The Ultimate Guide, The Only Playbook You Need To Execute Kick-Ass Before-Event Marketing
58% of marketers claim that they need to rethink their events strategy in a new way to meet their organization’s goals. If you’re part of this group, here’s where to start:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; the age of wisdom, the age of folly…”
Without a doubt, there has been no time as turbulent and transformative for the event industry as the recent years gone by. For marketers, it’s been a few years of challenges, experiments and failures. But it’s also been two years of stepping up our game - leveraging new technologies and strategies to set new standards and upend old paradigms.
So now, in 2023, business as usual will not be nearly enough: the game has changed too much.
Relying on old tactics or hiding behind the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking just won’t cut it anymore. For B2B marketers to find success with events in 2023 requires a brand new mindset.
To this end, we’ve put together the ultimate playbook for marketers in 2023. Digital, attendee-centric, and data-driven, it is broken down into 3 mini-books: before-event strategies, during, and after. In each, you’ll get insights and advice from industry experts, tactical information you can put to use right away, as well as decision frameworks, checklists and templates to help ease your way.
This book focuses on before-event strategies for all types of events: in-person, virtual, and, hybrid.
What’s different about before-event planning now?
In 2019, planning an in-person event was pretty straightforward. Normally, you’d just pick a venue in a city that represents your target audience, line up local or national speakers, arrange for branding on-site and catering, and then promote the event via email and social media. Walk away with a list of MQLs. Done and done.
It’s a different scenario in 2023. What used to be a fairly straightforward process has become more complex and ultimately, more challenging, because the role of events has evolved from just a branding activity to full-funnel event programs tied to revenue. And marketers (and attendees) now have more options than ever before; not only do they have different event formats - in-person, virtual or hybrid - to choose from, but a range of event types as well.
So, where do you start?
Starting at the very beginning: Define your event goals
It’s very tempting to think that everything will fall into place just because you have good intentions. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true, or we’d all be lottery winners. Similarly, when it comes to event planning, defining what you want it to be and want from it will be the definite factor in which side of the ‘Expectation/Reality’ meme you end up on.
Before you do anything else, ask yourself the following questions to shape your event:
1. Why are you organizing this event? or What are your goals from this event /event program / series?
2. Who is your ideal customer?
3. Why would your target audience want to attend?
Or what’s in it for my community?
- Networking opportunities with CMOs.
- Learn how to build a resilient event strategy.
4. What kind of event can provide this value to them?
5. Why would anyone attend your event specifically?
6. What’s your budget?
7. What’s the expected outcome or KPIs?
This exercise will help you establish purpose and envision what success looks like (as well as foresee weaknesses), and once done can make the next phase of planning - choosing your event format or laying out the timeline, for instance - much easier.
Choosing an event format: will it be in-person, virtual or hybrid?
As B2B marketers plan for 2023, one of the most pressing issues they face when planning their event is choosing a format: should it be in-person, virtual or hybrid?
Here’s a quick re-introduction to each event format along with its pros and cons.
Glossary - Event Formats
To help you choose which format is right for your next event, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What’s your budget?
2. What scale is your event?
3. How much prep time do you have?
4. What about your audience’s preferences or needs?
5.How’s your sales team structured?
Is there an ideal stage at which companies should consider having a multi-format event strategy?
Remember, an event today is so much more than sitting at a venue, or watching a livestream. There are so many different permutations of blending virtual and live formats you can employ, based on your creativity and your event goals.
Marketers can, of course, use all three formats across their event programs — virtual for webinars, and in-person or hybrid for ABM events, for example — to stay connected with clients, partners and industry throughout the year.
Anatomy of an event agenda
Planning your agenda can seem deceptively simple. You assume that all you need to do is to a) come up with themes and topics that you think the audience will like b) trawl LinkedIn to find speakers c) line these up throughout the day, and you’re done! If only.
Creating an agenda is far more nuanced than that. If you want people to attend your events, you have to give them something worth their time and attention. So, you really need to carefully curate content that delivers value for customers and the company, and tailored as per your event type and format.
Here are 6 tips on how to create an agenda
Look to your competition as well as companies you admire to see how they’re building their event agendas. This could help you spot potential speakers or topics that have slipped your radar. However, don’t blindly copy. Keep in mind that your audience is yours for a reason - you offer them something no one else does - your viewpoint.
Gauge attendee interest in topics before the event
The best way to deliver maximum value for attendees is to identify those challenges or goals that they want to see addressed at your event. To this end - ask, and you shall receive. Use customized questions on registration forms, conduct a simple poll on LinkedIn, post in relevant Slack communities, or check in with your Sales and Customer Success colleagues about what customers are asking about.
Arrange sessions by tracks
Group event sessions under larger topics such as Demand & ABM, Omnichannel Marketing, Sales Alignment, etc. Attendees can jump from one track to another, but grouping them as such makes it easier to understand the agenda, and make a choice on what sessions to attend. For smaller duration events this may not be required.
Get creative with session titles
A simple way to approach session titles is to make it as specific as possible about a problem, a challenge, or a goal.
Rocketlane's Propel 22 conference for customer onboarding and implementation professionals is a stellar example.
Schedule popular speakers for the beginning, and end of days
By doing so, you can start strong, and at the end of the day, leave attendees inspired to return the day after.
The shorter your sessions the better
Brevity is the name of the game in 2023. Within each webinar or event session, set aside time for an introduction, then at most 25-30 minutes for the main speech/presentation, followed by time for Q&A. Zuddl’s Quarterly Product Launch sessions, for instance, were an average of 15-20 minutes long.
Moderator or organizer welcomes the attendees, provides an overview of the webinar or session, and introduces speakers
The speaker(s) shares their knowledge and expertise on a topic
Open up the floor for questions for the audience.
Thanks and Farewell
Speakers or moderator thanks the attendess for coming and can share the information about the recordings or marketing collateral.
The speaker(s) shares their knowledge and expertise on a topic.
Thanks and Farewell
Speakers or moderator thanks the attendees for coming and can share the information about the recordings or marketing collateral.
Moderator or organizer welcomes the attendees, provides an overview of the webinar or session, and introduces speakers.
Open up the floor for questions for the audience.
Use our ready-to-use template to create your own agenda.
It can feel a little like putting together a complicated LEGO set without instructions, but armed with a foundation of research and insight into the audience, you should be able to curate an impactful and exciting agenda that makes event attendees feel really glad that they skipped a rerun of The Office to attend your event.
Sourcing event speakers
The struggle is real.
We won’t lie. Getting speakers for your event, whether a webinar or a conference, is a little bit like taking part in the Hot Ones challenge. You can start calm and in control of things, but can soon find yourself shaken and stressed.
The biggest challenge when it comes to speakers is getting the right people, as there are quite a number of factors to consider when creating a shortlist:
Given all these factors, you may find that even putting together an initial list to be challenging. So we recommend using all avenues you have to identify as many potential speakers as possible before you’re forced to cross-off names from the list because your top choices are not available, interested, or affordable.
Here are a couple of tactics to build your speaker roster:
Ask your audience and partners who they’d like to hear from
This is as simple as asking them to fill in a Google Form, responding to a post in a Slack community or reaching out to individuals personally.
Look at industry events, webinars, and conferences
Speakers that have already spoken at events are great options because you know that they have the experience and expertise that you’re looking for.
Leverage your C-suite’s network
Your CEO’s network on LinkedIn is far more valuable than yours. Getting them to post about the event or webinar series and extending a call for speakers can either result in direct interest or referrals, which may help you book people you might never have thought possible for your event.
Ask past speakers to refer individuals
A great way to get speakers with the expertise in the areas that you’re probably going to feature in the event.
Use an agency to source event speakers
If the spray and pray method isn’t working for you, turning to an agency for help can cut down time to source. Agencies usually have rosters of speakers, from high-profile figures to up-and-coming talent, enabling you to find a speaker that matches your needs and budget perfectly. This method can also help relieve some stress, and free you up to concentrate on other tasks.
Here’s an email template that you can use in outreach to speakers, as well as a checklist that you can use to evaluate speakers.
recruited your speakers…
Once you’re successful, it’s your job to make sure they’re as confident and comfortable as possible. To this end, schedule dry runs so they’re familiar with your event tech, give them a checklist of emergency numbers and how-tos, and share information and feedback that helps them to deliver a killer session (eg. share audience demographics, send videos of previous event speakers, or provide speaker training as a bonus). The less stressed your speakers are, the less you’ll be.
Choose your event tech
As per Zuddl’s 2023 survey, the event tech stack is fragmented. 50% of B2B marketers state that they use at least 4-5 tools across the lifecycle of an event.
Over half of the B2B marketers Zuddl surveyed say that they use atleast four to five tools across the lifecycle of an event. But that’s 4 tools too many.
We need something integrated.
Consequently, one of the repeated wishlist items that marketers shared for 2023 was the emergence of a more streamlined event tech stack. This will not only bring down the total cost of ownership, but improve operational efficiencies, reduce workflow overheads and empower smaller marketing teams to run events more frequently.
How do you choose between platforms?
Without an awareness of the features and capabilities most critical for a successful event, choosing a platform is less a fun challenge, and more a Venn diagram devised by Satan. Here’s a checklist of essentials your webinar + events platform should have.
How early should you choose a webinar or event platform?
With the parameters mentioned above, you can efficiently screen the platforms you come across, and choose the one that ticks the most critical boxes for you. And then once you do, you’re all set to host high-quality, impactful events that propel leads down the marketing funnel.
Build a buzz aka create a promotion plan for your event
Zuddl 2023 Trends Report
It’s no surprise that marketers are struggling to drive registration and attendance for their events. With plenty of events and other digital distractions to choose from, attendees are spoilt for choice.
Be honest, which would you pick: a special episode of The Office, or a webinar on “Demand Generation Strategies for 2023….?". That’s what we thought (and we don’t blame you either #thedundies).
The cluttered digital and event space has created a challenging ecosystem for event marketers when it comes to improving their event visibility and registration to attendee conversion ratio. This means that organizers need to be on their A-game when it comes to promoting their events. It’s the only way to cut through the noise.
Use these 8 proven promotional hacks to maximize your event registration and attendance
Start promoting 6-8 weeks before the event
Break down action items into monthly, and weekly tasks. This will make it easier to execute, monitor, and optimize.
Create event specific branding
B2B, and by extension B2B events, unfortunately have a reputation of being boring. That’s why event specific branding is so key - it helps infuse your brand and event with personality.
Show with video
B2B marketers who use videos in their campaigns see a 34% higher conversion rate, so it’s a no-brainer to use them to promote your event. Video can be used in different ways: teaser videos, recap videos, or invitation videos by speakers. Here’s an example of this in practice featuring Emily Kramer, co-founder of MKT1 who introduces herself and invites B2B marketers to join her talk.
Make it easy to spread the word
With basics in place such as using an event hashtag in your social media posts, you’ll be able to catapult visibility and awareness of your user conference. Hashtags are a great way to help spread the word about your event, and drive visibility. Choose hashtags wisely, check for spelling, and make sure they are easily understandable by your target groups.
Rope in speakers for promotions
Ask them to help spread the word about the event via their social media, email newsletters, a shoutout on their podcast etc. Supply them with images, banners, video, hashtags etc. Even better if they can make and post small videos inviting their network to join them at the event.
Get Customer Success and Sales teams to help
Both teams play an extremely critical role in spreading the word about your event to customers and prospects and getting more of the right people to your event. Creating a leaderboard to incentivize sales and customer success can give your teams extra motivation to keep the number of registrations for the event on the rise. And with attribution in place, you can also track which AE was responsible for driving the most attendee registration.
Automate everything you can
Using automated tools or even better, a unified platform that has all the tools you need in one place, is your silver bullet. Automation reduces time, effort and cost, whilst reducing manual errors, giving you more time to focus on details that elevate the event experience.
Examples of where automation during the attendee journey is critical:
- Confirmation after registration
- Reminder emails for
1 week, 3 days, 1 day and 1 hour away
- Self-check in options at an in-person venue
- Thank you for attending OR sorry to have missed you emails
Keep the conversation going, both online and offline after the event
Given that 84% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about a company, brand, or product being promoted after the event occurs (EMI & Mosaic), it’s important to set a plan in place to keep in touch with attendees with relevant and personalized information now itself. This includes:
- Event recap page content: Chalk out what content you need to gather during the event for your event recap webpage at this stage of planning itself, such as images, tweets by attendees and speakers, time-stamps of particularly memorable events etc.
- Email nurtures: ‘Thanks for attending!’ emails to those who made it to the event and ‘We missed you’ emails to those you didn’t turn up.
- Content repurposing: Set up a flow for repurposing your content eg. event videos into webinars or podcasts, or turning quotes and event highlights into infographics or social media posts. Read our blog for a step-by-step guide.
How to keep Murphy's Law at bay
Imagine that you’ve worked your way through this playbook, and dutifully crossed all the t’s and dotted the i’s from your checklist. You're confident that everything will go great. And then…something(s) unexpected happens that threatens to derail the event!
We’re all familiar with Murphy's Law - ‘If anything can go wrong, it will!’ - but most often use it as an explanation for a disaster instead of looking at it as a cautionary reminder to plan for said disaster. So your best offense is a good defense. In this chapter, we help minimize Murphy by suggesting contingency plans for unexpected challenges that pop up.
A speaker cancels at the last minute
Don’t panic. It’s frustrating but it happens more often than you think #IYKYK.The best way to deal with this is to have a back-up plan(s) in place:
Speakers don’t know how to log in to the virtual platform or present their content
Don’t just assume that your speakers will be able to effortlessly use the platform of your choice on the day of your virtual or hybrid event, or you’re in for frantic speakers messaging you 5 minutes before the event is due to go live with questions about how to log in, or if your platform supports Google Presentations. The best ways to keep everyone stress-free:
A speaker keeps talking and talking and talking…
There’s no graceful way to tell a speaker to stop talking, but at the same time, if you don’t, it’ll affect the entire event showflow. In lieu of your-speech-is-too-long-get-off-the-stage overture music that the Academy Awards are so fond of, here are some alternatives to keep speakers to their allocated time:
There’s a livestream lag!
This is an easy one to overlook because not a lot of organizers remember that they need to test a livestream with a virtual and in-person attendee at the venue ahead of time, and only realize their error when virtual attendees react to the livestream 10 seconds after the in-person attendees do. How can you prevent this from happening?
Your attendees adopt a vow of silence
Okay, we’re exaggerating a little, but the silence that follows “Does anyone have a question?” is possibly one of the most terrible things for an organizer to hear. Yet, it happens more often than not because organizers fail to proactively plan for it, and to their detriment because beyond the moment of awkwardness, the lack of questions or reactions from attendees can depress the level of interaction at the event. Here’s how to keep everyone talking:
These are just a few examples of unexpected challenges that could crop up during your event to help you kickstart your own contingency planning. Prepare for the worst, keep your backups in place, and ‘stayin alive’ should be as easy as these dance moves.
By implementing the tips and techniques outlined in this ebook, you can develop a comprehensive before-event marketing strategy that effectively reaches and engages your target audience, builds brand awareness, and maximizes attendance and ROI. From crafting compelling messaging to leveraging influencer partnerships, there are a multitude of tactics you can use to make your event stand out from the crowd and ensure its success.