Content marketing is a powerful tool for building buzz about events, but many event planners are missing out on this big opportunity to connect with their target audience. Here are five content marketing tips for event planners, based on my experiences attending dozens of conferences as a both a journalist and a content marketer.

  • Make it easy for people to be online. When you’re searching for a venue, make access to reliable WiFi a priority. Tap a sponsor if your budget won’t allow you to absorb the cost yourself. Find other places to cut if you have to. I rarely remember what I ate at conferences, for example — but I always remember the events where I had to leave the room to find cell service every time I wanted to send out a simple tweet. People who aren’t being paid to cover an event aren’t going to try that hard.
  • Encourage attendees and vendors to participate. Settle on a hashtag early on and start using it to promote the event. Share it with your vendors so they make it part of their promotions at the show. Openly encourage the audience to tweet when you introduce speakers and remind them of the hashtag and the speaker’s Twitter handle. And I know lots of people who find it off-putting to see rows of people typing into their smartphones during presentations, but please don’t issue a ban on using phones during sessions. You’re just going to have to choose between manners and marketing here.
  • Give them something FUN to talk about. Lively keynotes and informative concurrent sessions are the backbone of a great conference. But a little silliness could be just the ticket to really generate word of mouth. Best example I’ve seen all year: HubSpot brought in Cyndi Lauper for an exclusive concert at its Inbound 2012 conference. I’ve never seen so many nostalgic Gen Xers in one room — all sharing their warm-and-fuzzies toward HubSpot on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It was a user-generated content marketing goldmine.
  • Let the bloggers in. The distinction between traditional members of the press and bloggers is something event marketers should leave to the editors and academics. When it comes to issuing press passes, your chief criteria should be audience. How much sway does a person have with the people you want to reach? If they have influence, let them in. Give them the same access to your sponsors and press materials that you would any member of the traditional media. Don’t try to control what they write about and how they write it. It will backfire on you.
  • Feature people’s work. Designate someone on your team to monitor the content that people are generating about your event and use your own network to drum up further interest in the material. That can be as simple as simple as passing links along on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. If you have a dynamic web site for the event, set aside an area to round-up and feature their posts. Looking for an example: Check out what SHRM did with its special blogger page.

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