This post was originally published on Attend by Event Farm's blog and was written by Garrett Huddy.
Planning an event is complicated. From finding a venue and caterer to inviting and engaging with potential attendees, a lot of moving parts need to come together if you're going to host a successful event—and thinking through every detail and logistic is necessary and important.
One of the most important elements of any B2B event, however, is its content. While "event content" is often used to refer to the content that is used to promote events and provide post-event recaps, the type of content this article discusses is the content that is presented at your events. Whether it's educational thought leadership, an executive panel, or a well-known guest speaker, your in-event content is going to be a big driver of attendance and value for your attendees.
The value of events as content
While it might be a bit unconventional to think of events as content, you absolutely should. Events can be powerful conduits for delivering content, and in-person events have been ranked as the most effective B2B tactic for content marketing six years in a row (CMI Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends 2016).
What makes them so powerful? There are little-to-no distractions. Digital content like eBooks, webinars, and blog posts are great, but there are an infinite number of digital distractions that can prevent your audience from fully absorbing your message. It’s nearly impossible to get people to sit through an entire webinar or read through an eBook without checking their email, Twitter, Slack, etc.
But events are different. You have a highly engaged audience in front of you who made the effort to show up to your event—and that’s a lot more commitment than a webinar registration. And once they're at your event, they're somewhat of a captive audience. That’s not to say they can’t get up and leave if the content you are presenting isn’t good, but they are much more likely to listen to your message without the many distractions of a typical day in the office.
Choosing the right content format for your event
First, you’ll need to decide who will be presenting the content. While finding relevant and well-known speakers to present at your events has always been the model, more companies are starting to share their own content at their smaller, self-hosted events. If your business has high-quality thought leadership content that resonates with your audience, there is no reason not to showcase it at your events.
Beyond your own content, having speakers or panelists from outside your company will help validate your message. Even if your own content is front and center, it’s great to have a customer to back up your thought leadership. Instead of simply sharing how a customer uses your product, have them share their strategy for success, without focusing specifically on your product.
You’ll also need to decide how this content will be delivered. Powerpoint presentations are the standard, but scheduling a bunch of back to back presentations could put your audience to sleep. Try switching things up like breaking up two presentations with an interactive panel discussion or networking break. Remember to leave plenty of time for networking as that's where your sales team will be able to engage with your customers and prospects while they are on-site.
Take your online content offline
Do you have some signature content that’s performed well as an eBook or webinar topic? Think about what topics that your target audience is responding well to currently. A popular eBook can be an excellent framework for a presentation.
To prevent yourself from simply summarizing a piece of content the majority of your audience has already read, come up with new ways to present the ideas and expand on them. That way your presentation will still be relevant to those engaged attendees who actually read the eBook. The framework from your best existing content can also inform your questions for a panel discussion or the topic you ask a customer or guest speaker to talk about to give new life to your existing content topics.
You should also tailor this content to the specific audience registered for your event. For example, maybe your event targeted marketing professionals at SaaS companies. Looking at your registration list, you might see that 60% of your attendees are at a director level or above, and another 30% are VPs or CMOs. That may change the exact message you want to convey from something more tactical that a manager-level marketer would care about to a higher-level discussion that will appeal to executives.
Don’t talk about your product (very much)
Think of your event content the same way you think of your blog and eBooks. Your product shouldn’t be the focus. The useful and relevant information you are presenting should back up your core message, but no one is going to read a blog post that’s just a sales pitch for your product. The same goes for your event content.
There is a time and place for that sales-focused product info. Some well-established companies can get away with focusing on their product at their events because they have a large audience ready and willing to attend events solely to learn more about their products. But that right must be earned. Don’t pull a bait and switch and lure an audience with the promise of education only to bore them with a sales pitch.
It’s totally okay to mention your product at the end of a presentation It's your event after all. But the majority of the content needs to be relevant and useful to your audience without overtly trying to sell something. Save the sales pitch for your reps to give one on one over cocktails after the presentation.
Just like with the rest of your content, try to be the best answer to questions your prospects and customers have. Listening to what they care about and what they want to learn more about will allow you to provide value through your event agenda. If you want more information about how to deliver the best possible content at your event, watch our webinar, 3 Ways to Make Your Event's Content Unforgettable, on demand now.