Conference Marketing — How to Make and Market Events [5 Steps]
Conferences bring together customers, partners, employees, media, analysts, and others under one roof. But like everything else, recently that roof became digital too. And that’s why the concepts of online conferences and conference marketing started gaining popularity.
One of the first effects of the pandemic was on the events industry. Conference managers were losing their venue deposits. Their sponsors and speakers were backing out. And their audiences were unsure about registering for events just in case flights were canceled or quarantines imposed.
But honestly, when one really thinks about it, the purging that the events industry underwent might have been a blessing in disguise because it helped get rid of the bad and exploitative players. And this weeding out of the exploitative players has left enough space for new players to enter the market.
So, is your conference marketing plan in place? If not, then in this article, we are going to talk about how to market a conference, set up a website, and host your own event. Let’s dive in!
Step 1 — Setting up a Conference Registration Portal
Registration for your conference is a critical part of the planning process. It’s a chance for you and your team to find out who’s coming, what they’re interested in, and what they need from your event.
Don’t skip this step! The registration process can be a great time to get people excited about your event. In fact, it’s also an opportunity to learn more about who is attending and what they’re looking for.
The first thing you are going to need is a registration flow that helps you understand your potential audiences while at the same time registering them for the event.
Check out this template that you can easily adapt for your own event.
Like this template? You will find a variety of similar templates on Outgrow, an interactive content platform. You can easily customize this template in the Outgrow builder for your own company. The Outgrow builder lets you rebrand it in your own company’s colors and themes! No coding required!
Its key features include:
1. Clear and to-the-point design
2. Cross-selling: This feature will help encourage registrants to opt-in for conference-sponsored accommodation (you can easily reach out to hotels near your venue and get referral deals). Similarly, you can encourage people to sign up for conference-sponsored tours, airport shuttles, and different kinds of conference pass.
3. Segmentation/Filtering: Once registrants pick their industry, company size, and days of attendance, it becomes easy for you to segment them for better targeting.
4. Discounts: You can offer discounts based on how early someone buys the tickets.
Step 2 — Finding Speakers, Sponsors, and Investors
The secret to picking speakers and sponsors for your conference is to find people who love your conference’s vision and mission.
Speakers and sponsors should be passionate about the topic they’re covering because that passion will come through in their presentations.
If you’re looking for speakers, ask yourself: What has my speaker done that’s most impressive? What have they accomplished? What do they want to accomplish? Why do they want to speak at this particular event?
If you can connect with them on an emotional level, do so! You want someone who believes in what you’re doing and wants to help spread the word about it!
For sponsors, look at what they offer. Do they provide products or services directly related to the theme of your event? Do they support organizations that are similar to yours? Are their values similar? These are all ways in which a sponsor can help promote your event while also helping themselves by extending their reach into the community.
This speaker form template aptly covers all the aforementioned areas. You can create a similar quiz and embed it on your website, send it through email, or share it on social media.
For sponsors, it’s always helpful to design a quiz that helps them pick the right sponsorship package depending on what their particular needs are. You can check one such sponsor quiz template here.
Finally, there’s a lot of talk about how startups need investors. Even if the startup is bootstrapping, and the founder has got his own personal funds to sink into the project, it may still need investors. Because at some point, their personal funds might run out. This is why conference marketing involves the need to have a dedicated investors’ portal like this one set up for your conference.
Step 3 — Helping Registrants Find Which Talk / Panel / Networking Party They Should Attend
Have you ever attended a conference and wished the entire time that you had picked a different talk? It’s happened to us too — and it can be frustrating when you’re trying to make the most out of the experience.
This is why you need quizzes in your conference marketing strategy. This would help people choose which talk they would be suited for. The quiz/recommendation takes in information about the attendees. Then, it matches up the best possible talks based on what they want out of their experience at your conference. It also keeps track of which talks are popular with a particular group so that it can recommend those again in the future. If an attendee doesn’t like any of the suggestions, they can mark them as “do not show” next time around!
Here is an example of a “Which Conference Talk Should You Attend?” quiz.
Next, come panel discussions. They are important because they allow attendees to engage in a dialogue with the speakers. They also help attendees understand the bigger picture of a topic.
Panel discussions can help attendees understand not just what the speakers are saying, but why they’re saying it. It’s easy for someone who isn’t experienced in a field to get lost in jargon and technical language. But panel discussions force speakers to explain their ideas more clearly than they might have been able to if they were presenting alone on stage.
And finally, panel discussions help attendees see how different people approach similar topics. Panelists may disagree with each other — or agree with each other — which can help you find your own opinions on the topic at hand. Hence, you must give the attendees the option to pick one they like.
Here is a quiz template you can adapt to recommend panel discussions to your attendees.
The final portal you need to set up for this section is one for networking. You’ve probably heard of the importance of networking, but what’s the best way to do it?
Well, if you’re attending a conference, there’s no better place to meet people than at the networking party. At these parties, people have plenty of time to get to know their fellow attendees and connect with them about their interests, career goals, and more. The best part? They don’t have to worry about being judged for not knowing something!
Everyone else is in the same boat as them, so there’s no pressure to make themselves look good if they don’t want to — they can just relax and be themselves.
And when they go home from that party with a handful of new contacts on their phone, that’s when you know you have provided value to your audience. Check out this template for helping people pick networking parties.
Step 4 — Driving Conference Engagement Through Polls and Contests
Conferences are great. They’re a chance for attendees to meet new people, learn more about their industry, and have fun with their colleagues (or just get some time away from them).
But they can also be really boring.
There’s a lot of sitting around in conference rooms listening to people talk at you. And there are often too many presentations packed into one day, which usually means that the good ones get cut short because the room is so full.
So what’s the solution? An online contest!
In terms of conference marketing, online contests are great for generating engagement for your webinar or web conference because they’re interactive and easy to promote through social media. Plus, they give attendees something interesting to do during breaks between sessions or during lunchtime — they’re fun!
Here’s how it works: Create a quick survey asking attendees questions like “What is your favorite thing about this conference?” or “What was your favorite session today?” Then offer them an opportunity to win something awesome (like a gift card) by clicking on the contest link. You can share this through email or text message (or whatever channel you choose).
That way everyone gets something out of it: You get information on what matters most to your attendees, and your attendees can win something like a free ticket to your next event, a free flight, or a free dinner with a speaker of their choice.
Here’s a contest template you can easily customize on the Outgrow builder.
And here’s a template of a poll that asks for attendees’ opinions on talks while at the same time giving them a chance to win something in return.
Step 5 — Choosing a Venue for Your Event
One thing to keep in mind is that contrary to what everyone thinks, the venue is the last thing you are going to need when it comes to setting up a conference. First, you need to set up all the portals mentioned in Steps 1–4 to get an idea about how many people plan to attend your event, what they are looking for, what their budgets are, etc. And then based on all this data you can start looking for venues.
That being said, the conference venue is one of the most important aspects of your conference. It can make or break your event, so you need to choose wisely. Now it could be a physical venue or an online platform. But either way, choosing an optimum venue is vital.
There are many things to consider when choosing a venue for your conference. These include cost, location, amenities and services, size, and availability.
Cost is probably one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a venue for your conference. The cost of different venues varies greatly depending on their amenities and services. So, it’s important to do some research before making any final decisions about where to hold your event.
Location is another important factor to consider when choosing a venue for your conference. It plays an important role in determining how much people will be willing to pay for tickets. However, if it’s an online conference, you can skip this step. What you’ll rather need to decide on is the time zone in which you’ll host the conference. For this, you can analyze where the majority of your audience is and set the timings accordingly.
Amenities and services are yet another aspect of choosing a venue that should be considered carefully. Make sure there’s plenty of parking nearby (or public transportation options if necessary) as well as WiFi access. On the other hand, if it’s an online conference, you’d want to understand what features and support your platform is providing. Some of the features you’d want to have are CRM software, interactive tools, customer feedback systems, integration options, 24/7 live support, etc.
Crafting your conference marketing strategy is a high-stake game that requires critical thinking and on-the-spot planning. Try these innovative conference marketing strategies that’ll help boost registration and sponsorship sales at your next event. Nonetheless, if you understand how to market a conference and pull it off correctly, you will reap the rewards for many years to come.
Isn’t it great to have interactive content as an asset that you can use again and again to promote your conference?
Use Outgrow’s 7-day free trial to try out interactive content tools and level up your online advertising to inform and remind your audience about your event.