker, links to their social media accounts or even a quick document to learn more will help create pre-event speaker hype.
Alert Delivery Schedule
When used strategically, event apps can be an extremely effective marketing tool, giving you a captive audience for promoting the event, sponsors and exhibitors.
You need to be ready to hit the ground running with a content strategy to communicate with your attendees through pre-scheduled alerts and direct notifications.
That way you can set it and forget it, which means there’s one less thing to worry about. Change it up with different kinds of messaging, such as pre-event promotion, know-before-you-go lists, etc. You can even monetize this messaging by offering sponsors the chance to buy a messaging blast, and include their logo.
You only get one chance making a great first impression with your event attendees. Including these elements in your event app will ensure this first touchpoint is memorable and piques their interest for the event to come. Now go forth (and push send)!
For more ideas on pre-event app promotion, check out our Event App Marketing ebook.