Over this past week, many of us listened to some very accomplished speakers at both the Forbes Under 30 Summit and Money 20/20, gaining some pretty useful insights in the process. One subject that continued to come up time and again was the importance of meeting people face-to-face.
Networking is crucial to growing a solid business, which is one of the major reasons why live events are so popular. Many have discovered that attending industry events can significantly grow their network and options - but throwing one yourself can actually catapult you into another league. If you play your cards right, you can use your event to align yourself with aspirational industry professionals, show off your expertise, and vastly increase your opportunities for press. But in order to do any of that, your event must be marketed impeccably.
According to Cole Hatter (serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and founder of Thrive: Make Money Matter), you have to be ultra strategic in event marketing - particularly if you're planning to do a series. Some experts say start small, and build gradually - and that is solid advice. But you want to make sure that your event supports your vision right out of the gate.
Having seen success with Thrive from very early on, Hatter has given us some pointers for event marketing newbies. Here's what he had to say:
1. Allow Enough Lead Time
"Make sure you have time to generate enough buzz. You'll need to start at least six months in advance," he suggests. The speakers you have at your event is ultimately what generates your audience - and the good ones book up fast. You need to be able to plan around their schedules.
Also, your attendees need to plan their travel schedule. The sooner you can start spreading the word, the better your turnout.
2. Contribute to the Goals of Your Speakers
If you're able to get at least one or two big name speakers, it'll be easier to attract an audience because you can capitalize on your speakers' credibility and social following. Find a way to contribute to your dream speakers' goals.
Give them a sponsor booth at the conference, create Q&A sessions, "fireside chats" (short interviews on stage), private meet & greets or a special photo opportunity where your audience gets a chance to connect with the speakers. "At Thrive, we organize a private dinner, where our VIP ticket holders have a chance to network with the speakers in a more intimate setting," says Hatter. "We've done this last year at our inaugural event and the feedback was so positive, we are doing it again."
3. Run Targeted Facebook Ad Campaigns
Once you have your speakers locked in, start running targeted Facebook ads that are shown to your ideal audience. Focus your ad sets on people who are already following your speakers because some of those fans will be eager to see their idols live.
You can also target your ad sets to show to people who live in the area where your event is taking place. Facebook's detailed targeting options allow you to show the ads precisely to people in the area, even down to the zip code.
4. Build a Real Community
Ask your own community to spread the word about your event. "We've set up a special Facebook group for our Thrive attendees as soon as the first ticket sales started coming in prior to our first event last year" says Hatter. "They joined in to connect and network with each other, but they stayed long term because their values are in alignment with the event's theme: making an impact and building a legacy."
Continue engaging with our members throughout the year by creating special contests and activities to encourage bonding. Once the group grows into a tight-knit community, they'll happily share upcoming events with their friends and on their social media pages.
5. Partner Up on Social Media
Create a win-win scenario to incentivize your speakers and other promotional partners to share about your event. For example, you might ask them to email their clients / customers and offer them a chance to give away a handful of tickets for free or incentivize it with a discount code. That way, their followers will get an exclusive deal, making them feel even more special, and you'll generate more buzz for your event. You can also do Facebook live stream interviews or Snapchat story swaps with those who have a relevant following.
Listening to Hatter, it seems that the more you focus your marketing efforts around building a community and making your audience feel special - the more you'll create "ambassadors" who will help you market your event through word of mouth. Just be aware that your job is not over once you've gotten everyone to turn up to the event. You want to truly add value to the businesses of your attendees, so that they continue to show up year after year - and bring their friends.