4 Lessons We Learned from Holding An Industry Event

industry eventIn 2016, after years of deliberation, ZoomInfo finally decided to hold our own sales and marketing conference—The Growth Acceleration Summit. Now, if you’ve never been part of the event planning process, let us be the first to tell you… it’s not easy. Organizing a conference from scratch requires a tremendous amount of time, planning, and coordination. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Yet, now that we’re two years in and past the growing pains—we’ve learned a lot about hosting and planning an industry event. Today, we hope you can learn from our experience as we share the four biggest lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1. Don’t panic if registrants don’t come pouring in immediately.

In the early stages of event planning, we had high expectations. We thought, once we unveiled our new website, registrations would happen immediately.  Boasting our killer venue, a few awesome speakers, and superior content, we thought, “Who wouldn’t want to register?”

However, once the event website went live, it became clear that we’d need to work a little harder. The problem here was simple. While we knew our event promised a truly exceptional experience, our audience didn’t. We hadn’t yet communicated how much value they’d get from attending.

As an organizer, it’s important to remember that event registration is an investment. You wouldn’t expect your customers to make a purchase before you establish the value of your product, so why should an event attendee be any different?

We realized our audience needed to truly understand what they would learn, who they would meet, and why they should attend before registering. Moving forward, we made an effort to explain the value of the Growth Acceleration Summit. From the talent we enlisted, to the discounts we offered, we created an event that attendees couldn’t pass up – and they didn’t.

Don’t freak out right away if initial registration rates aren’t as you’d hope. Instead, take a step back and re-evaluate your event’s value proposition. Consider who your target audience is, what pain points and challenges motivate them, and what interests they share.

2. Be mindful of timing.

As the saying goes, timing is everything. This is especially true when it comes to planning an industry event. This was a lesson we learned the hard way during the first Growth Acceleration Summit. Let us explain.

Like most industry events, we didn’t want the Growth Summit to be just about learning, we wanted our attendees to have fun, too! So, naturally, we scheduled a cocktail party. The Growth Acceleration Summit cocktail hour had all the fixings of a great time – a hip venue, a talented DJ and tasty drinks. However, we were missing one key ingredient – guests! And what’s a party without people?

The reason behind the poor turnout? Bad timing.

Unlike most events, we dared to be different and scheduled our cocktail party for the evening before the Summit began. To us, it made perfect sense – relax and unwind with your peers, before you hit the ground running the next day. Unfortunately, our attendees didn’t feel the same way. Many had yet to arrive in Boston.

Luckily, we learned our lesson and the following year we held our party after the first day sessions had concluded. This strategic move produced stellar results. Our guests, speakers, and even our staff had a great time networking and greatly appreciated the opportunity to unwind and have some fun after a jam-packed day.

When crafting your event agenda, be strategic. Try to create a schedule that allows your guests to get the most out of their time, but won’t overwhelm them. Determine which times of day they’ll be primed to learn, and at what points they’ll likely need a break.

3. Leverage the power of influencers.

If you’re a regular reader of the ZoomInfo blog, you’re probably familiar with the term influencer marketing – or the process of leveraging the immense popularity and trust of industry experts to meet key marketing objectives.

A staple in many B2C marketing strategies, influencer marketing has proven to be an innovative and effective tactic for reaching a larger, more targeted audience. According to one recent study, influencer marketing delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing (source).

Yet, despite these claims, only 15% of B2B brands have established influencer programs (source). Why, you may ask? Truthfully, many B2B marketers just aren’t sure where it fits into their strategy.

Here at ZoomInfo, we’ve found the perfect use case for influencer marketing—promoting our conference.

If you think about it, influencer marketing and event marketing is a natural fit. After all, if you’ve designed your event with your audience in mind, chances are your speaker lineup consists of some well-known, reputable influencers.

Your audience not only trusts influencers, but they’ll likely jump at the opportunity to meet them. In our experience, the more credible speakers we added to our lineup, the more registrants we received. The addition of industry influencers like Seth Godin, Jeb Blount, and Trish Bertuzzi proved to be a key driver for registration in 2017.

But the benefits didn’t stop there. We also realized that by incorporating these influencers into our existing social media strategy, we were able to leverage their immense followings to expand our brand reach. This simple trick lead us to create influencer focused content, to boost awareness and engagement with our target audience.

It’s important to note that our speakers weren’t the only influencers to help us out in 2017. Some of our audience members were influencers, too. Like our speakers, these individuals were essential to reaching a larger audience. What really set them apart was their efforts during the show. Our attendees helped us boost social media engagement through video streams, tweets, and pictures.

Eventually, both of our event hashtags were trending in the Boston area!

4. Scrutinize the layout of your event venue to predict and prevent any issues.

One factor of a successful industry event that many first time organizers neglect to consider is the event space itself.

Both the 2016 and 2017 Growth Acceleration Summits were held at Boston’s Revere Hotel. If you’ve attended an event at the Revere, you know that while beautiful, the venue is definitely unique. You see, the main event space is separated between two different floors – the first and the tenth, to be specific.

In an effort to utilize the space effectively, we decided the first-floor space would be dedicated to sessions that would garner a bigger audience. The tenth-floor spaces were reserved primarily for smaller breakout sessions and the exhibit hall.

While logical in our minds, this setup proved to be slightly flawed during the Summit’s inaugural year. Instead of a smooth transition between sessions, some attendees wandered around until they were pointed in the right direction.

This dilemma showed us just how important it is to scrutinize every single detail of your event’s space. While it may seem tedious, this process allows you to anticipate potential roadblocks before they arise. When 2017 rolled around, we came prepared with better signage and directions. Unsurprisingly, things went off without a hitch.

Key Takeaways About Holding Industry Events

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a marketing newbie, there’s always something new to learn. We hope these lessons will help you improve your future events.

We’d also like to invite you to join us at our best Growth Acceleration Summit yet! Industry experts like Mark Hunter, Lori Richardson, and Tiffani Bova will discuss this year’s theme – marketing and sales productivity.

You won’t want to miss this three-day conference full of actionable insights, strategies, and tools.

Growth Acceleration Summit

For more sales and marketing solutions contact ZoomInfo. Our B2B database has the resources you need to scale your campaigns and increase your success! Or, check out our sales and marketing blog for more posts like this!