Influencers are people who might or might not know of your company, but are associated with a segment of the audience you’re trying to reach. Influencers come from all walks of life. They can be bloggers, journalists, celebrities, other business professionals, brand advocates, and even industry analysts.
If you want to generate buzz about your company, products, or services, hosting an influencer event can help. But you can’t just throw together a meal in a banquet room at a local restaurant and invite people you think might be interested. Well—you can, but it likely won’t be as successful as you want or need it to be.
Here’s how to plan and host an influencer event that will make both you and the attendees happy.
What Are Your Objectives?
Before thinking about anything else, consider what you want to achieve with the event, and what you want to get out of it. Do you want to get people talking about your products and services, or do you just want to make connections with quality influencers in your space?
Are you seeking to connect with members of the local community? Do you want to connect with other businesses that share the same values as your own?
Whatever your goals might be, make sure you know what they are. And have a plan to get there to make your outreach campaign a success. You’ll also want to consider what you’ll define as success.
Your event should allow influencers to share their experiences in real-time across all the social media channels they use. Designate a hashtag, and encourage your attendees to share information and photos using that hashtag.
Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish with the event, determine how you’ll do it. Will you be doing product demonstrations? Will you be sharing various PowerPoint style presentations with information about your company and the new product line?
And will you have high-level executives speak to the attendees? The tactics you use to accomplish these objectives can also help you in choosing the right influencers with whom to connect.
Choose a Venue That Appeals to Your Audience
It can be tempting to rent out the hottest new spot in town, and in some cases, that can be the way to go. Ultimately, however, your venue needs to match the demographic and tastes of the attendees, along with the nature of the event. If it’s not a formal event, don’t go with a formal setting.
Blog conferences like Type-A Parent are held in nice hotels with plenty of conference space. They occur in major cities such as Atlanta, Denver, or Orlando, and the location rotates every year to make it easier for people to attend.
The conference space at a hotel makes sense for the format. The reason why is that the conference involves three days of learning about social media and blogging, as well as parties and networking events in the evening.
But it’s not the hotel itself that draws the audience. Rather, it’s the surrounding city and activity options during the down time between sessions and networking events.
Build Your Attendee List
It can and should take time to build the list of attendees. It’s better to have five to ten highly targeted and engaged attendees than it is to have 100 or more semi-targeted, semi-engaged attendees who couldn’t care less about what you have to say.
Invest your time in finding the right people before the event in order to get the best results after the event. How you build your list is up to you; there’s no right or wrong way to get the job done. Use platforms like BuzzSumo and Traackr to find key influencers in your niche.
Then cross-check the potential list on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out who people are on LinkedIn, and maybe even Google their names to find a list of blogs they own or contribute to on a regular basis.
Look closely at who they follow and what they like on social media. With whom are they interacting, and on what are they commenting? Digging on social media can help you find quite the group of influencers, if you’re willing to take the time to do so.
Even if you’ve worked with influencers before, the group you have in mind might not be the group that’s ideal for this particular event, depending on the client and the overall goal.
Engage Prospective Attendees Before the Event
Go beyond simply following your target attendees on social media. Take time to authentically engage with them before the event so you can learn about them.
At the same time, you can teach them about who you are as a person and a company. Engaging the prospects before the event might also help you find additional prospective influencers who wouldn’t otherwise be on your radar.
Realize that not everyone you engage with will engage with you. There might be some influencers who are too busy with other projects to connect with you. Watching their engagement with you and with others might help you decide whether or not you actually want to invite them to your event.
Once you extend the invitation to your event, it’s possible there will be some people who decline to attend for whatever reason. That’s okay. Ask if you can stay in touch, and let them know when you’re hosting another event.
If they agree to stay in touch, put them on a list to connect with the next time a similar opportunity comes up. If they say no, thank them for their time and move on.
Engage with more attendees than you think you’d like to have attend. Provide details about the event as soon as possible before the event so people can plan ahead. Helping people plan ahead is critical if any kind of extensive travel is required, or if they must arrange child care.
Sometimes people are interested, and they just can’t make the event work with their schedules. If your budget allows, you can consider paying for travel to and from your event if influencers aren’t within a reasonable driving distance.
Before the event, pull a baseline social media report so you can get a more accurate measure of the event’s impact in the days after it wraps up.
Prepare for Various Scenarios
It’s best to anticipate a variety of possibilities and have a plan for them. For instance, if you’re hosting an outdoor event, what’s the contingency plan for rain?
Have plenty of extra pens. Have some sort of answer prepared for a number of tough questions that could come up. You want to be prepared, but you want the message to remain authentic and as unscripted as possible. Keep the event casual, and focus on creating a dialogue, rather than pitching the influencers at the event.
Even after the attendee list is set, it’s possible some of the attendees won’t show up. They might have family emergencies. They might just simply forget. Have a contingency plan for what to do if the event has fewer attendees than you originally expected. Remember, less is sometimes more.
To minimize the likelihood that confirmed attendees won’t show up, send email reminders to registered attendees in the days leading up to the event. You should engage on social media with friendly reminders as well.
Make It Easy for Them
You want the influencers to be talking about the event on social media as it happens. Stage everything for smartphone photography, making sure there is good lighting and a strong Wi-Fi connection.
If there’s anything worth live blogging and people will be using their laptops or tablets rather than just their phones, make sure there are plenty of power strips so they can easily plug in their chargers.
At the beginning of the event, make sure everyone knows the Wi-Fi password and has the event hashtag. It’s even a good idea to post signs in the room with this information in case someone comes in a few minutes late.
Inform everyone of the social media handles of your company, and encourage them to follow on the platforms of their choice. If the influencer has to search for how to tag the brand, they just might not do it. Or they might do it, but miss key information in the presentation because they were busy searching on social.
During the event, your corporate social accounts should be posting so that it’s easy for the influencers to reply to, comment on, or share with their audiences.
Make any presentations available to the attendees after the event in order for them to incorporate those files into their blog posts if they want.
Provide Food and Drinks
Providing refreshments seem like a given, right? Even if your event starts after dinner, it’s possible you’ll have people hanging around chatting for hours after the fact. At the very least, provide snacks and soda or water, especially if your event is around prime meal times.
You don’t have to provide a full meal if your event isn’t an all day commitment. But providing appetizers, desserts, and maybe even alcoholic beverages can make the event more appealing to attendees.
Nothing has to be fancy and prepared by a five-star chef—unless of course, you’re promoting a five-star restaurant. Contact local catering companies, or talk with the venue’s event planner to see if he or she can help you with food and drinks.
Your influencer event is a tax write-off, so try not to worry about the expense too much. Spending the money on snacks is better than turning the influencers off because they were hungry all day long while they listened to what you had to say.
Keep Presentations Concise
Remember what I said about not throwing a scripted pitch at the attendees? There’s nothing wrong with a short presentation or three, or maybe even four or five.
Just make sure they are all meant to educate the attendees about what your products or services are about. And make sure the presenters deliver their speeches without jargon or tech-speak, unless you’re absolutely sure everyone in attendance will understand said jargon or tech-speak.
Include visuals, and don’t put too much text on the screen. Keeping the presentations concise increases the chance that the majority of the attendees will pay attention the whole time. It’s impossible to keep 100% of the attendees’ attention 100% of the time, though, so just do what you can to make everything engaging and fun.
Leave time at the end of each presentation for some Q&A. The Q&A keeps the presentation interactive, and audience interaction helps people pay attention. It also gives you a chance to address key areas you might not have considered before.
This Is Just the Beginning
Your influencer event is the start of your relationship with the influencers. To truly leverage the connections you make for all they are worth, you must continue those conversations after the event.
Thank the attendees for the tweets and blog posts. Go beyond the event recap blog post, and follow up with each attendee. Offer to provide products or services for a contest or giveaway for their audiences. Share their content and leave comments to keep them engaged.
Send them images from the event, additional products, and information about your company. Offer to do something again soon, and let them know you can be a resource for them like they are for you.
Most importantly, take time to ask your attendees for feedback. Chances are this won’t be your last influencer event. And it might not be your last time working with some of the influencers who came.
Find out what they loved and what they hated. Use the information to your advantage when planning your next event. Did they love the venue? Use it again. Hate the food? Try a different menu or a different caterer next time.
What other tips for successful influencer events would you share with someone who is planning their first one? Tell me in the comments.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock
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