Meeting planners looking to get potential attendees excited about upcoming events often turn to traditional marketing and outreach methods such as trade advertising, online banners, and direct-email solutions. But do you know there are other affordable and easily implemented promotional vehicles that can help any association better capture audiences' attention?
Try these tactics to raise awareness of your conferences and events. While none requires massive expenditures or effort, all can drastically boost enthusiasm and interest.
1. Connect with your community. Want to get audiences excited and enthused about your event up front, and hammer home why the special occasion will speak to their specific needs? Invite them to help steer programs, submit comments and suggestions, and contribute multimedia content via readily available distribution channels such as your website, social media, and those of your strategic partners. You can use their submissions to help select program sessions, incorporate their questions and insights into speeches and presentations, and save and repurpose their content for other initiatives. Similarly, conduct advance surveys and polls, then reveal surprise findings at your gathering, to heighten interest while incorporating participants’ input. These tactics encourage audiences more reasons to engage with your event, and tell others about it.
2. Partner with program speakers. As thought leaders and industry personalities, your speakers can help boost potential audience reach. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share blog posts, spread mentions on social networks, and provide videos, podcasts, and original articles for sharing with guests or publication in industry trade magazines. Always look for ways to connect presenters with audience members before and after their main presentations: Meet-and-greets, breakfasts, teleconferences, and other live or online programs present opportunities for speakers to engage with audience members, share expert insights, and gain feedback that can help better shape and inform presentations. All provide a forum for experts and attendees to ask vital questions, interact, and get to know each other better, helping raise interest for your programs.
3. Capitalize on content marketing. Search engines have become the new frontline for customer interaction. And in a world where organizations are increasingly defined by their online footprint, we’re all now in the publishing business. Given content’s increasingly disposable nature—a result of the Web’s explosive growth and the boom in mobile devices—content marketing should be an ongoing part of every association’s promotional efforts. Happily, your organization is filled with subject-matter experts who can serve as ambassadors via blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and other channels. Events also provide the perfect venue to tap experts, executives, and community leaders for insights and advice that can be used to generate added value all year long. Ask them to share best practices, hints, and tips, and offer support or inspiration. Quotes and commentary can then be incorporated back into newsletters, mailers, trailers, and more, providing year-long benefit.
4. Create reasons for attendees to keep up with you, and keep coming back. Find ways to use content from your events to establish an ongoing thought leadership position. For example: Already been sharing hints and tips captured at meetings and conferences on your organization's blog? Compile it into an ebook or guide that showcases your organization’s expertise. For added impact, consider updating material and adding new chapters to prior works, then promoting media awareness around the launch of new editions. Alternately, you might design an audio or video podcast series hosted on your website that offers new episodes on a running basis.
5. Collect and respond to fan feedback. Make a point to connect with audiences and build loyalty and word-of-mouth interest after events have concluded. Don’t be afraid to promote social sharing and engagement by asking how you can make the next one even better. Go beyond simple surveys and questionnaires by reaching out to participants and speakers via your website, email newsletters, surveys, or social channels to find out what they would like to see more of in the coming months. Encourage them to suggest future topics and program setups, provide feedback on their experiences, and brainstorm even better ways to share event highlights and learning. It’s never too early to get audience members involved.
Experiment with any and all of the above ideas—when it comes to keeping audiences interested and excited to spread the word about current and future programs, you may find many of the most effective solutions hiding in plain view.
Scott Steinberg, a trend expert, futurist, and business book author, also founded travel and hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked, and hosts Next Up on NewsWatch.