Those who have managed or executed any event – a seminar, a user conference, or an industry trade show – will know it involves a thousand details, lots of moving parts, and other thankless tactics that, together, lead to success. But if you focus on and have a strategy or plan for the following eight elements, you’re most of the way towards a successful event.
What do you want out of the event? How (not what) will you measure? Why are you doing it or participating in it? These may seem like fundamental questions, but all too often companies engage in industry events because they feel like they have to, or (worse) because competitors are doing it or “we did it last year.” But if you can’t enumerate reasons and objectives for why you’re doing it now, you might be best served to move onto something else that will provide more direct value to the business and your sales/revenue objectives.
2. Short-term and long-term success measures
Depending on your sales cycle, you likely won’t be able to justify and measure final ROI from an event right away. So it’s important to define short-term and long-term success measures for your event. Short-term, for example, you might measure leads captured, meetings secured with prospects or influencers, etc. Long-term, you’re looking at opportunities generated and closed. Here’s a summary of three specific measurement points post-event.
3. Content strategy
Content is key to any event. This includes not only the approach and position at your booth (including your primary message and offer), but also evaluating opportunities to create and communicate content before, throughout and after the show. For example, what blog posts or other content can you create and deliver before the show starts to engage attendees, recommend certain sessions, even publish a restaurant guide to get their attention? What speaking opportunities are there, or if you’re not on stage, how well are you summarizing, blogging about or tweeting highlights from the event to your followers, customers and prospects? Some of my most popular blog posts summarize key points from a great event. Do the same, and consider publishing it right as the event ends so you’re included in round-ups.
4. Offer strategy
I’m not talking about pricing or product purchase offers, at least not exclusively. Sure, have a show special to get customers to take action, especially if you’re offering a transactional sale that you can close on the show floor. But more important are the offers that differentiate you from other booths, that drive more attention and traffic to your booth in the first place, and that increase conversion to registration and/or follow-up from those attendees. This can be a white paper, an audit or assessment of a prospect’s opportunity, a seat at an upcoming online event, or other offers and formats relevant to your audience. Make sure your offers are about the prospect, not you, to increase response and conversion.
5. Social strategy
Play an active role in the event’s social channels, hashtags and participants. Remember that there will always be prospects following activities and highlights via social channels that aren’t at the event but wish they were. These are prospects, too, and can courted, registered and engaged just as well post-event. Consider engaging influencers who will have high-traffic social and blog feeds during the event, so they know you’re there, are retweeting some of your stuff, and potentially writing about you to their followers. These are just a few of many considerations to take advantage of social channels at any event (even if you aren’t there or aren’t formally exhibiting).
6. Booth assignments
Product training is great, but your booth staff needs to be tightly coordinated to take best advantage of the traffic walking by. The downside of having an event booth is that you’re largely at the whim of whomever happens to walk by. Some will be good prospects, others won’t. So it’s important that you actively engage as many people as possible to increase the # of qualified prospect you drive deeper into the booth. At a high level, this means assigning some staff to the “perimeter” of the booth to engage browsers with a well-written, customer-centric question. For those that show interest or are deemed as qualified, invite them to a staffer inside the booth to continue the conversation, or rotate an “insider” back to the perimeter to prospect.
7. Networking strategy
I’ve been to events where the majority of my success was hanging out in the lobby and engaging the right people as they walked by. Whether it’s “planned serendipity” like this, or at the ever-present networking events and parties in the evenings, have a strategy for how you’re going to divide and conquer among the various networking opportunities. Ensure your staff isn’t hanging out together at evening events, but at minimum spreading themselves across separate tables to increase how many new people you’re meeting and engaging. And for those who will be attending these networking events, agree on a strategy for collecting and following up on business cards and contacts captured there.
8. Follow-up plan
Do yourself a favor and plan and write your show follow-up materials before you leave. Because when you get back, you’ll be buried in work and emails and new fire drills. And the next thing you know it, it’ll be a week later and those leads you captured will start to feel stale. So if you create your post-show follow-up plan up front, plus write the emails and schedule the post-event offers, all you have to do is load the list and press “go”.
There’s more to a successful event than these eight elements, of course. But they get you a long ways towards success.
That said, what’s missing? What’s on your requirements list for success?