How to Engage Your Audience Before, During and After Your Marketing Event
April 23, 2019 | Kara Widdison
Whether you are hosting, speaking, exhibiting or just attending, events are a great way to generate demand, build useful connections, and get people excited about your product.
But engaging an audience before, during, and after an event takes a lot of work. Fortunately, many marketers have used events to generate demand and buzz before you. We teamed up with the research team at Databox to ask marketers to share their knowledge with us.
Some of the conclusions surprised us a bit. For example, you might expect social media to be an effective way of promoting your event or promoting your attendance at an event. But would you have guessed that publishing educational content similar to the event’s topic was found to be just as effective?
We were also impressed at the variety of tactics that marketers have used to create engagement during the event itself. For example, over half of the marketers we surveyed have used live polls during the event:
Keeping your audience engaged after the event is over is often one of the main goals of holding an event in the first place. So, we asked our experts which strategies work to keep people engaged even when the event is over?
Interestingly, there’s a far smaller selection of tactics for staying engaged after the event. Which means there’s a lot of room for innovation. For ideas, we also asked our experts to explain the specific tactics that have worked for them. Let’s get into the specifics.
Get People Excited by Offering Something for Free
“The most effective way for us to engage with our audience before an event,” says Thoralf Lindström of Avidly, “is offering a download of an e-book or whitepaper that more or less has the same topic or title as the event.”
“The attendees can prepare themselves for the event and collect questions about best practices for the Q&A section at the event. Even the ones that did not download the pdf and therefore have less insight about the topic get a better experience by attending, simply because they find out that there is so much more to it than can be presented in a short event.”
Lone Fir Creative has used a similar tactic during the event, says Tyler Pigott: “We’ve had some success with SMS/Text campaigns that allow an attendee to download an ebook.”
“This tactic is mostly for speakers at an events. If they have a natural point during a talk where they can provide a helpful resource to the audience, explain the offer on a slide and tell people to pull out their phones and text a code to the number. Once they text, you can use software that can give them access to a resource for them to read/download or a nurture style sequence giving away valuable content in the future too.”
Use Your Offer to Stay Top-of-Mind After the Event
“After the event, be sure to follow up with any content shared at the event (slides, handouts, etc.) and provide attendees with a next step,” says Rachel Sullivan of Metis Communications. “We’ve followed up with a new piece of related content for further engagement, and also pushed attendees to subscribe to our newsletter since we know they’re already interested.”
Other marketers also got in touch after the event to stay engaged with visitors. Christabelle Tani of Brand Chemistry says this: “Contacting all registrants to share the slides used—whether they attended or not, and tweaking the copy to this fact, as well as turning the content piece into a downloadable offer (gated, of course) for everyone else in the database that might be interested, and boosting this on paid social too.”
Nextiny’s Gabriel Marguglio provides several suggestions for following up with resources:
“At the end of the event, provide a URL for people to leave their feedback and get the materials from the session. Send emails and engage with people who requested more information and continue the conversation on social media. Email people who came to the event with follow-up resources that can help them. Email the slides to the people who could not attend and give them the opportunity to ask questions if they want to start a conversation.”
Stand Out With a Gift
Regina Carlos from G2 recommends sending a thank-you gift to attendees of smaller events (around 10–15 people).
“These smaller events where we send these thank-you gifts are usually dinners, happy hours, sporting events, or unique experiences in their city. Cupcakes, bagels, or really any type of food have been favorites. We like include a note that says something along the lines of ‘Thank you for joining us last night! Please enjoy these bagels with your team!’”
“Something shareable is always a hit with the team and shows you care about the company as a whole, not just an individual. It also encourages the attendee to talk about your event with the team, potentially getting others interested in your company or attending future events.”
Schedule In-Person Meetups to Really Connect
“So the ONE way we’ve successfully engaged B2B audience is to use this important shared experience to book face-to-face meetings,” says Eric Quanstrom of CIENCE. “This motion is both natural and effective for both parties.”
“Further, face-to-face meetings seek to trade on the human need for intimacy and shared experience. Where prior outreach may fail to pull prospects towards any given call-to-action, the urgency of shared experiences + dates on a calendar bring to mind only mere time commitment objections for prospects. The event creates the ‘Why.’”
Aurity’s Ivana Veljovic agrees: “If you don’t have a booth or you are not a speaker your best chances to meet your potential clients are to schedule a meeting beforehand.”
“The most important part is to have a good tactic for presenting your product/service as everyone there wants to do the same thing, sell. You can try to partner up, get free promotion, or anything else that will help you to establish a great connection rather than sales.”
Here’s how Growth Hackers engages with their B2B audience, according to Jonathan Aufray:
“We have a strategy in place before going to the event. We don’t want to waste time wandering around. So, what we do is contacting our clients who go to the event to schedule a meeting. We also look at the event’s attendees and exhibitors list. If we see any prospects or potential partners, we get in touch with them before the event to plan a meet-up.”
“During the event, we do 3 things: we go to the meetings we scheduled, we visit the exhibitors we’re interested to work with but we couldn’t reach out to them before the event and we go to networking events. Indeed, in the evenings, there’s usually networking events (Dinners, drinks, activities, etc. We found that going to those activities is a great way to connect and engage. Pro tip: try to be funny or different during those events so the people you meet will remember you when you follow up with them.”
You can even plan your own event outside of the main event, says New Breed’s Amanda Nielsen: “Additionally, we told peers in the industry, including existing clients, other marketers and partners, that we’d be there to meet, collaborate and refer people back and forth. Outside of the scheduled conference events, we planned and promoted an event for clients and high-fit prospects to meet with us and network with each other.”
Target High-Value Attendees for Meetings
Marlize Laubscher of Spitfire Inbound emphasizes the value of meeting with high-value attendees:
“It’s important to have a clear networking strategy. We set up a target prospect list from the registries and assign each individual to a salesperson. Our salespeople then seek them out at the event.”
“From a marketing perspective, we create opportunities for attendees to interact with our brand, whether that is online or offline.”
“Then, once our sales person is connected with a lead, they follow up with an email with some resources and a clear CTA.”
Use Advertising to Set Up Meetings
“We always create PPC campaigns based around tradeshows and speaking events to ensure anyone seeking information about the event knows we are attending and they can signup to meet with a sales rep at the show,” says Joe Sloan of Advice Media.
“This gives them the option to sign up before the event and set aside a specific time at the shows to meet with our team.”
Engage on Social Media Throughout the Process
“Sometimes I engage an audience with Facebook advertising before I speak,” says keynote speaker Brian Carter, “to make sure they are excited… and if it’s not the general session keynote, to make sure they attend! I use cold targeting or custom/retargeting audiences, and show them speaking videos or write about what to expect and link to a blog post I write about it.”
Marc Apple from Forward Push has used social media to engage attendees before, during, and after events.
“We would announce the event via our email newsletter and social media channels directing users to our website which would feature a blog article written by the speaker at the event. It would also include a link to the ticket sale page, where individuals could choose to display that they were attending and their Twitter handle.”
“From the on-sale date to the event, additional blogs by AMA members or guest posts were added to the website on the theme of the event.”
During the event, “each event would have a hashtag that attendees would be encouraged to used. The organization would respond in real time – liking, sharing, commenting. In addition, event attendees were asked to submit questions to the speaker via Twitter using the event hashtag.”
“To extend the life of an event,” says Apple, “speakers were requested to share their slides on Twitter using the event hashtag and/or a follow-up blog was written about the event on the organization’s website.”
Stuart Dixon from Provance says that “our single most effective method of engaging a B2B audience is using social media.”
In addition to using social media before and after the event, Dixon provides advice on getting social to increase engagement while everyone’s in the same place:
“We make a plan to create some hype on the day. Typically we use Facebook or YouTube live video. Doesn’t need to be long, but anything helps the atmosphere. We make sure there is a steady flow of social media posts keeping our audience up to date with the day whilst trying to get as much interaction from the people we have contacted before the event. Posting from backstage or some behind the scenes content is also very effective.”
Colibri has also used social media to engage attendees, says Anna Colibri: “We successfully engage people via live tweeting and @mentioning them. Everyone likes to be acknowledged!”
Showcase Your Product to Get People’s Attention
“Before the event, it’s all about getting the audience excited and showing them why they should attend,” says GlobalOwls’ Raul Tiru. “We did this by personally reaching out to people and letting them know how their company can benefit from them attending.”
“We’ve sent tailor-made solutions and told them we could discuss the issues at the event. During the event, we’ve picked out a few cases and showed improvements. Others could also give feedback and go more in-depth per topic.”
Kristen Craft relates a similar strategy: “We used our own product, Tettra, when inviting clients to an event at our office. We shared the event details on a public Tettra page, in lieu of Eventbrite. This helped underscore who we were and how they engaged with us, since so many of our customers use Tettra on a weekly (if not daily) basis.”
Use Geotargeting to Engage the Right People
“The most effective way to engage with your audience before, during or after an event is to use mobile targeted ads,” says Fisher Unitech’s Jackie Tihanyi. “Before the event, use geo-targeting to reach consumers in specific areas (zip codes, cities, states) to let them know the event is going on and to promote registration.”
“During the event, geo-fence the venue to inform attendees where your booth or table is located. Lastly, use geo-farming to reach past attendees and offer them a special promotion or direct them to a specific landing page to get them onto your website.”
Ben Johnston of Sagefrog gives similar advice:
“One of the most effective ways we’ve been able to engage a B2B audience before, during and after an event is through geotargeting. Geotargeting allows clients to retarget individuals who have physically been in their targeted physical address, whether it be a client’s business or their booth at an event by pinging users‘ mobile phones when their phone’s location settings are turned on.”
“By geo-targeting individuals who visit a landing page, you’re nurturing the lead by targeting them after visiting a site. During and after an event, geotargeting allows our clients to target individuals who are currently attending an event, and after they’ve made their way back to the office.”
“By implementing geotargeting, our clients have been able to actively engage leads that have already interacted with their brand, products, or pages. Once the user’s mobile device is identified, we can use cross-device tracking to target them across all their devices for 30 days, which is an excellent way to nurture leads.”
Adam Hass from Applink.io recommends event planners take geo-targeting to the next level by using bluetooth beacons at your event, “Bluetooth Beacons are devices that can be placed around your event. They emit signals that can prompt devices to complete specified actions. These beacons can trigger push notifications, emails and even show users specialized content specific to where they are located.”
Get Creative to Address Your Specific Audience
Every company needs to find the right methods for engaging their specific audience at events. Here are a few good ideas we heard:
Carolinas IT’s Jennifer Noto has seen success with live polling:
“All presenters have a polling question at the start or middle of their presentation about the content they are presenting. The attendees can answer the questions from their mobile device and the answers are displayed in real-time at the event. It is a great way to engage the audience!”
Caroline Maier from Web Canopy Studio shares her experience with Hero Guides and workflows:
“We created Hero Guides for a client that was headed to a big conference out west. They have attended the event for many years and have even been featured presenters. So, we included the sessions that attendees would not want to miss, after hours events that are always memorable, ways to navigate the many buildings, etc.”
“We also created workflows once those pages were viewed to nurture those leads towards a meeting with the company at their sponsored booth on the floor for a quick consultation. We also had day-of-reminders for great events not to miss at the conference and updates on evening dinner offerings from the company.”
“We then created a workflow post-event for Conference Highlights and industry trends that were discussed along with strategies for implementing those in the the attendee’s own business.”
And Anne Shenton from Ascend Inbound recommends using video:
“We have a videographer on hand to record the events. Afterwards, we ask a couple of volunteers to contribute a short comment on something they got out of the event. We take those comments along with the event footage to create a killer teaser reel we can use to promote future events. Here’s an example.”
What will engage your event audience? You’re in the best position to answer that question. Use the ideas above and adapt them to your audience to maximize engagement and get the most out of your event!