Guest Post: For Great Events, Get Great Content (Part 1)

This is a guest post by Denise Quashie, a successful Atlanta-based event planner who hosts a great webinar series. Denise has previously shared her excellent venue tips and insights on marketing your event through Twitter. Today, she writes about the importance of getting great content for your event. (Part 2 of this post will focus on entertainment, so stay tuned!)

We’ve all heard the ubiquitous quote “content is king.” Granted, over the years “content” has been replaced with a number of different words, and apparently now “content is dead.” However, there’s a very true element to producing an event that get butts in seats: it all boils down to a balanced mixture of content and entertainment.

PT 1 — CONTENT

Look to Your Audience—You Have Many Speakers at Your Disposal

If you have a tight speaker budget, or no budget, look to your audience. Unconference/BarCamp events are popping up all over and not just because they’re trendy. They really work. You can still have a structured event; just add one or two BarCamp sessions and allow participants to lead a session or hands-on workshop.

For one of my home design clients we created a “Show & Tell” session. Attendees spent 5 minutes each showcasing their work to their peers and it was the highest rated session of the 3-day event. It was so popular that attendees immediately started blogging and preparing for what they plan to showcase the next year. Many of the talks were trial-and-error, so it allowed attendees to relate on a more human level than they might have with an expert speaker.

Humanize Your Event with Content

Speaking of being “human,” conference organizers tend to get bogged down in the details and if you’re trying to grow your audience it’s extremely important to be visible. Vimeo, YouTube, VodBurner and other similar programs are fantastic ways to provide advance content and education.

For BarkWorld we’ve created a “Barkisode” series (webisodes) that showcases short videos of the speakers and staff discussing what’s to come at the event, quick tips and more importantly how to stay connected to us virtually until we meet at the event..  We’ve been able to grow our registrations by showcasing these short videos months BEFORE the event.

I’ve also used video to relay speaker and exhibitor information versus constantly sending emails. No one REALLY reads anymore – in fact if you mention you read this particular line I’ll give you 25% off one of my webinars.

Select the Right Speaker

If you’re an education hound like me, you pretty much know what education you want to deliver at your event. However, it’s not always easy finding the right speakers. One way to get around this obstacle is to write out your program with the education sessions you want to have. Then, open a call for presentations and link your suggested topics to the online form. You’ll be surprised how professional speakers take what you’ve suggested and expand the offerings to a really phenomenal session.

Video submissions are a new way of vetting out speaker submissions. Require a short video submission to weigh their speaking and technological ability. Then get your community involved and post the videos on Facebook for voting. Encouraging attendee participation allows attendees to feel part of the planning process, and they’re more inclined to attend an event to hear talks from speakers they’ve personally voted for.

Survey… Everything

This is nothing new; however I still find myself at events that don’t survey. There are many no-cost electronic survey forms out there – select one and send it out. It’s critical to ask your attendees and your speakers about their experiences and content delivered. The next really important step is to listen and incorporate changes the second year.