Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marketing Tip: Word-of-Mouth for Speaker Engagement

One of the challenging strategies Event Marketers are faced with is speaker engagement – or effectively answering the age-old question “how do I get my speakers to reach out to their clients and prospects?” I’ve seen numerous tactics employed – from arranging discounts to developing a tailored package/communication to website buttons and banners for speakers to utilize. And these efforts are, more often than not, not fruitful.

Part of the challenge is bandwidth – a speaker, typically a consultant and/or plenary thought-leader is, to turn a phrase, just not into to your event – they’re into to their content. Looking at the scenario through their eyes, as good as your event is, to a speaker it is a block of time in their calendar, a commitment to contribute content, their presence to a target audience and, with any luck, a decent honorarium. They are typically not equipped or aligned to help promote your event to their contacts – as beneficial as it may be to them.

Andy Sernovitz, in his Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That blog, recently detailed a great promotion he used to promote Gaspedal’s upcoming Word of Mouth Supergenius! conference (being held next week in Chicago.) Using Word of Mouth Marketing (Gaspedal’s forte), the campaign cut through clutter and engaged speakers to blog about the initiative. And the event. AND actively promoted a personal Speaker discount, to boot.

How?

T-shirts.

Check out Andy’s blog post and video to learn about the promotion, but in a nutshell, for the promotion, personalized T-shirts were sent to each of the 30 speakers, each with a speaker-specific discount code, with a note attached asking the speaker to a) photograph themselves with the T-shirt and b) blog about what a fun, great promotion it was and, of course, tie it into the upcoming event.

The subliminal supergenius around this effort is that, despite what Andy says about it not being about speakers blogging about their participation (having them write, as he says, “Yes I’m speaking about a conference, please go,” which he notes is not interesting), in the end it really is doing just that. It’s speakers writing about a fun Word of Mouth effort for … well … a Word of Mouth event.

And while I think this is a great idea and do want to pass it on, I am not suggesting everybody reading this Google “personalized T-shirts” as the lesson learned; for example I’m guessing this type of promotion would not be as germane for the Society of Neuroscience’s annual event. This was an example of event marketing recognizing it’s audience and it’s speakers and thinking through and executing a promotion which would engage both. So, as Event Marketers, the take-away is for you to think through and strategize how to engage your speakers for your event; how to get them to start an interesting conversation and get people talking and thinking about your event.

And please do feel free to share any success stories you may have!

Good luck!

John

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