As your company grows, you may start to think about hosting your own trade show or conference.
How do you balance the vendor needs with the community? How do you keep people engaged and provide for their needs while still
In this clip from MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023, Elizabeth Powell discuss this balance and gives insight to creating a good experience for everyone involved.
Check out the video or transcript below.
Let’s think around this concept of a single event. We’re going to zoom out here in a sec, but starting with a single event…
You might come here thinking about, “we need to do an annual conference.” You might come here thinking about a brand activation play. You might come here thinking about a kickoff product launch.
But when you start with your strategy, you need to go back to that balance of the two-way street.
The business objectives can easily dominate how you set up your event programming—especially depending on the stakeholders that you get in your strategy meetings, right?
But you need to also think strategically about your community needs. If you have any sort of insight into what actually is going to provide value to those who would come to your event.
For instance, this kind of plays out in the terms of KPIs with, maybe you need to do a customer listening session. But the needs of your community are that they want to socialize with each other. How do you find the balance there?
Maybe your business need is a trade show, and so you have lead generation KPIs. But your community also wants to network with each other. How do you balance the times in which they’re engaging with your trade show vendors, but also the networking components?
Maybe you have great content and you want to get your speakers promoted and have the right session format. But how do you also balance the need for breaks? People’s attention spans as adults is what max, like, 90 minutes? If you’re lucky. That’s for good content.
And so I think you can easily lean too far into business objectives with your programming, and then maybe you come out with some great KPIs in your post-con, but you ultimately aren’t going to see the return to the event. And you’re going to lose that community feel.
But you can just as easily lean almost too far into the community needs.
For instance, if this conference was mostly socializing and partying and different, we all want to come to an event where there’s really good food. But at a certain point, if there’s not enough substance, it does feel gimmicky and not a good use of our time.
So it’s, like, striking that balance when you set aside your strategy, and so thinking through the event purpose, the audience insight, your engagement strategies, how are you going to get feedback? That’s why you’ve heard at the end of all these sessions, folks asking to fill out the survey and then also some post-event reflection.
Something that Cvent really would encourage you to promote, is letting your community shape the content. I know that there’s a number of sessions here with AI, or marketing ROI, or people have submitted ideas from their own group, like B2B MarketingProfs, because they know this is what people want to engage on, this is what they want to talk about.
I was also talking to one of the organizers yesterday and she said, “look, people can tell when the whole agenda is set with sponsored content.” The sponsored [content] definitely is a high pressure to be relevant and not be salesy.
So just as an event planner, an organizer, keep a check on the balance of that and think creatively about your sessions. We’re definitely going through PowerPoint and I’m standing up here, but I know that it gets tiring sitting. And I’m really grateful to all the workshop sessions that they’ve had throughout the week.
I like to use this phrase. When I was a former event planner… We’ve all heard the phrase: tell me like I’m five.
Well, sometimes people want to just play and engage like we’re back in kindergarten. So they’re doing things where there’s a physical movement component, or having interactive tools like a little smiley face, or ways to engage like little noise clappers, or kind of different themes.
I know one session where they were like, “we’re going to call this the buzzword, and I’m giving everybody buzzers in the audience, and every time I say this word, we’ve all got to hit the buzzer. Because we’re trying to move from this concept to the future. So this is our interactive way of eliminating this concept.”
So thinking through some creative things can go even beyond interactions like Q-and-A, polling, and the Ask me Anything sessions.
Elizabeth is right, there is a lot that goes into creating a successful event—especially if you want to host it year after year.
MarketingProfs B2B Forum has been around since 2005—and while we’ve received good feedback over the years, planning a conference like B2B Forum isn’t a set-it-and-forget it event.
B2B Forum returns to Boston in November 2024 with more than 50 sessions dedicated to B2B marketing leadership, tactics, and strategy. Tickets are limited and available now.