You just got out of a meeting with your boss who gave you the news that you were approved to attend a conference or a trade show.
Amazing news, right? Getting the green light to go to a conference isn’t always easy — budget, timing and buy-in from leadership all need to align — so, you should feel pretty good about yourself!
But, now you’re sitting at your desk looking at a blank screen, wondering where to start.
Whether you’ll be at a marketing conference, a sales trade show or another industry event, you want to really make the most of this situation. Event marketing can be an incredibly beneficial piece of your content marketing strategy puzzle, but you gotta make sure you know exactly what your plans are when you head into the exhibition center for the day.
We’ve created this printable checklist to help you make sure all your ducks are in a row for your upcoming event. This checklist includes items that would be applicable if you were attending a marketing event OR if you were supporting your sales team at a trade show.
Before the Event
Yes, yes, yes, we know: working the trade show floor or running from speaking session to speaking session with a granola bar and an iced Americano is exhausting, but honestly, the bulk of the hard work in event marketing happens all before the big day arrives.
Here are some of the things you should start talking through at least a month before the event.
- The main goals of attending this event: Ideally, this should have happened before you registered. Think of your long- and short-term business goals. Are you looking to meet face-to-face with your ICP to drum up leads? Or are you hoping to network within the marketing industry and learn new things about current trends? Getting your main goal written down on paper will help guide the rest of your preparations.
- Sales and marketing alignment: Sales and marketing alignment needs to happen in all activities! Things to discuss:
- What products or services do you want to focus on promoting at the event?
- Any specific messaging to use in conversations and on social media?
- What support does sales want from marketing (either content or physical collateral)?
- How will you manage any leads that you capture at the event?
- Audience focus: Who will be at this event that you want to connect with? If you’re manning a booth, see if you have access to a list of attendees. Analyze this to start forming your marketing messaging.
- Event marketing collateral needs: What do you want to bring with to the event? If you have a booth, what freebies do you want for visitors? You may want to create a brochure or one-sheet for the sales team to use to further explain your company. And don’t forget business cards! Below is an example of a one-sheet that we bring with us to events we attend.
- Who will attend the event: Unfortunately, not everyone in the department may be able to go to the event. So, decide who goes based on two factors: who will get the most out of the information provided at the conference and who will be the most beneficial in terms of your goals.
- Do you need someone who’s great at networking and making conversation with strangers? Send them!
- Is this a high-profile marketing industry event? Your social media coordinator should probably be there to document and participate in that.
- Are you pushing a new product? Maybe the project team lead should go, if they’re best suited to explain everything it has to offer.
- Marketing campaign strategy: Alright, here’s the meat and potatoes of it all. What exactly should marketing do to help support this event? After you decide the scope of how big you want to go with this campaign, here are a few channels to think about:
- Email: Create local email nurture campaigns that let appropriate people in the area know that you’ll be at the event. Look into setting up times to meet or give them information on your booth if you will have one.
- On-page content: Decide if you want to create any supporting blog posts that follow the theme of the event or if you want to make a landing page to support your participation there. Give people a reason to visit the page, too, like giving them a code for a discount on registration or a piece of value-added content that is relevant to the audience.
- Social media plan: Look at the specific hashtags and accounts to include in any live-posting during the event. Maybe even make a cheat sheet to share with everyone going! Also, decide if you want to do any specific posts, like an interview series with thought leaders in attendance or interactive stories throughout the day.
- Sponsorship options: A good way to get your brand more visibility during an event is to sponsor it. Different levels will offer different things, such as logo placement on signage throughout the conference, as well as being included on the website and email communication from the hosts.
- Speaking opportunities: Another huge way to market your brand during an event or trade show is to speak at it! Sometimes higher levels of sponsorship include this as part of the package, so check to see if the option is listed anywhere. Whether someone from your company gives the keynote, leads a session or participates in a panel, the opportunity will afford even more visibility (and content!) that you can harness from the event.
During the Event
After all this planning, you should feel pretty confident heading into this event. Now, the fun begins. This section of the checklist goes over everything you should remember to do at the conference or trade show to promote your company. (And don’t forget to stay hydrated!)
- Keep your business cards on you: No matter where you are, what you’re doing or what time of day it is, always have a fat stack of business cards with you. When packing, take how many you think you need … and then add another chunk. It’s better to have too many than not enough.
- Execute your social plan … and then some: One of the best parts about attending a live event is the excitement of it all. Follow your planned social media strategy, but always be on your toes for something unplanned that’s going down for on-the-spot posting.
- Real-time blogging: If you want your blog to stay up-to-date during a multi-day event, carve out some time (perhaps from your hotel room at night!) to throw together a quick post about what you’ve seen so far. These don’t necessarily have to be 2,000-word articles, but more of a quick newsletter updating your reader on any trends or exciting news you’ve learned throughout the conference. Once published, share the post on social with the right accounts tagged, including any speakers that you mention in the article.
Bloggers at Moz posted daily articles recapping their thoughts on each day of the 2019 MozCon conference.
- Schedule time to meet with relevant vendors: Are there other exhibitors at the event that make sense for you to meet? There might be other companies present that fit your ICP! Take time to walk the sales floor and ask these vendors when a good time to meet would be. You never know what partnerships you can find in non-traditional places.
- Network with industry peers: In my opinion, this is the most fun part about going to events. You’ll be surrounded by people who you have so much in common with! Talk to as many people as you can — you can commiserate, you can share notes, you can discuss problems (and successes!) … and now you’ll have another connection in the industry that you can go to for help or advice!
- Maintain your booth: What good is all the prep work for boothing at an event if you don’t keep it looking nice throughout the conference? Keep all your extra collateral close by (we recommend hiding it under your table) and replenish as needed. You want your table looking as clean and full as possible at all times.
- Another HUGE tip that we swear by: invest in a steamer! Portable clothes steamers are fairly inexpensive, easy to find and will make a WORLD of difference to the look of your booth. Transporting things like tablecloths and backdrops isn’t always easy, and often when you unpack it all, it can look really wrinkly. A steamer will fix that, no problem.
After the Event
Congrats! You’ve made it through, but your work is far from over. Pack up, go home, get some rest — and when you get back to work, give the campaign as much time as needed to wrap up any loose ends.
- Publish wrap-up and related posts: Create blog content surrounding what you’ve learned at the event. As with the day-of blog posts, share your key takeaways and interesting things you learned from the speakers and from talking with people at the event. If you went to sessions, include any pictures of slides you think would be helpful.
- Tip: If this was a sales-focused event, work with your sales team to come up with ideas for blog posts. Were there common questions asked at the booth surrounding your product or industry in general? Was there a lot of feedback or excitement around a specific angle? Focus blog content on these topics!
- Pass those leads on: Hopefully you captured a good amount of leads at this event, whether it was from email sign-ups, business card trades or through a badge scan at your table. Add the leads to your CRM and determine how you plan to assign them to your sales team or if they need a little nurturing first.
- Email follow up: When planning your email campaigns for the event, a post-conference send is just as important as the messages you send before it happens. You can share any content you created surrounding the event, thank them for taking the time to meet with your team and work to schedule a time to work together further.
- Schedule a knowledge share meeting: In a perfect world, everyone that would benefit from the event would get to go. However, budget and other work responsibilities get in the way of that dream. Luckily, you spent so much time at the event taking notes and creating content, you have a perfect recap all ready to go! Email out any relevant notes to those interested or schedule a meeting so you can share what you learned.
- Evaluate the ROI of the event: Lastly, set time aside to have a frank discussion about what everyone involved thought of the event from a business point-of-view. Questions to ask:
- Was it worth the money and time spent?
- Was the ICP right for your company?
- Did the right people from your team attend?
- What would you have done differently?
- Is it something you should go to again in the future?
Event Marketing Planning Checklist
As you can see, there are a LOT of things to tackle when an event pops up in your schedule. (And we didn’t even touch on what you should do while hosting your own event!) It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, so we created this printable checklist to help ensure that nothing gets overlooked.
Brandpoint will be attending this year’s Digital Summit events in Minneapolis (Aug. 14 and 15) and Chicago (Aug. 28 & 29). If you will be there, stop by our booths to say hi!