27 Seriously Impactful Event Hacks Every B2B Marketer Should Know
July 19, 2017 | Jessica Mehring
With so much marketing happening digitally now, in-person events have taken on new meaning.
An event is a chance to grow your network, learn more about your industry and upcoming trends, meet influencers and spread the word about your brand.
An event is also an invaluable opportunity to meet other human beings, face to face, in real life.
I spend a lot of my time behind a computer screen. I know you do, too, dear reader. For people like us, live events are some of the only times we interact with our colleagues, peers, competitors, and even customers face-to-face.
And we have only a handful of these opportunities a year.
Whether you’re hosting the event, showing up as a vendor, speaking on stage, or simply joining as an attendee, it’s important to make the most of every event you attend.
In this article, I’m going to give you 27 ways to maximize your time at events. Some of these will suggest using interactive content – because it’s versatile and engaging – but many of these tips are modern updates to techniques that have worked for ages.
Before you dive in, however, I want you to bring to mind your goal for the next event you’re going to attend.
Do you want to generate leads? Build relationships with others in your industry? Grow your speaking audience? Spread the word about your brand? Engage with customers?
Keep that goal in mind as you read the rest of this article, then zero in on the tips that will nudge you toward that goal. Save the rest for later – or better yet, forward this article to your team so they can choose the hacks they want to try at their next event.
Before the Event
1. Send out a pre-event survey
If you’re hosting or organizing the event, create a survey to engage attendees before it begins. Ask them what they’re most looking forward to, so you can turn this insight into targeted post-show content.
If you’re attending as a vendor or speaker, ask questions about current challenges. That way you’ll know specifically what pain points to speak to and what solutions to offer during your time there.
2. Put the event in your email signature and/or your marketing email post-script
Let people know you’re going to be at the event! Mention the occasion and why you’re going to be there in your email signature and/or the PS after a marketing email.
This will help you connect with others who are already planning to attend, and encourage fence-sitters to get their tickets and join the fun.
3. Book your stay at one of the recommended hotels
This advice is mainly targeted to attendees, but it’s good for organizers, vendors, and speakers to remember as well. Some of the best networking happens after hours.
If at all possible, stay at one of the hotels recommended by the event organizer, because this is where most people will be staying. In other words, it dramatically increases the odds that you’ll run into people and make more connections.
Plus, if there’s going to be a party, it’ll be at one of those recommended hotels.
4. Create a “session selector” tool
A “session selector” tool allows people to learn what specific sessions they might enjoy most at an event based on their answers to a series of questions.
If you add a lead form right before the results, this can be a great way to convert users into email subscribers while also providing them with a valuable service.
You can make this robust and have a developer create a dedicated page with an embedded session selector on your website – or you can keep things simple and use interactive content software like SnapApp to create a brief assessment.
Click below to see an example from MME.
5. Build a dedicated app for the event
It’s easier and cheaper than ever to create an app for an event – and this one small thing can make a huge difference in the attendee experience. If you’re an event organizer, consider having a custom app built for the event.
Unbounce did this for their 2017 Call to Action Conference, and it was so incredibly helpful. Here are just a few things the app helped me do when I attended this event in June:
- View all the speaker sessions, workshops, and group events, and flag the ones I want to attend
- Rate the speakers
- Chat with other attendees
- Connect with other attendees on LinkedIn
- See social media posts about the event
- Buy 2018 conference tickets at a discount
This made my experience as an attendee so much easier. I didn’t have to search my email for the agenda. It made connecting with the people I met so easy. And it created a huge incentive to buy tickets for next year’s event.
Here’s an an example from this year’s WistiaFest
6. Create interactive maps
If you decide not to go the app route, you can still use interactive content to create a better experience for event attendees. An interactive map of the event floor and/or the event city will go a long way in helping attendees get their bearings.
Here’s a great interactive map example from Marketo:
7. Plan your swag for impact
Seasoned event organizers and vendors know the power of swag. Little tchotchkes can go a long way toward helping event-goers remember you and your brand.
But not every trinket has the same impact. To get more bang for your swag budget, consider the following:
- Something interesting or unique will draw people to your booth, and acts as an instant conversation-starter. Think beyond pens and postcards.
- Kid-friendly items are usually a big hit – especially if the event attracts a national or international crowd. Most parents want to bring a little souvenir home for the kids … and you can make that easy for them with the right swag.
- Having multiple tiers of swag on-hand – i.e. a few expensive items and some cheaper items – is a smart way to give something nice to genuine prospects while ensuring every visitor walks away with something to remember your brand by.
During the Event
8. Make it easy to spread the word
Make sure to provide your audience – whether that’s event attendees or your own customers – with communication channels so they can talk about the event with you.
Let them know which social media channels you’ll be using to share updates about the event, communicate any hashtags early and often, and encourage live-tweeting from those who are at the event with you.
9. Change your social media profile photo to an image with your booth number or location
I learned this trick from artists and writers at comic conventions (yes, I attend comic conventions – and yes, I think comic creators are some of the smartest marketers around!). Right before the event begins, create a graphic with your booth number or location in big, bold text, and put it up as your social-media profile photo.
Believe it or not, this will be very helpful for people who are looking for you at the event!
Here’s the profile photo that graphic designer, artist, and letterer Kathryn S. Renta used at Denver Comic Con this year:
When the app failed to show me Kathryn’s table number, I was still able to find her because her table number was right there, plain as day, in her Facebook profile. And she was kind enough to sign my copy of Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman.
10. Gather email addresses and insights
Sure, you’re going to want to collect email addresses if you’re at an event as a vendor or speaker. But don’t stop there. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about what your audience is struggling with, so you can provide a personalized follow-up after the event.
The easiest way to do this is to use a lead form with fields for name and email, followed by a checkbox list of common challenges. If you’re using a tool that allows for it, make one of those checkboxes a fill-in-the blank. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about the people who sign up for your mailing list at the event.
11. Stay hydrated!
This might not seem like a marketing tip, but oh it is.
Plane cabins are incredibly dehydrating, so you’ll probably arrive to your event dry as the desert. And you’ll be so busy talking to people at the event, you won’t even notice you’re thirsty. By the end of the first day, you’ll feel like you got hit by a train.
No marketer on the planet is at the top of their game when they feel physically ill.
Carry an expensive water bottle with you so you’ll be less likely to forget it on the auditorium floor. Set a reminder in your smartphone nagging you to drink water every 30 minutes. Do whatever it takes, but stay hydrated at your event!
12. Create a real-time poll for your speaking audience
This is not only a great way to gain immediate feedback, but it’s a brilliant way to keep your audience awake and engaged during your presentation.
Create a poll and prompt people to take it during your talk. The easiest way to do this is to create a shortened link for the poll webpage so your audience can pull it up quickly on their smartphones.
13. Use an SMS (text messaging) opt-in system to capture emails
Storytelling consultant and speaker Kindra Hall did this recently at the 2017 Unbounce CTA conference, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
Instead of giving the audience a shortened URL at the end of her talk so people had to go to a landing page to opt-in for her bonus content, she gave them a phone number.
She asked the audience to text the word “storyteller” to this phone number, which then prompted the user for their email address. From there, the user was added to her email list and automatically sent the bonus content.
That was so much easier than trying to go to a landing page on my phone! Here’s what it looked like from my end:
Using an SMS opt-in system was an especially smart move on Kindra’s part. Think about how many people would have told themselves “I’ll go to that landing page later and opt in,” and then totally forgotten about it.
14. Create a quiz or assessment for after your presentation
If you’re speaking at the event, create a short quiz or assessment for the attendees to take after your presentation.
This quiz or assessment should be directly related to the topic you talked about, and help the audience learn even more about that topic.
This type of content is a great way to further the engagement and help you deliver a more personalized follow-up.
15. Create an interactive quiz for your booth
Keep a few tablets powered up at your booth with quizzes related to your area of expertise. Give visitors prizes for participating. If the quiz is competitive, give high-scoring participants even better swag.
16. Create an interactive scavenger hunt
Create a series of locations that event attendees need to visit. Ask qualifying questions, or give a sticker or a stamp to confirm they visited each station. Then give them a prize at the end according to how many locations they visited.
Unbounce did this at their conference this year as well, and it was a lot of fun. You got a stamp in your conference “passport” when you visited vendor booths or took an Unbounce survey. At the end, you could redeem those stamps for high-quality swag.
17. Send out a mid-event poll
If you’re the event organizer, don’t wait until after the event is over to find out how attendees are faring. It’s a safe assumption that attendees are checking their email at least occasionally during the event, so send out a poll asking what they’re liking the most.
You can actually do this as a vendor or speaker, too, to get the attention of attendees and promote your booth. Though unless you have access to the email addresses for all the attendees, you might want to send it out over social media instead.
18. Host an industry-related poll at your booth
Create a simple poll on a subject that attendees care about, and let participants know that if they provide their email address, they’ll receive the results of the poll after the event.
19. Give booth visitors something to do while waiting … besides glare at you
As an attendee, one of the most annoying parts of going to an event is waiting to talk to vendors at their booths. Personally, I don’t wait very long before I’m off to find a booth where someone will actually engage with me.
Keep visitors at your booth by offering them interactive content to play with on a tablet or laptop.
Quizzes, assessments, and polls are great for this – but even an interactive video or infographic can go a long way to keeping the visitor at your booth until someone is free to talk to them.
20. Don’t forget the other vendors!
Handing out swag to attendees is a good thing – but don’t forget to share with your fellow vendors! Take a few minutes to walk around to the other booths, tell them about your brand and share your goodies with them.
You never know when a connection like that will turn into a referral.
After the Event
21. Create an interactive recap video of the event experience
Rescue your audience from that dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out). Create an interactive recap video of the sessions you attended and activities you participated in.
22. Send out a post-event feedback poll
Gathering feedback is one of the most important parts of organizing an event – and too many organizers make this way too complicated. Create a simple poll and email it out to the attendees. It shouldn’t take them more than 5 minutes to complete it.
23. Give attendees an opportunity to rank the speakers
Along with that feedback poll, send out a speaker assessment. Not only will this tell you more about attendees’ experiences at the event, it will also help you create an even better speaker lineup next time.
24. Get personal with lead follow-up
If you followed tip #10, you know the biggest challenge of each lead who signed up for your email list. Use that insight to personalize your follow-up emails.
If you gathered a large number of email addresses (good for you!), you may want to segment your email list by primary challenge and create an autoresponder series talking directly to that challenge. It’s not as personal as a 1:1 email, but it’s better than taking a month to reach out to these warm leads.
25. Gather testimonials – even if you’re a speaker
It’s common practice to gather testimonials from attendees if you’re the event organizer – but this is an opportunity for speakers, too. Email the attendees who opted in to your list and ask them what they thought of your talk.
26. Use snapshots from the event to create social media images
Event organizers, vendors, speakers, and attendees can all do this. Here’s an example from Unbounce and Tyler Farnsworth:
27. Write a recap
If your audience prefers text over video, consider writing an in-depth blog post instead of creating that interactive video I suggested in tip #21. Here’s an example from Conversion XL.