With over two decades of experience in working with audience engagement across marketing, publishing, and events, Tricia Syed, VP of digital marketing, campaign marketing strategy and execution, has learned how to find the right formula for Informa Engage’s brands to generate engagement and increase their ROI across a range of conferences, award ceremonies, and virtual events.
However, to successfully grow an event, Syed says that this formula can change depending on which department you’re taking to. While the marketing team measures success through revenue, the audience development team sees success in attendee turnout and maintaining audience engagement.
Syed sat down with Folio: to talk about identifying successful elements from past events and how to pinpoint areas of improvement, while looking to both optimize revenue streams and to foster connections with audiences.
You can hear her speak more about this topic on Wednesday, October 10, during the “Critical Steps in Growing an Event” breakout session at The Folio: Show.
Folio: Events are an increasingly attractive marketing channel for brands and advertisers. Why do you think they are a worthwhile investment for publishers?
Tricia Syed: I view events as critical platforms for publishers and brands as they foster connections between buyers and sellers or solutions companies and their potential or existing customers. Today, in the world of lead gen marketing and digital campaigns the more behavioral data we can capture and share the more value to the client. At an event, the behavior is literal and actionable and memorable. Events provide real-time networking and the opportunity to identifying where customers are in their journey.
In terms of optimizing the revenue stream, the approach varies based on size and scope of the event. For those larger events like expositions, it’s about the experience—it’s a destination and series of memorable events. For the smaller events, it’s about access to the expertise and valuable content in a short amount of time. If a brand or publisher can find the right formula to drive engagement and attendee affinity, the ROI should follow.
Folio: What can publishers learn from brands and advertisers who are doing events successfully?
Syed: I guess that depends on how you define success. For the marketing team, success is tied to revenue, but our focus is on user experience. We want registrants and attendees to engage before, during, and post event. Success for us is about maintained engagement. How do we interact with the registrants in advance to ensure attendance? How do we interact and add value post event to ensure we have affinity?
To provide insight around user interest and engagement, we need to really understand our audience segment, pain points, top of mind topics. Often, we do look to other events in non-competing industries or even b2c or entertainment experiences to capture new ideas on how to capture audience attention and audience AOIs.
Folio: Do you have examples of successful events that you’ve worked on that exemplify some of the “tricks” that publishers could implement into their events, both in the context of executing the events themselves, but then also the marketing strategy around the events?
Syed: Some tricks for us come from understanding what motivates our audiences within or beyond their industry pain points. For our Farm Progress Show, we have relied on social awareness and giving back to a community within the agricultural community via our Support our Farmers for Veterans campaign. What began as a data collection effort has turned into something bigger and more meaningful for the national and local farm community. It took on a life of its own and has helped leverage our relationship with our users.
From our Wealth Management group, a great tactic, especially when you have a single live event—the Wealth Awards—is one where you can promote it all year long. Of course, as you get closer to the event, you increase the frequency and the visibility: but having it prominent on your website, no matter how passive, keeps it in the minds or your audience and advertisers. Also, with an awards event, you have the advantage of the winners promoting their status to the audience as well. Another tactic for increasing engagement and participation, specifically for the Wealth Awards was creating an award that focused the spotlight on the individuals instead of firms and initiatives. These categories got the highest number of nominations this year.
Folio: What are some lessons you’ve picked up from past events or that you’ve learned from others that publishers or event organizers could use to successfully enhance and grow their events?
Syed: Finalize your topics and tracks early. Rely on your focus groups, most engaged digital users, and web analytics to guide you. Ensure you have keynotes who have strong followings–sometimes we like to invite key experts back again and again because they resonate with the audience, but we also need to find new experts to access new ideas and new followers. Do not be afraid to change up your line-up or add a new track or try something different.
Folio: Where do you find the weakest spots are in events and what can publishers do to avoid these faults?
Syed: We do not tend to leave enough time for networking opportunities and subsequently have a hard time keeping on schedule. When industry professionals have a chance to be in the same room with other industry professionals, they tend to, at times, enjoy that experience more than the scheduled educational events. This leads to coffee breaks going over, sessions going late and the day going off schedule. And, with many of our events, we find that the longer the days go with formal sessions, the less interested the participants are towards the end of the day. Having less–but longer–breaks can help facilitate the in-person networking and keep the event running more smoothly.
Syed: Virtual Events are working well for us in some markets. We find VEs foster networking. Attendees can request to exchange what the platform calls ‘Vcards’ with any other attendee of the show—it’s a virtual business card exchange.
Attendees can also visit booths and talk in real-time to the vendors, and they can access vendor-relevant resources like white papers, eBooks and other content. And, there is a flexibility with accessing the educational content. Users can do it in real-time or access the archived webinars later at their convenience.
It’s a channel that works for us and encompasses a variety of mediums and assets, and opens the door for various sponsorship packages as well.