Planning events can quickly go from straight-forward and simple to complicated and challenging. As the new year continues, it’s important to gain a truly comprehensive understanding of the digital opportunities and tools you can leverage. This way, you can optimize the event planning process and increase registration and attendance rates.
The scope of tools and preparation time you need depends on what kind of nonprofit event you’re hosting. At Fonteva, we are experts in event management and know that there are several core ideas and key digital tools that can supplement any event you have in store.
Whether you’re a nonprofit planning a fundraising event or an association hosting a professional conference, the following tips and digital strategies can help you better manage your event, boost attendance, and maximize success:
- Create a branded event website.
- Offer comprehensive registration options.
- Engage guests with targeted communication.
- Take advantage of social media.
- Leverage your event for brand awareness.
Don’t risk event planning burnout by exhausting your staff with manual engagement efforts or an unorganized attendance list. Stay equipped with the best tools and incorporate these digital strategies into your next event plan.
1. Create a branded event website.
The first step to creating a digital event marketing plan is to establish your web presence. Most organizations have websites, so it’s likely that you already have a dedicated site for yours.
However, there are several benefits to creating a specific website or webpage on your main site that hosts all your event information. Your best bet is to create a branded “microsite,” a temporary website that is associated with your core site and serves as the source of all information for your event. You can easily link to this within your main website as well. Ensure that your branding remains consistent to avoid impeding the user experience.
Having a designated online space for your event will attract potential attendees and improve the event preparation process. Here are a few examples:
- The internet is the first place that someone will go if they want to learn more about your event. A branded event website lets you provide a hub for all key event details and delivers the information in a succinct, comprehensive way.
- You can easily host your online registration here! This way, potential guests don’t have to go to a third-party website and add an extra step to the process.
- If you have an online store or specific event merchandise, you can include that in your dedicated event website.
- A dedicated page where people can learn about your event and register will help you track leads and narrow down how people are discovering your event. This can give you an indicator of how to best market future events!
Boost awareness about your event with the perfect event website. Once people are on your website, convert them into registrants!
2. Offer comprehensive registration options.
Once a user has spent enough time on your event website, read the relevant details, and determined their interest, they will make their way to your registration form and begin filling out the details. However, whether it’s a lengthy registration form or too many repetitive questions, the potential registrant may decide to close the window.
More often than not, it is the registration process that causes many to “abandon their shopping cart” for something else. This is why it’s important to:
- Customize your form for your event. It’s okay to use form templates as guidelines, but don’t depend on them.
- Provide all necessary documents and required event waivers that the registrant needs.
In addition, make sure that you offer comprehensive and flexible registration options. The more options you give people to register, the more likely they are to complete the process. Here are some examples of registration options:
- General attendance or VIP. Provide a variety of packages for your event guests to choose from. They can have standard admission or upgrade to VIP status!
- Discounts or perks for members or past guests. To jump-start registration, offer early-bird registration or discounts.
- An agenda builder to create the perfect event schedule. If your event is full of different speakers or sponsors, give attendees control over their experience with an agenda builder. They can then easily reference this agenda throughout the event.
- Group registration options. If you’re registering multiple people at once, it’s always nice when you don’t have to fill out the same information over and over again.
Meet all of your attendees’ needs by providing a comprehensive set of solutions right off the bat.
3. Engage guests with targeted communication.
Get your guests excited about the upcoming event with email updates and announcements. This way, in the weeks leading up to the big date, attendees stay continuously engaged and look forward to the event. Maybe they will even convince their friends to join them and register too!
According to this article about Member Engagement Strategies, segmenting your audience is an effective method to personalize engagements and keep people interested in your event.
Your guests will appreciate you not filling their inbox with emails they don’t actually care about. With segmentation, you send communications that are specifically catered to them. To get started with this marketing strategy, segment your audience by:
- Registration level. If you’re offering different registrant tiers like general attendance or VIP, make sure you separate these attendees in your communications. For starters, VIP attendees are probably getting additional perks and special instructions. If you send one general email with event information, the VIP information might be buried within the text.
- Session dates. Many events, like conferences or music festivals, have multiple days. If some registrants are only attending specific days, make sure to vary your event announcements in the days leading up to it. Send out day-of agendas to the attendees that will actually be there.
- Past vs. new attendees. If you have hosted events or even the same event multiple times in the past, it’s likely that there are a good amount of registrants who are already pretty familiar with how the event works. Make sure to send new registrants more in-depth materials and information so that they aren’t caught off guard at any moment.
Segmenting your event attendees is one of the best digital strategies you can implement. You can even apply it to a more manual way of communicating, such as direct mail. Just apply the same thinking and segment your direct mail recipients to communicate more intimately with those attendees.
4. Take advantage of social media
Another way to get attendees excited and expand your event marketing is to take advantage of social media platforms. If social media isn’t already part of your digital strategy, then you’re missing out.
Firstly, the most popular social media platforms are free. It doesn’t cost anything to create an account and start engaging. Additionally, social media is a proven method to reach a wide audience. You just have to know where your attendees already are and how to leverage each platform’s value.
Start with identifying where your past attendees and current supporters are already active. Take a look at your guest list and constituent databases. If your event management tool can’t measure these types of engagement, send out a survey to garner responses.
Once you know the platforms that you should invest most of your time into, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, begin to tell your story. This means:
- Providing consistent updates on your organization.
- Sharing exciting moments during event planning.
- Incorporating visual components like photos and video.
- Engaging current followers and event attendees with tags and shoutouts.
- Motivating the audience to engage back with open comment sections and feedback.
- Tagging other related organizations to reach more like-minded people.
- Encouraging your audience to share your event with compelling posts.
Social media can be tricky to navigate, especially if you didn’t grow up with the internet by your side. However, it’s now a part of our everyday lives and it would be a huge mistake to neglect it. Meet your guests where they already are and incorporate social media into your next digital event planning strategy.
5. Leverage your event for brand awareness.
Depending on what your organization is, your event can help further your nonprofits mission and expand your reach. Events are a great way to get your organization’s name out there, effectively engage your constituents, and maximize success for your cause.
Events can also help attract attendees who’ve never heard of your organization before. For example, let’s say you work with a nonprofit and are getting ready for an upcoming fundraising event. Nonprofits run events to raise money for their cause but also to raise awareness.
Consider your marketing strategy and how you can adapt it to further use your event for brand awareness. Here are some digital strategies that can set your nonprofit event up for successful fundraising:
- Host an online peer-to-peer campaign alongside your event.
- Advertise branded merchandise from your online store on your website, social media platforms, or email newsletters to raise more funds and encourage donors to spread awareness.
- Ensure your fundraising and registration pages are all mobile-optimized. This way, more people can access your site and learn about your fundraiser, no matter what size screen it’s on.
- Display a fundraising thermometer on your website. Update the thermometer as the live event is coming up to get supporters excited.
Digital strategies can help elevate your event and maximize the potential and impact of your event. Raise awareness, attract new guests, and increase funds overall!
Don’t worry if you’re feeling stuck on how to optimize and elevate your digital strategy when planning your next event. Consider the tools and resources you already have, and hopefully this article will leave you with best practices to leverage them. Good luck!
Guest Blog Post by our friends at Fonteva.