• Tips For Producing and Optimizing Live Events

    For all the money and resources sponsors put toward developing and producing successful live events, it’s surprising how little of those resources are spent on capturing the incredibly valuable intellectual capital generated on site. That’s lost opportunity once the attendees leave the venue, the coffee service is shut down, and the lights are turned out. To be sure, an attendee list is great for follow up, but a database of the ideas and concerns expressed at your events would not only enrich post-event conversations with attendees and improve sales opportunities, but it also helps marketers improve their future events — and could even help spur the next great product or service from your company.

    In my experience, it’s been the very rare exception rather than the rule for sponsors to use any method to capture the conversations and ideas expressed at the events. It’s puzzling to me how often this task is treated as an afterthought, or simply ignored. If a customer was standing in front of you with a blank check and a desire to buy your products, you wouldn’t ignore the opportunity to accept their check.

    Why would you ignore the opportunity to snap up the nuggets of information prospective customers bring to events? Sure, just about every client includes an evaluation form for attendees to fill out at the end, which certainly has a role in capturing information about the venue and food, as well as ranking speakers on a 1-5 scale, but for really capturing the game-changing information, that’s like distilling the Gettysburg Address down to “a big battle happened here.”

    There are very simple ways to capture the feedback and conversation from live events, and the easiest (and potentially least expensive) is to plan upfront to have someone from your company on site to transcribe the most salient points of the conversation (more on audio and video recording in a moment).

    More than a few times I’ve heard an onsite marketer exclaim five minutes before kickoff, “Who can take notes today??” Still, most times, it’s not even a subject that’s broached. All that information evaporates in the ether. So, in the early planning stages, assign someone – yourself, a fellow marketer, one of the many reps who show up on the day of the event – to simply take notes and upload them for everyone. That could be via e-mail, to a wiki, a salesforce automation platform, or some other database.

    Audio and video recording is a bit tougher, but exponentially more valuable. In many cases, such methods spook attendees, and in extreme cases, you may need to get attendees to sign releases to be recorded. However, if you’re clear in mentioning on marketing materials a) that you’ll be doing this and b) what your intentions are for the information (i.e., not for public consumpution), few if any attendees take offense. Recorded information, which can be uploaded to a corporate wiki, is invaluable in capturing not just the information, but the emotion of the speaker.

    It costs a bit more, but some marketers have actually set up interviews with attendees for capturing feedback as well as to record testimonials. Some of these interviews are arranged prior to the event to be taped on-site, and other interviews happen ad hoc on site (for instance, if someone makes a particularly interesting point, he or she can elaborate in a post-event interview). Sound difficult? Maybe a little, but you’d be surprised how many attendees love having their ideas heard. With a little bit of effort and not too much expense, you’re capturing invaluable customer information and playing the hero.

    Other options for recording attendee intellectual capital include: Twitter (remember to provide everyone with a hashtag for your event to aggregate all the comments and then disseminate the ideas among your in-house colleagues); Facebook (if your event warrants and you don’t mind the public scrutiny, consider setting up a separate page for attendees to meet up after the event and/or post their impressions — they can also download/upload photos and documents; and, if privacy is an issue, set up a wiki for your event and encourage the attendees to participate in the community in much the same way they would on Facebook.

    No matter what you decide, the most important first step is to plan, plan, plan. Make sure someone not only has an on-site role to record information, but that someone (most likely the same person, but it doesn’t have to be) also has the responsibility for compiling, perhaps synthesizing, and definitely disseminating the information. And that last part is key – often attendee info, even from evaluation forms, sits on someone’s desk post-event. It’s as invaluable as doing nothing from the beginning.

    Brian Gillooly, Editor in Chief of UBM TechWeb, has spent the past 22 years establishing a trusted and significant presence in the business technology community.

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