New Report on Event Marketing Urges Story, Phoning and an Event Cap

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One interesting note about the new event called Dished that Aging Media Network sold out in 2018 and again in 2019 is that they capped attendance at 150. Now that probably had the most to do with their venue—The Boelter Center in Chicago's River West neighborhood. Owned by Boelter Foodservice Design & Equipment, it was selected based on its unique setting and elements including a demonstration kitchen and catering program.

"The site accommodates cooking venues and it's very unique," said Elizabeth Ecker, director of content. "All of the folks there are foodies, and they are used to putting on events." So while the site does limit their capacity, it makes up for it by fitting the event perfectly—foodie people want to go there.

(Read my article on this SIPAward winner here.)

But according to a new report from American Express titled In-Depth Look at the Event Experience: What Marketing Owners Want," capping attendance at events may be a good idea sometimes. An obvious reason is supply and demand; nothing like telling people you only have so many slots available—and meaning it.

But the report quotes an executive giving another reason. "We limit attendance to 100 people. This gives us the opportunity to have great conversations. We get a lot of information from our clients. It helps us understand how to teach them about our products better—how to help them use the products they've bought from us. It helps us understand what they need next, and how to design the next generation of technology for them."

Here are more tips from the American Express report:

Try putting on smaller events. To "do more with less," the report suggests that organizations and event marketers should host smaller events because not only are they budget-friendly, but they also offer "new opportunities to connect in real and personal ways with their intended audience." They also recommend creating a "meeting template" that can be used to reproduce a similar event with a different audience.

Innovate small first. Use those smaller events to experiment a little more. With everything there is to manage in large events, adding new ideas may feel overwhelming or risky. Consider identifying a few smaller events and using those to test ideas on a small scale to see what works, then roll out the winning ideas to larger events.

Use the phone. "We call every single buyer we want to invite to the event," said one executive. "[That way] we know what they want out of the meeting. We know what they like to do in the evenings [etc.]. Our meeting budgets may be small compared to other firms, but we have 70% to 80% come back the next time we invite them."

What's the story? Take time upfront to map out your vision for the event based on your brand, your desired outcomes, and the story you want to tell. To inspire the creative elements, create a visual "mood board" to communicate the feeling and environment you want to craft for attendees. Whatever your story, deliver it consistently throughout the event so the experience reinforces the message.

Live streaming can be good but... If you do add a live streaming component to your event, it is a good idea to treat it like a separate, but connected, part of your event design. What do you want your virtual attendees to learn, feel, and experience? How do you want them to interact with live event attendees? How do you need to adapt the content so it will be compelling in a live stream environment and attendees won't feel excluded.

Understand why your attendees are coming. When tailoring an event, first put yourself in your attendees' shoes and really try to understand why they will come to your event and what the personal drivers are that will help them (and you) achieve the desired outcomes.

You can download the report here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…