“Content is King”, as the saying goes. Event planners know that it is their task or even the most important part of their job to provide event attendees with relevant content. But most of us have been to at least one event where speakers and their presentations were underwhelming and the content simply not engaging.
No event planner does this on purpose. So why does it happen, and how can event planners get the content right?
It is precisely the assumption that content is king which leads event planners to subject everything else to its rule.
From creation to the optimization over tracking and marketing of content, the belief is that if only you get the content out there, your event will be a success. But when you start thinking of content as something you simply need to dish out and that your event attendees will be happy if they get enough of it, a disconnect is taking place.
If the inspiration is missing, attendees will strongly feel the absence of personal relevance and speakers will fail to connect with the audience and engage participants. As an event planner, you can learn to prevent this from happening and truly move your audience.
Getting the Content Right vs Getting the Right Content
Great content seems to have so many requirements: it needs to be new, frequent, insightful, relevant, meaningful, valuable, compelling, and simple – the list goes on indefinitely.
Allocating time and resources towards content is a healthy and necessary practice of business in any industry, not just for events. But don’t fall prey to the misconception that if you build it, they will come. Successful content does not work that way. At the same time, it’s also not a choice between getting the content right or getting the right content; you will need to work on both.
The content you deliver needs to fit all the above-mentioned requirements, and it is just as important that you present it in the right way, on the right platform. Luckily for event planners, we have more technology than ever before to reach out to our audience in many ways. But at the same time, we fight for the attention of attendees who often enough, are relegated to the mere role of consumer.
They have become blind to content as just another thing vying for their attention, especially when it’s meaningless and churned out to the masses. Crafting great content and then presenting it just right is an art form.
Put Your Content into Context
The context of your event content is your event itself, right? Not quite. You have to carefully choose a topic for your event; you have to line up your speakers, draft an agenda, review your presentations and ensure they will all work cohesively and make an impact. But avoid the pitfall of putting the elements on stage and the audience in the room and letting things play out.
Without a context for what is being said and presented, a divide or disconnection will inevitably occur. Avoid content just for the sake of having it, don’t tell your audience: “here is an expert, you might learn something”.
Before you tell attendees how something will change the world, their question is “How is my word affected?”
You will need to put things into context for them, but don’t let the bigger picture – crowd out individual attendees. Avoid thinking of content as a building block or units you can stack up to construct success.
Consider Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous speech, “I have a dream.” He crafted it carefully, and then delivered it while improvising half of it – because he sought to move and engage his audience. His plan was never to create a ‘piece of content.’
Event attendees need to be able to relate to content. So conceive and plan your event content with your audience in mind at every touch point. Imagine how people will feel, how they will react and how you can maximize these effects by the way the content – or the story – is delivered.
Make It Personal
When event planners adopt the best practices of storytellers, they start getting things right. Brands have learned to talk to consumers on a personal level, interact with them on social media and connect with them through emotional storytelling. In the event industry, a similar development is taking place as we increasingly think of attendees as participants and create experiences for them.
Just like consumers have become deaf and blind to advertising that does not appeal to them personally, they are numb to event content that is just noise or serves to fill a gap.
What personal experience do you want to create for your attendees? Can you captivate them; bring inspiration, joy, and emotional connection? How can you move your audience? Think of the message you want to convey, and then turn it into something with which attendees can identify. They want to feel included, understood and cared for. Only when your event content appeals to the audience on a personal level will you go beyond filling your need as an event planner and offer something that fills a need of your audience.
Feature Members of the Event
A great way to present personal connection at your event is to highlight some of your attendees. This can be through user-submitted content such as photos or tweets, featuring of community members or inviting attendees to take the stage or present their content at panels or workshops.
The format has to fit the theme of your event and adapt to your audience. Encourage them to tag on Instagram, display real-time participation on stage or on a social wall, pulling streams filtered by hashtags or twitter handles and presenting them at prominent locations throughout your event.
Your event participants and method you choose need to highlight that your audience consists of individuals attendees can identify with.
Engage Your Audience
By engaging attendees, event planners can match the content to the audience. You can leverage mobile technology to enhance the event experience and provide relevant information directly on devices, for example – Live polling, surveys and questionnaires not only engage attendees and provide you with data, they also send the strong signal to the audience that their view matters and is valued.
Steer the attention of your attendees towards interaction with event gamification (gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun).
Participants can experience quality engagement, learn about content from each other and put the event experience in context.
Allowing time and facilitating networking will encourage participants to connect with other people in their interest group. A personal exchange is a great opportunity to discuss and process event content and in turn make it more memorable and engaging.
Guide Your Speakers
As an event planner on a mission to get the content right, it is your responsibility to guide your speakers so they match the general theme or topic of the event and create a whole experience for attendees. This begins already at the level of choosing and lining up your speakers.
Don’t think of their talks and presentations as something you slot at certain times of your event to make up your agenda as a whole, expecting that the names of speakers and the titles of their presentations alone will be enough to attract and wow the audience.
In the way you approach your speakers, you can already show how much you as an even planner value engagement and how you put your attendees first. Take the time to explain the topic or theme, the direction of your event. Establish what the message is or should be, what audience experience you’re going for, and what types of people your audience is comprised of.
Ask your speakers how they can contribute, how they think their talk fits into your event, and how their presentation will differ from previous ones. Event speakers will greatly appreciate this level of extra care and interaction, and will pay you back with extra effort on their part and more engaging content for your attendees.
Live Event content –
It takes a lot of work to create a live event that will attract the largest attendance possible. Having put the work in, you’ll want to pay just as much attention to getting those attendees to share that they are at your event with their social network of potential future attendees.
It’s at these live events that attendees can really experience your event planning brand. And when they have an engaging experience, they are more likely to share how it made them feel.
There are many ways to create this social sharing urge. Here are a couple ways to get your event goers to open up about your events –
Target the right social platforms:
To make it as easy as possible for your attendees to share, you’ll need to know which social platforms they prefer and what features on those platforms are most suited to your event.
For example, you may want to use Facebook Live to provide visual content that those attending the event can instantly share. If you know your audience likes to check in, make it convenient for them to do so.
Tug at the heart strings:
For an event to generate excitement, it has to reach the audience on a personal level. A famous person once explains, “Consumers will see right through you if you incorporate a social element for the sake of it. The only way to actually win people over is to engage with their content along with your own. When your audience relationships are natural, you have a greater chance of converting event attendees to lifelong loyalists.”
It’s these personal connections to the event and exclusive access to content and event participants that leads to social sharing. Those personal event experiences will be different for each attendee, and they will vary from event to event. That means you’ll need to spend considerable time understanding your attendees so that you can nail their ideal personal event experience.
Prepare relevant, shareable content:
Whatever social media platform they prefer, give attendees content on your own pages, as well as social sharing buttons so that all they have to do is hit “share.” This content could be visuals and video, which tend to be the most popular types of social sharing content.
However, it may also include access to event content or other valuable information that attendees believe their social circles can benefit from.
The best approach is to plan and prepare as much of the content as possible. This will enable regular updates that can be shared and then re-shared. This preparation should also include developing relevant hashtags for different social platforms so that those searching online can find the content connected to your event.
Create an online spreadsheet that allows your different event team members to submit content for your experiential marketing strategy. It also helps to use a platform like Hootsuite to schedule all of the content to be released at different points during your event.
Keep sweating the details:
While this may seem obvious, there are certain essentials that you need to provide to enable social sharing. Top of the list should be excellent Wi-Fi connections to ensure that your attendees can live-stream video, upload photos or even podcast straight from your event.
Test the Wi-Fi and ensure that you’re investing in technology that makes it easy for your attendees to upload, download and stream. It will get you the greater social sharing that you seek.
Reach out to influencers:
Invite social influencers to your event so that they can share their experience with their social circle. These influencers play an important role. Their admirers could be in your target audience, and an influencer’s recommendation could convince them to attend your event this time around or to participate in upcoming events. Plus, a social influencer’s followers may continue sharing their event-related content that he or she has uploaded.
Appoint a social media event manager(if possible):
Engagement doesn’t just happen on its own. You’ll need someone to oversee it and promote ongoing interest in what you are doing, such as by uploading visual content throughout the event to keep people engaged.
A social media event manager can also react to any online feedback about your event. The larger your event, the more likely you are to need more than one person to monitor this part of the process.
In our social media age, holding an event that generates no online chatter is tantamount to not holding it at all. Following these tips will help ensure that your experiential marketing initiatives produce all the buzz you could hope for.
Of course, content is essential to the success of your event. But the formula isn’t as simple as just getting the right content in front of people. If you are an event planner struggling with content, stop thinking about it like a thing, like another give-away.
Getting content right also has to do with delivery and communication. Envision the reaction of your audience you want to reach, and start working from there to shape a personal experience that is far from just building a block of content or attention-grabbing blips.
Great content is what is being exchanged between speaker or presenter and audience at your event when a personal connection has been established. It is more difficult to achieve than just putting content out there, but it is also more meaningful than just perpetuating the coined phrase that “content is king”.