What’s That Sound? How to Build Buzz Around Your Annual Meeting

Social media is a great way to build excitement about your event—but don't lose sight of these other tried-and-true marketing methods.

If you are of a certain age, you can remember when social media didn’t exist. It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

For associations, social media has been a game-changer, allowing members to directly communicate with the organization and, even more importantly, with each other.

Your social media channels are also a great medium for marketing your meetings and building excitement. In fact, it’s now standard operating procedure to kick off your annual meeting marketing push with an announcement on Facebook and Twitter, introducing the event hashtag.

But here’s a critical question: Are a significant number of your members actively engaged with your association on Twitter and Facebook? The key words there are actively engaged, not just following. Are you giving them good information on these channels throughout the year? You can’t just build it, ignore it, and then expect everyone to come as the annual meeting approaches. (Well, you can, but that’s not your best strategy.)

When Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) announced it was rebranding itself as Destinations International, the group invested in a paid social media campaign to significantly boost its Twitter followers and Facebook likes. It worked: Over four months, the group added 2,300 new Twitter followers and went from 5,000 to 23,000 Facebook likes.

That social media build-up occurred during the run-up to the Destination International annual meeting in Montréal—where the rebrand would become official.

“The rebrand campaign allowed us to build followers and likes on both Twitter and Facebook,” said Melissa Cherry, chief marketing officer for Destinations International. “We wanted to build that first so that when things were happening at the convention, we had people who were already engaged with us—we weren’t trying to build it once we got there.”

Cherry also had a staff person creating organic posts related to the annual convention as the date approached. The group also took advantage of convention posts from its industry partners, which could create more technologically sophisticated posts. “Some of our partners have the capacity to do video and be more nimble, so it was great to add that elevated content but coming from our perspective,” Cherry said.

But, of course, social media isn’t—and shouldn’t be—the only way to market and start a conversation about your annual meeting. When employed well, these tried-and-true methods can still drive attendance and excitement around your annual meeting.

Work with your host city to promote the event.

Your choice of where to hold your meeting is an important one. Ease of travel and interesting city sights will be top of mind for some on-the-fence attendees. That’s why it makes sense to work with your host city on promotion.

For example, a year out, Tourisme Montréal can attend that year’s annual meeting to drum up excitement for next year’s conference in Montréal. As your Montréal meeting approaches, Tourisme Montréal can provide a conference microsite; e-postcards; web banners; and access to an image bank, video, and editorial content—all to help you create a buzz and showcase the city’s allure. Tourisme Montréal will also follow your conference hashtags and retweet content, in addition to providing you with images and video to post on Twitter and Facebook, to help build attendance and excitement.

Tout segmented programming via email.

Email marketing is a critical event marketing tool, but the content of those emails needs to be as personalized as possible. “We are able to divide out by discipline, so we could target convention sales managers, directors, and CEOs with separate emails,” Cherry said. “We tried to make it really customized and personalized so it’s not a blast to everybody.”

Send a splashy direct mail piece.

This year, Cherry brought direct mail back into the annual convention marketing mix. “People don’t get mail anymore,” she said. A glossy event mailer “is a nice thing that people have on their desks; they see it and it can stay top of mind.”

Make your direct mail marketing pieces as visually stunning as possible. Destinations International showed Montréal’s convention center exterior and port, and an exterior of New City Gas, where the group held its closing ceremony.

Start a conversation on online communities or in blog comments.

Ask some of your presenters to write a blog post or start an online community conversation that previews their session or speaks to some component of it. This also provides speakers with a great opportunity to add membership-specific nuance to their presentations.

Preview meeting content in the magazine and/or newsletter.

Publications staff members know what content resonates with members. Include short Q&As with big-name speakers in the magazine or newsletter. Is there a meeting topic your members should care about but don’t know it yet? Provide some background in an article.

Building excitement for your annual meeting truly is a construction project—with all your marketing channels building the framework for a well-attended meeting of engaged attendees.

Contact Tourisme Montréal to turn your next meeting into an unforgettable event: 1-800-230-0001, ext. 2310;; or