Expert Predictions and Best Practices for Event Marketing in 2016

December 21, 2015

By Elizabeth Johnson

If your New Year’s Resolution is to “do it better” in 2016, you’re not alone. Whether it’s more attendees, a larger exhibit hall, a broader international reach or more sponsorship revenue, show planners have ambitious goals that mean marketing needs to be more effective.

But, with all the possibilities, how do planners market their events better than ever before? The industry’s leading marketing experts weighed in on how event marketing will evolve in the coming year and shared best practices for getting it right.

Kevin Miller, president of Frost Miller

“2016 will be the year that social media, and more broadly, content marketing, will finally secure its place in conference and tradeshow promotion. Until now, there has been confusion about social media’s role, but as we’ve learned more about its strengths and weaknesses, and new tools have been introduced to target very specific audiences and drive very specific actions, more organizers are going to see measurable results with social media. This will also help organizers realize their goals of extending the life of their events to 365 days a year, as content from the event can be pushed out year-round, and communities can form around particular topics.”

Jean Whiddon, president of Fixation

“I think the standard answers are going to be "doing more with big data" and "focusing attention on 'more’ vs. 'better'" in every category of marketing, web traffic, social media interaction, even attendees. But I think a trend will also be - particularly with large horizontal industry events - to help attendees find their smaller communities (within the big event) of like-minded individuals to make the event more consumable and more valuable. So in the same way that large universities help students find their ‘tribe’ within a large population, so too will shows keep striving to make their event memorable, manageable and less overwhelming to attendees...and of course to persuade them to come back every year.”

Ben Swiatek, web developer/UX-UI specialist, and Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, president of mdg

“Thanks to online analytics tools, event marketers have an enormous amount of website data at their fingertips. mdg’s advice for 2016 — use it! As tempting as it can be to base decisions on feedback from an opinionated board member or an impassioned phone call from one confused attendee prospect, choices based on data will almost always prove more successful in the long run.”

Bob James, sales communication manger, Freeman

“Freeman released a white paper that included this trend in 2016: ‘Crowdsourcing becomes more ubiquitous every day as a way for consumers to make buying decisions. People use comments on Amazon to help them choose which product to buy, Yelp to decide where to have dinner and TripAdvisor to pick their vacation destinations. With the consumer expectation of immediate response inevitable, eventgoers will rely on the feedback from fellow attendees about which conference sessions to attend or exhibit hall booths to visit. Event organizers, exhibitors and conference speakers will have to be vigilant observers of social media, prepared to make quick changes to programming as they digest their participants’ instant feedback. By encouraging participation and crowdsourcing, event organizers can build both interest and attendance by creating a community of active enthusiasts.’”


Stephanie Selesnick, International Trade Information

“There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to international event/exhibition marketing.  Understand that a great number of people in the world know English as a second language, so keep your messages simple, concise and leave buzz words and jargon out. In other words, be user friendly. Secondly, if you are going to publish anything in another language, be sure to have it professionally translated. Google translate does not count!”

Stephanie Heishman, president of Freya

“Remind, cross promote and use your influencers. Successfully market your event by using a countdown technique in your event communications to remind your audience often (for example, “Reminder: Join us in just 2 weeks!”, “In 3 days: Attend the Best Event Ever”). Integrate your event messaging with your on and offline programs to cross promote. Finally, utilize influencers like board members and celebrities to help you extend your reach and get the people you want to be in the room, in the room.”

Need more? Planners can follow these leaders on social media throughout the year to learn more valuable ideas for marketing their events. 

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Partner Voices

Sporting events are no longer the most preferred target for terrorists, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Outdoor events, conferences, festivals, and other events featuring public figures are all vulnerable. And with over a thousand different-level attacks since 2015, it’s no surprise that safety and security are among the top concerns for event professionals.