5 Critical Tips for Planning a B2B Conference

planning a b2b conferenceMore and more B2B organizations have begun to host conferences and live events– and for good reason. Live events help companies engage with customers and prospects, boost brand awareness, generate leads, and so much more. It’s no wonder why 80% of marketers believe that live events are critical to their organization’s success (source).

But, organizing a B2B conference presents a unique set of challenges. Events require extensive planning and preparation in order to meet goals and maximize results.

Maybe your organization has already planned a B2B conference, or maybe you’ve only planned smaller professional events, like VIP dinners or roundtables.

Regardless of your experience, this article will walk you through five tips for planning a successful B2B conference.

1. Set specific event goals.

It’s not enough to want to simply put on a “successful” event – you need to set specific goals that will drive your decision-making before, during and after the event. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving event revenue
  • Building out your sales pipeline
  • Engaging your customers
  • Boosting brand awareness

Of course, your event strategy likely includes a number of different objectives. So, you must determine which goals you’ll prioritize in the planning of your event. Your primary goals will drive your decision-making before, during and after the conference.

For example: If brand awareness is your primary goal, then you will likely make an effort to generate press coverage and brainstorm “wow”-worthy moments that spread like wildfire on social media. If you primarily want to boost revenue, then you’ll need to put together an impressive event experience, replete with big-name speakers, that will entice potential attendees.

2. Establish event KPIs.

Once you’ve defined your goals, you must determine what metrics you’ll need in order to measure your success. The KPIs you select depend on your specific goals – but here are a few common metrics to consider:

Leads generated: How many leads did you capture at or because of the event? We recommend you also track the percentage of qualified leads that you acquire from the event, as this will tell you if you targeted the right audience.

Gross revenue: Compare your revenue goals to your actual results and determine how realistic your objectives were. Keep in mind, it’ll take weeks or even months to calculate your final revenue figures– as you’ll need time for the leads you acquire to work through the sales funnel.

Attendee satisfaction: It’s one thing to convince people to purchase a ticket– it’s another to make them enjoy your event enough to return for the next one. You can gauge attendee satisfaction in a number of ways, but the most popular methods are surveys and direct feedback within your event app.

Deals closed: If the end-game of your B2B conference is to sell products, you must track your total number of closed deals as a result of the conference. Some deals may close on the conference floor, but more important here is tracking how your B2B conference can be eventually attributed to closing a deal. We’ll talk about this more when we cover event software integrations below.

3. Allocate your budget carefully.

Setting your budget can be one of the most challenging parts of event planning. If you’ve run a significant amount of events in the past, you’ve developed a solid understanding of how to allocate your budget. But, if you have less conference experience, you may not know where to begin.

Focus on your specific event goals so you know how to prioritize your budget. Here are a few tips to consider in the budgeting stage of event planning:

Examine historical data: Look at the budget and total cost of past events run by your company. If this is your first event, consult peers in your industry. Remember – just because one event cost a certain amount, doesn’t mean yours will too. But, using other events as a guide can provide context and help you set a realistic budget.

Be thorough: Event marketers often make the mistake of rushing through the budgeting process so they can move on with their event prep. But, a detailed budget is necessary if you want to accurately pinpoint event costs and provide a financial structure to your planning strategy.

Consider every single cost – for example, if you will give away free gifts, how many will you order and what will each item cost? What technology will you need to buy or rent? There are too many event-related costs to name here, but take your time and make sure you have every base covered.

Plan for unexpected costs: It’s not a matter of if surprises will occur at your event, but when. Even if your budget is hyper-detailed, you must factor in leeway for unexpected costs. That way, you’ll be able to make adjustments for last-minute changes or emergencies without going over-budget.

4. Develop your promotional strategy.

To plan a successful conference, you must prepare for the days leading up to the event just as thoroughly as the event itself. Your pre-show promotional strategy is what will raise awareness, generate excitement, and encourage your audience to sign up.

Unfortunately, many businesses make the mistake of promoting their event on the fly, without an actual strategy. But, to maximize engagement and registrations, you need a thorough, detailed plan for your pre-show promotion. Here are a few examples of promotional ideas:

Event-related content: Fill out your content calendar with content related to your event and its specific themes or subjects. Include several different types of content in your plan, from blog posts and videos to E-books and whitepapers. Brainstorm content that will simultaneously offer value to readers and get them excited for your event – without being overly promotional.

Social media: Promote your conference on each of your social media channels. Again, make sure you publish valuable material rather than simply asking for signups. Share engaging photos, videos, and use an event-specific hashtag to facilitate a larger conversation about your conference. 

Influencer campaigns: If your event features well-known speakers, plan a campaign to leverage each speaker’s larger audience and generate additional buzz for the conference. Create content for each speaker to share on their social media profiles, collaborate on guest blogs, or have speakers take over your social media accounts and chat with your followers live.

Keep in mind – there’s no such thing as promoting your event too early. Once you have a date scheduled, you should be ready to launch your promotional campaigns. That way, you’ll be able to promote the conference gradually rather than bombarding your audience with promos at the last minute.

5. Find the right event software.

In today’s modern age, event technology can solve many event planning pain points and streamline event registration, check-in, analytics and more.

But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing event software. Each provider has its own specialties– so you must evaluate your strategy and select the tools that best fit your individual needs and objectives. Consider running an event technology assessment to find the right software for your B2B conference. Here are three things you should consider when choosing your event software:

Usability: If you select a tool with a wide variety of great features, but it requires a dedicated specialist to use, you are setting your team up for failure. Prioritize ease-of-use and make sure your team is comfortable with the tools you choose.

Reliability: Let’s face it, sometimes there’s no way to avoid a problem occurring at a live event. But, you can minimize your chances of a mistake or malfunction by employing technology that is consistently reliable. The last thing you need is to pay for an expensive tool only for it to shut down midway through an event.

Integration: The key to streamlining your process is finding a software that integrates with other tools in your marketing technology stack. For example– integrate attendee data you acquire into your marketing automation platform to enroll attendees in specific lists, track their lead status and send them targeted emails.

Top Tips for Planning Your Next B2B Conference

As any event marketer knows, planning a B2B conference involves dozens of different roles and responsibilities. The above list is by no means comprehensive – but these five tips should provide a solid foundation for your event planning strategy.

And, if you want to learn more event marketing tips, guides and best practices, check out any of the following blog posts!

Learn how to scale your marketing strategies by contacting ZoomInfo today.

Guest post contributed by Brandon Rafalson:  Brandon is a Content Marketing Manager at Bizzabo, the world’s most loved event software.