B2B in-person events are one of the most effective tactics that marketers have in their armoury. But as with any event or campaign, to make sure it is a success it needs to be planned really well and every detail needs to be considered.
Events of any kind don’t come cheap, plus they take up a lot of resources and time, so in order to increase your event ROI and maximise the potential impact, you need to sit down and think through every stage.
To help you get started and ensure you have all bases covered, we have gathered together top tips from successful event marketers, so you can fine tune your in-person event strategy:
Format of the event
One of the first things you need to consider and make a decision about is the kind of event you will put on. There are many different formats it could take – for example, it could be a panel discussion over lunch or breakfast, or an intimate gathering with some industry speakers, or even a cocktail hour. The choices are vast. What you need to base your decision on is who your target audience is. Their position within a company and issues such as geographical location will all have an influence on what format will be the smartest choice.
So be clear on who you want to attend. Then think what format is going to work best for them? What are they likely to respond most positively to?
Once you have decided on your target audience and the best format to suit them, it’s time to plan the content you will provide at your event.
Be aware here that yes the event will provide a platform to promote your company but guests are not going to want to come and be hit with a sales pitch. They’re giving up their precious time and making the effort to attend, just it need give them something of value in return (does make sense). Nothing good is likely to come of it if you go hard on the sales spiel and you won’t leave a great impression.
So skip the sales, you can get your message across in a far more subtle and powerful way. Instead, base your content on providing key information, industry news or expert opinions that will work to entice your target audience to attend. What will be interesting and of value to them? What would they give up their time for?
Of course, if the event is in conjunction with a new product launch then you will want to devote some time to talking about it. Just keep it short and have the focus remain on the main content/speaker.
Being boring is also a major no-no and equally won’t leave a good impression on your guests. People want to be engaged and entertained, and your aim should be for guest to leave the event saying "that was great and well worth my time." You will achieve this if you can form a connection with them in some way, such as by passing on great information.
With all that in mind here a list of things to decide on:
- Who will speak and for how long?
- Who will introduce and MC the event? - a difficult job, so make sure the person you choose has experience in keeping an audience interested and engaged
- What is the topic going to be?
- Who needs coaching ahead of the event? - perhaps you will have some speakers from your own organisation who aren't the best public speakers around, think about offering some coaching
- What entertainment will you add?
- What will the event agenda look like? - work out timings and make sure everyone sticks to their time slots. The MC must know to interrupt politely if speakers go on too long
- How are you going to facilitate networking? - people are often shy and stick around those they know. If networking is a valuable part of your event for attendees then help them get more out of it by helping to move it along. For example, have the MC invite them to exchange words with a neighbour they don't yet know.
There’s no escaping budget constraints and the need to balance a well planned and interesting event with an equally well planned budget. You’ll be aiming to get the highest results for the lowest cost. To help you stay on track, make sure you break down costs for:
- Speakers fee and expenses
- Insurance or permits where needed
- Any other directly related costs – such as refreshments, entertainment
- Manpower before during and after for organization and promotion of event
- Marketing materials - including handouts, take homes
Make sure the small details are covered, not just the big ones. Think ahead and list out everything that will need doing. Then, just as importantly, plan out who will manage each task and when it will be done. Technology can help you organize everything, so consider using a project management tool like Trello, Asana or Teamwork, if you’re not already doing so. They will help you stay on top of all tasks.
Your detailed plans should include things like:
- What needs to be done before the event, during and after?
- Who does what during the event? – It is essential you have a clear plan of action for all employees and contractors
- Seating arrangements - who is going to sit where?
- What materials are going to be placed on the tables?
- How will you be laying out the room/venue?
- Asking any speakers what special equipment they may need
- Planning what directional signage may be needed to help guests find the event
- Getting hold of any presentations that will be used by the speaker in advance of the event
- Planning goodie bags and what their contents will be - if using them then make sure valuable items are in there too, not just promotional flyers
- Plan for any catering – when will you need to feed your audience? A hungry audience does not listen well.
- Travel arrangements - how does everyone get to and from the event?
- Preparing name badges – what type, who’s coordinating the RSVP list and who's double checking spellings
A PA system is generally needed when there are more than 20 people in a room. Have everything checked and tested. Technology to consider may include:
- Microphones – decide whether you are going to use handheld or lapel mics. See if the speaker has a preference and think how many you may need if you are taking questions for the audience.
- Interactive technology - how can you wow your audience and get them to engage more, on digital means as well?
- Tweet wall
- SMS questions
How are you promoting your event? The tactics you use will depend very much on whether it is a private or public event.
- Co-sponsors and/or partners – if this is an option then brainstorm who you could partner with for your event. Get them to help you with the promotion as well.
- Social media - plan your activities including a dedicated event hashtag that’s simple and not too many characters
- Email - always a great way to promote an event, send reminders and drip-feed teasers
- Who does what, where, when and how when it comes to promotion? - have a clear strategy for how your manpower will breakdown and handle all the promotional activities
- Personal invitations - these work the best when delivered in person and/or by phone then followed up with emails
- Paid promotion – don’t forget about social ads that can help you spread the word about your event
- PR – issue a new release to publicise your event in the media and consider inviting along media or photographers where appropriate
The hard work doesn’t stop when your event is over, in fact the main slog begins – this is where you’re going to make the conversions and achieve the goals you set out to hit with the event in the first place. Ideas for following up and what to look at doing after your event:
- Do a thorough debrief - sit down and figure out what worked and what didn’t, look at the KPI's you defined beforehand
- Repurpose the event content - consider making a slideshow and posting it online, send out exclusive follow up contents to guests, share video highlights from the event, share a blog about what took place and the main information
- Follow up on email with all slides and links – make sure this is all set up in advance
- Set up appointments with key attendees - in most cases in a B2B environment you will be able to set up appointments that were touched on during the event. Now is the time to stay on the ball and follow up on any conversations that were had
- Keep your promises - often at events some kind of promises are made, make sure you stick to them
Plus – here are some special bonus tips for Lead Forensics customers
Upload the list of all the people you invite and set up special triggers so you know when they have visited your website. For example, set up a trigger for when an invitee is looking at the event page. A well-timed call made at just the right time is highly likely to increase your RSVPs.
You can also set up triggers for those leads that you would really like to come, so you know when they are engaging with your content and in what way.
After the event you can also see who went back to key information on your website. That will help you filter out the hot and engaged leads, so you can concentrate your efforts in the right place.
And there you have it. There is no such thing as too much planning. The more you can prepare, research and create in advance of your event, the better it will be.