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Content Strategy for Event Planning

Planning an event isn’t just cupcakes and cocktails. Behind every great event is a strong content strategy.

Successful events are all about the details. Guests notice when hosts go out of their way to ensure that every person in attendance has a spectacular experience.

One way to ensure that you’ve set the stage for an event that exceeds expectations is to have a solid content strategy at the core. Having a written plan of what you want to accomplish and how you’ll get that message across every step of the way will allow you to execute your ideas just as you imagined them.

Voice, Tone & Theme

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Before you start tweeting and printing out fliers, you need to have a concrete idea of what message you want to send. Select a theme that will remain consistent and tie all your materials together from the promotions stage to the feedback period.

Start with defining your goal. Do you want to educate? Entertain? Make connections? Once you decide, you’ll have an easier time of defining the voice and tone you use in the content surrounding the event. Your copy should reflect the level of seriousness, playfulness, and professionalism that you want your event to have.

Next, pick a theme. If you’ll be having a presentation component, what one subject do you want your speaker(s) to cover? This should be broad enough for personal interpretation, but also provide some direction to your speaker(s) and clarify the purpose of the event for your audience. Even if your event will not have a presentation aspect, it’s important to pick one subject you can use for cohesion in your planning.

Think of the words and imagery that surround this theme in your industry and in pop culture, and use these to further define the language, style, and colors you’ll use in your content.

This stage is also the time to think about branding. How much is this event about getting the word out about your company and the product or service you provide? Decide if you want your name and logo to be a prominent feature or a small afterthought in your content. Further, if you are collaborating with multiple sponsors, decide how each company will be represented and in what proportions and contexts.

Landing Page

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You’ll be creating quite a few assets surrounding your event—invitations, videos, blog content and whatever other promotional materials you’re using. If possible, consider building a landing page specifically for the event so that a person considering attending can see all the available information in one place.

A company “Events” page with links to separate events can also be a viable option for housing all of these assets.

Gathering everything you have is not only clean and organized for you – it takes some of the work out for possible attendees, thus increasing their likelihood of RSVPing ‘yes.’

Invitations

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Use a site like Eventbrite to get the word out about your event. Even if you choose to send invitations through a provider like MailChimp (which integrates with Eventbrite) or just use social media to share the link, it’s still worth it to create a page with a service that will keep track of ticket sales. This page can also be used as the landing page if you do not have a page under your own domain.

The bonus of creating an event through Eventbrite is they automatically generate your attendance list. They have a mobile app that helps you check people in the day of your event by scanning their tickets.

The downside to online invitations is that no matter how well you segment, emails or social shares can seem impersonal. Moreover, they can be easily lost among overflowing inboxes or active timelines. To really make an impression, reach out with old school snail mail.

Bring your theme to life on a custom printed invitation from a company like Vistaprint or Zazzle. Address your postcard to a specific person who would be most likely to find the event of interest and have the influence to share with others. Of course include the link for your event’s landing page or appropriate place to RSVP.

If there are certain thought leaders who you are really keen on having in attendance, consider including a handwritten note about what they might get out of your event and why you value their opinion so highly.

Video Content

Videos can be one of the strongest promotional materials, even on a tight budget. Plan out all of the videos you’ll want to produce well in advance. This way you’ll have a schedule leading up to the event that is appropriately spaced out with spots appearing at optimal times, and you can tell a story by weaving your videos together in a sequence.

Look back at the brainstorm you had when selecting your theme, and decide how these ideas and visual elements can come together in videos. Consider making a series of teaser videos, leading up to the big reveal of your premiere event. You want to begin generating excitement by announcing the event but providing minimal information in the beginning, and then slowly work your way up to releasing more details in subsequent videos.

If your event features speakers, let them introduce themselves via video. You can get as creative as you want here, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. A cell phone or webcam can take a good enough quality video, and apps like Instagram and Vine can force you to be innovative under time constraints.

Video can also be a great medium for repurposing content that had has led up to the event’s creation. Share facts from studies you’ve done, show clips from prior events or slides from recent presentations, and bring your company’s personality to life by putting a face behind a popular blog post or white paper.

No matter what style and format you end up choosing, always make sure your video is directing viewers back to the event’s landing page or place to RSVP.  You can also give users the option to subscribe to future videos so they don’t miss out on more information.

Blog Content

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Your blog is an open canvas for event promotions, but you don’t want to appear spammy.

Produce content that has value to even those in your audience who will not be able to attend your event. In other words, your content should not just have the date, time, and place of your event; give a preview of the actual educational or entertainment value with a deep dive into your theme.

There are endless options, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Post a Q&A with your speakers that leaves topics they can expand upon at the event, but at the same time is informative and actionable for your blog audience
  2. Give the background history of the topic you are covering, and talk about what you hope to expand on
  3. Have the keynote speaker(s) write a guest post on a related subject
  4. Preview the products/tools/services that will be showcased at the event
  5. Gather opinions on your topic from thought leaders who will not be able to attend the event

Email Campaign

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Crafting the proper emails is another major part of the content strategy behind your event. Rather than thinking of this as an entirely separate entity, use the blog posts and videos you’re producing as your subject matter.

After the event, use the emails of those who attended to stay in touch by sending out a thank you and any materials you have to offer like presentation decks or photos from the event. You should also ask for feedback on your event by emailing a survey from SurveyMonkey or a similar provider.

Social Strategy

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While planning social media for an event can be another blog post in itself, remember as you’re putting your content strategy together that these two elements go hand in hand. Make sure you’re weaving social media prompts throughout the assets you produce. At a minimum, create a hashtag that fits with your brand and/or the theme of the event and let everyone know to use that hashtag when posting about the event on social. It should appear somewhere on every piece of content.

To engage your audience on social media before the event takes place, consider running a Twitter chat using the hashtag you select, or allowing people to ask questions for the speakers with that hashtag.

You can also use social media to run contests. If tickets to your event are not free, do a ticket giveaway online. During the event, you can have a contest for the best/funniest/most RTed tweet or picture tagged with your hashtag.

Finally, have guests check into the event on Foursquare as an added way of tracking attendance.

When the event is over, use your hashtag to track which pieces of content were most engaging for your social audience, and gather any feedback on your event.

Staying Organized

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Having all the above content will do wonders for promoting your event and following up afterwards, but it certainly won’t make your event run smoothly and flawlessly. For that to happen, you’ll need to put together three more pieces of critical content for your internal team: outlines of what you need, when each part of the event will take place, and who will be in charge of each activity.

Checklist

Each event and company will have it’s own unique needs, but make sure you’ve given consideration to the following:

Food & Drink

Whether you’re having your event catered or providing everything, make sure you’ve thought about: allergy needs, setup and distribution, how an open bar v. cash bar would work, what you’re allowed to have at your venue, and how much your venue will help with the serving and clean up processes. Find out if you will need to provide your own plates, napkins, ice, bottle openers… anything associated with food and drink that if forgotten will affect the event experience.

A/V Equipment

Make sure you’ve clarified what will be provided and what you’re expected to bring. Have a backup copy of every presentation and a fall back plan for if something is not working properly.

Signage

Make sure you have a clear demarcation of where your guests can find your event. Talk to your venue about any size, material or placement restrictions. Signage should be branded and also relate to the theme of the event. Get it ordered well in advance so you don’t have to worry about it not being done in time for the event. Don’t forget that mistakes happen and you may have to send it back to the printer.

Floor Plan

Will guests be seated? At tables or in rows of chairs? Will everyone be able to see any presentations you’ll be having? Is the food and drink placed in a location that will be easy enough to access without being distracting to other aspects of the event? Picture your event the way you want it to take place and make sure you’ve cleared all of your ideas with your venue.

Items You Are Providing

There may be a sizeable list of various other things you need that you are responsible for so make sure your checklist serves as a reminder for anything that needs to be transported from the office to the event. This can include: guest list, name tags, business cards, giveaway items, a camera, etc.

Timeline

Know what time food will be served, speakers will begin and end—leaving room for questions if applicable, and note the time and length of any other activities taking place. Don’t neglect set up and clean up, as sometimes these can be the most important.

Check-In

Often the check-in process will be the first part of your event and can set the tone in a good or bad way—so make sure you are prepared before guests begin arriving. Have enough staff on hand so that there is never too long of a line, and have an orderly and efficient process for getting people signed in and through to the event as soon as possible.

Break-Down

You need to know what will happen if your event starts to fall behind schedule. Check with your venue ahead of time to find out if there is a grace period for running late or if there is another event immediately following, meaning you will have to cut something out and move everything along to end at the designated time.

Task Assignment

First, look at the list of what you’re responsible for bringing to the event. Make sure each and every item is the designated responsibility of one person. “I thought [ ] was bringing that…” is not something you want to hear.

To stay on schedule, make sure you have at least one person in charge of show flow. This person should be giving time cues to others throughout the event to keep everything on track, and communicate issues that may cause a change in schedule. Consider using time cue cards to pace speakers, or making periodic announcements at events where there is a strict timeline.

Finally, if your staff is running the event without help from an outside company, schedule different people from different departments to tasks that will represent their strong suits. For instance, the sales team can make sure networking is running smoothly while the tech team is setting up the A/V. If possible, schedule responsibilities in a way that each person is working the event for a period of time and getting to enjoy the event for another period.

Showtime

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If you have created thoughtful promotional content that doesn’t feel like advertising, planned for the details, and have a follow up campaign in the queue, you’re ready! There may be a lot of work that goes into an event but when your guests are pleased, you’ll find that it’s all worth it.

Do you have more great ideas for event-related content? Let me know in the comments. And, if you want to see how the iAcquire team has been hard at work at putting these tips into action, join us at our next event on September 25th.