Any organization or business that hosts regular events from annual conferences to product launches/updates wants to keep event attendees or prospective attendees engaged year-round between events.
Figuring out how to do that, however, can feel like a daunting task.
It does take some time and work to do it right, but it’s worth the effort. Here are some ways to keep your community engaged all year long between events, whether traditional, virtual, or hybrid.
Post-Event Survey for Feedback
If your event was virtual and the virtual event platform you used had robust data analytics, you probably collected all kinds of real-time feedback from participants. That instant feedback would have been focused on discrete bits and pieces of your event.
Once your event is over, however, is the time to engage the attendee audience for a bigger-picture evaluation or assessment survey of the event as a whole. This should be done within a few days after the event so their overall impressions are still fresh. Include a CTA (call-to-action) for them to sign up for updates and alerts for the next event.
Post-Event Summary and Content Collection
Putting together an event re-cap video or selection of photos you can post to social media, as well as send to event attendees via email, is a great way to keep community engaged between events. The point of this is to not only show off the highlights of your successful event, but to also include a link to the content repository where people can easily access content they may have missed during the event if there were different tracks of concurrent sessions and so on.
Distribute this communication a few days after the post-event feedback survey and within a week after the event. Include some data points around number of participants, the most popular parts of the event by attendance, and a few points about what you learned from the post-event feedback survey.
Once again, include a CTA to sign up for updates and alerts for the next event.
Longer-Term Data-Driven Engagement
After you’ve done those specific post-event follow-ups mentioned above, you enter a trickier phase of longer-term audience engagement where it might not make sense to keep focusing on the immediate past event or the next future event.
This is when you need to begin leveraging what you learned about your audience during the last event and from the post-event feedback survey. You should have a ton of data you can use to figure out what content you audience wants more of.
Take what you learned and begin creating new content on the topics the community expressed the most interest in. This new content can take whatever forms you know your audience prefers, which might be blog posts, newsletters, videos, podcasts, or all those options. Offering your community a chance to engage with topics you know they’re interested in is a fantastic way to keep community engaged year round.
Next-Event Teaser Engagement
When you reach the point where you’re halfway between the previous event and the next event, you should do a round of teaser engagements focused on what you can say about the next event to make sure everyone knows it’s going to be even better than the last event and why.
If you’ve decided on an event theme or a particular star presenter/performer, mention those, but don’t go into much more detail than that, plus save-the-date and/or early-bird registration information.
Once this round of engagement communication has gone out, you can go back to the longer-term data-driven engagements until it’s time to begin your more focused communications in the ramp-up to the next event.
Ramping Up to the Next Event
When you’re a few months out from the next event, then it’s time to begin ramping up your pre-event updates and promotions. These should be distributed through all channels available to you and emphasize how you’re building up on the success of the last event and what will make this next event unique and even better. Also be sure to emphasize early-bird special rates, VIP packages, and so on.
More Engagement Ideas and Tasks
Now that you’ve got a solid outline and strategy for data-driven communication to engage your audience year-round between events, there are a bunch of other things you ought to be doing in the immediate post-event environment and beyond. Keep the following in mind:
- Website: Few things are worse than website visitors seeing outdated information, but when it comes to events, you must create a kind of bridge between the immediate past event and the next event. As soon as possible after a regularly occurring event, update the website with the dates, theme, etc. of the next event, but then include prominent links to the immediate past event content so people can get a feel for what’s involved in your event and get a taste of what’s in store. Be sure to include a prominent CTA to sign up for updates and alerts for the next event.
- Thank-You Email: As soon as possible after your event ends, send a warm thank-you note to all attendees to express your appreciation of their participation. This message can be short and sweet but do include a heads up that you’ll be contacting them to take a few minutes to fill out a post-event survey, as well as sharing links to all the event content they can access.The idea sequence here would be to send the thank-you email the day after the event, and then the post-event feedback survey within two days of the thank-you email.
- Targeted Ads: When you hit the ramp-up period for the next event, be sure to leverage your attendee data to directly target paid advertising to them, as well as retargeting ads for website visitors who visit your event pages and/or related topical content you’ve been creating to keep your existing audience engaged and attracting new people as well.
- Teasers, Promotion, Giveaways: Create a stream of communication geared at the next event that includes teasers about what and who is being lined up. One of the most simple yet powerful brand touchpoints is giving people the opportunity to win stuff for free—creating raffles and other giveaways for free registrations and/or VIP packages can create additional buzz.
- Slow Release of Prior Event Content: You’ll give event attendees full access to event content for a determined period of time, but you can also use event content as a marketing tool to attract new people as well.Be strategic, however, in coming up with discrete chunks of content that can be individually released over time on all your digital channels, spreading them out over the time period from your last event up to just before the big ramp-up period for the next event.
- Mini Virtual Events: Quite a few organizations and companies have found success in conducting a series of smaller virtual events in-between their regular large events. These are opportunities for people to engage in specific topics of interest to them that also serve to build momentum toward the next big event.
- Social Media Groups: Create social media groups on whichever platforms your audience is most likely to use to create a specific forum in which they can participate, get regular updates, network, and stay connected to you and your events on a regular basis. Keep an eye out for new social media platforms are on the rise and take advantage of them as well. TikTok exploded in popularity in a short amount of time. Voice chat app Clubhouse on iPhones has seen incredible growth lately as well.