Industry events are no longer a nice-to-have. In a world engrossed in digital communication, one of the key learnings from our team’s participation in the 2019 World Conference of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is the stimulating effect of face-to-face communication. In-person industry events provide your brand an opportunity to create more meaningful connections with an audience of your choosing – be it existing and potential clients, media and industry influencers.
According to the Event Marketing 2018 Benchmarks and Trends report, 95 percent of marketers agree that in-person events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form connections. Also, 31 percent believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel over digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing – given of course that the event content is interesting and relevant.
Developing the right event content is the most critical part of planning a successful industry event. Remember, you are usually addressing a hard-to-please audience that consists of executives who don’t leave their office unless they feel that doing so is a valuable investment of their time. Ideally, you want to take one of the biggest issues or challenges that your target audience faces and make it the central focus of your conference.
Not sure where to start? Here are five guidelines to keep in mind when developing an effective content strategy for your industry event.
1. Tackle strategic issues
Invest time and resources in brainstorming, shaping, and vetting the agenda topics and content focus with different members of the organization and your external communications agency. The objective is to craft effectively framed conference narratives or story arcs that engage, inform and inspire others to collaborate and accomplish something that none of them could on their own. Try creating a theme that is a call to action that has a positive impact on the industry as a whole – and don’t be afraid to finesse as you go. Just make sure that once finalized, the theme is highlighted in all event material from the moment the event invites are distributed, and that it is introduced in the opening general session and plays out throughout the content program and attendee experience.
2. Avoid sales pitches
Many executives tend to avoid events held by vendors and partners because they fear it will be a forum for sales pitches. If you want the executive invitees to accept your invitation and look forward to your event, develop the conference agenda, meeting themes, speaker lineup, and presentation content with that in mind. Make sure to include insightful sessions and candid discussions, ample time for questions and networking opportunities, and more importantly, engaging case studies. This does not imply though that your senior executives are precluded. On the contrary; your executives play an important role in the event as thought leaders who can share relevant stories and contribute to strategic discussions.
3. Reach out to peers
When building your speaker roster remember that collaboration is key. Identify other businesses targeting the same kind of customer as you, but not directly competing, and take advantage of an opportunity to work together for mutual benefit. Attendees want to hear from a wide range of leading spokespeople that represent different organizations, industries and parts of the ecosystem. They also want exclusive case studies. So, build your speaker roster with the external experts, including researchers, who are usually happy to be spotlighted among industry peers and who can share deep insights, varying perspectives and a wide range of case studies and lessons learned.
4. Consider interaction platforms for content co-creation
Don’t be afraid to use social media solicit feedback from your audience and become more familiar with the kind of topics that matter to them before the narrative is finalized. But don’t stop there. Use interactive platforms like Slido to co-create content during the event by soliciting top questions to drive meaningful conversations and capturing thoughts and opinions. Depending on the nature of your event, try using solutions like Padlet if you are hosting collaborative sessions between attendees. That way, participants can work in groups to create projects, boards, documents, and webpages that are easy to read and share with others.
5. Repurpose content material after the event
There is no reason to let the hype die down after your event is done – especially when you are sitting on a wealth of content that can be used to continue to engage your attendees and build anticipation for any upcoming events. Consider developing relevant material including post conference reports, snackable e-books and blog posts. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great platforms to share content and engage your audiences. You can also create images, videos and other visual snippets from your event to feed your social profiles for months to come.
Industry events have become critical in boosting a brand and outpacing competitors. Yet at the heart of any successful event is an effective content strategy with a solid narrative. These five guidelines serve as a starting point to help you plan and build your content, but if you need further guidance, just get in touch.