For four successive years, UK marketers have put face to face events right at the top of their list of effective content marketing and lead generation tactics (source: Content Marketing Institute).

This stat alone should go pretty much all the way to convincing you that in 2015 and beyond, events are no longer a nice-to-have, standalone marketing sideshow. They are the undisputed Main Event in many of today’s successful marketing strategies.

So how, and why, should your event strategy take centre stage?

Face to face experiences have the almost unique capacity to take on a life that extends way beyond the event itself, with the potential to generate returns not just during, but way before and long after. Here are some of the ways that MOI has helped clients maximise the return from their event budget, the assets created and the people involved.

Use your marcomms and social media to engage the audience early – and “early” could mean before you even have an agenda in place. Let them have their say in terms of what they want from the event. Use polls, surveys or simple open-ended questions on social to find out their hot topics, the speakers and brands they want to hear from, their pain points and challenges. Use your sales team. There’s often no one better placed for engaging customers and prospects in conversations that will uncover what your audience really wants to hear about and discuss.

Once you have your agenda, keep up the momentum by letting your audience know what’s in store for them. Use your communications to build awareness, increase engagement and drive registrations. If it’s an event with speakers, ask them to blog or post about the topic they’re covering. Invite known influencers and ask them to post opinions and create real-time content. Create your own content with persuasive stats and facts that leaves your audience with no doubt as to why they should attend your event.

During your event
The best events are stimulating, motivating experiences where attendees can learn something new and make useful contacts. Make sure you deliver. Your audience will be more disposed to share the experience and their learnings, giving you valuable reach, advocacy, wider engagement and ultimately more custom.

If it’s a speaking event, try something new – short, sharp, 20-minute speaker sessions instead of the more usual 45; shake up the format with Q&As and panel discussions. Video the sessions. Think about live-streaming them – or at the very least, use them as content post-event. Interview speakers and delegates on camera, create live blogs (or ask your influencers to) and live social feeds. Use an event hash tag and encourage others to use it too. It’s a great way to quickly assimilate, view and measure all the event’s social coverage in one place. In short, seize every opportunity to capture content that can be used post-event to nurture opportunities and (re)engage your audience.

Never underestimate the impact of a networking opportunity. Delegates place a high value on peer to peer discussions as a rare chance to share ideas, benchmark their activities, learn from others’ experiences, challenges and triumphs. As the event host you are in the privileged position of being able to facilitate the kind of interactions that are hard to put a price on – and that’s powerful stuff when it comes to brand engagement and reputation.

Get your event right and you’ll provide a valuable, memorable experience that engages, both inside and far beyond its four walls, as it happens.

We’ve heard anecdotal reports that, even when event attendance has dropped, leads generated by sharing the outputs increase dramatically.
Well-planned, post-event activity reaps rich dividends.

This could be as simple as updating your database and following up on new leads and contacts from the day – but stop there and you’ve missed a huge opportunity. Your event videos, presentations, blogs, vox-pops and social comment are a rich source of original content for your acquisition, nurturing and retention programmes. Don’t assume that because it’s already happened, your assets will be out of date – what’s old news to you may be brand new for someone else.

Make the most of your best content by repurposing it as insightful blogs, stat-filled infographics, white papers, ebooks and more. It serves the purpose of re-engaging event attendees and will appeal to a broader audience of like-minded individuals who couldn’t attend.

And now is the perfect time to start planning your next event. Use the insights of what worked and what didn’t, and analyse delegate feedback to learn the kind of events and potential spin-offs to develop going forward.

We’ll leave the last word to Google Ad Strategist, Matt McGowan:

Events are the original social experience. It’s the immersive experience centred around a central topic, idea, or belief, shared between the collective audience and presenters, which makes events so central.

Quite something, coming from the world’s most famous non-face to face brand. Like we said – the days of events as a mere marketing sideshow are gone.

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