We get it, organizing a high-profile event can be a hassle. From the multitude of tools to manage, to speaker sourcing and choosing the perfect moderator, it can all become overwhelming quickly.
In this event planning guide, we’ll help you plan and organize a successful event, and, most importantly, teach you how to track your ROI for each.
Note: If you’re looking for a more comprehensive resource to help you plan your events and get the most out of them, our event marketing toolkit can help.
How To Plan an Event
The planning phase is one of the biggest challenges in organizing an event. Even organizing a small event can be a daunting task, as there are so many details to manage.
Define Your Goals and Objectives
Every event needs a purpose. Goals can range from lead generation or networking with decision-makers and industry stakeholders, to selling products or services, measured against the event’s expense and opportunity costs. As an event manager, you need to draw the map to reach that end goal.
Case in point, companies that set performance goals quarterly can earn 31% more returns than those that reassess annually. This also applies to event planning — the clearer the goals, the better the outcome.
Here’s how to set clear, well-defined goals as part of your event planning:
Start by asking yourself: Why are you organizing this event, and what do you hope to achieve?
Example goals include:
Increase attendance by 10% from the last event:
An increase in the number of attendance year-over-year would support your company’s overall growth and goals. Moreover, goals like this push your team to challenge the status quo and avoid growing stagnant. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness and leadership, you could use the attendance rate for your annual industry event to measure that.
Increase revenue by 25% from the last event:
Setting a similar event goal allows you to support your business’s growth and the overall sales forecast for the year. Take companies like Apple, for example: Sales of their products are highly dependent on how well the product was announced and marketed during an Apple Event. Thus, increasing sales at each event contributes to their overall annual revenue.
Case in point, when they announced the iPhone 12, an estimated two million people pre-ordered the device in the first 24 hours alone, compared to 800,000 units of the iPhone 11 in the same period last year.
This increased their revenue on iPhones from $109 billion in 2019 to $111 billion in 2020.
Hire top talent:
If your company's goal is to triple its workforce by 2022, you can hold hackathons, expos, or recruitment fairs to attract top talent.
Companies like Amazon, L'Oreal, Shopify, and PayPal do this all the time. For example, in 2020, Amazon held a virtual career day to showcase its more than 30,000 open positions. The results:
- Amazon recruiters held more than 20,000 one-on-one career coaching sessions.
- Candidates spoke directly to Amazon employees.
Increase social media mentions/follows/reposts during the event:
Companies usually set such goals to increase social selling, word-of-mouth marketing, or boost their brand awareness and reputation.
Harvard Business Review reported that 40% of managers cite failure to align as the single greatest challenge to executing company strategy. Pinning down your event’s goal makes it easier to align your team behind this target and, thus, your overall business goal.
Once you define the why that spurred you to plan an event in the first place, you can now easily map a strategy.
Here’s an example of how defining an event goal simplifies strategizing and creating a scope for the event:
Type of event:
Your event goal dictates what types of events you’ll organize. For instance, if you’re trying to drive awareness for a new product, a one-day event with a keynote outlining the new features would be a great option.
If your goal is to bring together thousands of customers, a three-day user conference may be right for you. Or, if you’re trying to position your brand as an industry leader, a summit with industry veterans could solidify your authority.
Once you know the type of events you want to organize, think of when to host them:
This is your time frame for planning and organizing the event. For example, retailers have a peak demand season during the holiday shopping season, which falls within the year’s fourth quarter. So, a user conference could be an appropriate opportunity to host the event.
Let’s assume you set your event to take place nine months from now. You can then decide what to do during the first and second until the ninth. For instance, you can plan to:
- Roll out the email announcement internally during the first month (this can help gather the resources needed to organize the event)
- Reach out to speakers in the second month
- Engage with sponsors during the fourth month
This is where you decide how many attendees you need to hit your goal. Will 10,000 attendees be enough? What time zone are they in? What social media platform will your audience come from (E.g., Facebook, TikTok, Twitter)?
To reach your goal of 10,000 participants, you’ll need to set milestones over time:
- Ex.1, By month three, we expect 5,000 registrations. We’ll leverage FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn for that.
- Ex.2, By month seven, we expect 9,500 registrants. We’ll leverage newsletters and partners.
This is where you decide whether to host a virtual event, a hybrid, or an in-person one. For example, a virtual event might be ideal if your users are spread across the globe to remove travel expenses. But, if you have a niche product located in one location, an in-person event might achieve better results.
Assuming you opt for a virtual event, you need to decide what event hosting tool is more aligned with your goals. Here are a few questions to start with:
- Does this tool let me send email campaigns to engage my audience?
- Can this tool support 1,000 or even 10,000 attendees?
- Can I connect sponsors with event attendees through this tool?
- Does this tool allow me to host Q&As for each presentation?
Think of what you want the event to look like and check if the tools in your shortlist have the features to meet your requirements.
Developing your goals and preliminary project scope helps you frame your event and gain management buy-in. If your organization already supports the event, your goals and project scope will help you move into the next planning stages.
According to Inc Magazine, in 2019, less than 1% of all event bookings were virtual. In stark contrast, since mid-March of 2020, the percentage of virtual event bookings has soared to 87%.
That means there’s now a higher demand for virtual event speakers. To maximize your chances of nabbing the best speakers, you have to diversify the way you source event speakers.
But before that, you should design an ideal speaker profile to help you filter out speaker requests and choose those who align with your event goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What industry experience should the ideal speaker have? If your audience is made up of seasoned experts, ideally, the speaker should have the most industry experience.
- What will the speaker bring to the table? Is the speaker a celebrity or an influencer? Will their name entice more people to register and attend? Do they have a unique perspective or insider knowledge on the topic or industry? For example, inviting Seth Godin to a marketing event can drive more event registrations.
- Is the speaker used to monitoring an audience of 1,000+ attendees? It’s a fact, most people have a short attention span these days. That’s why you should pick a speaker who can keep your audience engaged throughout their presentation.
- Does the speaker have a great reputation? This ensures you choose speakers who won’t spark outrage.
Once you have these filters set up, you can now lay out a speaker sourcing strategy.
Call for sessions submissions
If you have an engaged community, a call for speakers is a great way to leverage your network to get speaker submissions. Typically, a call for speakers asks people to submit a proposal for a session they'd like to host.
Your team will then review the submitted proposals, select speakers, and contact those who were chosen and those who were not.
Personally invite speakers
Alternatively, if you have specific people in mind, you can offer them the opportunity to speak at your event. When approaching a potential speaker, provide a 360-degree overview of the event and the audience, and show your enthusiasm for their participation in the event.
Bear in mind that guest speakers may expect to be compensated, as well as have their travel and lodging paid for (or reimbursed). This compensation does not have to be in the form of cash; you can also:
- Share leads with them.
- Allow them to showcase their product or service to increase awareness.
- Give them free access to your product.
Once you’ve identified your speakers, create a speaker agreement that includes relevant information such as time frame, compensation, presentation expectations, and on-site technology. Make your expectations clear from the outset so there are no unexpected twists the day before the event.
Also, keep an open line of communication to ensure each speaker provides you with their final presentation on time.
Lay out an event promotion strategy
Brand experience agency FreemanXP polled event professionals in Chicago and Washington D.C., and 67% of respondents cited their most significant challenge was growing event attendance.
Knowing where to find registrants for your event requires intimate knowledge of your audience and their behaviors — where they spend time online, what problems they’re trying to solve, etc. For additional assistance, we’ve put together a resource on how to attract the right event audience.
Here are a few marketing tactics to leverage to maximize exposure for your event.
Media relations and publicity
Working with industry publications, blogs, and print media is a great way to spark interest in your event. Reach out to the media and pitch an idea for a newsworthy story, such as a feature on a prominent speaker or your event's impact on the industry.
Here’s an example of how Salesforce promotes its annual Dreamforce event.
Dreamforce was paused for a time because many states had banned in-person events. So, after a long hiatus, Salesforce found a way to hold an event without going against the rules. As part of its public relations campaign, it enlisted the help of mainstream media outlets like CBS San Francisco (the venue for the event) and CNBC.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your PR campaigns:
- Only work with publications that have an audience similar to yours. This way, you can leverage their network. It also prevents you from wasting efforts and resources promoting to an audience who’s unlikely to attend or ultimately won't help you meet your goals.
- Ensure the press release mentions the venue, registration links, date, speakers, and all necessary information about your event.
Paid promotion expands your target audience’s reach while tapping a specific demographic. You can retarget your existing audience or leverage lookalike audiences using certain tools.
Paid promotion comes in two forms: paid search and paid social.
Paid search is the practice of displaying sponsored ad content on third-party social networking platforms to target specific customers.
Here’s an example of a paid search ad for Morgan Stanley on Forbes.
This ad is strong because:
- The company used a statement to pique curiosity. People want to learn how “investing in diversity can yield strong returns.”
- There’s a clear call to action: “See more.”
- The background image aligns with the overall theme, diversity.
On the other hand, paid social is the practice of posting sponsored content on third-party social media platforms to target specific customers. Here’s an example from Adespresso advertising on Facebook for a live event.
Here’s what makes this ad great:
- The headline reveals what’s in it for attendees.
- The ad does a great job of spotlighting the speaker. Larry Kim is well known in the marketing space, and his presence might encourage people to sign up.
- It leverages social proof. Knowing that “31 are interested” entices readers to take action and not miss the event.
An excellent approach to paid promotion is to discover where your audience hangs out online and choose that channel for your promotional purposes.
Email marketing plays a key role in promoting most online events.
In fact, over 75% of event creators choose email marketing as their most effective strategy, and 45% of event ticket sales come from email.
To get the most out of email marketing, you need to:
- Build an email sequence: A sequence is a series of emails sent automatically to specific segments of your email list. Sequences work because they’re designed to convert your subscribers no matter what stage of the funnel they’re in.
- Personalize emails: According to 53% of surveyed marketers, ongoing, personalized communication with existing customers has a moderate to significant impact on revenue.
- Segment your email subscribers: A Mailchimp study found that segmented campaigns experienced a 101% increase in clicks compared to non-segmented campaigns, along with a decrease in bounce rates, unsubscribes, and spam reports incidences.
- Keep your emails short and clear: Make it easy for your subscribers to register for the event without hassles.
While influencer marketing is common in all industries, most marketers prefer it for events.
According to a study by Launchmetrics, 28.1% of marketers preferred to use influencer marketing as part of their event promotion strategy, and 41.6% of them teamed up with influencers for product launches.
As a bonus, the ROI for influencer marketing is around $5.2 for every $1 spent, higher than most other digital marketing methods.
Here’s how to make the most of your influencer marketing:
- Choose influencers who have industry experience and can help you hit your event goal.
- Work with multiple influencers to increase your reach.
- Pick influencers depending on the social media platform with the highest ROI for you. For example, if your audience is on Twitter, work with a Twitter influencer.
Engage partners and sponsors
Depending on the size of your event, you’ll likely want to bring in external support to offset costs and increase your event's reach. Sponsors, speakers, and exhibitors are common choices for adding value to your attendees and offsetting expenses.
Just like with your event speakers, this is a win-win partnership. For example, in return for their sponsorship, you can give your sponsors visual advertising space with their logo on the event promotion, or provide them with a 1:1 lead list for every registrant they secure.
Here’s how to source the best sponsors for your events:
- Build a list of sponsors you want to participate in your event. Do some research to understand how they would benefit from participating in your event and how their sponsorship would benefit your organization.
- Make sure your sponsors have audiences aligned with your event goals, but with a reach beyond your own.
- Avoid dealing with sponsors who offer the same services you do.
- Ensure every potential sponsor brings value to your attendees.
- Tailor your sponsorship proposals to highlight those unique benefits, and emphasize them when reaching out.
Another standard strategy to attract sponsors is to offer an exhibitor package. In this case, you typically have a dedicated booth (physical or virtual) for your exhibitors at your event.
The specific space allocated to your exhibitors' booth may vary depending on each sponsorship agreement. The amount of leeway you give them to engage with your attendees can also differ.
How To Host an Event
This is the moment you've been planning for weeks, or even months. Everything is set, it's just a matter of finding the right people and tools to provide a great experience for your guests.
Pick the Right Moderator
The success of an event panel depends primarily on the conference moderator and their ability to provide a memorable experience for attendees. The moderator is an individual who oversees the keynote speakers throughout the event and guides them.
Below are some considerations when choosing your event moderator:
Consider their skills:
Ask yourself, “Are they qualified to host my event?” By taking a closer look at your program, you can determine what core competencies you need in a speaker to get the results you want.
You may be looking for a great debater, interviewer, master of ceremonies, panelist, timekeeper, improviser, etc.
Factor in their personality:
You may need to choose between a moderator who has a leader's attitude versus one who’s relaxed and fun. Maybe you want someone provocative, or maybe someone with a welcoming demeanor. It depends on your initial goals and/or brand standards.
Check if they’re comfortable with the subject:
Your moderator’s level of comfort with the event topic will depend on their experience, as well as the category of moderator they fall in. There are four kinds of moderators to choose from:
- The well-trained, seasoned professional
- The candidate from within your organization
- The expert in the field
- The celebrity
Pick your moderator according to your goals and event type.
Choose the Best Platform
Depending on the type and size of the event, most organizations end up using multiple tools. The usual tech stack includes:
- Event registration software
- Event ticketing platform
- Event website builder
- Attendee engagement tool
- Lead tracking tool
- Virtual event tool
- Hybrid event tool
- Attendee management software
The above is not an exhaustive list. For example, IBM uses 18 tools while Dell uses 12 to 14. However, a loaded stack comes with a few downsides:
- In trying to streamline 10+ tools, some aspects of the event end up being botched. Typically, you can't actually streamline all event tools, so visibility is limited.
- If one of the tools fails, the event may be ruined.
- The budget for these tools is huge.
- Some of these tools are only made for a specific use (i.e., online events). In this case, you would purchase a subscription, but the tool becomes useless if you organize hybrid or in-person events.
If your goal is to offer your event attendees a better experience, you need to leverage an engagement marketing tool that allows you to plan, execute, and analyze your entire event, all from one place. An ideal tool for this is Demio.
Demio is a one-stop-shop for your entire event marketing strategy. It helps you manage every detail of your event, from registrations and hosting, to engagement and analytics. This helps you provide an unparalleled experience for your event attendees. Demio is a valuable asset to have in your event marketing toolkit.
Tactics To Keep Attendees Engaged During the Event
Most successful events use the following tactics to engage participants:
- Live chat
- Live Q&A
- Live polling
- Virtual booths and exhibitors
- Small group and one-on-one networking
- Personalized attendee experiences
Demio automatically manages engagement for your event. Best of all, all features are included at no extra cost.
How To Measure Your Event’s ROI
Another industry study revealed chief marketing officers spend 24% of their total annual budgets on live events to connect with customers, educate attendees, and generate new leads. Yet, three out of five marketers don’t use tools to measure event ROI, and most companies plan and execute events without specific business objectives.
Engagement marketing professionals who are serious about generating high ROI from their marketing efforts need to know which KPIs to track to evaluate the effectiveness of an event and which tool to use for this.
Event Marketing KPIs
Although there are plenty of KPIs you can measure, you should focus only on the ones that relate to your original goals.
Here are some KPIs to keep an eye on, depending on your goals:
- Number of active community members
- Number of messages sent within the event community
- Session analytics
- Total registrations
- Registration by ticket type
- Gross revenue
- Cost-to-revenue ratio
- Pipeline generated
- Number of customers acquired
Brand reputation and awareness
- Speaker engagement
- Social media mentions
- Sponsor satisfaction
Tools To Measure ROI
Event marketing attribution is complex. If someone attends your event, it's relatively straightforward to see if they become a customer on the spot, but what happens when they leave? How do you track their journey?
It's important to implement tools that can give you insight into how your event performed.
Ideally, the tools you choose should be able to provide insights regarding:
- How many attendees you had and how it compares to the number of registrants and to your goals
- How many attendees interacted with sponsors
- Attendance rate per registrant
- How engaged attendees were during presentations
- How many social media shares and who shared what
Once you’ve determined these, make a correlation between the number of registrants and the number of attendees, and the number of engaged attendees. Then, correlate the number of attendees with the amount of product sold and compare it to the initial goals.
You should also be able to find the relationship between attendees who didn’t buy anything during the event versus future sales.
Connecting these points may seem daunting, but Demio can remove that burden with its advanced event engagement analytics features that show you the total number of people who attended and missed the webinar.
It also shows activity during the event, including registration conversion rate and the average time attendees were in the room and maintained focus.
Post-event Promotion Best Practices
According to 86% of marketers, attendee satisfaction is the single best indicator of event success. Knowing the experience doesn't stop when the session ends, you need to use tactics to engage attendees after the event.
- Distribute surveys: Send a survey to ask what content and features your attendees enjoyed and what they’d like to see more of. You can also ask sales-qualifying questions. Collect feedback and testimonials as well. Tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform are easy-to-use and budget-friendly options for this task.
- Leverage word-of-mouth promotion: Ask attendees to share quotes or something they liked during the event on their social media channels. Have them use a custom hashtag so you can track the reach of your campaign. In return, incentivize them with a discount, a free seat at future events, etc.
- Provide on-demand recordings: Not everyone who registers can attend your virtual event. One of the major advantages of virtual events is you can capture both a live and an on-demand audience. Share your on-demand recordings after your event occurs to extend its lifetime value.
It’s Time To Organize a Successful Event
We hope this event planning guide has put you on the path to organizing a successful and engaging event. Planning, organizing, and measuring ROI of an event entail multiple elements to track and manage. But with the right tools and the strategy outlined above, you can keep your head above water and achieve impressive results.
Check out our event marketing toolkit to learn how to manage your events seamlessly, from planning to organization to post-event promotion.