How to Promote an Event or Conference to Your Association’s or Institute’s Membership
If you’re a professional body, institute, large company, trade union, or political party, the chances are that you run conferences or events at least a few times every year. That’s great, but what are the best ways to promote those conferences to your members? Keep reading and the ACC Liverpool team will provide you with the best ways to promote your conference or event to your members…
Involve members in your event planning
The foundation of any successful event or conference is member engagement.
By involving your membership, and getting their thoughts on what type of event or conference they’d like to attend, you’re far more likely to maximise attendance.
There are a number of ways that you can engage with your members during the event planning stage, including:
- Email surveys.
- Focus group(s).
- Social media.
- Postal questionnaires.
- Phone interviews.
Remember, you don’t just want to engage with your members; you want to engage with them in a meaningful and useful way.
There’s no point sending out a flurry of questionnaires and surveys if you’re unable to glean any useful information from them.
So, what questions should you be asking your members about your proposed event or conference?
Questions to ask your members before planning an event or conference
Below, we’ve listed the top questions you should ask your members about your proposed event or conference:
1. What type of event format would you like?
With hybrid conferences becoming more popular, it’s important to ask your members what format they prefer.
There are those who prefer to go to a conference or event in person, whilst there are people who prefer to attend in an entirely online capacity. And, of course, there are those who prefer a mix of the two.
By asking this question, you can gauge which event format will work best for you, and also help you better plan things like venue capacity, staffing and catering requirements, and more.
2. What topics are most useful to you right now?
One of the most time-consuming parts of organising a conference or event for your members is coming up with a theme for your event and the associated agenda and conference.
So, make your life easier by asking your members what topics they would find most useful.
3. What do your members hope to get from your event or conference?
Your members are more likely to attend an event if they know they are going to get something worthwhile out of it.
Whether it’s networking, socialising, new knowledge, new business opportunities, or learning materials, find out what it is that’s going to get members through the door.
4. Was anything missing from your previous event or conference?
If your organisation or institute is regularly holding conferences or events, then this is an essential question to ask attendees during the planning stage for your next event.
Allow members to comment on every aspect of previous conferences; communication (or lack of), catering, cost of attendance, event topic/theme, scheduling etc.
This question is your opportunity to learn from past mistakes and create a sleek, streamlined event that is in-line with your membership’s expectations.
Tip - for all of these questions, it’s a good idea to include an ‘other’ option with an open comment field. These can lead to you receiving fresh, new, and unexpected ideas from your members.
How to promote your event or conference to your membership
Once you’ve processed your membership’s feedback and input, and made the necessary arrangements for your event or conference, it’s time to start promoting!
There’s more to promoting an event or conference to a membership than many people realise, but we’ve provided our absolute top tips below.
Nail your event’s web page/microsite
Whether you’re creating a web page on your website or a dedicated microsite to promote your event or conference, it’s vital that you nail it and get every detail right.
It’s this page that’ll act as the cornerstone of every one of your promotional activities.
Make sure that, at the very minimum, you include the following things on this page:
- A captivating and compelling title and description.
- Accurate event details inc. location, time, date, directions etc.
- Speaker biographies and pictures.
- Event-related content e.g. videos, blogs, downloadable resources.
- Prominent ‘register now’ button.
Use a mix of marketing channels
Once you’ve got a truly powerful landing page for your event, it’s time to start your marketing activity.
You want to make sure the widest possible mix of your members, so it’s important that you consider using multiple marketing channels. This means everything from email, through to social media, and even old-school direct mail such as printed letters/flyers.
Think of it this way; if you’re a mass-membership organisation such as a professional membership body, a trade union, or an industry institute, you’ll likely have members from all walks of life.
The chances are, you’ll have people in your membership who aren’t big fans of digital technology. Likewise, you may have members at the other end of the spectrum who are logging into platforms like LinkedIn multiple times a day.
You want to capture the attention of all of these people. Utilising multiple marketing channels is the best way of doing this.
So, before you start your marketing activity, plan out which channels you think will be most effective for you and your members.
Below, we’ll take you through the most effective marketing channels and how to use each channel to promote your event.
Tip - make sure that all of your event marketing activities are fully accessible so that you don’t exclude any of your members. For more information about making your event as accessible as possible, read our complete guide.
How to promote your event or conference with email marketing
Email is arguably the most powerful event promotion tool at your disposal. Used by near enough everyone, email is an effective, low-cost way of engaging with attendees before and after an event.
It’s no surprise that at least 85% of event organisers rely on email campaigns to promote their events and conferences. What’s more, according to recent estimates, around 45% of event ticket sales can be directly attributed to email marketing campaigns.
Pre-event email marketing
Kick your event marketing off with a bang. Well, actually an email…
It’s a good idea to begin with a teaser email to build interest and excitement. If possible, include positive testimonials regarding previous events, and show social proof that members have found your previous events and conferences both enjoyable and useful.
Because you want to use every opportunity to sell tickets to your event/conference, make sure you always include a call to action within every email.
Include a prominent and bold ‘book now’ button, as well as all the essential event details such as date, time, location etc.
Following your initial ‘teaser’ email, you should follow up with further emails that progressively reveal more details about the event.
If possible, reveal details such as who else will be attending, lists of speakers, companies that’ll be exhibiting and more.
Finally, don’t forget to send reminder emails a few days before your event or conference (and be sure to include a final pitch for more registrations!).
Post-event email marketing
Email is a useful tool once your event or conference has ended, too.
Use emails to thank your members for attending your event. You can also use this email as an opportunity to include presentations, videos and other resources from your event.
Ideally, you’ll want to send this email as soon as possible after your event.
You should also consider sending another email a few days after your conference or event asking for testimonials and feedback. It’s best to wait a few days before sending this email, as it’ll give attendees an opportunity to properly absorb and think about their experience at the event.
Top email marketing tips for event promotion
To make your email marketing efforts as effective as possible, make sure you use the following best practices:
- Send your emails on the most effective days for your members. This will vary depending on who your members are, but the best days to send email marketing campaigns are generally Tuesdays and Fridays. It can also be useful to send emails at weekends, as people mostly receive fewer emails then.
- Personalise your emails. If you are using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, then you’ll find they offer a feature to personalise your emails. Use this feature! 82% of marketers have said they see an increase in open rates when they personalise their email campaigns.
- Consider using email automation. Automation allows you to reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message. According to Campaign Monitor, automated emails have a 119% higher click rate.
How to promote your event or conference using social media
For the majority of membership organisations such as institutes and associations, social media is a limited, albeit useful way of promoting their events and conferences.
As you would expect, LinkedIn is by and far and away the most effective social channel for promoting events and conferences to members, as this is the channel that people use in a professional, career-oriented capacity.
Having said that, depending on your organisation, you may also find it useful to promote your event or conference on social channels such as Facebook or Twitter. For example, most political parties and trades unions have thriving communities on both of these platforms.
Regardless of which social media channels you’ll be using to promote your event or conference, there are a number of best practices that you should follow.
Pre-event social media marketing
When it comes to the build up of your event, there are several things you’ll want to do across your social channels.
First and foremost, you want to create a hashtag for your event that you can use across all of your social channels.
As such, you want to make sure that your chosen hashtag is succinct, relevant, and ideally unique to your event (you don’t want to be sharing a hashtag with a conflicting event).
Once you’ve selected a hashtag, ensure you use it on every single post!
For maximum uptake by your members, be sure to include the hashtag in all of your other communications.
Link to your event page in social media bios
Naturally, you almost certainly have a link to your institute’s or association’s website in your social media bios. But, in the run-up to your big event or conference, you should change this link to point to your event or conference’s landing page.
Post, post, post!
This is where you have to put the hard work in. Because social media platforms are home to the ‘infinite scroll’, a single post about your event or conference isn’t going to suffice.
To make your life easier, we’d suggest writing multiple posts in advance and then using a piece of software such as Buffer or CoSchedule to schedule your posts. That way, you won’t have to be manually making posts throughout the day; the software will take care of that for you.
If you’re looking for some inspiration in terms of the type of posts you should be putting out there, why not try some of these:
- Posts to promote that registration for your event or conference is open.
- Early-bird registration posts.
- Countdowns to the end of registration.
- Reminders of the date, time, and location of your event or conference.
- Mentions of speakers - including @’ing them if they have active social media profiles.
- Thanking event/conference sponsors (if applicable).
- Thanking anyone who shares your posts.
Post-event social media marketing
Once your event or conference has concluded, social media offers the perfect platform for sharing attendee feedback, photos, and videos from the day, and links to presentations or other resources (if you’re happy for them to be publicly available).
Post-event social media activity is also a great way to interact with your members and garner feedback which can be used to enhance future events.
The types of social media posts you should consider making after your event include:
- Thank you posts to your speakers.
- Thank you posts to attendees.
- Thank you posts to sponsors.
- Photos and videos from the event.
- Repost any posts that mention your event.
- Posts that link to resources from the event, such as presentations or slides.
Tip - both before and after your event, you should include your organisation’s social media details in all your communications. Take the opportunity to ask your members to follow you and can potentially pick up hundreds of new followers!
How to promote your event or conference using direct mail
The heyday of direct mail may be behind us, but as we mentioned at the outset of this article, there are still people who eschew digital channels and prefer to receive their communications in hard copy.
Chances are, you have members of your association or institute who prefer to receive their communications in the form of letters etc. In order to reach those members, you’re going to have to promote your event via direct mail campaigns.
Direct mail campaigns have several benefits over digital marketing channels, the most notable of which being better response rates. As of 2018, direct mail campaigns sent to home addresses had a 4% response rate.
Top tips for direct mail marketing for event promotion
So, if you want to use direct mail as part of your event’s promotion, what do you need to know?
We’ve listed the best practices for successful direct mail campaigns below:
Direct mail format
A letter is a letter, right?! Wrong. Different formats of direct mail receive different levels of response rate.
For example, oversized envelopes have the highest response rate at 5%. This is followed by postcards at 4.25%, dimensional mail at 4%, and catalogues at 3.9%.
It’s also important to make your direct mail stand out - this includes the envelope as well as the mailer itself. Consider using bright, bold colours. Make sure your institution’s or association’s logo is prominently displayed on the outside, too.
Like email marketing, direct mail marketing is far more effective when it is personalised to the recipient.
With the recipient’s name on the front of the mailer, they’re much more likely to open it and read its contents.
Offer multiple ways to respond
If someone doesn’t tend to use digital communication, then it’s not much use sending them a piece of direct mail and then asking them to book for your event online.
To make your direct mail efforts as effective as possible, provide recipients with multiple ways to respond and to book onto your conference. Think phone lines, text messages, response slips which can be posted back to your office etc.
Include social proof
Direct mail for event promotion works best when it clearly demonstrates to the reader the benefit of attending the event or conference in question.
Where possible, include quotes and testimonials from your members who have attended previous events or conferences.
You can make these testimonials and quotes even more powerful by including a picture of the member alongside their words. This social proof can be a powerful driver of bookings for your event/conference.
Include clear calls to action
As with other types of marketing campaigns, direct mail only works effectively when you include clear calls to action.
Clearly and simply tell the recipient what you want them to do, and how to do it.
Looking for your next conference venue?
We hope you’ve found our guide to promoting your next event or conference both useful and interesting.
If you’re looking for a venue for your next conference, why not consider ACC Liverpool?
As one of the UK’s leading conference venues we regularly host events large and small for professional membership organisations, institutions, associations, trades unions, political parties, and other membership-based organisations.
Speak to ACC Liverpool about your next conference now
For more conference planning and organising advice and information, check out the ACC Liverpool News and Events Hub…