Running in-person events—such as user conferences—is a great opportunity to put a face to the customer advocates you engage with digitally on a regular basis. It’s also no secret that conferences deliver immense business value by enabling your passionate customers to connect with one another and share their own best practices, by extension empowering them to recommend you to their peers.
Managing an event from start to finish is a team effort that requires an exceptional amount of planning. Here at Influitive, the Client Services team has supported several of our customers in creating fun and engaging events that also served to grow their online communities.
After iterating and learning over the past three years what works best to ensure everything goes off without a hitch, here are some tips and examples from our in-house experts to help you learn how to plan an event people won’t forget.
Give your attendees the VIP treatment
Everyone who attends your event should feel like a VIP. How do you make this happen? By providing them with memorable experiences.
VMWare, a provider of cloud-based software, holds an annual global conference for virtualization and cloud computing called VMWorld, which gathers over 20,000 attendees every year.
The view from the crowd at VMWorld in 2018
Last year, VMWare wanted to increase their focus on how they used the conference to engage members of their customer advocate community called VMWare Champions.
VMWare created a lounge area especially for the Champions community, where members could unwind, meet their peers, and pick up swag. The company’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, even stopped by to meet Champions and thank them for being part of the community.
Rob is a winner and you can become one too! Check out the Champions Lounge at The Square to join an awesome customer and partner community. You’ll get rewarded! #VMwareChampions #VMworld pic.twitter.com/9PNgJbOHfP
— VMware Events (@VMwareEvents) August 27, 2019
The VMWare Champions lounge was a returning fixture at this year’s VMWorld conference in late August, along with branded coffee art, some cute puppies, and a performance from Billy Idol.
VMWare also showed Champions just how much they value their contributions by having an on-site writer meet with members of the community to capture their stories then and there.
In adding these moments of delight—whether they be large or small—throughout your event, you demonstrate to customers that you value their experience, which will translate to their perception of you and your product.
Empower attendees to share memorable moments on social media
Social media plays a key role in any event experience. Mobilize your attendees to share snaps and quotes throughout the event with event-specific hashtags. In addition to creating a buzz around your event for those in attendance, anyone who didn’t get to make it this time around can get a glimpse into the value of the event, which could inspire them to attend in the future. Not to mention, event-specific hashtags make it easy for you to find a wealth of great content to re-share on your own channels.
Cisco does an exceptionally great job at leveraging social media channels during their events. Each year Cisco hosts Cisco Live, the company’s world-renowned customer and partner conference focused on digitization. The event provides attendees with education, connections, and inspiration to apply to their own professional development.
The Cisco Live stage this year in San Diego, California
We hope everyone had a fun experience at Cisco Live this week! Share your pictures 📸 with us using #CLUS. pic.twitter.com/NsSUtrhIpk
— CiscoLive (@CiscoLive) June 14, 2019
At their US event in San Diego this past June, Cisco encouraged their attendees to share their photos from the event through the hashtag #CLUS. With Cisco Live chapters taking place in Mexico, Spain, Australia and the US, creating dedicated tags for each region helps attendees and organizers keep track of the right updates.
Were you a part of this year’s annual #CLUS photo? 🤷 RT if you see yourself in this picture! pic.twitter.com/78b2ZdzHks
— CiscoLive (@CiscoLive) June 19, 2019
The conference also featured a dedicated Social Media Hub area, where customers and partners could go to learn about contests and prizes taking place throughout the event, charge their devices, engage with the event’s social media team, connect with peers, and pose for fun photo-ops. Thanks to visually-driven media like Instagram, it’s worth incorporating visuals throughout your event that attendees will find “grammable”.
Drive engagement with a stellar digital experience
Engaging with your conference attendees doesn’t only have to happen in-person. Creating a digital experience in conjunction with the event helps boost engagement and participation, get attendees sharing posts on social media in an organized way, and collect information from participants (like testimonials and hand-raisers for case studies) that will be of vital use to you later.
If you have an existing online customer community, you can create a channel tailored to your event and create some buzz with your customers—those you already know are attending and those who might not be aware of the event—well before the actual conference takes place.
Giving your customer community a presence at your event is also a great opportunity to recruit more members into the community.
Verint, a company focused on helping organizations simplify, modernize, and automate their customer engagement efforts, holds an annual customer and partner conference called Engage—one of the largest customer engagement events in the world.
The event’s digital experience at Engage 2018 had considerable engagement results within community, including:
- 241 newly joined members
- 1633 event specific activity completions
- 279 Engage tweets and social shares
- 6 case study volunteers
- 6 user-generated videos
Keep your customer community organized by dedicating an exclusive area to content related to the event. Here’s how we did this in our own customer advocate community with our Channels feature.
When it comes to getting event attendees into the digital experience, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared with the right tech. Expect large crowds and 30-second attention spans. A seamless sign-up is a make or break in the user conference world.
On the Event Services team at Influitive, we prefer to use QR codes posted at a booth and/or printed on postcards so people can sign up for your community on their own smartphones. The benefits are two-fold: large groups of people can sign up at once and new members can bookmark the link to your community on their mobile browsers (or better yet, download the app).
Many iPhones have a QR code reader built into the camera (simply open the camera app, point it at the QR code, and a window should pop up with a direct link to your community). For Android users, you may want to include a shortened link (such as a bitly link) that’s quick to type in case people don’t want to download a QR code reader.
Focus on making your event valuable to customers first and foremost
If you can provide educational and entertaining content to your event’s attendees that not only helps users learn more about your product, but enables them to grow personally and professionally, you’ve won.
Keeping this value as your north star throughout planning your event means you stand a better chance at a strong return on investment, by giving attendees a genuinely impactful experience that will get them excited about buying more from you and telling their colleagues about your event.
If you’re trying to think of how to plan an event and open it up to prospects, this value-first way of thinking will also help you perfect your elevator pitch. Simon Sinek’s model on starting with “Why” works great here.
Bulletproof your processes
The golden rule in knowing how to plan an event successfully? Measure twice and cut once. As your event draws near, make sure to:
- Test your recruitment flow from start to finish
- Nail down your elevator pitch
- Confirm that booth volunteers are aware of when their shift starts/ends,
- Ensure any needed tech is ordered, charged and connected to the venue’s WiFi