With summer quickly approaching, preparations for trade show season are in full swing.
Planning a large, industry-leading event can be quite the undertaking, and nearly every association knows that the months leading up to an annual conference can be a bit daunting. While putting forth your best efforts to put on a great event and increase attendance (and future members), it’s easy to leave event- and year-round content opportunities on the table. I’ve seen so many organizations focus so much on the event itself that the sponsorship integration, cross-promotion and potential content opportunities get lost in the shuffle.
An Annual Content Treasure Trove
Your annual convention is not only one of your greatest revenue generators and best networking opportunities, it’s also a fresh and unique treasure trove of content. Your organization already puts so many resources into selecting the right speakers, bringing in quality industry exhibitors, and encouraging attendees to register that it would be a shame for your marketing and communications staff to overlook additional uses for the new and exciting content that your event produces every year.
You know your event produces a significant amount of terrific content already because creating great content for attendees is what events are all about — without it, they’re simply not going to come. Acknowledging your annual event as a content powerhouse is the first step to maximizing tangential exhibitor, speaker and attendee opportunities. After that, you have to seek out strategic ways to not only promote your event but highlight all the content already embedded in your show.
Integration of Event Marketing Efforts
As I said in a 2016 Association Adviser article series, “It’s one thing to mention events in your member [communications], but it’s another thing to completely integrate event marketing efforts with valuable content that members will love.” And that’s the kicker.
So here are some practical ways to harness the power of your annual show’s content, promote it like you mean it, and deliver unique content to members without much effort, sacrifice or extra resources.
Maximize speaker content
As we know, speakers are the field experts and can speak skillfully on their subject matter. After all, that’s the reason they’re speaking at your association’s show. So why not make the most of their expertise and involvement by asking them to provide long-form written content in addition to their speaking slides, bios and headshots? More often than not, they’ll already have some material drafted and ready to share.
I know of one organization that requires speakers to submit an article along with their other materials. These articles are compiled into a special section in the organization’s quarterly magazine leading up to the show. The articles mainly provide the association with free quality content, but they go a step further by promoting the speaker’s session, which is referenced alongside their article and promote the types of content that will be available at the show itself.
TIP: Instead of asking for speakers’ slides days leading up to the event, push to get them well in advance so you can pull out teasers, statistics and other relevant info to share with your members prior to the event.
Maximize exhibitor/sponsor content
Don’t underestimate or overlook your exhibitors as potential content resources. Many exhibiting companies put in great effort to create the perfect white papers, infographics, videos and other educational offerings for attendees. Ask exhibitors to share these materials up front, and comb through them to extract relevant ideas, statistics, trends and visuals for members. Not only can this lead to increased attendee engagement with exhibitors before and during your show, their contentprovides more valuable information for your members while highlighting the great work that industry suppliers are doing.
TIP: Include a content “call to action” in your exhibitor packets. Drawing attention to your association’s available opportunities to contribute and share content can be another way to provide greater return on investment to your exhibitors.
Maximize attendee contributions
Year after year, and sometimes decade after decade, your association sees the same people attend your events. Maybe they’re super-involved and sitting on your board, or maybe they play more of a passive role and only attend your event for the networking.
Whatever the case, members who regularly attend your events are your experts — they know more about your shows and how to get the most out of them than your staff could ever try to sum up. So use your attendees to promote your event simply by asking them why they return every year.
User-generated content is huge right now, and, as humans, we love (and trust) reviews and tips from others who have gone before us. Members are more inclined to trust and engage with content from fellow members, so including this strategy is perhaps the most important part of the mix.
For example, years ago we featured a Q&A with association board members in a magazine and online to broadcast to potential attendees (and first-timers already registered) about what keeps them coming back every year, their best networking tips, how to get the most out of the show, and what they’re looking forward to most. It was a hit and provided real value to less-seasoned attendees.
TIP: Consider creating an online form to easily capture information from past attendees. Ask about their professional background, where they’re from, why they are attending, how long they’ve worked in the industry, what they’re hoping to achieve by attending and so on.
Cross-Promote Event-Related Content in Every Way
Don’t tackle these initiatives without a clear plan for cross-promotion throughout your association’s media portfolio. Have a great article from a speaker? Great. In addition to promoting it on your website or blog, include it in your newsletter and share it on social media. Be sure to tag the author because they’ll also share it, too. Pull out a great quote from a video or written piece, and create a beautiful branded (and shareable) image for LinkedIn or Twitter.
The opportunities are endless for creating specialty content around your event to grow interest, increase engagement and get attendees excited to arrive. Start with your speakers, exhibitors and attendees, and see where their event-related content can take your show’s success.