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How To Get Your Event Marketing To Go Viral

Over the last several weeks I have found myself working on answers to the same question for both client work as well as some personal efforts around Personality Not Included. The question is a simple one that most marketers will deal with at some point in their career: how to get your product or service to stand out at an event that you are sponsoring or participating in? Despite the much exaggerated death of conferences and real life events at the hands of the virtual world and social networks, in most industries these events are still alive and well. In many cases, they offer the best opportunity to get your product or service in front of the right decision makers in an efficient and big way.

So how can you be sure you are getting the best value out of the events that you are participating in and even get your efforts to be talked about by conference attendees? Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Decide to sponsor or not to sponsor. The surest way to have a presence is to actually pay for a sponsorship. In most cases, having some kind of sponsorship is a good idea as it gives you a specific platform to build from and a guaranteed way in. This doesn’t mean you can’t engage in guerilla activities around it, but it makes it much less likely that you will be barred from the event or that your efforts will be shut down. The exception is if you are trying to market to an event where sponsorship is either unavailable, or far outside your price range.
  2. Think around your sponsorship. Once you finalize a sponsorship, you will have a list of things that you get. This may mean "inclusion" in the brochure and on the website. It might also offer a table at the venue for the event. This list of elements is your starting point to brainstorm. If you are allowed 4 free passes, what could you do to give those away and generate interest? What can you do to go beyond just the few pieces you are offered and make your sponsorship work harder?
  3. Distribute seeds instead of planting them. One of the keys to standing out at an event is not just reaching people individually and telling them what you do. That’s the hard way to do it and you will be fighting an uphill battle to stand out among all the other brands doing the same thing. Instead, think of each person you interact with as someone who can carry the seed of your idea to someone else. Your goal isn’t just to convince them, it’s to give them some way, large or small to carry your message forward.
  4. Follow up by networking. The classic mistake many marketers make when planning their event marketing strategy is simply thinking in terms of "staffing." The most successful event marketing you can do is building on your sponsorship by networking with event participants. Instead of just sending the 4 junior people to man the booths, think about sending a few people to roam and attend the event. Get to know the speakers and get others interested in what you do.

Taking my own advice, I decided to sponsor the MashMeet San Francisco event tonight (as well as the Mashmeet LA event on Friday). I have a table where I will be selling and signing copies of Personality Not Included (that’s the sponsorship). The challenge for me was bringing the book more relevance to the Web 2.0 savvy crowd that will be at the party and breaking out of just having a single table that people may or may not visit. Any ideas on what I might do? Since it’s meant to be a surprise, I’ll share details on what I decided in a timed post later today (check back at 6pm PST, 9pm EST)!

5 thoughts on “How To Get Your Event Marketing To Go Viral”

  1. I will preface this with I haven’t been to that many trade shows, but I think you could perhaps give away a short list of “Finding your Personality” a mini business cards (or even stickers if you want to brave that route). I like for that. It may not be viable for tonight, but perhaps for LA.

    Each sticker or mini card could only have a couple of points and people have to go trade or ask others for mini-cards or stickers to get the full list. Your table shouldn’t carry the complete set. Instead you could load up a select few people or tables with cards/stickers, forcing people to hunt down the other points while carrying some of your points with them. This way your ideas will be out in the ether of the conference.

    We use trading principal as a key stickiness factor in the game my company is building.

    Best of luck!

  2. Rohit – it’s always good to think about the best way to make a lasting impact on people and it’s also a great idea to create some type of connection that allows for follow up after the event is over with and all of the liquor is put away. 🙂

    So, based upon that thinking, here are some ideas that I have come up with.

    1. I’m sure that there will be name tags at the event, right? Have a contest throughout the night for the person who gives their name tag the most personality. Have some different colored markers, etc. there for people to use.

    2. Go and buy a pair of sunglasses and a colored mohawk(or make one) and have various people pose in them and announce the best posed personality in this blog sometime tomorrow. Get their biz cards and associate them with the digital pics if you can. Give away a free book to the winner and have the DJ announce the contest throughout the night. Maybe even project the images in real time on a wall? Maybe for LA…

    3. Have a personality contest, with people’s friends and co-workers nominating them. You could(and should) probably start this on your blog a week or so a head of time by having a form for people to fill out. They could submit a small story or something that tell you about the nominees personality. Then you could narrow down the submitted people to say 3 or 4 and give people time to submit a few more at the event as well. Then simply take 10 minutes and have the crowd vote by applause. Give the winner a book and that’s it. 🙂

    Ok, that’s all for now – if you want to talk more about ways to promote your book, feel free to shoot me an email. I have ideas like this for days…see you tonight!


  3. Great post – the sponsorship should fit the audience profile and your ‘traffic driver’ should be eye popping and there are very cost effective ways to do this…We did a user group for one of our customers – they were truckers – I had may promotional products vendor research trucker hats…what he found was trucker hats with bottle openers built into the brim. Not promoting drinking and driving by any means but the truckers loved them. Needless to say the booth was a hit and we covered the cost of being at the event…Also something worth doing – rent a large plasma display and a stand and buy a Wii- works with every conference!

  4. “think of each person you interact with as someone who can carry the seed of your idea to someone else.”

    I like that, it’s a different approach and is much more effective than going to lunch on everyone that walks past. Feeding them with benefits while your neighbour is offering features. hehe.

  5. Thats great content. I am very flattered with example number 4. The best tactic is to network by sending your best employee to discuss what product or service you have. This is a great way to inform others by providing information. Give something away free to capture there information all so that you can follow up. The key is to stay incontact with the customer until they are ready to by. You continuosly send them information and remind them of who you are. When they are ready to buy your company should pop up. Follow ups are very important in todays economy. View further details by clicking my name.


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#1 WSJ & USA Today Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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