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Marketing During your Event: for Nonprofit Fundraisers and For-profit Events

Working in the nonprofit sector for the past (almost) five years, I've worked my share of events: galas, charity golf tournaments, award ceremonies, and even outdoor festivals. One thing that all the events had in common, whether they were black tie or included a bouncy house, was that they take a heck of a lot of planning and coordination to be successful. More than just lining up an event space, renting tables and chairs, and coordinating with the caterer, you have to market the event to sell tables or tickets, sell event sponsorships, create invitations and press releases, and make your event engaging and unforgettable to maximize brand loyalty and exposure for your event. But no pressure, right?

In this article, we are talking about your marketing plan for the event itself. During the next post in this series, we will chat about your marketing plan the six months before your event, with a month-by-month checklist, but today, we're getting into maximizing the exposure of the event and captivating your attendees.

Brand Everything in Sight

If you can afford to brand it, put your logo on it. From a banner hanging from the podium, to your table cloths, to the photo station backdrop, branding your event tells your attendees exactly why they're there and maximizes exposure on all photos and video taken at the event. I've worked events in the past where we were able to engage with the community around us, even though they weren't attending the event, because everything was branded and it made them curious about what we were doing. Furthermore, when anyone takes a photo, there is a great chance that your logo will be featured front and center if your event is branded well.

Make Social Media Easy

Every marketing effort you put in place has to have a return on investment. Whether that return is in tangible donations, exposure, or volunteer acquisition is a discussion for your past data and budget, but having a measurable ROI is nonnegotiable. Making social media easy and including a call to action is key to mobilizing your attendees to increase exposure and help maximize the investment of your event.

Here are a few easy steps to making social media easy and compelling:

  • If you have a screen of some kind to use, consider a live Twitter and Instagram wall. It is a great incentive for attendees to post their photos and actually tag you so the post will show on the live Twitter and Instagram wall at the event. I've used in the past as a great call-to-action for guests.

  • Create can't-pass-up photo opportunities. Setting up a designated photo station (or several) doesn't have to be costly. By specifying photo stations, guests don't feel awkward about taking selfies or posing for photos. By posting signage with the hashtag, and instructions to post, you will increase your user generated event content AND your exposure by utilizing your guests' social networks.

  • Make your event hashtag simple and straightforward, and use it from your first post to your last.

Leverage Your Speakers and Guest List

Have the mayor attending your event? What about a local blogger or perhaps your keynote speaker, who is a prominent CEO? Leveraging your guest list is one of the simplest things you can do to maximize ROI for exposure. Here are a few tips to help you do it:

  • Make sure to create a Facebook event and turn the settings to show guest list. This will let everyone know who supports your organization, and will let you know what key players need to be followed up with.

  • Create a social media packet for key guests. For me, this includes sample posts with photos, key messaging, and an ask for them to act as brand ambassadors for the event.

  • Establish a shot list before the event so you make sure to get photos of key guests, post tagging them, and send them the photos, along with a sample post.

Make Every Minute Count

Whether it's boards on easels that tell a story, or videos playing that capture the heart, the time before your event, during, and after should all be used to tell your story and make your message hit home. Not everyone is going to arrive early, but if you're not showcasing your best materials to the ones who are, you are missing a valuable opportunity to make a pitch for your organization.

Here are a few tips on maximizing your event time:

Go live on social media

Display your very best marketing materials

Consider including compelling video to break up the presentation (if applicable) to capture hearts and educate your guests further

Have a method of capturing attendee emails and phone numbers

Did you find this article helpful? If you did, come back for the next part in the series on event marketing, and for more practical articles on marketing for nonprofits and small businesses. If you'd like to chat, let's connect!

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