There are many ways to market your company, your brand, etc. Among the best are to host or help sponsor an event. Conferences and conventions are great ways to bring together experts in your industry, educate and entertain your audience, and to elevate yourself within your niche. They are also pretty sweet income generators…when they are run well and go smoothly. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make sure that your event becomes the “must attend” event in your field.
No, we don’t mean hosting panels and talks in which people sitting in the audience are forced to contribute. We mean getting your audience in on the planning of the event. Long before you rent a space or sell your first ticket, start promoting the idea of an event to your audience. Ask them what they’d like to do, who they’d like to see, what they’d like to learn, where they’d like the event to take place/how far they are willing to travel, etc. Not only will their answers help you better plan the event itself, but your audience will also be more likely to actually buy tickets to something they feel like they had a hand in building.
The other part of this is to invite your audience to submit ideas for panels or talks, ask them to volunteer to be panelists or vendors, etc. Remember, the event isn’t just about elevating yourself. It is also about bringing your audience together.
Finally, make sure that your attendees have ways to interact with each other and to participate in the event in passive ways. The best way to do this is to set up an event app that is specific to your event. The app should include feedback functionality, social interaction functionality, and a way to keep the schedule updated (you can also use it as extra advertising space). Don’t worry if your coding skills haven’t evolved past BASIC. There are some great companies that can help you with the apps design and execution.
Mind Your Space
Plan your space accordingly and trust us: it is better to have a little too much space than to not have enough. For example, if you’re hoping to have simultaneous education and entertainment tracks, you probably shouldn’t try to shove everybody into the same event room. On the other hand, if the event is just for a day or two and will only have a few speakers, a hotel’s ballroom or conference room should work just fine.
Whenever possible, keep your event limited to a single location. Yes, we all know about those giant conventions like SXSW, SDCC, and PAX that are so big they are spread across several days and multiple locations. If your event grows to that size, great! In the early years, however, try to keep everybody centrally located. Take over a hotel with multiple conference rooms and ballrooms. Or rent a wing at a convention center. Set up in a park.
Know Your People
In addition to asking your audience to help you figure out what sort of event to have and who to highlight within it, it is important to understand your audience on a personal level. Never assume that every event attendee will be outgoing or gregarious. Make sure that there are safe spaces for the introverted and shy. Have a harassment policy in place before the event begins. Provide childcare. Have healthcare professionals and medics on site in case there is an emergency. The more safe you can make the event for attendees, the more of them you will see at your event.
It’s All About the Swag
Almost every event gives out some kind of goodie or swag bag. These items serve two purposes: they give your audiences something fun to help them remember the event, and they give you a chance to increase your profits by having sponsors pay to contribute small items to the bags being given out.
It is also a good plan to have a few vendors on site. Having vendors from within your niche (and those closely related to it) set up tables and booths inside your event is a great way to increase profits–they buy the space they use to sell their wares–and to organically increase your marketing (the vendors will tell their own audiences to come see them at your event). If your event is small, you can limit this space to just a few booths or tables. If your event is going to be large, consider setting up a vendor or exhibition hall.
There are lots of details that go into planning an event. Use the tips we’ve shared here to make your next event the talk of your industry!