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If Events Could Talk - 7/2/2014 -

Wolowiec
If Events Could Talk

What are your events saying about your association? Here are 10 strategies for fueling a more powerful voice.

By Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association's events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors, or exhibitors or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team. Following are 10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line.

  1. Branding. A uniform event name, acronym, or hashtag from one year to the next is just the beginning. To ensure your members easily recognize an event at first glance, consider how colors, logos, fonts, and overall design elements are used consistently across communication platforms.

  2. Differentiation. Briefly scan the professional development landscape, and you'll find fierce competition all around you colleges and universities, other associations, and even your own members. Event messaging must clearly illustrate, in quantitative and qualitative terms, how your event is different from the rest.

  3. Value proposition. Every event comprises some combination of learning and networking. One way to elevate yours above the others is to demonstrate the value attendees can expect to gain in the short-term (e.g., contacts, ideas, goals, objectives) and the long-term (e.g., strategy, tactics, products, services, profit).

  4. Voice. If your event could talk, what would it sound like? An elderly grandparent? A progressive hipster? Ensure written collateral closely resembles the tone and sophistication of your audience. As appropriate, add in elements of levity, informality, slang, and pop culture to make them fun and interesting to read.

  5. Brevity. Promotional pieces are not the place to be long-winded. Prospective attendees are inundated with messaging each and every day, so make it easy for them to cut through the noise and connect with your publications. Don't be surprised if fewer words result in improved open and click-through rates too.

  6. Channels. Determine how your association communicates. And don't just think in terms of print communications include all digital and social media platforms as well. Optimal event marketing is multimedia in nature and should include messaging in most if not all of these communication channels.

  7. Testimonials. Never underestimate the power of an exceptional experience, particularly by Generation Yelp. Gather and share written and video testimonials from attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers. Ultimately, it means more coming from their peers than it does from you.

  8. Images. We know a picture is worth a thousand words, so ditch the clipart and invest in a professional photographer to take pictures during your signature events. Use these photographs throughout your marketing materials to tell your event's story: who attends, how they engage, and what they learn.

  9. Sample content. Sometimes prospective attendees and their supervisors are looking for added insurance that your event will be worth their time and money. Sharing sample content in the form of slide decks, handouts, executive summaries, and video clips may be just the ticket to secure their participation.

  10. Engage volunteers. Identify your repeat attendees and arm them with the tools needed to promote your events. Consider guest blog posts, social media chats, and featured magazine columns. Likewise, remove as many barriers as possible to encourage easy sharing of member-generated materials.

While you may not have the resources to employ each of these tactics between now and your next annual meeting, take some time this month to identify and address the low-hanging fruit. Then develop a long-term strategic plan for implementing the remaining marketing and communication ideas, remembering to include representation from the meetings and publications teams.

At the end of the day, you simply can't afford to ignore what your events are saying about you, your department, and your organization.

Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Michigan-based professional development consulting firm.


 

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