How to make sure your next conference or trade show is full of the right people
Having a presence at a conference or trade show in your industry can be a great way to showcase your business in a new setting—and it’s also a killer lead generation strategy. But before you prepare to roll out the red carpet at your event, you first need to make sure people know about it.
This may seem like an obvious step, but successfully promoting your presence at a large-scale event like a conference or trade show requires a strategic plan and thoughtful execution that usually begins months ahead of time. You want to make sure that not only do people know where you’ll be and how to find you—you want to target the right people. You’ll also need marketing materials for attendees, email follow-ups for those who couldn’t make it, and to drum up some press or media. An integrated marketing plan for an upcoming conference or trade show can include promotion via email, social media and on event sites like Eventbrite.
Sound like a lot? No worries, we’ve got your back! Below, we break down some of the event promo basics sure to get fans to your booth.
When to Start Promoting an Event
Every event promotion timeline should be tailored to the event and include built-in flexibility to accommodate changes. Promotion should begin early enough for attendees to add the event to their schedules—usually about 2 to 3 months in advance of the conference or trade show. To determine your timeline, you’ll need to start thinking early on about what tactics you’re going to use so that you can add them to an editorial calendar. Once you nail down your strategy, update or develop your editorial calendar to reflect your promotions schedule so that all your timelines are in one location. Then, you’ll have a super helpful roadmap to guide you and your promotional content from start to finish.
“Give yourself enough time on the front end to plan for the conference,” says Warren Legner, Vice President of Accounts at Yakkety Yak. “There are a lot of moving parts, both internally for your client and also for you as the agency, so ensuring you are getting ahead of the planning is key. If you wait too long to start planning, things begin to fall through the cracks, and compromises end up getting made. It also puts your client under unnecessary stress, so grab the reins and get the conversation started early.”
How to Promote an Event
There are a number of creative ways to promote an event like a conference or tradeshow—before, during and after. The best marketing campaign is going to have a mix of elements, like newsletters and social media postings, as well as targeted ad campaigns, a content and PR strategy, plenty of materials for visitors, and post-event follow-ups.
“Map out a clear and comprehensive promotional strategy,” Legner suggests. “There will be a lot of information that attendees will need: when and where the event is, what travel accommodations are available, what events/sessions will be available, how much does it cost, who will be speaking, what topics will be covered—the list goes on. With this much information needing to be communicated, mapping out a promotional plan will be imperative.”
Some questions to ask at the beginning of the process include:
- What should be on the website?
- What should your emails deliver, and how often?
- How does social media play a role in announcements and reminders?
- Do you need to create sign-up forms online?
- Is there a promotional video needed?
- What sort of booth experience do we need?
This will help get the creative juices flowing, and allow you and your team enough time to get all the logistics worked out in advance.
Email marketing goes directly to your audience’s inbox, making it a strong tool for reaching out to potential event attendees or sponsors. You can target your entire list, or even specific segments of your list, depending on what stage in the promotion you’re at. Early on, it’s smart to send an e-newsletter that alerts your audience of the event. Effective promotional emails include an engaging subject line and an easy-to-navigate path to participate. With any event-related email, your call to action should be clear and simple, such as “Register Now” or “Buy Tickets Here.” With email campaigns, you can work in other fun ideas like embedding a promotional video, run contests, or give attendees a place to sign-up for giveaways or seminars.
Send reminder and last-call emails to your audience so that they know when they’re going to miss out on the event. After the event, send a thank you and recap email to show you’re grateful for those who came out and to encourage their attendance at your next event. Create a communication schedule that organizes the types of emails you want to send and when. Doing so will help you align your content production with your promotional timeline.
For a strong social campaign, utilize paid ads to reach an untapped audience. Facebook Advertising offers low-cost ads that are able to reach niche audiences with impressive results. If you aren’t planning to promote your event on Facebook, Sprout Social has a great guide to creating ads on other major social networks like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Advertising on Instagram can also be done through the use of influencers as their audience trusts their opinions on brands and events. For example, every year, thousands head to California to attend Coachella, a music festival with a diverse set of acts. Coachella’s marketing strategy is coated in influencer partnerships with people and brands. Social media is the mainstage for Coachella marketing, with the #coachella on Instagram filed with festival-goers year ‘round.
Organic social media posts can also share your event details with new audience members in ways that email cannot. When promoting an event on social media, use consistent language and branding so your audience knows what to expect of you and the event. Share the standard information about the event—such as how to attend, the location, cost and FAQs—as well as what makes your event special. Using an event hashtag helps make your message cohesive and allows your audience to participate in the conversation. Go a step further and create a unique hashtag created exclusively for the event.
Event Management Platform
There are many sites designed for event promotion, and we’ve found that Eventbrite, Facebook Events and Eventful are all formidable options for large events. Eventbrite also ranks at the top in search engine results, allowing your audience to easily find the event online. Other features include secure payment processing, social integration and customizable pages. Organizers can run, promote and track their events through the website or app, which gives organizers more control than other event hosting sites. For event promotion, it’s the full package.
Public Relations and Media
A great way to promote your event ahead of time is also by reaching out to news outlets and media organizations. It can be as simple as sending an email or press release to your local newspaper, or submitting an announcement to a trade magazine in your industry. In the world of marketing, content and public relations go hand-in-hand. The more exposure you have—the more people know about your event, brand and business. Plus, hello, who doesn’t love to see themselves in a magazine?
Promotional videos are another way to flex your creative muscles in promoting an event ahead of time. Here, you can appeal to your audience’s emotions, use humor, educate prospective attendees, and show off a bit of your brand’s personality. Maybe it’s in the style of a vintage commercial, or maybe it’s a documentary-style testimonial video. The possibilities are endless! Videos can be posted on your website, social media channels, shared with media and embedded in blogs and emails.
The lead-up to the conference or trade show is absolutely crucial, but you’ll also need materials for the big event. Informational handouts, brochures, special coupons or discounts, and a place to sign-up for your email list are some of the basics that go a long way. Make sure you work with a professional content producer so your materials are clean, concise, free of spelling or grammatical errors, appealing to look at, and have a strong call-to-action.
At the end of the day, while a conference or trade show may only last for a few hours or a few days, the magic word to make it all work is: PREPARATION.
“Everything needs to work together to make sure the attendees have the info they need, but also don’t get overwhelmed,” Legner says. “Prepare before the conference. With everything going on, it is easy to end up at conference day feeling like you didn’t have a chance to regroup and make sure everyone is ready to go. Give yourself time to have one last check-in ahead of the conference to make sure all T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. This is your chance to make last-minute adjustments and decisions, and making these decisions 3 days out is a lot better than 3 hours!”
Do you want an experienced team to help you promote your next conference or trade show? Reach out to learn more about our skills.