The Future of Direct Marketing: Conference and Event Marketing Tips
This post covers how conference and event marketers can create great experiences that set their shows up for success during COVID-19 and beyond.
May 6, 2020
Marketers that plan exhibitions, conferences, and other events and shows have always faced the challenge of communication with attendees and other partners across multiple platforms. With so many moving parts involved in the event planning process, it can be difficult to reach everyone effectively.
And with today’s business environment, there is a renewed need to ensure that your messaging is consistent and creates a cohesive conference and event experience.
What does this mean?
This is a crucial time for keeping lines of communication open with not only your attendees, but your vendors and sponsors. It is critical to keep everyone on the same page about the status of your events so they can manage their expectations on their end.
However, today’s disruption is finding everyone in different situations. Some are laid off or furloughed, some are still working at limited capacities, some are continuing with “business as usual” adapted to the current situation. As everyone adapts to their “new normal,” their accessibility for business communications may be more limited.
And depending on how widespread your events are and if your audiences span across different parts of the country or even the world, they might be in different stages of the crisis.
This provides an additional factor for determining when it is appropriate for people to gather in person again. If you have had the ability to move your events online during the time being, you may need to consider providing this option for a while afterwards.
Once everyone is able to start traveling again, not everyone is going to jump at the chance to do so. People that were previously hyper-aware of germs may be more so in the future, and even those that were not as worried before will have an increased sensitivity in the future.
It is going to be very important to stress the measures that your conference center or event organization is taking to keep things safe and clean – especially if the space that you are hosting in was temporarily turned into a hospital or other healthcare space.
While you know that you have done everything you can to sanitize the facility and prepare it to be usable for the general public again, people may need a little extra reassurance.
With all of this in mind, the question is: how can conference and event marketers create great experiences that set their shows up for success during COVID-19 and beyond?
Event Marketing Experiences
Conference Center to Conference/Event Organizer
As the conference and event organizers that you work with face the challenge of determining whether to cancel or postpone their previously scheduled events, this is a great time to act as a resource for helping them understanding their options.
Make note of any relevant economic re-open dates and capacity restrictions. If the re-open happens in stages like the shut down did, events may need to proceed at a smaller scale for a while.
There are many moving parts involved for conference and event organizers, as they are coordinating with their attendees, vendors, and sponsors. It is easy for them to get overwhelmed by the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations and find a new date that works for all involved, especially in consideration of other events that are also being rescheduled. If your conference center is able to maintain an organized and updated calendar of events and potential backup dates of other events, you can help them understand all of the possibilities of what might work for them.
When it comes to show organizers that you are not working with yet, this can be a challenging time to get in front of them. Evaluating new venues may be low on their list of priorities unless the postponement of their event requires a new location, and even then, this can be difficult to do right now without in-person tours and meetings.
That being said, there are ways that you can make your facility easily accessible online:
- Take a video of you pretending to give someone a tour, and post it online so people can experience it themselves from their home or office.
- Share photos, videos, and testimonials from event organizers that have previously used your space for their events.
- Set up video calls with your clients to walk them through any questions they have throughout the process.
In either case, it is important to share the safety measure are in place for your conference center to return to business as “usual,” whatever that might mean for you after this situation.
This will help you set appropriate expectations for them, which will help them set expectations for their own stakeholders.
Check out these tips for knowing what types of marketing messages to send and when to send them.
Event Organizer to Attendees
It is challenging enough for you to find new dates that work well for your events. Since you are not your conference center’s only client, additional scheduling conflicts may arise throughout the planning process.
This requires a tough decision to make regarding whether it is worth it to reschedule the show, move content online, or cancel until next year.
Try to remain flexible and work through the pros and cons of each situation, so you can choose the option that works best for your event.
You may want to seek feedback from your attendees, vendors, and sponsors, to make sure that the outcome is suitable for everyone.
Whether you involve them in your decision or not, be sure to maintain transparency in all of your event updates so there are no surprises for anyone along the way.
If moving an event is determined to be the best solution, keep in mind that this is like planning a whole new event. You may be able to keep the basic themes and ideas, but it is very likely they will need to be adapted for the new format.
Moving events online can be a challenge for many organizations and require additional planning.
Here are a few resources for online events:
- PivotFH: How to Turn Physical Events into Digital Experiences Overnight
- PresentFH: How to Build a DIY Webcam Studio
- How to Host a Successful Virtual Event: Tips and Best Practices
- International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)
- IAEE New York Chapter
Showing that you are flexible and willing to adapt to new technology is key for your continued success.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, if people from around the country or world are involved in your event, not everyone is at the same stage of this crisis. Not only that, but even once individual countries re-open, it may be a while before international travel is appropriate again. In cases like this, consider moving forward with some aspects of your event being online and some in person, to provide flexibility for everyone no matter where they are.
The Bottom Line
This is a challenging and uncertain time for all, and conference and event marketers face particular challenges in being able to do their jobs. Working on your communication and contingency plans now will help you be more prepared for the future.
Bonus #1: Augmented Reality
In a time where people may be fatigued from the same digital messaging over and over again, print and more creative uses of digital can offer some reprieve.
Whatever videos that you may be promoting on social media or in emails, consider promoting via print as well. Yes, print.
Check out “Creating Augmented Reality Mailers” to learn how to easily make your mailers come alive with video using Augmented Reality through AReveryware.
Bonus #2: Direct Mail Examples
Event Marketing – Short-Term Conference Center to Event Organizer Postcard Example
Event Marketing – Long-Term Conference Center to Event Organizer Postcard Example
Event Marketing – Short-Term Event Organizer to Attendee Email Example
Event Marketing – Long-Term Event Organizer to Attendee Email Example
This post was published as part of the new series, “The Future of Direct Marketing”