Next week I’ll join my counterparts from around the world in Berlin to talk about live event experiences. It’s an annual gathering where we can share ideas, successes, and challenges, and learn to better understand each other’s businesses. For many, creating pre-event content to build excitement (and maybe a bit of FOMO [fear of missing out]) for our events is a hot topic.
Regardless of your industry or region of the world, pre-event content is an important element for delivering on an amazing event experience.
While marketing campaigns are often centered on content, event marketers often think about content too late. That’s precisely what UBM found in its Content Connects research among technology brands. Laura Forer of MarketingProfs, UBM’s research collaborator, notes that pre-event content shouldn’t be an afterthought: “Ninety-six percent of attendees look for information prior to attending an event, and 90% continue that search post-event. Effective content before, during, and after an event is vital to the overall experience.”
I’ll admit, I’m a bit jealous of the Diner en Blanc events – chic gatherings in beautiful places around the world that rely mostly on secrecy and word of mouth. They don’t have to spend time and budget on creative content – other than a tantalizing invitation – to draw thousands of people to eat, drink, be merry, and wear white.
The rest of us, though, need to be more vocal and consistent to make our events pop with high quality and engaging pre-event content (which, in some cases, can be used on-site and post-event.)
I share five ideas for pre-event content that you are welcome to steal as you plan your next event. And I’d love to hear about some of your favorites in the comments.
1. Create educational and fun videos to define event topics or goals
Short videos can give prospects and attendees a sneak peek at event topics and speakers. The CMI team posted videos before the 2017 Intelligent Content Conference (spoiler alert: we’ll do it again for ICC 2018 because they were effective). The videos were educational, but producer (and CMI Chief Strategy Advisor) Robert Rose also kept them lighthearted and funny to make them worth the three to five minutes people would spend watching them.
They were designed to help marketers better understand tools and innovations behind content strategy – the topic of the conference. Subjects like augmented reality, content audits, localization, and journey mapping were part of the video series that were shared on the ICC event blog, promoted in emails, and posted to YouTube in the months leading up to the event. In each case, the ICC presenter on the topic was mentioned and additional related content was offered.
Watch Robert talk about journey mapping – and sing a Journey song. All I can say is don’t stop believing pre-event videos will work. These videos really resonated with the audience and didn’t require extensive time or budget.
2. Send a clever piece of (snail) mail
Yeah, you read that right – send the kind of stuff that shows up in a physical mailbox. In a time when digital is the primary distribution channel, a piece of mail can be a welcome surprise. Just ask Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs. “The key is to send something fun, cool, AND that also encourages sharing on social platforms,” she says.
One of MarketingProfs’ most brilliant examples of pre-event snail mail was the creation of the “Flat Handley,” (a take-off on the popular and long-lasting Flat Stanley literacy project).
“We encouraged people to document their journey to Boston for the B2B Marketing Forum along with Flat Handley,” Ann explains. “Every year we try to outdo ourselves from the previous year.”
In 2017, the MarketingProfs team sent its mascot, Jay Bird, as a traveling buddy for attendees. The language on the back of the cardboard Jay Bird explained what to do – using some hilarious bird puns:
Hi I’m Jay! I excel at flying, and I’m here in your mailbox because it’s almost time for us to take flight for the MarketingProfs B2B Forum! I don’t want you to be owl by yourself; that would be hawkward. Document my journey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #MPB2B – it’s a great way to tweet new marketing friends, because more than toucan can play at this! I can help you take your relationships to the nest level.”
This seriously made me laugh out loud. As Ann notes – it’s “FOMO-liscious!”
3. Develop original research to be shared with attendees and used by event speakers
Original research is an important part of any content marketing strategy. It’s an opportunity to highlight industry trends, challenges, innovations, and above all, thought leadership. The content team that supports Interop ITX, an event for tech leaders, fields topical research surveys and shares the results with attendees, prospects, and speakers.
For its 2017 event, the team released four reports (IT Salary Survey, State of Cloud, State of DevOps, and State of Data Analytics) and published companion infographics, podcasts, and articles in the months leading up to the live event. The research topics directly reflect the event conference tracks and the Interop team encourages speakers to incorporate the data into their presentations where appropriate. Kelley Damore, executive vice president of content, says, “We – editors and presenters – are all speaking from the same data and highlighting the research.”
The Interop team already released research on the State of Infrastructure that connects to the agenda for 2018.
4. Love your speakers
Your event speakers are your lifeblood. Their expertise makes your event educational and inspiring. Promote them. Celebrate them.
Mike Winkleman, founder of Leverage Media, is a big proponent of featuring speakers in the weeks leading up to an event. One of his favorite examples was a program he launched for Chief Executive Magazine in 2016 which included speaker-focused articles published in its e-newsletters about six weeks before its Talent Summit. The articles reflected thought leadership in key areas and helped promote the speakers’ expertise.
Says Winkleman, “Interviewing the speakers for the e-newsletter articles was combined with prepping them for their talks at the event itself, which gave it added value.” Subsequent post-event coverage in the magazine nicely rounded out the experience.
Visual content can also play a role in promoting speakers – and to have them promote your event. One of my favorite strategies for Content Marketing World comes from our creative genius, Joseph Kalinowski. He creates unique “posters” for all the sessions and speakers reflecting the event theme.
Beautifully designed, they are easily shareable on social media by CMWorld speakers. The printed versions are displayed during the event and are often taken home by speakers as souvenirs. Find ways like this to share the love and speakers will share back.
— MichelleParkLazette (@mp_lazette) August 17, 2017
5. Highlight user-generated content that shows attendees how to make the most of the event and to have fun
When loyal audience members take the time to create content about your event, it’s like winning the lottery. It’s one thing for you and your brand to tout the event, but it is more sincere and meaningful when your audience does so. Embrace it and showcase it.
In this blog, Unforgettable Value at Your Next Conference Without Being a Speaker, Content Marketing World attendee Aaron Orendorff (@iconiContent) highlights fun aspects of the event (including attendees being photographed in an orange hat and with Lego props), and offers great tips for making the most of the event.
Aaron, with Venngage’s Nadya Khoja, also created this infographic, 26 Headliners on How to Connect With Influencers (at a Conference), to showcase valuable insight on how to connect with conference speakers from CMWorld presenters and industry influencers such as John Hall, Andrea Fryrear, Michael Brenner, Andrew Davis, and others. Their comments are fun and thoughtful, and provide a great way to get the community talking.
Let’s get talking about pre-event content. What are you doing to draw people in for your event or what have you seen others do that you think is – in Ann’s word – FOMO-licious?
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute