I recently attended a marketing conference in Indianapolis, IN called Connections - “Inspire the Future”. The event was put on by ExactTarget, an international email marketing service provider. The event pulled together 4,000 marketing clients and industry thought leaders all learning together. Inspired by how well this event was executed, I thought I’d share 5 tips from what I saw at the conference that in my opinion made it successful.
- Tell Success Stories - People love stories and are excited to learn if the content is structured like one. Start off by introducing the problem. Mostly likely your audience is in the same boat. Let them put on their detective hats and walk through how you attempted to solve it. Show them your methods and each step along the way. When you get to the end, leave them with the positive results. It’s helpful to bring in your clients, your partners, and experts. The more stories you tell, the better.
- Bring in the Big Dogs - Not every company has the resources to hire famous celebrities, bands, and entertainers to attend their conference. If you can (ExactTarget Connections featured Michael J. Fox, The Fray, and David Blaine) then you’re surely able to excite your attendees. However, if you can’t afford it then you should at least bring in the thought leaders. No matter what your industry, there are people with deep expertise and knowledge. Bring these keynote speakers up on stage to tell their stories. Some of them might come from your company but it is much more powerful if they don’t. Get some big names in there and you’re on your way to a successful event.
- Embrace Social Sharing - If you’re going to throw an event or conference then you need to be prepared for people to talk about it online. Embrace the conversations by setting up Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages about the event, or other channels for people to share. Lead the conversation by talking with people online. Let non-attendees participate by following the attendees’ profiles and news feeds. ExactTarget created a “Social Media Lounge” space that automatically posted tagged Tweets, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts.
- Make Your Guests Comfortable - The last thing you want people to remember about your conference is that they were hungry, or they didn’t get enough breaks, or they they didn’t have access to water. If you’re going to put on an event then be a good host and go overboard in providing the essentials. ExactTarget connections had hundreds of coffee stands (might be exaggerating but it seemed like it), water bottle towers, snack tables, drink carts, and served food. Go above and beyond expectations with the little things because they really do matter.
- Make Your Pitch - Once you’ve got all your attendees excited, educated, and comfortable then you need to give your pitch. Although the event may be about customer appreciation, you have to remember you are a business that needs to make money. Design your conference so they you can close, up-sell, and cross-sell your products. There is no better time to adding extra value to your customers than on the high of a great event!
Have you been to an event lately? What made it stand out?