Scouting other events is an excellent way to learn best practices that can improve your own event, especially if you’re new to planning. But scouting events takes time and money. How do you know which events are worth attending to do some intelligence gathering? Following are some tips for identifying good candidates. None of them alone is full proof; but in combination, they can provide a strong starting point:
Ask colleagues and attendees of your own event to identify which events they love. There’s no better resource than attendees themselves to find out which events are worth scouting. You can gather intelligence informally or in a more formal way via a poll that asks attendees to identify other events they find engaging (which can be done via an event evaluation). Similarly, ask your colleagues in the industry which events they attend to keep themselves up to date.
See how other events incorporate social media. Sites like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn are widely used to promote conventions, connect attendees, and initiate conversations. Check out different events that use these social media platforms. Great use of social media is an indication that a particular show would be a good resource to do some scouting.
Which event activity gets coverage? Review industry publications such as BizBash and Event Marketer to identify events that stand out by virtue of the coverage they receive. The publications regularly identify unusual and interesting ways to engage an audience at events, such as the way 9lives used real-time video to build buzz at the annual South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive festival. It’s not enough to content yourself with reading the articles, though; to become an intrepid event scout, you should attend the events that are getting the buzz and experience these buzz-worthy activities first-hand.
Determine how other planners use technology for the event. Just like the use of social media is a sign that you should check out a show, the ways that an event incorporates technology will tell you if it’s worth an in-depth look. For example, is an event using Snapchat to allow attendees to contribute to the collective story? Events that promote the use of leading-edge technologies are probably going to be innovative and forward thinking in other ways.
Learn from unique formats and venues. Planners are thinking outside the box more than ever, inviting attendees to unusual venues like museums and art galleries. They’re also incorporating unique formats to engage the audience during presentations, such as using Twitter feeds to guide discussions. For instance, Content World 2015 in Cleveland invited attendees to an Opening Night Reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If an event advertises an unusual venue, chances are that it’s taking creative, interesting approaches in other ways.
Look at how other planners promote their event throughout the year. You can tell whether a show is worth scouting by its marketing efforts in the off-season. If planners are interacting with attendees in the interim between events, you stand to gain valuable insight from these conferences. Check the show’s social media page, website and blog to see how planners are maintaining the interest of their followers throughout the year. Health Information and Management Systems Society’s annual conference does not occur until February 2016, but the organization has been including show details and updates to its Facebook and LinkedIn profiles for months.
Do you have other ideas on how to determine which events are good for scouting purposes? Please share some tips of your own.
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