This weekend I attended the Mid America Truck Show… Yes, a trucking show.
While there, I realized that like at any other convention or event, PR played an important role. Before anyone gets too worked up: No, public relations is NOT synonymous with event planning. That said, our field DOES have a place at events, conferences, conventions and so forth. A lot of what I learned this weekend were lessons about what not to do and how to put on a more effective event.
Planning and research:
Planning and research are an important parts of effective communication at any convention. The first thing you should do is to research the five W’s for the event: Who, What, Where, When and Why. These will tell you a lot about what you need for the convention. Be sure to work with the event’s coordinators to decide how you can most effectively reach your target audience.
For example, if you are there to sell boats, you should probably plan your event in a location near a port or marina.
Another important thing to do is to find out what type of advertising is available for exhibitors. Research if there will be a magazine handed out at registration, for example. If so, consider placing a well written and cleanly designed ad asking attendants to visit your booth.
Whatever you do, do not run out of materials, food or beverages. Also, remember that people love free stuff! However, if you are going to have giveaways, make sure they are relevant to your organization or product.
While I was at the Mid-America Trucking Show, I noticed that people were walking around looking for free stuff to pick up. Even if they had no idea what an item was or if they would ever use it, they wanted it because it was free. If booths at the conference offer handouts, a better way to inform attendees about a brand (and to get their information in return) is to rent a scan gun. Attendees will wear name badges with a special bar code while they are at the conference or convention. Scanning these bar codes provides information about who the attendees are, what company they represent, contact info, etc. Trust me, a scan gun is worth the investment.
Note: If you have a product that isn’t too niche specific, you can offer a giveaway or raffle ticket to anyone who allows you to scan his card at the expo.
Of course throughout the entire event you should evaluate your effectiveness, but evaluation is especially valuable after the convention is over. When you are ready to evaluate, start by measuring the number of new leads you received. Also, measure the amount of materials given out at the convention, any changes in traffic on your company’s website after the event and the amount of news coverage your company received based on the event.
Finally, write interest pieces in the form of thank-you letters to anyone who visited your booth. If you have enough help (e.g., interns), hand-write the thank you letters. People are much less likely to throw away a piece of mail if it is handwritten.
What other ways can we effectively research, plan, implement and evaluate a conference?