Caravans and Mini-Retreats

I’m a big sports fan.  The Atlanta Braves are my baseball team, and the Tennessee Titans are my football team.  Both of these teams do something really cool during the off season, and it’s called a Caravan.  The great thing about these caravans is they create excitement for the upcoming season.

These caravans also feature players and coaches.  That’s what gets the fans out; the chance to meet their favorite player or coach and get an autograph.

A caravan could be a great way for you to promote your event.

I know of one event for children’s pastors that tours into markets that their event is not in.  I love this idea!

This caravan or mini-event, features a speaker that could be on their platform or just someone local they feel represents their brand and a musical artist.

Could your event pull off something similar?

Imagine hitting a marketplace and rallying it for your event.  The publicity in that market could be priceless.

I would also setup a hashtag and get a social media plan in place to promote your caravan.  How did I hear the Braves Caravan was recently in my area?  Facebook.  It was fun for me to follow along as they made all their stops and signed autographs.

This might be a daunting task to add to your big event planning because your essentially planning mini-events in different marketplaces.

Think of this as part of your marketing plan.  Look for a free venue that would be interested in hosting your event, and work with local radio to help spread the word.

And don’t forget the power of social media.  Look for bloggers that could be a part of the mini event.  Some of those might even make great speakers.

The mini event can create excitement and momentum for your big event.  Give it some thought to see if it make sense for your event.

Brand Interaction, Part 1

A friend of mine was telling me a story recently of riding on a plane with a famous actress that he went to elementary school with. He was flying home from work and happened to sit next to her. He noticed the flight attendant coming down the aisle, and when she got to the actress, the flight attendant’s attitude completely changed. The flight attendant was more excited because it was the actress than a regular passenger. For the rest of the flight, the flight attendant treated the actress differently than any of the other passengers.

My friend decided to ask the actress about this, and she replied it’s the toughest part of being an actress and public figure. People expect the actress to react with the same excitement and enthusiasm they have of meeting the actress.

The same can be said for your event and by extension, your brand. People expect you to be as excited about your event as they are.

Let me give you another example. I love to go to the Apple Store if for nothing more than to just hang out in the store. There is something about the people working in there that sucks me in every time. They have an enthusiasm about their product, about their brand and about their service. They want to share that enthusiasm with you so much that it becomes contagious.

One last real world example from me: I went to IKEA recently, and in fairness, I’ve only interacted with their brand a couple of times. My daughter saw something she wanted, and I asked a sales associate were the item was located. Her reply was, “somewhere over there.” I wondered in that area for a little while only to discover it was on the opposite side of where the sales associate pointed.

Moral of these stories is when you or anyone from your team interacts with your event attendees, make sure they have as much excitement about your event as the attendee.

In part two we’ll look at ways your event can achieve the same level of excitement as your attendees.

Using Bloggers For Your Events

Blogging has become much more fashionable in the last few years.  Some bloggers have more traffic than major brand’s websites!  Read that last sentence again.  There’s power in their traffic.

Events can and should utilize these bloggers for their events to help create publicity and excitement.

To get started find bloggers that write for and to your audience.  That can be as simple as a Google search on your events theme and the word blogger.  For example, if you’re hosting a leadership event, Google “leadership and blogger”.  Those results will guide on you on to the next step.

Invite the bloggers you would like to attend to your event.  Now this might cost you money for travel, lodging and meals, but chalk that up to marketing dollars.  As part of this invitation, ask these bloggers to write a post about your event a few weeks out that they will be attending, and have them ask their readers to come as well.  If you really wanted to do something with their readers, give away an admission fee to your event (travel costs, etc will be on the attendee.)

Once these bloggers are onsite for your event, ask that they make several posts to all of their social media networks.  You might also consider asking them to live blog your event.

Set aside a specific place at your event for these bloggers to park themselves.  And don’t forget power for their laptops in this area!  You want them typing and posting regularly.

Bloggers can help create social media buzz about your event that could boost your attendance for your next event.

Have you considered using bloggers for your event?  Have you used them before and how has it helped?

Does Your Event Need An App?

A recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 53% of the mobile phones in the US were smartphones.

A lot of these people are attending your events.  Which begs the question, “Does your event need an app?”

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when thinking this question through:

What content will be in the app?

The event schedule should be front and center in the app.  Event attendees will be coming back to this section the most.

If attendees are new to your event, some video from the previous event would be a great way to get them excited.  Including video of your speakers could be another great way to generate excitement.

Depending on the location of your event, a map of the hotel or the retreat center, like Ridgecrest, could be a great addition.

Including a Social Media tab would be a great idea.  I would include your Twitter and Facebook Page feeds.  Another tab could include your events hashtag which would allow users to follow what others are saying.

What platform should you publish your app in?

The most popular smartphone software is Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.  We won’t get into the differences between to the two, but I would encourage you to make one app for each.  The developers for each might be different, but the content of the app and how it works doesn’t have to be different.

Should you sell your app?

There are going to be some costs associated with creating your app.  These could range from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the app, and selling it is one way to recoup those costs.  However, considering the app as a marketing expense is the best thing.  Some people will be hesitant to pay for an app that effectively has an expiration date (the last day of your event.)  Make it free and keep updating for future events.

An app for your event is an added bonus to your attendees.  I like bonuses.  Would this make a difference for me to attend your event?  Probably not…but it sure would be something cool that I know I would use.

Using Instagram For Your Event

My new favorite app is Instagram.  This app takes your pictures, lets you alter with a cool filter and post to Twitter and/or Facebook.  Matter of fact, it’s become my go to app before Facebook and Twitter.

Instagram was purchased by Facebook a few months ago, and has seen an influx of new users.  I’ve seen my follower count go up, and some of these followers are not on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m big on having a social media strategy for your events.  Not just leading up to the event and during, but it’s also important to look at how you use social media after your event.

Let’s see how Instagram will work for your event.

Starting Out
Signing up is easy.  One thing to note is Instagram is only available as an app in the App Store or Android Store.  Once you’ve downloaded to your device, create your own account (suggested) or sign in with your Facebook credentials.

Once you’ve signed in, you can follow users who follow your Twitter and Facebook accounts.  I would do this, as well as post your Instagram images to your events website.

The first step is to start posting pictures from past events.  This will help you build excitement and anticipation of your next event.  Maybe do this about twice a week.

During Your Event
Post away.  I would post pictures of speakers, people at your event, signs.  You can get as creative as you want with this app.  Posting these pictures to Twitter and Facebook is a great idea as well.  However, posting some “exclusive” pictures is another great idea.

In another post [], I looked at creating a hashtag for your event.  That hashtag can be used for Instagram as well.  It’s another great way of creating excitement around your event.

After Your Event
Don’t let up on posting the pictures from your event.  Using the strategy from your pre-event, post twice a week.  Remember to keep that hashtag going.

Instagram is a great and fun addition to your social media strategy for your event.  Add that to your arsenal and be visual.

Choosing The Right Entertainment

Entertainment for an event/retreat is always a nice addition.  Choosing the right entertainment is key.

In my “day job” as an artist manager, I work with all kinds of entertainment.  I thought I would take a moment and give you a few things to look for when looking for entertainment.

  • Music
    Like any form of entertainment, picking music is a tough one.  Do you get a band?  A singer/songwriter?  Or someone singing to tracks?  These different variations also bring other issues.  For instance, production.  If you have a band, sound plays into the equation and budget.
    Another point to consider with music is style.  Do you want a party atmosphere?  Do you want a reflective time?
    Here’s a for instance: I work with a band, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra.  There are 12 guys on stage.  LOTS of production involved with them.  From a style standpoint, they can be a 60’s/70’s era band, they can do hymns, patriotic or Christmas or they can do a regular show.  Looking for a band that will give you different options is key.
  • Comedy
    If your event/retreat has been particularly stressful, having a comedienne is the perfect way to wrap up on a light note.
    Production is not much of an issue for a comedienne.  Most of the time, all they need is a mic and a stage.
    Style is something to consider when choosing the right comedienne.  You probably don’t want someone who would make you feel uncomfortable if your mom or dad were present.  And you probably don’t want someone that is political in nature.
  • Speakers
    Don’t get this confused with a comedienne.  A speaker is someone who is coming in to do a talk on a particular subject.
    Production is only a minor consideration for speakers.  Some will probably have PowerPoint presentations, or the like.  Having the right hookups for a computer are key.  Some speakers travel with these things, but never assume that.

Whether it’s a band, comedy or speaker, coordination ahead of time is important.  A quick phone call is all that is needed.  And don’t forget to loop in the sound engineer.

One last tip: there are several agencies out there that represent all of these different types of entertainment.  Working with them can help you get the right fit for your event or retreat.

Have You Searched For Your Event?

Confession time.  I’ve gone to a search engine and typed in my name.  That’s right, and I know I’m not alone in this.  You’ve done it too.  Why?   Because we’re all curious about what we might find.

Right after you’re done searching for your own name, take a moment and search for your event.  Let’s look at a couple of reasons why searching for your event is important.

Search Ranking

Knowing where your event ranks in search engine results is very important.  When I do a search, I don’t normally go past the first page of results.  Having your event higher on that list of results is important.

Don’t confuse this with people only searching for your event.  This applies to keywords as well.  For instance, if your event is geared on leadership, then your event needs to be high on that keyword search results.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a learned skill…and it changes every week (at least it seems like it does!) depending on the search engine.  My suggestion would be to work with your website designer on finding the right keywords to embed for your event.

Buying search results is also a possibility, and how much you spend would depend on your budget.

What Others Are Saying About Your Event?

Remember the old adage “any publicity, is good publicity”?  I don’t think that’s true in the viral world in which we live.  People are going to talk about your event.  It could be as easy as a Facebook post or Tweet, but that little piece of information, whether positive or negative, is going to stay on the Internet forever.

Doing a simple search on your event could help you answer objectives to your event as soon as the negative ones appear.

If a negative post appears, reach out to the person and try to correct it.  Getting this post removed probably won’t happen, but you could ask that person to amend their negative post if their issue was resolved.

The same is true for a positive post.  Tell that person “thank you” for the positive review.  Showing gratitude will only buy you future goodwill.

One other tip: some search engines allow you to setup emails for keywords.  I’ve done this in the past, and it works great.  These emails are free, and will help you see what others are saying about your event in a more timely fashion.

Have you searched for your event?  What results did you find?