Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Promoting an Event

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Promoting an Event

Bookmark and Share

I think people confuse the term "Event Marketer" with "Promoter". My history as an event professional was always on the marketing side of things, working with branded events. I managed one of two things for clients: 1) Strategy (finding sponsorships that fit my clients needs based on our collective market research) and 2) Event Production or Execution (making sure the event is perfect). I usually leveraged the events with advertising or collateral production. My clients either sponsored large events, festivals or concerts OR they were B2B events with a predetermined guest list. Recently, I find that people are pulling me into projects where I am being called upon to promote and drive traffic to an event and it is making me mental. Here I will talk about some practices that have helped me in promoting an event.

Corporate Event
Corporate Event

I have always been super emotional when it comes to work. Like many female professionals, I take work personally. I get upset when people are not as serious as I am about a project as I am. I cannot leave my work at the office. My job is a direct reflection of me, and in many cases, it defines me. When your work defines who you are, it is not fun because in order to preserve self-esteem, failure is NOT an option. In fact, anything less than perfect is not an option. I like to exceed expectations and for everyone to be happy with the outcome of a project. For me, there is nothing worse than an unhappy client.

I recently took on a volunteer obligation where I had to drive traffic to a networking event and fundraiser for a local business owner who is running for Congress. In order to break even, I need 50 guests who attend the event. In order to make our minimum fundraising goal for the event, I must have 100 guests. This is scary and frustrating as I am the "host" of the event and I had zero advertising budget.

I took some steps to ensure success and I am still working out the process of how to successfully promote this event, so as always, all comments welcome. Thus far, my process has involved: timing, venue selection, event listings, email blasts, reaching out to my network through social media and face to face.

Timing. We did not want to start planning too far in advance. Sometimes when people commit to a cocktail hour too far in advance, they simply forget about the event and "no show". I had a month to plan and gave myself about three weeks to heavily market the event.

Venue selection. I wanted something that was easily accessible to both the downtown Chicago working professional and the suburbanite driving in for the event. I wanted a space that was open and had enough space for 100 people to meet and network. I needed something trendy, perhaps a place that people have heard of but have not had an excuse to try. And the biggest consideration was PRICE. This event being a fundraiser, I really needed to ensure that our costs stayed low and our ticket price was appropriate - we didn't want to price ourselves out from what our attendees would feel was a "value".

The hard part has been promoting this event. I found various FREE event listing services that I had not heard of previous to this project., and all services that have a Free Listing but will promote your event for you with a fee. I used the event listings in addition to traditional online methods and I did not stop with online event listing services, I went old school; newspaper listings and newsletters as people do still read them, especially people who are 40+ years old.

Social Media. I created two Facebook Groups and sent an event invite to the Facebook group. I also created a very targeted advertisement on Facebook to hone in on potential attendees that I could not reach through my social networking. (I paid for the ads myself and kept the daily budget low and only paid for clicks and not impressions) The real time "search" functionality on Twitter was helpful to look for people who live in the candidate's district and contact them individually.

Email. I started out with my personal email lists and hit up my closest friends and colleagues for attendance and asked them to spread the word by forwarding my email to their personal email list. I am hoping to start some momentum there, get the ball rolling. I also turned to a few email lists. I found groups with common interest and, well, I sent one unsolicited email. In the beginning of my email, I introduced myself and apologized for the bulk email and assured them that I would only be emailing them ONE TIME. Which is absolutely true, unless of course they write me back and have a question.

Face to Face. I put my game face on every day and talked up the event and verbally promoted it to every single person I met who falls into my demographic. I did not have a physical card or invite to hand out but I gathered their business cards and then followed up via email.

The outcome. I will let you know at the end of this month after the event takes place. But until then, if you are in the Chicagoland area and would like to attend a networking event and meet a candidate who is running for Congress - PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK. Hint..hint...I am also using this blog to promote my networking event.


Anonymous said...

it's actually you've misspelled

Sonya said...

This post was very helpful - thanks for sharing your experiences. The company I work for ( was recently involved in helping to promote the Twestival in Dallas, and needless to say, event promotion and planning was harder and more stressful than I thought it would be! It was fun, though, and I definitely agree that using social media is an effective tool for event promotion. Check out the blog we wrote about what we learned from our experience!

leyla said...

Thanks for the comments - misspelling fixed. And Sonya, I will certainly check out your blog too.

Kate B. said...

The perfection thing sucks, doesn't it? Totally takes over.

I worked in PR in London for 13 years so I totally get it. Have 'retired' since we moved to Dubai, was scary at first but now it feels brilliant, so nice to be able to let go.

It's a toughie when you have zero budget to promote an event but sometimes that can work in your favour. Feel free to email me offblog if you want to brainstorm virtually.