November & December theme:
“Choose One Thing”
Posted in :  Diversions

For many of us, long gone are the days of investing thousands of dollars into exhibiting and attending events. Many of our clients are being smart about why and how they attend events, given tight budgets and the always looming question of, “will this event really lead to more opportunity?”

The potential that I see, and often missed potential, is in strengthening the connections and conversations you have online — before, during and after an event — to maximize the face-to-face experience. When building your event strategy for the year, consider these questions:

What absolutely, positively can’t be done online? Virtual conferences, email, webinars, online forums, Twitter, messaging, conference calls and all the great tools for staying connected and getting things done. But, meeting face-to-face is non-negotiable if you are building or strengthening a partnership. Determining when that needs to happen is the tricky part.

How can your team divide and conquer? Consider these roles: Thought Leader, Connector, Reporter, Organizer, Closer and Spokesperson. I’m sure there are other ways to slice and dice how you and your team will divvy up the responsibilities but assigning tasks like photography and writing, will ensure the event gets captured and each person knows where to spend their time.

How will an online connection strengthen the in-person experience? Before and after you meet face-to-face, the online tools are the best way to bridge the connections you make and keep momentum going. For example: use LinkedIn and Facebook to schedule meetings, Twitter to find show hashtags and attendees to meet with and email to let clients and prospects know you’ll be there.

What are your clients, competitors, media and partners talking about? Conduct reconnaissance on the buzz and activities for an event will help drive decisions about what you do at an event. What are the hot topics and what does your company have to say about it? And, opportunities could arise for your team if you discover that no one else is hosting a fun networking event or doing a big give-away.

How can you use in-person events as an attractor model for those who don’t attend? Using your experiences at an event is a great way to spark conversations with clients, prospects, partners and the media. Follow up the event with an email to your list, send one-to-one emails to prospective clients to spark new business conversations and pitch the media on being quoted for post-show wrap-ups (which are best done during the show).

What conversations, trends, ideas and news can become SEO-savvy content? Take the time to produce content in the form of show wrap-ups, new discoveries, event wins, pictures with clients and anything that put you into the post-event conversation. Be sure to link to the show, use tools like Storify, promote your content using the show’s hashtags on Twitter and send your wrap-ups to the media.

As you build your strategy for events, consider how the melding of people and opportunity shifts as you move from a Pre-Event (the future), During Event (the present) and Post-Event (the past) timeline:

PRE-EVENT

Don't let the details of getting there (organizing, scheduling, planning) consume you. How can you also spend time making possibility even more possible before you show up?

PRE-EVENT Strategy Check List:

  • What is your purpose for hosting/attending the event?
  • What conversations do you want to have, why and with whom?
  • What can you talk about online that will inform what you do at the event?

PRE-EVENT Activity Check List:

  • Get written up in pre-show announcements and use to promote presence
  • Determine what conversations you can have 3 months out, 3-4 weeks out and 1 week out to build momentum
  • Conduct reconnaissance on what everyone else is doing and talking about
  • Make connections via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and via email with people you want to meet with
  • Provide reasons to meet with you and schedule the meetings before you get there
  • Recalibrate what you talk about and do based on pre-show conversations


DURING EVENT

Two brains are required when the event is in motion: sensing and responding to what's happening and documenting the experience for later, to share with those who weren't there.

DURING EVENT Strategy Check List:

  • What is happening that you can tell world while it’s happening?
  • How can you sense and respond to have greater success? If you are a sponsor or are highly visible at the event: how can you make this known to those who aren’t there?
  • What do you need to capture now, for later?

DURING EVENT Activity Check List:

  • Be the eyes and ears for those who aren’t there: photos/video/posts*
  • Gather contact info you’ll need for post-show follow-ups: this includes Twitter handles, Facebook pages/profiles and LinkedIn profiles
  • Have conversations online with those you meet at the show — for active Tweeters, this is a great way to stay connected while the conversations are still fresh
  • Give the media something to report on

*Document the good stuff in high resolution. Bad, fuzzy images are a waste of camera time.

POST EVENT

You're home! Now what? Find ways to keep the conversations going.


POST-EVENT Strategy Check List:

  • What worked, what didn’t and why?
  • Who will keep the momentum going?
  • What can be used to generate more online conversations?

POST-EVENT Activity Check List:

  • Event wrap-ups: blog posts, Twitter, Storify, one-to-one emails, photo galleries, SlideShares
  • Share other post-event content: Retweets, published articles, other blogs
  • One-on-one follow-ups from meetings
  • Media follow-ups

Overall, when you can’t be there in person, closing the connection gap from when you can meet in person to when you can’t is a great goal to have with your online activities. Some people see the online world as a replacement for face-to-face. In my experience, the digital world is great for many things but hand shakes, laughter and and smiling eyes are not some of them.

What has been successful in your world with using online engagement to support in-person experiences?

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Posted by: Suzi Craig
Email the author: suzi@fathom.net