In our capacity as event planners, we legal marketing professionals are always looking for ways to better connect with our attendees and ensure they receive value from a conference or other event. Such connections ensure that attendees have a positive impression of the event (and by association our brand) and create avenues for business development. In assessing the legal marketing landscape in conjunction with event planning, I see three emerging trends that will help optimize event impact with both current and potential clients.
While understanding that social media platforms, including Twitter, have been an integral part of legal marketing events for several years, recent trends in social media usage have changed the way in which event attendees interact with the information presented. For example, live tweeting (i.e., tweeting about content, events, speakers, etc... as they happen) is a useful tool within event planning and business development. In addition to attendees deriving value from live tweeting, they become promoters of your event. Your event is a means to build your reputation, and Twitter allows you to have a much larger footprint in this respect.
By encouraging attendees to tweet with a pre-determined hashtag, participants can follow other attendees and speakers, delve into deeper conversations regarding the content, and network for days following your event. You have created a built-in marketing mechanism with your audience while simultaneously allowing them to leverage their attendance.
The downside to live tweeting is that many speakers, sponsors, and hosts either find live tweeting rude or believe their comments may be taken out of context. We need to evolve in order to address these concerns and offer solutions. Realizing this type of social media engagement is taking place with or without your influence or direction, it is beneficial for those involved in planning the event to proactively embrace live tweeting. If your planning committee feels uneasy, share the best practices proposed below.
It is important to remember best practices whether you are an advocate of live tweeting or just waiting for the next trend. With a recent Pew Research Internet Study showing that 73% of online adults use social media sites, it is inevitable that some of your attendees – if not most – will access Twitter and engage in live tweeting at your event. In order to proactively combat potential issues, consider the best practices outlined below.
- Inform Speakers – Regardless of the active or inactive promotion of social media for your event, make sure your speakers are clear that you cannot control if live tweeting takes place or how content is tweeted. If you are taking an active approach and promoting a hashtag, your speakers should be aware of this aspect.
- Promote Handles and Hashtags- When proactively promoting live tweeting, encourage speakers, sponsors, and hosts to provide their handles for the event materials or to place on slides. This will help them get credit for their comments and easily engage with those who would like to tweet at them. After all, if your speaker fears plagiarism and wants people to include their handle, you need to make it easy for attendees to do so. You may even encourage speakers, sponsors, and hosts to use the hashtag prior to the event so that their network knows they are participating and can follow along.
- Actively Live Tweet - As the conference organizer, you should be actively live tweeting or engaging with those who do. In the same way you are actively involved in the live conference, you want to be part of the conversation in the virtual conference. Additionally, have your attorneys take the time to see who is using the hashtag so they can follow those tweeting and engage in the conversation. This is a form of business development that doesn’t differ in principle from asking for a potential client’s business card.
- Be Positive - Make sure your live tweets are positive. The internet is forever so don’t engage with someone who is a negative live tweeter. It will reflect poorly on you as well. Rather, use your tweets to thank attendees for their interest and attendance.
Historically, apps have carried a hefty price tag which can make the expense difficult to justify. However, as apps are more widely utilized, the price continues to decrease. In many cases, the decreasing expense makes this a more cost effective option than traditional printed materials. Furthermore, smart phone users account for 66.8% of cell phone users. And, smart phone users (i.e., most of your conference attendees) love apps!
Traditional printed materials are costly for you and cumbersome for your attendees who will likely be traveling to attend your conference. Look around the room at the end of the next conference you attend or host. How many conference books are left behind? Imagine how many more end up getting left in hotels rooms. Not only is it not very green, but all of those wasted materials affect your bottom dollar.
Developing an app can be more user-friendly, green, and cost-effective. When developing an app for your event, consider the best practices below.
- Manage Changes Instantaneously – Have you ever printed and bound 100+ conference materials only to have an attorney realize they need to change the last line of their section? Oh, and it is 11 PM the night before your conference. With an app, it is easy to make these updates with a few key strokes, which will automatically sync to the app. Your attendees will have correct, up to date information no matter when changes are made. However, since attendees may have access to your materials before the conference, make sure you are managing changes as soon as you realize a correction should be made.
- Include Clickable Links – Trying to remember to email a speaker, connect to them on LinkedIn, or follow them on Twitter inevitably results in these notes getting shuffled below the priorities that wait in the inbox when returning to the office. With an app, you can incorporate clickable links to your website and speaker contact information (email, phone numbers, social media accounts, etc.). This ease of access to information makes it more likely that your attendees will initiate outreach. Of course, this doesn’t let your attorneys off the hook for the necessary post-event business development outreach, but it may help identify stronger leads.
- Include “Bonus” Information - With an app, conference attendees can be offered a plethora of information with a few quick clicks and swipes of a screen. Include more than the standard conference information by incorporating social media integration, maps of your event, local attractions, and restaurant options near the event. Since your app isn’t done once the event ends, you can also add videos and photos from the conference post-event. This value-add will be well received by your attendees.
- Offer Printed Materials - Of course, some attendees may not be comfortable with an app. And, in an effort to ensure you are not isolating potential clients, ask registrants to select if they would like to receive printed materials during your event registration. You can then have these ready at the check-in desk that day ensuring that your event is greener, and a minimal investment was made on printed materials.
The concept of attendee-based agendas is an interesting format that places attendees in sessions based on data segmentation. Moderators lead the conversations for these segmented groups but attendees interact in more memorable, interactive ways through discussion.
As budgets shrink, more people are attending conferences by themselves. They want interactive experiences that allow for ample networking opportunities to connect with peers rather than being lectured to or experiencing “death by PowerPoint.” Attendees are becoming increasingly sophisticated in knowing what they want from their experience before requesting the budget allocation for registration. Your clients and potential clients want an opportunity to introduce themselves, meet other attendees, and engage in educational discussions.
If this format is new to you, keep the best practices outlined below in mind while developing your event.
- Align Goals and Segmentations - Breakout sessions can be based on a number of factors such as a specific industry segment or an attendee’s career experience level, among others. Once the business development goals have been identified, it will be easy to determine which segments should be created. For example, if one of your goals is to develop business with hospitals at a healthcare conference, then you will know this is an important segment of your registrants to identify and bring together.
- Plan Ahead, but Allow Flexibility - You can collect information during the registration process and form your groups using this data or ask attendees to opt into sessions during registration. Since attendee-based agendas are focused on connecting attendees with those of similar interests for discussion and networking, allow flexibility to move groups if a session isn’t working for an attendee.
- Promote Your Objectives - As a business development event, the balance of the “free” format with promotion of your objectives is crucial. The facilitator of the session should be an expert on the session topic who can lead a discussion, answer questions, and enable others to discuss. You are highlighting the capabilities of your moderator while giving your attendees the personalization and interactive format they want.
Do you see other trends on the horizon or want to discuss these trends? Tweet me @WKrebs_DCMkt.
By Whitney Krebs, Business Development & Marketing Coordinator, Faegre Baker Daniels for the May/June issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.