When your company attends an event, you can’t just show up and hope for the best. Not if you want the experience to be successful, anyway. In 2019, conferences, trade shows, and seminars take place in the physical and digital worlds simultaneously, so you need a detailed plan for what you’ll do on the ground and online to promote your efforts and answer questions.
“Conferences, trade shows, and seminars take place in the physical and digital worlds simultaneously, so you need a detailed plan for what you’ll do on the ground and online.”
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No two events are the same, which means you’ll need to gather information and plan carefully. Carrying out a smooth, straightforward event takes effort. But it’s worth it because you can interact with people in person and provide a firsthand sense of what your company’s like. Follow these steps to ensure your next live event experience meets your (and your organization’s) expectations.
1. Define the event basics
First things first: Map out the basics. What kind of event is this? Why are you attending? Who will you be interacting with? At some events, you might only need to set up a booth. At others, you might want to schedule an announcement of some kind (if you’re launching a new product or service, for example). Or maybe one of your company leaders wants to give a talk or sit on a panel.
Find out what the event offers and how you can participate in ways that make sense for your company. You may also want to consider if any of your competitors will be attending and what their plans are too.
2. Identify brand goals and define KPIs
While you’re thinking about the above questions, work with your team to pinpoint goals for the event and how you’ll measure them.
Are you at the event to increase brand awareness? Provide information about your business or promote your business as a thought leader? Drive leads, signups, or sales? Dominate the share of voice on social during the event? Set corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs) to help track what you want to achieve.
You may want to connect your goals to your digital presence in some way (e.g. increase landing page views during and after the event), or you might solely be interested in what happens on the ground (e.g. have a certain number of people attend a session you host). It’s up to you, but it’s worth considering whether you want to see some kind of digital result.
At Bonfire, we’ve seen businesses drive significant digital interaction during an event, both on social media and to their websites. This has helped them increase brand awareness, as well as interest in new products.
3. Put together a run of show
You know what you want to achieve. Now you need a plan to get everyone involved on the same page. This is especially important if you’ll be working with any outside agencies (for on-the-ground support, social media support, content creation, etc.) during the event. Expectations must be set ahead of time for who’s responsible for what.
Your event plan should include a detailed schedule of events and timing, as well as any information people may need to access. Have a digital location—or physical location, for those at the event—where product info, company info, and any other relevant materials can easily be accessed to answer questions that come up.
If you’re planning on having a digital presence during the event, decide ahead of time what creative resources you need. Then determine what will need to be made during the event. For example, social media posts announcing a demo’s time and location can be created in advance, while a blog post recapping a panel discussion will need to be put together as soon as that session ends.
Have a schedule for content creation—including assigned responsibilities—and check in with any external partners regularly to ensure everything you need gets created and published on time.
If you feel like you have too many moving pieces, an experienced marketing agency can be a huge asset during this stage. They can help you establish responsibilities and keep things on track.
4. Plan ahead for digital community management
Whenever you’re attending an event, you should have a plan in place for digital community management—even if you aren’t planning many special online efforts. Your customer service team might need to field challenging questions, especially if you’re announcing something new. These questions can come in via phone, your website’s contact form, email, or social media, so keep that in mind.
If you have a large digital presence during an event, spend extra time preparing your community managers. Tell them what they can and can’t say, and empower them to engage with the community. It’s often difficult to gauge how much work community management will be before an event starts (online engagement might be calm or very active depending on the type of event and its size), so make sure you’re equipped to handle what comes your way. If you think you’ll need extra support, set that up ahead of time.
5. Remember to measure success
Prepping for a successful live event requires time, a lot of effort, and good communication. Once your goals are set, your plan is in place, and all of your teams know what they need to do, it’s time to execute.
One last thing: Don’t forget about tracking! You need to know what worked and what didn’t, both so you can see if you achieve your goals and so you can improve for the next event. Keep an eye on the data and put together a report of key takeaways to share throughout your organization and use in the future.