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Event Websites: Attract More of Everything

Posted on 7.31.2008

by Rob Everton, Creative Technology Director at Cramer

Event websites used to have just one job to do: Attract attendees. The contemporary event website is now a critical part of the overall event experience. Attendees need and rely on these sites to help them plan their trips, network with other attendees, stay in touch with event organizers, and share their experiences with others.

Online audiences will play an increasingly important role in the overall health of an event, enriching the base of networking possibilities and user-generated content. If organizers design the event website well, they will boost the experience for everyone, extend the life cycle of the event, and maximize the ROI for organizers, sponsors, and exhibitors.

When considering attending an event, prospective attendees traditionally source the majority of their information online, primarily from the event’s website. The site usually includes basic information about the event such as the dates, schedule, location, educational seminars, and featured speakers. Now attendees also want to see content from previous events, as it can give a glimpse into the kind of information, experiences, and networking opportunities that the event has to offer.

Involving an online audience in an event has never been more important. There are always people who cannot attend but would still like to be present. Also, because the costs associated with producing events are steadily rising and the volume of attendees is not keeping pace, event organizers have to reach more people to maintain positive ROI.

There is a solution to end this troubling trend: A careful blend of community and collaboration tools can help deliver an event online, while incorporating the online audience into the event itself, rather than simply supplying them with media to consume. Social networking around an event can come from attendees as well as online participants, and can easily build bridges between all of the various audience segments and help share ideas, generate consensus, and reinforce learning.

It’s essential for event organizers to take the time to understand the demographics of their key audiences and determine what social media tools will have the biggest impact in creating an engaging experience, both online and off. Here are some of the key benefits to deploying a thorough online/offline social strategy to event websites:

Attract More Attendees: Through targeted, segmented, personal invitations, prospects can be led directly to pages of relevant content. By matching sessions, networking opportunities, and other aspects of the event to attendee needs and promising them a great social experience, you will enjoy a high conversion rate. Give them the opportunity to engage in the event community early by personalizing their experience, sharing content, and networking with other attendees, and you will lower attrition and make your event more desirable to other prospects.

Attract More Online Attendees: Virtual attendees are an event’s biggest growth area for expanded reach and ROI. They also represent the biggest source of top prospects that will become onsite attendees next year. Using virtual event tools that deliver content, collaboration, social networking, and social media features will link the two audiences together, provide a gateway to higher levels of quality attendees year to year, and provide a steady flow of feedback to the organization.

Attract More Coverage: Encourage the press and members of the blogging community to deliver your show information through news feeds and widgets, and a resource of official show content that they can share on their own sites. Taking a syndication approach to media of all types will help the show reach more people. Providing a mechanism through which this coverage is featured on the event site shows that you appreciate their efforts and are listening, while boosting the perceived value of the event for prospects.

Attract More Dollars: Event costs are steadily rising. The number of people attending events isn’t rising, especially with a down economy and high travel costs. Marketing-oriented events are largely concerned with reaching as many people for the lowest cost possible, and a hybrid online/offline solution that caters to 10-100 times as many people online as onsite, lowers the cost considerably while maintaining a high brand immersion experience for the onsite audience.

In the end, providing events with channels that allow online and onsite audiences to interact with each other will enhance the overall attendee experience. Embracing comprehensive social media, social networking, and syndication strategies will extend the life of the event and reach far more people. This added level of interactivity and collaboration is guaranteed to create a community that is continuously and indefinitely engaged in an event, facilitating interest and momentum for an event today and into the future.

About the Author:  As Creative Technology Director at Digital Marketing and Event Solutions provider Cramer, Rob Everton has an extremely unique and balanced combination of skills: creative energy, marketing expertise, and technology and engineering know-how. As part of the leadership team at Cramer, Rob is the company’ resident expert in building immersive, rich media experiences in both the real and virtual worlds.

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