When it comes to marketing, we tend to chase the latest trends, adding complexity to our marketing strategy. Sometimes we forget that, at its core, marketing is building and nurturing relationships with the right people.
This event marketing guide covers connecting with your audience without overcomplicating your strategy.
From a One-Way to a Two-Way Engagement Framework
Event marketing aims to connect with a target audience through in-person or digital events. Although brand-centric, these events focus on generating value through content, engagement, and unique experiences.
By adding event marketing to your playbook, you’ll create the right environment for:
- Connecting with the right people
- Getting to know your audience
- Building long-lasting relationships
Event marketing lets you build a space for conversations and engagement with your audience, paving the way for your attendees to become qualified prospects or even new customers.
What Makes Event Marketing Different?
Running ads, email marketing, or setting up an inbound funnel relies on one-way communication channels. Whether it’s a podcast, YouTube ad, or blog post, you limit your audience to a passive role as content consumers.
People may engage with your content through reactions and comments. However, they can’t enjoy synchronous communication with your brand representatives which may cause your audience to see your brand as unapproachable and unmemorable.
We tend to remember the people and brands we’ve personally interacted with, but most people will forget your company’s name after reading a blog post or seeing an ad on another platform.
That’s why building relationships is crucial to being seen and remembered. Focus on fostering relationships, developing two-way communication channels, and getting people to see your brand as approachable and one of a kind.
Luckily, events are relationship-centered by design; whether you run in-person or virtual events, you have the chance to:
- Communicate synchronously with your audience
- Engage in networking sessions with your leads
- Get to know people and their needs better
- Build one-on-one relationships
- Nurture authentic connections
Event marketing allows you to move away from transactional interactions toward designing transformational experiences for your audience.
One Strategy for Multiple Marketing Goals
Besides building long-lasting relationships with your audience, events help you achieve multiple marketing goals such as:
➡️ Increase brand awareness — Running valuable events and inviting stellar speakers will give people another opportunity to talk about your company and learn about your brand.
➡️ Boost brand engagement — Different event types, such as live events, networking sessions, trade shows, workshops, and contests, create multiple engagement moments that invite people to interact with your brand.
➡️ Position your brand as an industry leader — A successful event marketing strategy generates high-quality content for your attendees. Whether that looks like inviting knowledgeable speakers or fostering spaces for many-to-many conversations, host an event to position your brand as a thought leader.
➡️ Attract high-quality leads — By promoting your brand, product, or service through events, you’ll be able to reach out to and connect with your target group, transforming your attendees into qualified leads.
➡️ Acquire new customers — Events are great for showcasing your product and engaging with people interested in similar solutions. As a result, some of your attendees may convert to paying customers.
➡️ Foster brand advocacy — Strengthen your existing connections by running VIP events for your customers. These events contribute to your overall brand advocacy strategy, gaining more brand ambassadors for your company.
➡️ Upsell and cross-sell — During events, your sales reps will have the opportunity to run networking sessions, which boost your upsell and cross-sell strategies.
Unlike other marketing strategies, events work for all stages of the emotional buyer’s journey, engaging different audiences and providing the circumstances to achieve multiple growth goals.
How Event Marketing Works
To ensure the success of your event marketing plan, complete the following steps:
- Find and attract the right people to your events. Events work for all kinds of audiences. However, before you start planning, you need to identify your target group and how to attract them to your event.
- Build an event agenda that drives excitement. A boring event agenda won’t attract many attendees. A robust activity structure will reinforce the value your event can provide and help you attract a qualified audience.
- Source the right speakers and educate your attendees. As Kaltura highlights, people attend events to discover a company/product or to learn more about a specific topic. As such, it’s crucial to identify and invite knowledgeable speakers and focus on educating attendees to gain value for their time.
- Design engagement activities for your attendees. Experience differentiates events from other marketing practices. People expect to engage in various activities and enjoy unique experiences, making it imperative to ensure attendee engagement at your event.
- Create unique networking opportunities. According to Kaltura’s The State of Virtual Events 2022, building relationships is the number one reason people attend events. So, to achieve your marketing goals, offer attendees a space for interaction and networking.
Let’s take these steps individually and discuss the event marketing ideas you can apply to see results.
✅ Find and Attract the Right People to Your Events
The success of your event depends on identifying the right attendees. You need to know who your attendees are to build an exciting event agenda, design a robust marketing campaign, and achieve your marketing goals.
For example, if you lack a clear idea of your attendees’ profiles, it’ll be difficult to predict what they expect to learn and experience at your event.
This also applies to designing an impactful marketing campaign to promote your event; personalized messaging that speaks directly to a specific group is a must if you want to gain more registrants for your event.
You should build your event and promotional campaign around an established attendee profile that considers customer needs, interests, and roles.
Once you’ve identified the right audience, use engagement marketing tactics to get people to register for your event. This type of marketing will help you ignite conversations and build meaningful connections with future attendees.
Subsequently, people will be more interested in listening to your message and attending your events to hear more. Here’s how you can do it:
➡️ Tactic 1. Become a member of professional communities
Event promotion can begin as early as the planning phase, so work on building relationships today. One way is to become a member of industry-specific online or in-person communities.
If you’re unsure where to find these communities, search for companies that operate in your industry and check whether they have an online community on Slack or Discord. Once you’ve identified several communities, become an active member and engage other members by:
- Providing helpful answers to specific questions
- Posting content that generates value and discussions
- Engaging instead of promoting
- Connecting one-on-one with other members
As a result, you’ll become a valuable to the community and gain people’s trust. When you have an event to promote, you can share the agenda and invite your community.
➡️ Tactic 2. Leverage your social networks
We often talk about audiences but rarely about personal social networks. However, when building an audience on social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn, we also grow our network of professionals with whom we communicate more often.
So, apart from publishing generic information about your event, create personalized messages and disperse them throughout your network. Invite professionals to attend your event through DMs, highlighting how you’d be delighted to have them as attendees and the value they’ll derive from participating in your event.
➡️ Tactic 3. Access new audiences through your speakers
One of the great things about running events is connecting with industry leaders and reaching out to their audiences. Ask your speakers if they can help promote your event by inviting their friends or coworkers. Also, ask if they’re willing to share information about your event with their audiences on social media.
To make things easier, prepare personalized assets your speakers can use to promote your event. For example, you can create social media banners for each speaker that include their photo and session title. You can also prepare text your speakers can copy and paste onto social media.
➡️ Tactic 4. Rely on employee advocacy to attract attendees
Each employee is a micro-influencer on social media. Whether they’ve gathered 300 or 3,000 followers, they have an audience interested in what they have to say. If your company has an employee advocacy strategy, engage your coworkers to promote your event.
To help them advocate, consider preparing promotional assets people can easily share. Don't forget to provide sales reps with ways they can send personalized messages inviting their leads, prospects, or clients to the event.
➡️ Tactic 5. Retarget past attendees
Finally, reengage attendees who came to previous events. You can send an email promoting your upcoming event. It should include highlights from the past event to refresh people’s memory about the value of the event. It should also have the benefits people will enjoy attending the event.
Consider identifying past event attendees of great interest to your company, such as big accounts or executives, and send them personalized messages or emails.
✅ Craft an event agenda that drives excitement
People attend events to network, learn, and grow in their careers. To ensure people’s excitement and involvement, you must be purposeful and intentional when designing your event agenda. Here’s how to do it:
➡️ Tactic 1. Let your attendees choose their adventure
When planning an event, you can select between two activity formats:
- Sequential format or planning consecutive event activities one after another
- Simultaneous format or concurrent activities that attendees can choose from
Most of your event activities can be sequential. However, in some cases, you can schedule simultaneous roundtables or keynote speeches. For example, you may have an event with five tracks, which allows people to choose between five concurrent breakout sessions.
By including simultaneous tracks in your event agenda, you’ll:
- Offer your attendees the ability to choose their adventure and build their event agenda based on their interests or the speakers they want to hear
- Let attendees switch between activities if they feel bored
- Ensure high engagement and participation by keeping things interesting for your attendees.
The success of your event depends on attendee engagement and participation. Opportunities for active participation will help attendees to learn more, interact with others, and receive even more value from the event.
➡️ Tactic 2. Alternate the types of knowledge sessions
Although exciting and valuable, knowledge sessions require a high level of focus, which can drain attendees. To avoid tiring them out, you can introduce different knowledge session formats, such as:
- Leadership panels: Foster engagement and participation by enabling people to ask questions and upvote the most interesting ones.
- Keynote speeches: You can always involve attendees during a knowledge session by asking the speaker to run live polls and engage the audience with questions.
- Fireside chats: These activities enable a sense of closeness between the attendees and the speaker, driving attendee participation through shared emotions and openness to honest dialogues.
- Expert battles: This dynamic fosters engagement by enabling the attendees to choose the winner through voting.
- AMAs (Ask Me Anything): In this case, the engagement happens long before the event as people are encouraged to ask questions ahead of time. AMAs also foster a sense of collaboration and trust with the hosts.
- Masterclasses and workshops: Attendees work in groups to complete micro-projects during these activities. In other words, instead of learning through listening, people can learn through accomplishing something, experiencing an increased engagement rate.
Switching up formats will keep your attendees reactive and engaged. You’ll introduce novelty with each activity and reduce the monotony of the same session format.
➡️ Tactic 3. Vary your event activities
You may think you must pack your agenda with knowledge activities to make your event as valuable as possible. Although you need to use different knowledge session formats, you’ll also have to include various types of activities, such as:
- Coffee breaks
Including different activity types will give your attendees a positive experience while keeping them highly engaged. They’ll be able to switch between dynamics, rest from the knowledge sessions, and derive value from interacting with other attendees.
➡️ Tactic 4. Provide top-notch entertainment
Whether you’re running virtual or in-person events, break them up with plenty of entertainment. These sessions will help your attendees relax and enjoy a memorable time. Also, they’ll boost the impressions of the hosting brand. For example, during these sessions, your attendees can interact with your company’s representatives. Your event agenda can include entertainment sessions like:
- Cocktail dinners
- Degustation tours
- Magic hour
- Mixology classes
- Meditation and yoga sessions
- City tours
Get creative and explore different entertainment activities, collaborating with local and digital artists, performers, or tour guides.
➡️ Tactic 5. Remember to include breaks
Most event organizers combine breaks with networking or entertainment activities. While there’s nothing wrong with it, in some cases, people may just want to relax and recharge.
After taking a break from the event activities, people will return refreshed and able to focus on the next knowledge session. So, if possible, avoid merging breaks with other activities. Instead, create breakout rooms where attendees can rest, check their emails, or engage in spontaneous networking experiences.
✅ Source the right speakers and educate your attendees
Learning new things is a significant reason why people attend events. However, making an event educational and insightful can be challenging. So, sourcing the right speakers is crucial to delivering the value attendees expect from the event. Here’s how you can do it:
➡️ Tactic 1. Search for inspiring stories
Usually, organizers search for speakers with industry influence and company executives. However, they pay little attention to whether these people have something exciting to share.
Most professionals have valuable lessons to share, but not all speakers will be able to inspire your attendees with unique, personal stories. These play a crucial role in your attendees’ learning, as they help people connect emotionally to the event. That’s incredibly impactful, considering the new marketing funnel is based on building emotional experiences and moving people from frustration to optimism, confidence, and gratitude.
Follow industry YouTube channels, blogs, and social media influencers to identify speakers with exciting stories to share. Usually, these professionals leverage their personal story takeaways to deliver a message.
➡️ Tactic 2. Identify effective teachers
Not all speakers are good teachers. In most cases, people may have valuable insights to share but don’t know how to express them clearly. Find speakers who can also teach to ensure a high learning quality during your event.
The best way to determine how well someone delivers information is to check their recordings from other events and webinars. Good speakers with teaching skills can explain multiple concepts, accompany their speech with illustrative examples, and provide clear frameworks for action.
➡️ Tactic 3. Find speakers within your company
When searching for speakers, don’t just look externally. Your company executives, managers, or team members may have valuable insights and experience to share with your audience.
You can invite your CEO, CTO, CMO, VP of marketing, or sales manager to prepare a keynote speech for the event. We commonly ignore the impressive expertise our companies can provide, so now’s the time to take advantage of it. Remember that your internal speakers' expertise isn’t enough to qualify them for speaking at your event. If they aren’t effective teachers or don’t know how to deliver the information, they’ll probably have less impact on your audience. Moreover, they’ll come across as boring, disengaging your audience. Select an internal speaker with authority and expertise who can expertly grab and maintain the audience's attention with superior public speaking skills.
Quick note: Don’t rely on internal speakers only. You should always build an agenda based on both internal and external expertise.
➡️ Tactic 4. Invite industry professionals
You can also assemble a strong event panel with industry professionals who have valuable knowledge. These people usually build their speeches around practical advice and actionable insights. As a result, attendees gain new perspectives on industry-related topics and learn how to achieve specific results more efficiently.
To make your event exciting and valuable, identify and invite industry professionals who:
- Create content, whether on YouTube or a personal blog
- Share their experience on social media
- Help an industry community with valuable advice
- Host a podcast or an industry show
- Build their project in public
Industry professionals with an active online profile are eager to share what they’ve learned and know how to deliver that information efficiently.
➡️ Tactic 5. Provide access to exclusive information
Some speakers may use the same presentation for different events, which is understandable — you can’t ask popular speakers to develop new material each time they attend a new event.
However, event organizers commonly publish keynote speeches after the event on YouTube, transforming exclusive content for attendees only into widely accessible content. This can hurt your event’s success if your attendees see a speaker’s YouTube video and then attend your event only to hear the same things.
To keep this from happening, ask your speakers to tweak their presentations and add something new they’ve never shared. They don’t have to change the entire presentation; just include fresh insights your attendees can’t find anywhere else.
✅ Design engagement activities
The success of your event marketing strategy revolves around engagement. As previously mentioned, event marketing is a two-way communication channel that transforms people from passive content consumers into active participants.
Here’s how to be purposeful when designing engagement activities for your attendees:
➡️ Tactic 1. Use powerful engagement tools
Whether you’re running in-person or virtual events, ensure to include a selection of engagement tools for organizers and speakers.
Platforms such as Demio can help you engage attendees through:
- Polls — Asking questions with answer choices enables you to assess your attendees’ profile, knowledge, or skill level. You also can share the answers with your audience to make the experience more interactive.
- Handouts — The event host or speaker can upload a file and share it with attendees to download. Subsequently, you’ll be able to see the download stats and assess people’s interest in the content.
- Featured actions — Nudge your attendees into taking a specific action, such as signing up for a free trial. For example, Demio’s Featured Action option will give you a detailed overview of your attendees’ behavior and whether they followed the call to action.
Event platforms like Demio will help you engage your attendees, understand their behavior, and track their engagement rate.
➡️ Tactic 2. Get speakers to engage your attendees
Ask your speakers to include multiple engagement activities in their keynote speeches. For example, if their presentation takes half an hour, they can break it into two or three parts and include engagement dynamics such as:
- Live polls
These activities will help you and your speakers to:
- Avoid attendee boredom
- Retain people’s attention
- Interact with the attendees
- Help people learn better
Sometimes, a minute of attendee engagement is enough to reactivate your audience and keep them interested in the keynote speech.
➡️ Tactic 3. Leave space for Q&A sessions
Real-time interaction with speakers is crucial to:
- Answer attendees’ questions
- Help people understand a subject
- Clarify doubts
So, set aside time for Q&A sessions to engage people in two-way communication, start building relationships with your attendees, and increase the perceived trust of the brand. The honest conversations with the event speakers will strengthen your engagement marketing strategy and showcase your commitment to generating meaningful connections with your attendees. Sometimes organizers leave as much time for Q&A and attendee interaction as the keynote speeches.
➡️ Tactic 4. Run real-time games and contests
Build a fun experience through games or contests to increase your attendee engagement rate. For example, you can incorporate into your event agenda activities such as:
- Virtual or in-situ scavenger hunts
- Live trivia with prizes
- Spin the wheel with awards such as one-on-one meetings with the speaker
- And more
You have no shortage of fun activities to include in your in-person or virtual events. Introducing a bit of fun will ensure your attendees get more involved and stay interested in the event.
➡️ Tactic 5. Schedule workshops for small groups
Include group sessions as part of your event agenda. Small-group workshops are great for increasing attendee engagement. Break your audience into groups and invite them to join other professionals to:
- Brainstorm various subjects
- Discuss a specific industry challenge
- Answer industry-related questions
- Create a micro-project
Creating smaller group activities encourages everyone to have satisfying engagement experiences.
✅ Create unique networking experiences
Apart from learning, people attend events to connect with like-minded professionals. Although it’s common to let networking happen organically, you can also design frameworks and experiences that allow people to interact with each other. Here’s how you can make your attendees’ networking experience valuable and engaging:
➡️ Tactic 1. Let attendees schedule one-on-one meetings
One-on-one meetings are great for business events, where the offer meets the demand. This dynamic involves different attendee types who are interested in meeting each other (for example, investors and entrepreneurs).
When registering for the event, ask attendees to fill out a networking form stating their business interests. Then, you could enable people to request, accept, or deny meeting invitations based on those interests. During the event, attendees will have a networking agenda and be able to connect with other professionals.
➡️ Tactic 2. Design many-to-many networking activities
Small group workshops are great for networking. They allow your attendees to interact closely with other professionals while working on industry-related topics. This provides a natural environment for people to initiate conversations with their group members and discuss different subjects.
➡️ Tactic 3. Foster spontaneous networking experiences
Along with one-on-one meetings or many-to-many activities, make space for spontaneous networking. This type of networking includes coffee breaks, lunch, or cocktail dinners, allowing people to mingle and interact with one another.
➡️ Tactic 4. Offer guided networking sessions
Networking is difficult, especially for introverted attendees. Sometimes, guidance in the form of ice-breaking activities, such as asking people to say something about themselves or play a game, is needed. You can create different networking session types based on interests, roles, departments, or experience levels. Imagine creating a networking space for marketers who like to meditate or marketers who enjoy hiking. These tweaks will help build interest and a sense of comfort.
➡️ Tactic 5. Enable virtual attendees to connect with in-person guests
When running hybrid events, you can have virtual attendees engage in networking activities with in-person guests. This dynamic enables both types of attendees to book slots on their agenda and schedule online interactions.
As a result, you’ll make your virtual attendees feel like part of your in-person event. At the same time, you’ll allow your in-situ guests to reach out to like-minded professionals in other parts of the world.
Wrapping up: Analyzing the Success of Your Event
This event marketing guide wouldn’t be complete without discussing an event’s impact on your company goals.
Harnessing data and evaluating the success of your event should be the center of your event marketing template. However, don’t overcomplicate this step, as everything stems from your event marketing goal.
For example, if your goal is to attract 100 qualified leads, the success of your event will depend on whether or not you achieve this number. If an event goal is upselling a product to 30 customers, overall event success is the total number of upsells.
Your event will generate additional key performance indicators (KPIs) you can track to assess certain growth aspects. For example:
- The registration rate will measure the impact of your promotional campaign and whether you were able to extend the reach of your event and, ultimately, your brand.
- The attendance rate will indicate whether people find your agenda and value proposition interesting.
- The engagement rate will provide insight into your attendees’ behavior and involvement with the event experience. If your event’s engagement rate is low, check out Demio and discover how to boost people’s interest and transform them into active participants at your event.
- Handout downloads will signal whether people find your offers and documents valuable. This number will also help you qualify your leads; generally, only attendees who’re genuinely interested in your brand will download the handouts.
- Post-event email open rate will show you the number of attendees who want to stay in contact after the event.
This list isn’t exhaustive, as the KPIs depend significantly on your event format and type. However, remember that your event’s success depends on (but is not limited to) your goal. Although you may focus on achieving a specific result, your event marketing plan will help you positively impact your overall business growth.