Five Things You Need to Know About Marketing Your Meetings in 2022

The pandemic changed not only your event audience—it also altered marketing strategies. Here are a few elements to watch for as you market your in-person events in 2022.

If it’s been a while since you’ve held a big in-person event, your marketing strategy might be a little bit rusty—after all, events have changed so significantly that it might not be clear where to start.

Emily Larson, a senior marketing consultant with McKinley Advisors, noted that the marketing cycle for meetings is no longer driven by registration alone.

“It needs to be a continuous conversation,” Larson said. “We need to be promoting, sharing that content on the internet, even if there is no deadline and our calls to action aren’t active at that point. It can be a flashback to last year’s meeting.”

Larson shared several event marketing considerations associations should account for:

1. Marketing Driven by Experience

While content used to be the main attendance driver, the shift toward virtual has changed the conversation, Larson noted.

“For so long associations relied on, ‘We’re convening leaders in the field, we’ll have the best content, you need to be here for the content and the learning,’” she said.

But that messaging has changed because of the long period many have been stuck in their homes. In short: People want to do something they haven’t been able to for the past two years.

By leaning on the experiences available at the destination where your event is taking place, it could offer opportunities for bleisure—that is, opportunities to relax on top of the primary event.

“You want to have fun,” she added. “If you’re gonna get on a plane and go a long distance, it needs to be worth it.”

2. Networking Is King

Larson said that beyond the experience of the destination, one of the other major pillars of the modern event experience is networking.

“For all of my clients—I’ve worked with very small meetings all the way up to very large meetings—networking is still a central component that we hear from attendees of why they’re going to the event,” Larson said.

It has been difficult to find virtual alternatives for networking that suitably mimic the qualities of in-person connection. So associations may see an opportunity in offering networking sessions beyond what they might have hosted before.

“We’re starting to see, as folks are coming back in person, extended networking events and additional receptions, additional inputs and mentoring opportunities,” she added.

3. Lean In on Segmentation

The change in circumstances is also likely to affect how you use segmentation in reaching potential attendees to events, both in-person and hybrid. For example, some attendees may not be able to attend face to face for numerous reasons.

“We are working with a group, and we’re hearing from a lot of the potential attendees across the spectrum that if they have young children at home, they’re still not comfortable traveling to an in-person event,” Larson said.

Repeatedly sending those people information about a meeting they can’t attend might have the opposite of the intended effect. Surveying attendees early in the process can help you segment promotional materials so that you’re offering audiences an option they can take you up on.

“So you essentially have two distinct calls to action now, where in the past it was just a straight ‘attend, network,’” Larson noted.

By mixing segmentation with surveys and market research, you could potentially get a better understanding of who’s coming, and who could benefit from a digital-first program.

4. Make Life Easy for Influencers

Influencers have more resonance than ever, helping bring fresh attention to your organization and sparking word of mouth that can build momentum for your association without making the straight sale.

Larson said that the best thing associations can do to leverage influencers’ presence, beyond understanding the value they can bring to an event, is to organize resources for them behind a password-protected site so they can actively promote an event without having to do a lot of heavy lifting.

“That gives them all of the tools so all they have to do is spend two minutes a week, copying and pasting messages filling in specific cells to get the word out,” she said.

5. Don’t Forget Your Exhibitors

Getting people to the event isn’t the only type of marketing your organization has to worry about. The expo hall has been starved for attention, having faced many of the same challenges as networking has in making connections in a digital environment.

“We’re seeing that our sponsors and exhibitors need to be face to face,” Larson said. “I urge associations to also look at your pricing model and see if there is an opportunity to add additional touch points for your exhibitors.”

(tadamichi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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