Think of Your Upcoming Summit as the Next Blockbuster Release

You’ve invested substantially in your upcoming trade shows, congresses, conferences or summits (collectively referred to as “summits” in this blog piece). Speaker submission forms. Sponsorships. Booth-install, technology and set-up. Videos. Meeting spaces. Air fare. Hotel blocks. Meals and entertainment. Just to name a few of the common and worthwhile expenses.

But, how do you make your speakers stand out from the others? How will you pique interest and draw attendance? How can you show target audiences the value in your solution and engage with them?

Think about your upcoming summit as if you were bringing a new movie to theaters—building anticipation and excitement for your specific offering, making sure your audience gets an entertaining learning experience and then—at the end—leave them wanting more.

1. Coming Soon! (Build Anticipation)

You should begin preparing months in advance of the summit. If possible, make sure the save-the-date goes out to key audiences (including internal sales and marketing teams) during the previous year’s summit. If that isn’t possible, then send out the save-the-date as soon as your appearance at a summit—or a speaking opportunity—is secured.

During the months leading up to it, create talk tracks for sales and account teams to help drive attendance to the summit. Talking points can also be used in emails to clients, customers and prospects. Develop landing pages and digital flyers with information about the summit and speaker.

Something to keep in mind is, if you’re securing speaking sessions or educational forums, make sure they offer continuing education credits. This helps to build interest in your key audiences and leads to better attendance.

As the show draws closer, supply your sales and account teams with social media posts that they can easily post and share. These take only minutes to compose and can be a simple push to their Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

2. Showtime! (Creating a Meaningful Experience)

From the time the summit opens, you should be taking advantage of opportunities to engage your appropriate audiences. There are various media and formats to create a dialogue and draw attention to your company and solution offering.

If it’s allowed, during keynotes and other speeches, you could consider live-streaming them for your customers, clients and prospects who are unable to attend. This is also a great way to create a “pull” and desire to attend the show in the future.

For social media, make sure that you have an ambassador who is taking pictures and writing recaps of sessions that link to next year’s save-the-date for the show. Include something in the social post like, “Reserve your spot NOW for next year’s summit!”

If you have clients on-site, help them share their stories through testimonials. You can also have a videographer, who is visible to other attendees, grabbing people in the hallway or aisles and asking them about their conference experience, what they’ve learned and their most important takeaways. This is an excellent way to create buzz and get people talking. It also provides content for a recap video to promote future conferences and can be an amazing tool for digital campaigns.

Be sure to have a booth or pop-up in the vendor display area. In addition to having a space to demonstrate your solution, this gives you a meeting area for clients to discuss their successes and prospects to ask questions and sign up to learn more. And, make sure that sales and account management teams are taking notes so they can conduct proper follow-up opportunities. To keep attendees engaged and returning to your booth, consider some sort of raffle or giveaway.

If you have speakers and clients presenting, create polls during the sessions. This gives another chance to engage the audience and gives you statistics and material to post on social media. Build in an appropriate time for questions and answers—those, too, can be posted on social channels. For future material, assign writers to record the sessions and create bylines or post-session articles to add to your marketing content pipeline for months to come.

3. Now Streaming! (Post Show Tactics and After Effects)

As soon as the show ends, issue a press release with a recap of any important announcements, how many people attended, a list of organizations that attended (if it’s impressive) and any awards that may have been given to your customers or clients. Be sure to include client quotes…especially those related to your product or solution.

Create a virtual summit, in a webinar format, with a series of the best sessions. You may need to fill out forms and work with the show’s continuing education people, but it may be possible to offer continuing education for the virtual summit as well.

For those who attended the summit, consider creating a gated microsite, with links to all materials from the show’s sessions, and a link to the next year’s save-the-date. You can also include links to the virtual summit schedule, registrations and the media recap session that was produced during the show (or post-show) as well.

Finally, email your target list to keep them engaged! Develop a cadence of one-a-month, with key takeaways, follow up materials and calls to action.

To get the most from the investment you’ve made in summits, have a strategy and devote the time to plan, execute and follow-up. Remember that the latest big blockbuster movie had many resources devoted to its preparation and release, as well as continuing its popularity after it left theaters. With the tactics in this blog, hopefully you, too, will have a summit that’s a hit for a long time to follow and attracts audiences to many sequels.

Chris Currington
Christopher Currington has more than 20 years of experience in public relations, marketing content development and change management communications. Most recently, Chris worked as the director of PR at Lumeris, a start-up and sister company to Essence Healthcare, that specializes in population health management and value-based care. He managed Lumeris’ PR and communications through three years of being named Best in KLAS for Value-Based Care Managed Services. He also led the communications and PR efforts behind Essence Healthcare’s phenomenal 4.5 to 5 Star rating, for eight years in a row, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Prior to working at Lumeris, Chris was a senior marketing manager for Express Scripts Specialty Pharmacy where he helped to build physician awareness and referrals for mail order prescriptions. Chris has also worked for Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson) in the Change Management, Communications and Measurement line of business. In this position, he worked across offices and with Fortune 100 clients transitioning their health and welfare benefits (to consumer-driven health plans) and retirement programs (to defined contribution plans) and helped thousands of employees make benefit elections through various channels and media.

Chris has bachelor’s degrees in mass communication, psychology and sociology from UM-St. Louis, an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and a graduate certificate in marketing.
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