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Event Marketing Part 1: Rewarding Guests

What makes a great event? How do you create an excellent competition? What is the best way to capture leads? These questions and many more are answered in this four part series, diving deep in to the dos and don'ts of event marketing.

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Event marketing is great way to get in front of your customers. At SilverStripe we often sponsor tech conferences and run display booths. This gives us a great chance to meet our software users face to face. Getting the most out of an event investment requires planning, creativity and strategy. I decided to create a blog series to share some of the things I’ve learnt over my years of running events.

The series will cover:

  1. Rewarding your audience (today!)
  2. Staffing your booth (Why you shouldn’t hire promo girls)
  3. “Standing out” – Tips for an eye catching trade stand
  4. Turning your investment into customers (post event follow up)

Conferences usually appeal to a specific niche allowing you to know a bit about your audience up front (e.g. at a PHP Conference we’re likely to be talking to back end web developers). The other assumption we can make is we are interrupting them. The obvious truth is no one goes to a conference to visit the sponsor booths! This means you need to reward people for interacting with you, give them a reason to visit your booth and make it a fun experience.

Rewarding your audience

I find a simple way to attract conference goers to attend your stand is to run a competition. I like to build competitions around games. While the prize might attract people into your booth, making it fun helps keep people there! Below are a couple examples from booths we’ve used at SilverStripe previously…

Giant jenga at the SiverStripe booth

Giant Jenga at the SilverStripe booth

Creating a winning competition

Here are my tips for designing a booth competition that engages:

1. Tailor the prize
Remote control drones and gadgets go well at developer events!

2. Create a connection
Use the competition to reinforce your message. At developer events we run competitions requiring teamwork to reinforce our message “Empowering great web teams”.

3. Don’t take too much time
It’s likely attendees will interact with your competition in the breaks between speakers. You want to have time to talk to them about your company’s offering as well as entering the competition so keep it short.

4. Make it social
Conference breaks can be awkward if you don’t know anyone. Booth games easily draw a crowd of spectators to you. Crowds attract more people to see what’s going on!

5. Give them a reason to return
If the conference is over multiple days, design your competition to allow multiple chances to enter. Our Jenga competition included daily prizes for the highest tower. This kept people coming back to our stand again and again. Naturally competitive people will always want to beat their own top scores!

6. Make it fun!

Guess the number of blocks game

Capturing leads

Competitions are the perfect vehicle to grow your database. When you’re planning your competition consider how you will capture leads. You want to make it easy to provide details so try not to ask for too more information. Full name, company, job title and email are the main things we ask for.

Any extra information you ask for increases the difficulty for the audience. I often leave out phone numbers knowing I can easily source them from a quick Google search if I need too.

Common methods for collecting information include:

iPad apps
There’s a number of apps that let you collect information through simple forms. You can easily have an iPad on a stand for guests to enter themselves but I prefer to do this for people. It means they have to interact with the booth staff! I’ve used Chimpadedoo which creates forms that link into MailChimp databases, we’re also experimenting with Showcase Workshop for an upcoming event

Booth scanners
Growing in popularity are scanners that read barcodes or QR codes from guest lanyards. These are great for the guest as they don’t need to keep entering the same info over and over. It’s good to acquaint yourself with the technology in advance so you avoid awkwardness when it comes to scanning guests. Ask the conference organiser what information you will be provided, if you can add custom fields if you need more info and how long it will take to get the data. If you’re expecting a high number of guests visiting the stand then ask for multiple scanners.

Pen and paper 
If all else fails there’s nothing wrong with the old school approach. You need to be very careful not to ask for too much information. Handwriting will take longer and you add risk from illegible handwriting or skipped fields. You also add to you workload as these will need to be manually entered before you can use them.

Business cards
Again there’s nothing wrong with paper but you’ll need to factor in time to input the details post event. There’s handy apps that convert business card information into data that can help though. I’d suggest Haystack.

My next event

For an upcoming event space is restricted, and the guests mostly operate in the public sector. This has lead me away from the Jenga, (which takes up a lot of space), and instead to a more compact, but still engaging competition.

It’s a work in progress, at the end of the blog series I’ll show you how it all comes together!

Stay tuned to see how this comes together for our event and more conference marketing tips!

What’s the best booth competition you’ve seen? I’d love to hear what you’ve seen so please share in the comments section below.

About the author
Nicole Williams

Nicole has over 10 years experience in marketing and communications. As Head of Product, she is responsible for overseeing product management, product delivery, and marketing at SilverStripe. Nicole is responsible for engaging with public sector agencies to drive forward the vision and roadmap for the Common Web Platform, harnessing the potential of open source to share government innovation

Nicole is an advocate for knowledge sharing, believing it’s key to keeping up with the pace of tech. Her writing has been featured on Hubspot, and Huffington Post.


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