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Early in my career I was introduced to the conference and tradeshow world through the lens of COMDEX in Las Vegas. At the time, COMDEX was one of the world’s largest conferences, with over 200,000 attendees. Taxi cab lines to get anywhere were over an hour. I remember a sharp dressed business professional yelling profanities at a hotelier, because of room shortages. A lot has changed in Vegas, and years after my introduction to events, the business economy went through a series of tumultuous times. The event and tradeshow communities were drastically impacted. I can recall reading about the cancellations of numerous shows like COMDEX. I can also recall speaking to friends about layoffs and equipment sell-offs within the gigantic corporate event and tradeshow teams.
In parallel to these transformational changes to the event industry, the dynamics of online community and social media were just forming. Working at Liveworld in 1998, I saw first hand the tremendous potential behind live events, “profile pages”, and forums.
Many years later, the major social networks have shaped how we look at everything in our business and professional lives, including events. A major by-product has been the resurgence of the corporate event and tradeshow. Both in small form, (niche or educational forums), as well as the large form conferences like Dreamforce, RSA, CiscoLive, and AWS re:invent.
While events have gone through a cyclical ride, they have formed a synergistic relationship with social media. The following are four dynamics to help you think about your event marketing (whether for yourself or your corporate brand).
1. Social Media offers a highly visual, transparent and interesting distribution platform for events. Exactly what attendees want if they are going to make the expenditure and time commitment. The use of current content, community discussions, and archived content can effectively build the buzz and educate. Smart marketers also know to start conversations between peers months in advance, in order to extend the effectiveness and lifespan of the event.
2. As brands and individuals work hard to build thought leaderships platforms from which to market, event attendance becomes necessary to keep tabs on real-time trends as they are formed. Influencers and customers that attend events are able to differentiate themselves from the crowd, because of their visibility and accessibility to content. They quickly become the people who are perceived as being everywhere, and getting the “scoop”. There will always be perspectives and context that can only come from being present at a physical event.
3. As the content arms race continues to unfold, events have become a tremendous opportunity for finding and sharing unique and compelling content. Smart marketers are using event hashtags, speaker content, promotions and networking to create better real time marketing results. The use of quotes from the speaking floor, presentation slides, and pictures, all feed the content engine with materials that engage.
4. And finally, events offer relationship building that transcends what can be achieved online. Seeing people in person, be it formal or casual, can be the catalyst that moves a previous online relationship to the next level. The most successful influencers and networkers really understand how to build and grow from these in-person interactions. Think about recent experiences you may have had at events. When you meet people do you hear , “I recognize you, we follow each other on LinkedIn, or Twitter, or an industry community.” If your answer is no, then you probably need to address both ends of the networking challenge, and make sure you are connecting with industry peers online, and in person.
Whenever you think about events (for you or your brand), put aside some of the traditional stereotypes or biases. Think about the resurgence of events over the past ten years, and how you can utilize their renewed strength to meet your goals.