The smaller details, however, are likely to escape. And the thing is, it's the little details that make attendees walk away and say, "WHOA, that was an awesome event!" And you do want attendees saying that, right? Here are 25 ways to make jaws drop at your next marketing event. And if you're attending any marketing events in 2012, keep your eyes peeled for unforgettable details like these!
25 Little Ways to Make a Huge Impact At Your Next Event
1) Get a map from your venue that identifies all of the outlets and charging stations. Attendees will need to charge their laptops and mobile devices periodically, so if the venue doesn't provide enough outlets naturally, set up designated charging areas for this purpose. If you're selling sponsorships, this is great real estate to sell!
2) Recruit your friendliest, most knowledgeable employees to remain scattered evenly throughout the venue so someone is always available to answer attendee questions -- and make sure they stand out! At HubSpot events, for example, our employees can often be found wearing bright orange track suits. Believe me, people will have lots of questions. Making it easy to find and identify event point persons will thrill attendees and nip frustration in the bud.
3) Put together a welcome packet that includes a map, nearby places to eat, local activities, taxi or car service contact information, and emergency phone numbers. Many attendees may be coming from out of town, and they'll appreciate receiving help navigating a new city.
4) Alternately, ask your hotel to give attendees a welcome packet that you've put together upon check in. You can often negotiate add-on services like this before you sign your contract. Attendees will really feel the 5-star treatment with a welcoming gesture like this!
5) Make sure your venue has cell reception. Seems obvious, doesn't it? Too bad I've attended more than one event this year that left me incommunicado because of spotty cell reception. Your attendees will be tweeting, checking their email, and texting during your event; bad cell reception would be a huge detriment to a positive experience.
6) You know those bags you get at every conference you attend? They usually have a bunch of sheets of paper and brochures that get thrown out, a branded pen, and maybe a mug. Try including something that's actually useful to attendees! Think about mobile chargers, notepads to accompany those pens, or something else that can be used on-site during their time at your event.
7) Designate an area where people can relax, check their email, and make phone calls. Do not let any sponsors in this area. It should be a safe space where people can escape the conference. Doing this will prevent attendees from leaving the event when they need a break ... and then never coming back!
8) Make sure you have a trustworthy wireless connection, and know exactly who to contact if it stops working. It should be free, easy to access, and every conference attendee should be able to find the username and password. And if any attendee asks for the username and password, every person in an orange track suit (or however you choose to make your point persons stand out) should know the answer as well as their social security number.
9) Speaking of which, debrief everyone from your company that's attending about the details of your event. When they are asked a question by attendees, they should know the answer quickly instead of having to run around the venue searching for the conference coordinator. The most important answers to memorize are the locations of rooms, what sessions are going on and when, who is speaking, where restrooms are located, and what the wireless information is. It is also helpful to have a snapshot of the day's agenda on hand and venue maps in case anyone has lost their copy.
10) Have directional signs to the food area, restrooms, breakout session rooms, general session rooms, and the sponsor area. Make sure these signs are placed in a visible area and easily read from far away.
11) If you're hosting an annual event, have the date of next year's event ready to give to people. Then set up an area where attendees can sign up for next year's conference at a discounted rate.
12) Give different name tags to different people; you should differentiate between partners, sponsors, VIP, and customers. It will make the attendees feel special to be part of a group, recognized for their relationship with your company, and easier to network with others who are part of their group (or better, another group)!
13) Give attendees the chance to have a little fun and take home a personal, memorable keepsake from the event. At one of your evening gatherings, for example, you could set up a photo booth where people can take pictures to remember how much fun they had!
14) Lighting has a huge effect on how your audience feels. It should vary from session to session so you can alter the mood of the room. During the breakout sessions, for example, you want a normal light so people are not distracted and can comfortably take notes. For the parties, you want dim lighting (you know, for the romance). And at a general session, you need to pump up the volume -- use flashing lights in the beginning that get people excited for the conference to begin!
15) Marketers love feedback! Ask attendees what they want to see at your next event, especially those that are already signing up to attend next year's event. Make sure they see that their input from previous years has been taken into account, too.
16) When collecting speaker/session feedback, do so right after the session. If you want until the end of the day or the end of the event, specific details will have escaped attendees' minds, so the feedback will be far less helpful. But right after a session wraps up, peoples' minds are fresh!
17) Make sure your event flows. Yes, "flow" is another fluffy marketing term like "engagement" is in social media marketing. But what it really means is that you don't host back-to-back sessions that occur on opposite sides of your venue. And you don't have a buffet line with one entry, and one exit point. Keep a condensed space so attendees don't have to run around from place to place, and consider how foot traffic will naturally move in between sessions and during events.
18)Leverage mobile. You could create an app for attendees to download that includes the event schedule, a person's individual agenda, a notes section, etc. Or you could simply ensure your event website is mobile optimized so it's easy for attendees to access everything they need right from their smartphones.
19) Provide real-time updates on session changes and schedule updates. Let people sign up to be on a wait-list for sessions they couldn't get into, and if people cancel, alert them of the opening. You can use email for this, or let attendees opt in for SMS alerts.
20) Registration is a thorn in everyone's side -- attendees and conference organizers. So make it quick and easy at your event by assembling plenty of staff to help, and having all of your materials ready to go so people can move through the registration line swiftly. For an extra special touch, include a QR code in your registration confirmation email, and let people pull up their confirmation on their mobile devices, just like checking in at the airport. It's paperless, quick, and makes you look totally futuristic.
21) Make sure everyone can visually see the speaker. That might mean setting up huge screens throughout the seating area (which may increase your budget) but it's necessary for keeping attendees engaged in the session. There is something about being able to hear and see a speaker that makes a presentation much better.
22) Don't set up your rooms using long rows. Instead, opt for rounds or short rows so people can easily get up and get out if necessary without being disruptive -- to both the speaker and their fellow attendees.
23) Surprise attendees with special additions to their day! If your event is taking place in the summer, bring in ice cream or sorbet for them to enjoy. If it's winter, surprise everyone with hot chocolate and marshmallows.
24) If some of your speakers are authors, offer to host a book signing. Not only do attendees get to walk away with a signed book, but they get to meet the speaker in person to ask question about the content from the presentations.
25) Don't just use social media, but integrate it completely into the event. Set up an event hashtag and remind attendees of it frequently to encourage conversations on Twitter. Then reference those conversations during the event so more can join in on the fun -- you can even hold contests based on social media interaction. Finally, make sure you set up screens throughout the event space that show real-time event social media updates.
What little things do you think make a big difference at events?