If your company uses event marketing as a way to promote your brand, you’re not alone.
According to Bizzabo’s 2020 Event Marketing Report, most marketers believe events are an essential marketing channel—and many organizations are recognizing what valuable tool events can be in your arsenal.
If you don’t understand how to create a successful event strategy, you risk causing more trouble for yourself than you bargained for.
In this post, we’ll cover the twelve steps of creating a foolproof event strategy from start to finish, from understanding the importance of having an event strategy to wrapping up the event on the day in question.
Let’s dive in!
1. Understand What an Event Strategy Is and Why It’s Important
While event strategy and event planning sound like the same thing, they’re not quite synonymous.
Your event strategy is the big picture of every aspect of your plan. It includes all tasks, deadlines, and costs involved with your event.
In contrast, event planning relates to the actions you take to implement your strategy.
Your event strategy will have a clearly-defined process and timeline for each step in your event. Ideally, even an outsider will be able to understand each point along the way and how to accomplish it.
Event strategizing requires juggling many moving parts and ensuring they all go smoothly. It’s essential to have a plan even for smaller or mid-sized events.
Inevitably, even those smaller events will involve quite a few steps, workflows, and deadlines that your team will need to keep tabs on.
Without an overarching strategy tying all the pieces of your event together, odds are that something important will fall through the cracks. Running an event without a strategy means leaving everything up to chance.
2. Pinpoint the Target Audience for Your Event
Of course, you can always spread the word about your event to everyone you possibly can, cross your fingers, and wait for people to buy tickets. But that isn’t the most cost-effective strategy—or the best use of your time.
Instead, identify your target audience ahead of time.
Knowing your audience helps you succeed not only in planning the event itself but in your marketing, communications, and budgeting.
Here are a few approaches you can use:
1. Consider the demographics of past attendees. If you’ve held similar events before, check the data in your online registration software for information about past attendees. Look for common characteristics like age, gender, occupation and education levels, or hobbies.
2. Look at what others are doing. Check into what your competitors have organized and who was in attendance. Use the promotional materials, social media posts, and content they produced as a clue to determine what kinds of audiences they targeted.
3. Ask your mailing list. It can’t hurt to be direct. Send a survey to your customers and business contacts, asking questions to narrow down your target demographics.
4. Define a persona. The marketing world uses buyer personas to visualize their target customer, and the same strategy can apply to event planning. Use the data you’ve gathered from past events, competitors, and contacts to come up with a hypothetical “target attendee,” and market your event to them.
Knowing your target audience enables you to tailor the event to their preferences, thus increasing your chances of success.
3. Develop Your Event Goals and KPIs
Without an end goal, you may be in danger of missing your target.
What are you planning to achieve with this event?
For instance, you may want to increase brand awareness, and collect leads for your business, or even raise money for a charity you care about.
If a valued employee is retiring, perhaps you want to celebrate their contribution to the company. Or, you might organize a product launch to acknowledge your team’s hard work while also creating awareness.
Such events, from Christmas parties for business partners to annual conferences tackling the burning issues in your field, help you build a community, which has long-term benefits for your business.
That is why it’s essential to make sure your events are a success.
One way to measure whether you’re reaching your goal is to define your or key performance indicators (KPIs).
Set certain targets for your event, such as:
– Attendee satisfaction surveys
– Poll engagement
– Social media mentions
– Gross revenue
– Cost-to-revenue ratio
– New lead generation
Monitoring quantifiable data helps you understand the success rate of your event—and the adjustments to make your next event more successful.
4. Choose the Right Type of Event
Leveraging a mix of event types enables you to cover every stage of the marketing funnel. With your end goals and target audience in mind, determine which type of event would best serve your needs.
Most events fall under one of three categories: charity, private, and corporate.
Charity events benefit philanthropic organizations, while private events cover recreational activities.
Corporate events are geared towards customers and business goals. Here are some of them:
– Conferences are usually attended by a large number of people interested in learning more about a specific industry-related topic. They often take place over several days and feature guest speakers, networking activities, and presentations.
– Seminars are for education and training purposes, with attendants divided into smaller groups than at a conference. The audience usually attends a few classroom-size presentations, and the seminar may take place over the span of a few days.
– Trade shows rely on industry professionals who set up booths and provide presentations. Attendants visit booths that interest them.
– Product launches aim to generate awareness about a new product, service, or offer. They are a great opportunity for connecting with customers in-person and expanding your brand recognition.
– Executive meetings and corporate retreats provide executives with a setting to meet face-to-face and complete a specific agenda, such as making decisions, producing ideas, and networking. Unlike the other events in this category, they do not target customers or partners.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, online events (such as webinars and online courses) are becoming exponentially more popular.
Successful businesses are flexible and adaptable enough to pivot to such offerings to substitute more traditional ones.
A web-based event might be able to capture some of the benefits of the in-person corporate events above. For instance, you might institute a webinar in place of a seminar, a webcast lecture series in place of a conference, or even a virtual trade show.
Hosted vs. Sponsored Events
When talking about event types, you can also choose whether you’d like to host or sponsor an event. We’ll explain the difference.
Sponsoring events is an excellent way for new brands with a limited budget to increase exposure without worrying about bankrolling an entire event.
Instead, such businesses can participate in trade shows hosted by other organizations, provide a service at a business channel event, or give a conference presentation.
However, there are downsides to sponsoring. For instance, you have less control over the event as a whole, including the guest list.
To be successful at sponsored events, it’s essential to research the other attendees, do your part flawlessly, and step “outside the booth” in whatever ways you can (like running your own satellite event).
Alternatively, when you host your own event, you’re in charge of the entire thing. You can format the event type, guest list, content, and branding to fit your specific goals.
Hosting is typically much more expensive and labor-intensive since you are responsible for running the whole event, but your ROI might be higher since you can calibrate the event more precisely to suit your needs.
5. Review Your Budget and Key Resources
Though it’s not the most fun part of event planning, assessing your available budget for the event is one of the most crucial ways to ensure its success.
You don’t want to overspend on decorations early on and realize you don’t have enough money left to feed everyone.
Events inevitably cost more than you expect, whether it be a broken cord that needs to be replaced in the sound system, an unexpected delivery charge from a vendor, or even a parking ticket for a member of your staff.
Make sure to leave a contingency of 10-15% of your overall budget for any unforeseen expenses on the day.
That way, you can handle any situation that arises with confidence, without worrying about the potential cost of solving it.
6. Set an Appropriate Date and Find a Reliable Venue
Make sure to take the following things into consideration before finalizing a date for your event.
Other industry events and competitor events. If you set your event on the same day when another similar event is taking place, you risk losing guests, who are now forced to choose between the two.
Therefore, make sure your event doesn’t coincide with another one in the industry so that you can attract your desired audience and keynote speakers, as well as use all your networking opportunities.
If your event depends on the availability of a famous speaker or entertainers, make sure you align your date with their schedule.
Avoid statutory and religious holidays, as well, as your potential guests might want to prioritize their personal obligations during those times. Try to avoid school holidays in winter, spring, and summer for the same reason.
The season can be a decisive factor for other reasons.
Even if your event is taking place inside, consider how the weather and climate conditions might affect your event. Travel may be limited during a snowstorm, for instance. Or if your venue is famous for sweeping city views, you may not get the effect you bargained for if it’s a foggy day.
Selecting the Perfect Venue
Once you know your goals, target audience, date, and budget, it’s time to start looking for a location that fits your needs. Consider the following questions in your search for the perfect venue:
– Is it convenient? Consider traffic, transportation options, parking availability, and accessibility.
– What’s the maximum capacity? You want to avoid making your audience feel claustrophobic by choosing a space meant for a smaller turnout.
– What types of amenities does the location offer? Kitchen or catering options are an important consideration, especially if you plan to provide food or refreshments. Venues that provide tables, chairs, linens, a setup/cleanup service, and audio-visual equipment are also a plus.
– What kind of layout options does the venue provide? You may need an open floor plan for a trade show, a stage for keynote speakers at a conference, or several smaller rooms for a seminar. Your event type should determine which kinds of layout you look for in your venue.
– Does the ambiance match the tone of the event? Think about what kind of decor would best suit your event. such as an upscale one for a gala or a modern one for a tech conference. The better the venue naturally fits your event type, the less you’ll need to worry about decorating it yourself.
Think about the events you’ve attended in the past. Chances are, the venue is what you remember about them the longest. That’s why you want your venue to leave a good impression on the attendees.
7. Design an Amazing Attendee Experience
Providing an outstanding experience for your attendees can do wonders for your company brand, customer loyalty, and continued engagement for future events.
The ability to design a great experience for event participants depends on knowing the target audience and meeting their needs.
Consider your audience’s expectations, motivations, and emotions you’d like to evoke in them during the event. Do everything you can to provide excellent customer service, amenities, and activities.
Focus on building a community around your event.
MozCon, for instance, famously has a year-round Facebook group dedicated to the annual digital marketing conference hosted by the SEO software company Moz in Seattle. The group is constantly active and a great source of advice and information for new attendees.
For a memorable event, you want to make sure you have something for everyone.
Part of what makes South by Southwest (SXSW) so famous is that it boasts events, activities, and entertainment to suit a wide variety of interests. You might attend SXSW for tech training, but you’re just as likely to be energized by the comedy show performing on night two.
Event VIP Ideas
The VIP event is an important factor in designing an elevated attendee experience, especially if you have a few guests willing to spend a bit more than you’d typically charge for entry.
Offering a tiered ticketing program can help your VIP guests feel pampered.
Consider including an upgrade such as a backstage pass or an exclusive add-on event like a formal dinner. Check out this article from Eventbrite for more ideas on VIP offerings for your next event.
8. Organize Your People
It’s essential to have the right number of people filling roles to help your event go smoothly. Make sure you have staff assigned to the following jobs:
Field staff: You need people on the ground taking tickets, answering questions, setting up booths, and generally managing the flow of traffic during the event.
Security: Whether you hire a private security company, utilize the staff offered by the venue, or assign your own to the role, make sure you have a plan for keeping things secure and organized.
Logistics: Have adequate personnel to handle any last-minute changes or contingencies on the day of the event. You need people on the ground who know the big picture and every detail on the schedule to get you there.
Food and beverage: Are you having the event catered, or will there be a chef on-site? You’ll probably need wait staff and a host or hostess as well.
With the right team, your event will go smoothly and remain a fond memory for the attendees.
9. Brand Your Event
Your event is only as good as your branding. Without effective presentation, your event won’t get as much buzz as it could.
Start by choosing the right event name. You don’t need to be a poet or a master of puns, but picking a name that’s catchy and easy to remember will do a lot of the heavy lifting for your event’s promotion.
It is also vital to create a website and/or app for your event, so you can promote it later.
These days, attendees expect each event to have its own app to provide information and interactive functionality surrounding the event, from networking opportunities to transportation options.
In addition to a website, you need a social media presence. Social media can get your event a lot of exposure before it takes place, making potential visitors excited to attend it.
Have a custom hashtag for your event, and you can track engagement prior to and during the event.
A good visual identity is crucial, so design a logo. It doesn’t need to be anything flashy or complex; in fact, the simpler, the better.
The more you incorporate your custom logo into the event (think decor, projections, and food and drink labels), the more tied-together and professional your event becomes.
You can then utilize your logo by creating customized swag bags or snacks. People like mementos, so something as simple as a branded bag of popcorn or a tote bag with the attendee’s name on it can go a long way.
Last but not least, come up with a tagline for your event. This could be the same as your hashtag phrase or something different. A tag will help you communicate your message, for example, in the media.
10. Make a Plan for Communicating and Promoting the Event
Similar to branding, you need to be able to communicate and promote the event well if you expect your target audience to hear about it.
Start your promotion early (at least 10 weeks prior) and have a detailed plan for communications before, during, and after the event.
Announce the event to your contacts, be that on your email list, social media, in paid advertisements, or all of the above.
If you’re having famous speakers or exciting activities as part of your event, broadcast them early and often.
Include professional photos and bios of key-note speakers, sneak peeks of your exciting agendas, and information on how to find more details (ideally directing readers to your event app or website).
Communications During the Event
Make sure to have a plan for daily opening and closing messages and the ways to deliver them.
Will you have announcements over a PA system, a push notification sent through the mobile app, or an in-person announcer welcoming everyone from a stage—or a combination?
You’ll also need to have a plan for when and how to communicate messages from sponsors, important information about transportation and logistics, and calls for feedback from attendees.
Come up with a system for both planned and spontaneous messaging—and which channels are appropriate for which kind of message. Share this information with your team and empower them to help handle communications on the day.
After the event is over, your work isn’t done. It’s vital to follow up in the days after your event with thank-yous to sponsors and attendees.
Additionally, make sure to provide information on how to access the recordings of presentations, and attendee satisfaction surveys.
The surveys will tell you what your guests enjoyed about the event and give you valuable insights you’ll need for organizing future events.
You’ll also want to send out photos and documentation on social media with relevant people tagged to get as much publicity and positive engagement out of the event as you possibly can.
And don’t forget to use your custom hashtag!
11. Automate as Much as Possible with Event Management Technology
Many aspects of event management can be streamlined with specialized technology. Don’t be afraid to automate your event management process as much as you reasonably can.
Registering attendees can quickly become monotonous and complicated when done manually.
And what about payments?
If you’re planning to offer early-bird discounts or promotional rates, tracking those metrics and doing those calculations on the fly is a recipe for disaster.
Having the right software can save you precious time—and it can even increase the effectiveness of your event.
Regpack’s event registration software comes with automatic pricing adjustment options and automated billing and online payments. It’s a mobile-friendly registration option offering a custom registration flow, with sessions and attendance tracking, allowing you to see which of your offerings proved the most popular during the event.
Overall, the right software makes life easier for your event managers and staff by offering automated workflows. Letting technology do the heavy lifting helps you hit your event goals more uniformly and with less effort.
12. Manage and Wrap up the Event Properly
When the big day arrives, make sure you have a solid strategy in place that accounts for each minute—and fallback plans if something goes wrong.
What’s your plan for guest check-ins?
Focus on making it streamlined and pain-free. A long line to get in doesn’t exactly send a great first impression.
Make sure you know how many staff members will be at the door (tip: assign one employee per 50 guests), what kind of security you’ll have, and how you’ll organize the line as people wait to enter.
Ensure your on-site team knows the policies and procedures for making the event run smoothly.
Now is the time to put your most talented people at the forefront—the ones who can deliver cheerful customer service and confident leadership for attendees.
Finally, set up a smooth communication process to always be in contact with your team. Design a traffic flow with adequate signage that helps your guests know where to go and what to do.
The Right Event Strategy Sets You Up for Success
When you plan an event, you’re performing an essential marketing function for your company. The right, properly executed event strategy will generate leads, increase brand awareness, and build a loyal fan base.
A successful event is one that is strategized down to the very last detail, including:
– Measurable goals
– A target audience
– The right kind of event
– An organized budget
– A well-organized staff
– Day-of logistics
Using this 12-step event strategy process, you’ll be well on your way to an amazingly successful event in no time.