The Secret to Making Live Events Worth Every Penny

December 6, 2015

David Saef

David Saef, the executive vice president of MarketWorks and strategy at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events and trade shows.

Have you all but given up on attending live events?

If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Many companies see live events as budget sinkholes that don’t provide any viable ROI. But these companies are actually missing out on a wonderful opportunity that industry leaders like Red Bull and Delta Air Lines are currently cashing in on.

Where have the live event naysayers gone astray? It’s their cost-focused mentality.

There’s no denying that live events can cost lots of money. After all, you’re paying for day-of costs like conference fees and booth space as well as the ongoing costs of shipping, travel, designing and setting up your exhibit, and developing a marketing campaign. And because event-related proceeds are difficult to calculate, many companies automatically assume that events are far less effective moneymakers than other investments. It’s much easier to measure the benefits of purchasing new machinery or upgraded software.

It’s time for business leaders to stop scoffing at the upfront costs of live events and start realizing the true benefits and opportunities they provide when properly planned and implemented.

The Benefits of Live Events Done Right

A strategically implemented live event is so much more than the sum of its upfront costs.

Take Delta’s TED sponsorship, for example. The company created an immersive experience for TED Conference attendees by connecting them with one another using an algorithmic analysis of their social profiles. The brand enhanced its position as a cutting-edge, technology-friendly airline and generated 8.3 million social impressions via its event-specific hashtag — that’s definitely nothing to scoff at.

Red Bull is another example of a company that’s built an amazing brand by owning and executing captivating live events. Whether it’s wakeboarding, motorcycle racing, or space travel, the agency takes an aggressive approach to networking and developing campaigns right in the thick of its customers’ interests. Red Bull’s result is also nothing to scoff at: over $3 billion in fiscal sales and over $400 million in profits. There’s even a rumor floating around that Red Bull’s live event consulting out-earns its core product line.

How to Maximize Your Live Event

As you can see, there are many financial and strategic benefits associated with a well-executed live event. But if you’re still bogged down by a cost-focused mentality, here are five steps you can take to shift live events from being a burden to being an opportunity:

1. Choose your team carefully.

Selecting staff members who are equipped, prepared, and passionate is the foundation for making the most of your event. Improve productivity in your booth and capture more engagement, deeper discussions, and higher-quality leads by only bringing along your most motivated and talented team members. The people representing your company at the event need to be in it to win it

2. Find the right audience.

Don’t waste your investment by targeting the wrong audience. Do your homework, and only attend events that connect you to a great audience via sponsorships, floor exhibits, and focus groups. Calculate the total costs of attending these conferences, and identify how many leads you’ve garnered from being present. This is your trade show ROI, and it should always be taken into consideration when planning your attendance.

I recently worked with a pharmaceutical company to evaluate its best medical convention opportunities out of a list of 85 total conferences. Instead of jumping in feet-first, we created a matrix of common criteria and calculated the amount of money required to attend each convention. We learned that our client had been overinvesting in this endeavor and was not gaining access to the audience it expected. By taking time to locate this client’s appropriate audience and maximize its trade show ROI, we were able to create a realistic budget and send the client down the right path.

3. Be picky about the shows.

Once you have a list of viable live event opportunities, you need to be picky. Seek out events that have a unique combination of speakers and content and grant you access to senior-level executives and visionaries. Also, look for events that provide captivating experiences for attendees. When they’re having fun and feeling happy, they’ll be much more likely to engage with your company.

Make sure the event organizer knows how to build and engage an audience. Live events need to generate, capture, and share content that reinforces its value to attendees and entices new prospects. The event should deploy a mix of new technology and good old-fashioned fun activities that appeal to all kinds of attendees. The result should be an experience that uses mobile apps, social media, and unique gathering places to help people connect and deepen relationships.

4. Standardize and strategically ship your exhibit.

Shipping can be one of the biggest, most unnecessary cost drains associated with live events. Save money by standardizing components across your exhibits. Only buy one reception desk, demo station, and pedestal that can be used interchangeably throughout all of your exhibits. Also, be sure to ship your exhibits from show to show rather than to and from a centralized location.

Keep in mind that this will take some pre-planning. You’ll need to work with an exhibiting partner who has a network of locations and standards on property handling and management.

5. Align your budget with realistic goals.

This is a simple rule that applies to every aspect of our lives: Only spend money on what’s absolutely necessary. Companies often overspend on elements that look cool but don’t actually add any value to their prospective clients. Instead, they should only focus on things that will resonate with their target audience.

Two common areas of overspending are lighting and booth structure — these are just aesthetics. You should invest heavily in your more interactive elements like communication, engagement, and follow-up. These are the things that make your company unique — not your ability to make a nice flower arrangement.

Don’t let the investment costs associated with live events prevent you from tapping into the powerful benefits that come with them. Identify the most active event space for your customers and use these cost-reducing measures to make the most of the opportunities available to you.

This article originally published on iMedia Connection.

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