Make the Most of Your Live Events
Event professionals have been forced to adapt to a very different field marketing landscape in the last couple of years. The most notable change has been the rapid pivot from live to virtual or hybrid events during the pandemic; one third of all trade shows in 2021 were hybrid events (Statista). As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, live, in-person events are back on the table and remain an important part of an organization’s field marketing strategy, even if attendance has not yet returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Marketers must now juggle all event types – virtual, live, and hybrid – all while working with shrinking budgets as economic uncertainty remains. In this new era of multichannel event marketing and restricted spending, the pressure to get it all right has never been greater.
Here are our top recommendations for nailing each stage of your event marketing process and getting the most out of your planned live events.
Before the event: Build and document your event planning process
One of the biggest challenges we hear from event marketers is not having a process or multichannel checklist to work from to prepare for and execute events. With so many tasks, moving parts, and people involved it’s easy for important details to fall through the cracks. This is why we recommend building and documenting your event activities from pre- to post-event.
A documented process ensures that all tasks get completed on time and to a high standard. A crucial part of pulling off a successful multichannel event is to define the role each team plays in executing the planned components. This definition will provide clarity for handling the many moving parts involved in event marketing. By nailing down this process, you will be able to streamline activities, control expenses, make your teams more efficient, and maximize event ROI.
For companies creating their initial field marketing strategy or attending their first live events, we recommend starting early with a simple checklist. Refine and formalize your list over the course of smaller events and then expand upon the process to scale up your event strategy. Even if you have already planned for and supported several events, documenting and formalizing your process will make your future events run more smoothly. Multichannel planning will also better position your organization to meet its event marketing goals and achieve the highest return going forward.
Remember: Hybrid events have a different set of considerations around technology, team support requirements, and audience engagement than in-person events. It’s imperative that you be clear about how you want to engage remote attendees and ensure your team has the skills to execute and the technology in place to support this engagement.
During the event: Stick to a schedule
A common pitfall for many organizations when attending events is not planning their activities in advance. Organizations that do not plan ahead find themselves having fewer or unfocused conversations that are not aligned with their interests. Lack of planning may also result in less leads being generated, a failure to achieve overall event goals, and overall frustration that the event did not meet expectations.
To maximize opportunities at the show, coordinate all activities and ensure that all booth staff are prepared. It’s critical that a schedule is developed and adhered to for the duration of the event.
By being clear about roles and responsibilities and sticking to the schedule, booth staff will be better able to deliver on show goals, hit lead targets, and gain critical customer and competitive intel. The schedule should clearly state the time and location for all event-related activities and who will staff the booth during specific times. This includes all meetings that have been set up prior to the event and any presentations, workshops, or panels that your organization will present, participate in, or attend. Appropriate breaks for all booth staff should be scheduled to allow everyone time to eat, rest, and recharge their social battery. This is also a good opportunity for staff to record any notes about conversations and potential leads into your lead management solution. Be sure to allot time for booth staff to walk the show floor to visit “must-see” booths and gather competitive intel. It’s not every day that your customers and competitors are all gathered in the same physical space so it’s important for all staff (ideally a mix of sales and marketing) to get an opportunity to interact directly with the market.
Tip: Check the event attendee list beforehand and set up meetings with key people in advance. This ensures you’re meeting and spending the right amount of time with the right people.
After the event: Develop a robust lead follow-up plan
Another common mistake is focusing more on pre-event marketing and buzz and forgetting the follow-up campaigns after the show. Post-event follow-up is crucial; this is where the majority of, if not all, revenue from the event will be achieved, so a robust lead follow-up plan must be in place. Organizations that lack a fully formed lead follow-up plan find that fewer leads convert because leads are either contacted too frequently by too many people or are not contacted at the right time. To maximize lead conversion and event-generated revenue, it’s critical to develop a well-thought-out lead follow-up plan.
Defining post-event lead follow-up in advance of the event provides for better lead qualification, targeted, action-oriented follow-up messaging, timely and coordinated communication, and accurate event ROI tracking. The follow-up plan should clearly outline the lead qualification system and prioritize top leads to be contacted first. Communicate this plan and train staff before the event so staff are clear on lead qualification and can hit the ground running when it comes time to conduct lead follow-up and nurturing. Follow-up should be from the booth staff who had the conversation at the actual event. If that is not possible, then the person who contacts the prospect should mention the team member whom they spoke to at the show. Be sure to deliver what you promised at the event, and always include a specific call to action. Lastly, follow up within three to five days. This gives people time to return home, decompress, and catch up on work while also ensuring they will still remember your conversation after the show.
Leads that don’t initially convert after several attempts should be entered into a nurturing program. Consider sorting leads by ask or area of interest, problem to be solved, and industry vertical to ensure they receive the content that would be of greatest interest to them and their needs. Lastly, and most importantly, track all results and attribute all lead campaigns back to the event. By accurately attributing these leads, the event ROI can be determined, providing financial justification for your organization’s presence at future events. It is especially crucial to prove ROI in a time of economic uncertainty when marketing budgets are being scrutinized.
SoftwareReviews can help you get event-ready
It’s no secret that event marketing requires extensive planning and coordination. That said, event marketers are incredibly busy people that don’t always have time to thoroughly plan and document every step of the way, especially as multichannel events become the norm. Use the Event Planning Checklist to start developing and formalizing these critical processes to nail their next event.
Technology offers the opportunity to maximize the human experience and helps to formalize a repeatable process that is more efficient and effective. For help selecting technology solutions, visit our website or contact a SoftwareReviews analyst.
In a time of economic uncertainty, reduced budgets, and multichannel events, it’s no easy task to pull off a successful live event, and marketers are feeling the pressure. With careful planning and a defined and documented process, event marketers can nail their events, maximize ROI, and develop a repeatable, scalable event marketing process that will ensure success for their organization as it grows.
Lopez, Ana M. “Distribution of trade shows projected in selected countries worldwide in 2021, by type.” Statista, 25 February 2022. Accessed 5 February 2023.