Making the Most of Your In-Person Event: Tips and Tricks for a Successful Experience
Virtual conferences became the only viable option in the event industry amidst the global health crisis. Because it’s been a while since people have attended in-person events, event planners need to step their game up. They must look for ways to keep their audiences satisfied.
Gone are the days of standard presentations. It’s time to learn a few things from digital events to amplify the experience of your event in person.
For that reason, 71% of event planning professionals said upskilling helped them design live experiences after the pandemic with strict hygiene protocols. So the need to adapt is evident in this industry and is likely to continue for years to come.
Now that live conferences are making a comeback, here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your in-person event.
Setting clear goals and objectives
A well-planned event can lead to more attendance and positive word-of-mouth promotion for future affairs. So, get clear on your event objectives. An example goal is hosting an event for a new product launch.
Whatever your goals may be, devising a system from start to finish ensures its success.
Identify your target audience
This step is how you create an event that resonates with your guests. Knowing who your attendees are and what they expect will make your event appealing and memorable.
- Conduct market research to understand the demographics of your potential attendees.
- Identify your ideal customer profile.
- Use data from past events and surveys to understand what your attendees want.
- Engage with your audience through social media and other online channels to understand their interests and preferences.
- Consider partnering with organizations that serve your target audience to reach a wider audience.
By gathering all this data, you can tailor your event to exceed audience expectations. And most importantly, it ensures that all decisions align with the overall intent of the event.
Define the purpose
The reason for hosting an event should center around the message you want your audience to receive and what specific outcome you hope to achieve. It’ll provide your attendees with a clear and cohesive experience.
- Define the specific outcomes you hope to achieve through the event.
- Determine the key message you want to convey to your attendees.
- Consider your goals for the event and what you hope to accomplish.
- Identify the type of event that best serves your purpose, such as a conference, trade show, workshop, or networking event.
- Communicate the event’s purpose to your team and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned and on the same page.
Getting to the point of your occasion will help you make informed decisions on the type of event, its format, and the activities you want to include.
Choosing the right venue and date
There’s always the right time and place for everything. So, choosing the ideal location and date can either make or break your event. You can build rapport while reducing costs when you do your homework.
Factors to consider when selecting a venue
When selecting a venue for an in-person event, it’s important to consider these factors:
- Capacity: Must have adequate space to accommodate your expected attendees.
- Location: Should be easily accessible and convenient for attendees, with ample parking or public transportation options.
- Amenities: Should have the necessary amenities, such as restrooms, lighting, and sound systems, to support the event.
- Style and atmosphere: Must match the event’s theme and support the event’s overall aesthetic.
- Budget: Must fit within your budget and offer value for money.
Your search for the perfect venue should always continue beyond the first or second places you see. Use online resources and visit potential venues to compare their capacities, locations, and amenities. Read the venue market prices to anticipate costs before signing anything.
Determine the best date for your event
The right date not only can save you money but also impact your audience attendance. So make sure to adhere to the following aspects:
- Seasonality: Choose a date that goes with the theme or purpose of the event. Be sure it’s appropriate for the time of year, such as hosting a winter-themed event during the winter months or mental health awareness events in May.
- Lead time: Think about how long it’ll take to plan and promote the event. Then choose a date that allows adequate lead time.
- Competition: You want to avoid competing for dates with other event planners, as this can affect your number of attendees.
Establish a clear timeline for your meeting, conference, or party. When picking your date, be flexible because some days out of the week might cost less depending on the venue.
Creating an effective marketing and promotional strategy
One of the best ways your target audience will know about your event is by advertising it. It allows you to get the word out, reach a wider audience, and attract attendees who may not have known about the event otherwise.
Marketing builds excitement and anticipation, which can lead to a great event turnout.
Utilize social media and email marketing
Social media and email marketing are undeniably powerful tools to get your message across to millions of users. Using social platforms can increase awareness and reach a wider audience. In contrast, email marketing lets you communicate directly with your target audience and provide them with updates and information about the event.
- Choose the right social media platforms based on your target audience.
- Create a social media strategy and content calendar that aligns with your marketing plan.
- Engage with followers and respond to comments and questions.
- Use paid social media advertising to reach a wider audience and target specific demographics.
- Use email marketing to send updates and reminders.
- Segment your email list and tailor your messaging.
- Continuously refine your email marketing strategy based on your results and audience feedback.
These efforts may look time-consuming, but they’ll build excitement and anticipation. Feel free to delegate tasks outside your skill sets if your hands are full.
Leverage partnerships and influencer marketing
Working with other professional event planners and influencers with a large following can be an advantage. So, try not to look at them as a competition. Instead, collaborate with them for shared resources, joint marketing efforts, and better industry reputation.
- Identify potential partners or influencers in your industry or local community.
- Reach out to potential partners or influencers to discuss potential collaborations or partnerships.
- Offer incentives for partners or influencers to promote the event to their followers.
- Track the impact of partnerships and influencer marketing efforts through metrics such as ticket sales or increased social media engagement.
- Continuously evaluate and adjust your partnerships and influencer marketing strategy based on your results and audience feedback.
Influencer marketing is often perceived as more authentic than traditional advertising because social media users trust influencers 50% more than other marketing schemes. On the other hand, joining forces with other businesses fosters professional growth. So combining these two can significantly impact your promotional efforts.
Creating an attractive and engaging event schedule
To maximize attendance and engagement, you must understand your attendee’s behavior. These behaviors include how they interact with others, where they sit or stand, how they respond to speakers, and what they do upon arrival at the event.
Once you get that down to a T, that’s the time to create your event schedule. Evaluate your past events and ask yourself how it impacted and gave value to your audience’s lives. If this is your first event, use surveys or reflect on other’s events to make yours attractive and engaging.
Have networking and interactive activities
People attend events to connect with people, learn something new, and for the fun of it. So be sure to provide comfortable spaces for your attendees to mingle with others in and out of their industry or interest.
- Offer pre- and post-event networking events such as cocktail receptions or breakfast/lunch breaks.
- Encourage attendees to connect through social media or messaging platforms before the event.
- Organize speed-networking sessions where attendees can have quick, focused conversations with multiple people.
- Design dedicated networking or lounge areas within the venue.
- Incorporate games, trivia, or workshops into the event program.
- Create opportunities for attendees to collaborate on projects or team-building exercises.
- Encourage audience participation through live polls, Q&A sessions, or interactive discussions.
- Utilize virtual reality, augmented reality, or gamification to enhance the occasion.
While brainstorming for your event schedule, give your attendance autonomy for their time. So rather than having a rigid agenda, offer more breaks to enjoy the time they have at your event.
Provide spaces for active participation
It’s vital to allow your audience to play an active role since it creates an immersive experience that fosters a sense of community. But if you overlook this part, your attendees will lose interest quickly. You don’t want them to walk out on you.
- Offer opportunities for attendees to present or lead conversations.
- Encourage attendees to submit questions or topics for discussion beforehand.
- Provide opportunities for attendees to share their expertise through panel discussions or roundtable discussions.
- Encourage attendees to provide feedback or suggestions through surveys or suggestion boxes.
Pro tip: Target all their senses.
- Use visually stimulating visuals to engage their sight.
- Place a diffuser to stir up their sense of smell, but don’t overdo it.
- Select the ideal textures. Think of carpets and cushioned seats for comfort.
- Play the appropriate music based on your theme.
- Pick the right catering services that would entice their pallet.
By implementing these tips, you’re guaranteed your guest will leave with a mentionable experience.
Offering incentives for attendees
Incentives can drive registration. People like surprises, discounts, and free stuff. There are many strategies to accomplish this. But be sure not to go over budget so it won’t affect your ROI.
Offer exclusive benefits for early bird or pre-registered attendees
You can surge early registration and secure your audience’s spot at the event by offering exclusive benefits such as discounts, priority seating, or special access to certain activities.
- Decide on the type of benefits you would like to offer.
- Promote the early bird or pre-registration period through your marketing and communication channels.
- Set a deadline for the early bird or pre-registration period.
- Provide a clear and concise description of the benefits offered to attendees who register early.
Give raffle prizes or giveaways
Raffling off prizes or offering giveaways can add an element of excitement. This strategy is effective for events that feature exhibitors, as it motivates people to visit more exhibitor booths to increase their chances of winning.
- Decide on the type of prizes or giveaways you want to give out.
- Increase FOMO in your marketing campaigns. People don’t want to miss out on anything they can benefit from.
- Promote the raffle or giveaway through your marketing and communication channels.
- Set clear rules and guidelines for how attendees can participate.
- Ensure the prizes or giveaways are enticing and relevant to your target audience.
- Plan the logistics of conducting the raffle or giveaway during the event.
Exclusive benefits create a positive event experience, impacting how attendees talk about it with their peers. So, offer referral rewards and event credits to increase registration numbers.
Building a strong event community
Attendees are more likely to connect and establish relationships with other attendees and speakers, leading to a more enjoyable and productive social conference. They’ll become repeat attendees and recommend it to others when they feel a sense of belonging and had a great experience.
Encourage attendees to connect and network throughout the event lifecycle
Pulling people together towards a common interest allows them to become a collective—thinking and acting as a unit.
- Create an exclusive platform for attendees to build rapport before the event.
- Set up a system for attendees to connect and exchange contact information during the event, such as a digital business card exchange.
- Organize pre and post-event activities, such as virtual gatherings.
People will engage more when you provide them with value plus entertainment. Welcome new members as they join the group and reward those who are most helpful. Monitor all publishing activity to keep spam at bay.
Assemble a sense of community and shared purpose through branding and messaging
In this day and age, your tribe is now online. You can reach a global community if you know how to use the digital space.
- Craft a clear, consistent event brand and messaging.
- Utilize that branding and messaging throughout all event materials and content.
- Motivate attendees to engage with the event and each other through online channels, using hashtags and other tools to build a sense of community.
You can achieve this by having a community manager who understands the organization’s purpose. So, they must possess an array of soft skills to pull people closer.
Utilizing event apps and platforms
You want to keep up with the times and merge your event with technological advancements. So your attendees can access all the essential information they need in one place. Event apps and other platforms can automate everything for you.
Enhance engagement through gamification and interactive features
Having an app allows effective marketing and promotion. But it must highlight UX/UI experience first and foremost.
- Use the app features such as quizzes, games, and interactive polls to keep attendees engaged and entertained.
- Allow people to customize their portfolios.
- Have a check-in feature
- Encourage attendees to participate by offering prizes or rewards for top performers.
- Enable the app to search for contacts using keywords.
Event planning can be stressful, but event management tools can streamline everything and improve productivity.
Streamline communication and scheduling
Participants will see your organization as a professional brand when you use apps since it creates consistency.
- Share real-time updates and schedule changes.
- Deliver easy access to event agendas, speaker information, and other key details.
- Use the app to build community with attendees before, during, and after the event.
- Enable product display and live chats.
These apps don’t only benefit you but also the exhibitors because they can directly build relationships with attendees.
Offer virtual and hybrid options for attendees
There will be people who want to attend your event but can’t due to schedule or location limitations. You can still cater to them by adding a hybrid option.
- Determine the technology platforms you’ll use.
- Plan and test the technical setup to ensure a seamless experience.
- Clearly communicate the virtual and hybrid options to all potential attendees, including the schedule, platform details, and instructions.
- Consider offering interactive features such as Q&A sessions, live polls, and chat functionality for virtual attendees to increase engagement.
- Make sure to provide equal value for both in-person and virtual attendees by offering similar programming and resources for both groups.
Live events feel different from virtual ones, but you must be flexible these days. Still, you need to know whether it’s more appropriate to use the virtual or in-person option. There might be cases where it might not translate well in the digital space.
Integrating data and analytics
Data and analytics provide valuable insights by tracking and measuring event performance. It does have some learning curve. But it allows you to understand how effective your events are in making better future decisions.
Gather and analyze data to measure success and further improvement
Analytics can’t be ignored, as it can improve your events from here on out.
- Use your goals and objectives as metrics, e.g., number of registrations, revenue, exhibitor registration, and sponsor retention rate.
- Choose the right tools to gather data. Your event app can help you with this.
- Collect data, e.g., attendee behavior, feedback, engagement levels, website visits, and email lists.
- Analyze and report.
You can delve deeper and more into detail by analyzing the conversion rate per marketing campaign. But ensure that you do a debriefing to assess lessons learned to ensure continuous improvement.
Despite the growing popularity of virtual events, in-person events still remain strong to this day. People value face-to-face interactions. The connection you create hits differently. But both require careful planning and execution to deliver an engaging and memorable event experience. So, there are many factors to consider to ensure success.
From selecting the right venue, determining the best date, and thinking about post-pandemic protocols, to creating a solid marketing and promotional strategy and maximizing attendance and engagement, there is a lot to think about.
One key takeaway to remember here: Collaboration. You want to work together instead of against each other.
Offering incentives, building a strong event community, and incorporating interactive activities and networking opportunities can greatly improve the overall experience for the audience, exhibitors, speakers, and host.
Options are always appreciated. A virtual alternative ensures that everyone can participate, even if they can’t attend in person.
Apps and software play a huge impact on engagement as well. Not only does it streamline communication, but it also provides a magnified view of your event’s performance.
With the proper preparation, attention to detail, and a focus on providing an engaging and inclusive experience, your event will surely be a success.