Of the many roles I have had, event marketing was one of the hardest. It’s not so much that event marketing is hard, but rather that it requires enormous attention to a large number of details. Advanced planning is a must. Some of you have had the experience of running roadshows or events in 15-20 cities across the country, but have you had to extend those events internationally?
Here are five guidelines I’ve used to ensure my events are relatively easy to scale across regions. It does not eliminate all the headaches and thrashing but at least it will minimize some of the difficulties.
Hold regular checkpoint meetings
A kick-off meeting with the geography teams and agencies is a must. Communicate event objectives, audience targets, success metrics, rollout timeline, and budget. Seek their feedback. Create agreed upon deliverables and timelines. Depending on the size of events, prep time and the time available for promotion, I’d recommend starting event planning at least 3-6 months in advance, especially if headquarters and regional collaboration is needed. Depending on the time zone differences, early morning or late night calls are inevitable.
“Over-communication is better than under-communication.”
Obtain a local agency and program manager
I’ve done out-of-country events with and without an agency or a program manager on the ground. Let me tell you, it’s hard to remotely manage the events, especially in a different country. If you find that you have no choice but to manage an event remotely, I’d recommend that you arrive in the country 1-3 weeks before the event. Having a local agency or a program manager or affiliate on the ground is costly, but possibly not as costly as a poorly executed event.
“It’s a trade-off you have to make between money and time.”
Prepare a kit with standardized event elements
If you are in the Headquarters, please make an effort to standardize anything you can think of. Consolidate the standardized event elements into a kit. Some examples of standardization content include:
- Event objectives
- Proposed event agenda (keynote and training)
- Style guide (creative for booths, stage back-drop, lanyards, logo, banners etc.)
- Training content (and possibly recruitment of speakers)
- Information display on devices and flat panels through the venue
- Messaging and positioning for the events
- Social media conversation guidance
“Standardization does not mean that localization or customization is not allowed. Localize and customize when it makes sense to reflect the true essence of your events.”
Discuss the appropriate kit content with your local contacts. Ultimately, the objective of the event kit is to make the geographies’ jobs easy.
Decide on a decentralized vs. centralized registration system
This is tough. Personally, I believe in a centralized registration system and all leads being stored in one database. The reason is simple: event attendees are great sources for communicating future events or for nurturing as potentially qualified leads for our sales team. However, I understand it can be expensive to implement. In addition, the challenge is that not every country nurtures its leads or even track their leads using the same system.
“Understand what you want to do with the attendee database post-event and spend time discussing the registration system and its back-end infrastructure early.”
Define clear success metrics and P & L (profit and loss) tracking
Some events’ objectives are a number of attendees, while some events are about making a profit. Everyone needs to clearly understand and agree on the event objectives, target audiences, and success metrics. Objectives and success metrics will also dictate budget allocation and marketing promotion.
“At the end of the day, you also need to know your P & L, which will help you better, optimize your budget allocation for future events.”
I did not discuss event promotion in this blog. I believe that event promotion will need to be customized based on the types of events and include heavy local input. As Murphy can attest, anything can and likely will go wrong. The bigger the event, the more opportunities for issues. It is important to ‘roll’ with the punches and improvise…and laugh. Keeping a positive attitude and good humor can go a long way towards savings situations.