Why Your Conference Marketing Strategy Should Include Speakers and Exhibitors
Searching for new avenues to promote an upcoming conference? Consider looking to exhibitors and speakers. Asking them to promote an event will not only help bring in new attendees but also allows them to build brand awareness and draw people to their session or booth.
With a big conference on the horizon, associations do everything they can to promote it and get the word out to their members and other potential attendees. As part of that marketing strategy, organizations should also consider asking speakers and exhibitors to help.
“Bringing speakers and exhibitors into your campaign gives more content to the marketing,” said Emily Golding, group director and marketing strategist at mdg. “It’s a way to break out of the cycle of emails that all say, ‘Register now.’”
When exhibitors and speakers promote the event, they contribute to the story that associations are telling about why people should attend the conference. And from the speaker and exhibitor perspective, participating in the marketing campaign highlights their own expertise and will help draw people to their session or to visit their booth.
Golding shared three ways that associations can work with exhibitors and speakers to market their conferences.
Social media is a simple way to turn speakers and exhibitors into meeting advocates.
Encourage speakers to post about attending the meeting on their social channels using graphics and pictures provided by the association. If possible, Golding recommends giving speakers promo codes for registration discounts to share with their audiences through those channels.
Since exhibitors have a preexisting base of customers that includes but likely extends beyond your members, encouraging them to promote the meeting to their email lists could prove fruitful.
“Emails can go a long way,” Golding said. “It helps get their networks aware of the event and gets [associations] outside of the core database of attendees.”
Associations should also consider including speakers and exhibitors in videos that showcase and market their upcoming meetings. To start, Golding recommends sending them prompt questions for the videos.
“The questions should dig into their area of expertise,” Golding said. “You want questions that get people thinking about what they’re already good at, so it’s easy for them to come up with thoughtful responses.”
For example, exhibitors can share information about upcoming products, what they’ll be showing onsite, and the impact of new products on the industry. Meanwhile, speakers can share a little about what they’ll discuss in their upcoming sessions, major takeaways, and their thoughts about industry trends.
“The videos should highlight advocates’ thought leadership and expertise in the industry,” she said. “The goal is to generate excitement.”
Capitalize on Community
What often draws attendees to conferences is getting to network and learn from their peers and to celebrate the community’s successes. That means associations should prioritize those elements in their conference marketing strategy—and speakers and advocates can be helpful in generating FOMO, or fear of missing out.
Last year, Golding worked on the marketing campaign for the National Restaurant Association’s annual meeting. Since the restaurant industry was hit hard by the pandemic, Golding’s team chose to focus on a strategy that would uplift the community.
The team asked exhibitors and speakers what kept them motivated in times of hardship and used those responses to form the marketing campaign. Golding found that using motivational quotes was an effective way to tease the event and inspire the community to come together for the meeting.
“In these ways, your exhibitors and speakers are building a case for why people should attend and why they can’t afford to miss out,” she said.