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5 Keys to Getting the Most Value from Events

by Hank Barnes  |  September 16, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

At Gartner, Symposium in Orlando is right around the corner, so that has been top of mind for many of us for the past several weeks.  For providers, events are often a key, and high cost, element of the marketing mix.  Getting the most value possible is critical.

The good news is that investment, in general makes sense.  In our recent survey, events was the third most valued activity (behind direct interactions with the provider and references) in influencing buying decisions.  Furthermore, when buyers are focused on evaluating solutions, events was the most frequently cited activity as being influential in that phase.   With that opportunity, you want the crowd to be energized and interested in your story.


Here are 5 things that can help you have a successful event:

  1. Define your story for the event.
    Every event should have a focus–the story that you want to tell at the event.  The story needs to support your positioning, while also–and very importantly–complementing the overall theme of the event.  Everything else you do at the event should support the story.
  2. Get a speaking slot – and kill it.
    When I ran marketing for several technology companies, I would rarely (almost never, actually) commit to an event where we did not have an opportunity to present.  This goes hand in hand with telling your story.  For your speaking opportunity, most event organizers tell you to have a customer present.   I don’t necessarily agree.  Instead, priority one is to have a great presenter.  Next, make sure its not a product pitch, particularly the typical “here are the features that make our product great” pitch.  Third, make sure you have customer stories throughout it.  If you can get a customer to present, and they are a great presenter then that works.  If they aren’t, consider co-presenting with them (with their piece in the middle, wrapped by a great presenter) or doing a Q&A style interview with them.    In your speaking session, make sure you close with a call to action –come to our booth, take our survey, etc.–something that encourages followup activity.
  3. Leverage other presenters that support your story.
    Your story gets more powerful and more traction if others tell it.  Since you have aligned your story with the conference theme, there will be other presentations that are on a similar theme.  Leverage them.  These are the presentations you need to attend and share socially, particularly promoting the elements that most support your own story.  To get value from social media during conferences, you don’t have to tweet everything, just the things that support and reinforce your own story.  Use those opportunities to reinforce the value of your own session (ex. “@Barnes_Hank says positioning efforts are inadequate.  Attend our session (short details) to learn how our customers have fixed that”).
  4. Get Serious about Staffing.
    I will be the first to admit it. I stink at booth duty.  It is not an environment that I enjoy or am comfortable with.  When I got assigned booth duty at various points of my career, I made it clear that others would be a better choice.  But sometimes I still went, and even if I tried, I stunk.   With many prospects looking to evaluate vendors, having the right folks in your booth is critical.  First, you need people who are comfortable with and energized by interacting with complete strangers.  Second, they need to be able to tell your story (i.e. pre show preparation is critical).  Finally, you may need some product experts available –not necessarily with scheduled booth duty–for scheduled deeper discussions.    Capture as much information on the folks you talk with as you can so you can bucket them into several groups:  just happened to come buy, Exploring, Evaluating, Want to Engage, etc. (Notice the use of some buckets from our buying cycle model).
  5. Create a Summary Post Event.
    Once the event is over, the real work begins.  First, create a summary that re-tells your story based on what happened at the event.  Share that socially and with everyone you interacted with at the event.   End the story with a call to action that is appropriate to the story (for example, reinforcing the call to action from your presentation).  Review the contacts and define actions for each of the groups you created.


Events can be a highly valuable marketing activity for both building awareness and generating leads–but only if you execute properly.  The five steps above will help.  Above all, if you can only focus on a couple of things, I’d say its about the people–make sure you choose a great speaker and make sure you staff with booth with stars.

Any other tips and ideas that you would suggest?

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: events  events-marketing  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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