So much has changed in the events space over the last few years. Notably, we’ve seen a seismic shift away from planning a single flagship event to organizers taking a tiered approach and leveraging multiple event types and formats throughout the year.

A modern events program now requires a multi-faceted strategy where various events serve as key milestones amidst the broader customer journey. Event planners need to successfully engage a hybrid audience not just before, during, and after each event, but from one event experience to the next.

“A modern events program now requires a multi-faceted strategy where various events serve as key milestones amidst the broader customer journey.”

Read on to learn how to build a year-round events program and discover strategies to engage attendees at every step of the event process.    

Events serve as key milestones in a tiered event strategy

When you think about your annual events cycle, the emphasis typically falls on one or two flagship events. Whether fully virtual, in-person, or a hybrid blend, there’s no doubt flagship events create tremendous value. They allow people to network and put faces to names, to learn and ask questions, interact with sponsors and vendors, and gain inspiration.

But you shouldn’t just let the conversation die off after the event and revert to engaging your audience solely through email campaigns. Rather, this is a prime opportunity to say, “We heard your feedback at the event, and we’re starting a new webinar or virtual event series to dive a little deeper. By the way, we also have this supporting piece of content and a downloadable to follow suit.”

I’m always interested to see types of questions attendees ask during our virtual events. It helps to discover their pain points and the issues impacting the larger events industry. We use the input to create highly intentional content for a mix of virtual events, webinars, and various experiences throughout the year.

“Now, we’re seeing the industry increasingly leverage different event tiers as part of their larger event strategies...”

The concept of event tiers took off during the pandemic as the events industry shifted to shorter, more frequent event formats to support virtual audiences. Now, we’re seeing the industry increasingly leverage different event tiers as part of their larger event strategies, while the flagship event or trade show becomes a key milestone amidst the broader customer journey.

Ultimately, taking a tiered-event approach and offering content via different mediums — podcasts, webinars, monthly virtual events — means you can continue conversations in between your flagship events, which proves critical to staying top of mind and deepening customer relationships. It not only builds a community, but helps you to become a thought leader in your industry.

Ensure alignment on overall customer journey and marketing strategy

Events touch on every part of the business. Make sure to leverage all teams in your organization to ensure alignment on your overall customer journey and marketing strategy.

“...leverage all teams in your organization to ensure alignment on your overall customer journey and marketing strategy.”

Content is definitely key for events, so work closely with your marketing team, including writers, videographers, and designers. They create the voice of the company and mold  the messaging. Pay close attention to the blogs, customer stories, and white papers that they’re creating, as the content can influence the topics of your future events or webinars.

Your content team needs to sync with product marketing to ensure they understand the product roadmap and messaging that goes along with it. This will be key so you can focus all events leading up to the release around a particular topic and create a bigger splash once the product launches.

Sales brings a unique perspective, as they truly understand your audience. They’re on the front lines of conversations and hear all of your prospects’ challenges. Knowing these pain points can help you fine-tune event content, so it feels highly relevant and helpful for your industry and further positions your organization as a thought leader.

Meanwhile, the customer success team works closely with your client base. They’re a prime resource to understand how customers use the product, what makes them happy, and what they want to hear more about. You can lean on those happy customers to be speakers, to be advocates of your product, and to help your content team write customer success stories. Of course, the product team also loves to soak up all of this information, too.

It becomes a full circle. Each of these teams and their work  all tie together into the customer journey because you can gear your messaging and event topics to increase engagement and position your organization as an expert source to gain new skills and inspiration.

Promote continuous engagement pre-, during, and post-event

We often place much of our focus on engaging attendees during the event. But the pre- and post-event periods offer even more potential to engage our audiences. Consider these tips to level up engagement across all stages of the attendee journey.  

Pre-event engagement begins the moment you open your mobile app or virtual platform to attendees and sponsors. Event apps are no longer just for sharing the agenda or venue map. You can push out polls or surveys to see the topics your attendees are most excited about, promote pre-event networking and in-app social sharing, and even launch an event game. We always include a game with our events and add a couple of early-bird codes to reward those attendees who engage before the event.

During the event, it’s all about mixing up your content delivery. Short sessions are becoming increasingly common in the events space. Swap in some lightning rounds or 5-10 minute sessions. It’s also best to change up the way you present, so it’s not always a presenter at a podium or one-way conversation. Maybe you host a fireside chat or include pre-recorded video. Get interactive and launch a whiteboarding session. Mixing up your delivery not only allows you to present more content, it also allows you to include more speakers and sponsors.

“...analyze your polling and chat data to reveal your attendees’ pain points, favorite session topics, and other key takeaways...”

Following the event, analyze your polling and chat data to reveal your attendees’ pain points, favorite session topics, and other key takeaways. Then, reach out with a new content deliverable. Maybe it’s a blog or guide. For example, maybe you find out many of your attendees want to learn more about running a hybrid event. You could create a hybrid event run-of-show template or checklist. Just make sure to be intentional with your follow-up content.

Embrace end-to-end event technology

While event tech used to be a nice-to-have benefit, organizers now rely on event platforms to power world-class events. As a planner myself, I highly recommend using an end-to-end solution. Many companies employ a single event organizer. Juggling multiple technologies just adds more stress to an event organizer’s plate. 

A comprehensive event management solution effortlessly combines event registration and check-in, networking and engagement features, sponsorship promotion, as well as production and branding tools. It also needs to integrate seamlessly with popular applications and tools. Maybe you want to use a special polling tool or whiteboard vendor. An integration allows your attendees to open the application without navigating outside of the event ecosystem.

I also think it’s important for event tech to include in-house production capabilities. Organizations may lack the budget to hire a professional A/V team to produce their events. As a planner, you want the flexibility to easily switch between speakers and layouts, or add slides, pre-recorded video, or transitions. These features allow you to be agile. You can potentially put together an event in a couple of weeks and run the production entirely by yourself.

Event tech also needs to create value for event sponsors and speakers. You want to give them a customizable sponsorship page that truly showcases their products and allows them to communicate directly with attendees, schedule meetings, and capture lead information.

For the networking component, you want to be able to easily search for people by specific titles, interests, and industries. For example, maybe I’m looking for a new audio-visual partner to produce my flagship event. I want to be able to search for that attendee and make a connection directly in the event platform.

And finally, you need polling and Q&A, which I know seems basic. But these components  provide rich event data. Some attendees might be shy , or they don’t know exactly what to ask. But if they see a question that they like, they can up-vote it. If they’re using a mobile app at the live experience, they can comfortably ask a question without having to stand up in front of the entire audience. The features also improve event accessibility, leveling the playing field and giving  all attendees a voice, whether they’re virtual, hybrid, or in-person.

Reimagine your future events

I think there’s a misconception in the industry where some people think “in-person events are back so we’re only planning in-person moving forward.” The industry has adapted. We’ve grown used to consuming event content on-demand and attending events from home — these elements are here to stay.

“Whether you realize it or not, you most likely already run a hybrid events program.”

Whether you realize it or not, you most likely already run a hybrid events program. As you build your year-round events strategy, just know you don’t need to do things exactly like others in the industry. You get to make your own rulebook now. Do what works best for you as an organizer, your company, and attendees. Think outside the box, determine the messaging you wish to convey, then figure out the best event format, whether it’s a short virtual event, large in-person conference, or monthly webinar.

Lisa Vogel
Lisa Vogel

Lisa has been in the event marketing field for over 16 years and is the Sr. Field Marketing Manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio). She is passionate about producing events that create engaging, unique and inclusive experiences.