In-person events can seem intimidating, if you haven’t participated on regular basis. However, in-person events give you an advantage. They allow prospects to associate your business with a “face” and your personality. Getting to know you, in-person, allows potential customers to relate to you and identify with you on a deeper level. This is why in-person events lead to a deeper sense of trust and higher sales.
An in-person event is one in which you have the chance to interact face to face with people interested in your niche or industry, or a particular topic. The events can range from informal to formal, and the number of attendees can range from a handful of people up to thousands. These details will vary depending on the event type, as well as how widely the event is recognized, among other things.
The right in-person events provide an environment where you can meet prospective customers, niche peers, leaders, and others who can directly or indirectly, help sell your products and services. A few popular types of events to consider might include:
- Local Events & Festivals
- In-store events (brick & mortar)
- Public talks
- Book Signings
- Courses & Classes
Why should I participate in events?
If you are marketing yourself as an expert or brand (think Oprah, Emeril), you need to see and be seen by your target audience. Increased visibility can help position you as an expert in your niche. So, can the company you keep. If you are seen in a variety of places and seen frequently, it gives your audience the impression that you are “in demand” and are someone worthy of their attention. If you are seen rubbing elbows with niche leaders, some of their reputation/authority will be associated with you, too.
How do I choose events to participate in?
As the old saying goes, “You have to learn to walk before you can run.” Before you pack up your gear and head out to the next event you hear about, you need to plan and do your research. Start by checking out the event online. Then visit events as a “customer,” not as a vendor, before you make a decision to participate, officially. This lets you see if your target market is even at the event. It also gives you an opportunity to figure out creative ways to tie your product or service in with the event’s theme, topic, or purpose.
Even if you only attend the event as a visitor to check it out, you can do things that can pave the way to product/service sales, as well as website traffic, joint ventures, etc. For example, wearing a branded shirt with your logo and URL is a wonderful conversation starter to help you connect with anyone who might be interested in what you have to offer.
If your target audience isn’t at the event in significant numbers, attending may still be profitable in other ways, such as learning the ropes of being a vendor, meeting the community, or finding potential JV partners in the area.
As you decide whether the event is a good option for you, be sure to consider how long the event has been in existence. Events that have been around for years or decades have a larger number of people attending than newer events. You may like a newer event and choose to grow with it rather than compete with larger numbers of vendors and bigger crowds.
What can I do to participate?
When it comes to your participation options, that depends on several factors, including the type of event and how well known it is. There are multiple ways to promote your business at almost every event, especially if it’s hosted on a yearly, monthly, or weekly basis.
A few common business-level participation options might include becoming a sponsor, guide, speaker, vendor, volunteer, or other options unique to the event. While all of these types of participation can help put you on your audience’s radar, one of the most beneficial types of participation is sponsorship. Here’s why…
In-person sponsorship perks
Sponsoring an event on any level often affords you a wide range of opportunities to promote your business. Events usually provide a variety of sponsorship packages to choose from. Each level of sponsorship is different in that it is associated with a dollar amount as well as promotion options.
As a major sponsor, you may get your business name and logo on the event banner, swag, and in media promotions. At lower sponsorship levels, you may provide freebies, giveaway or contest prizes, preferably branded to.
Attending an event that you sponsor allows you to reach more people because sponsors are frequently given free-reign when it comes to additional participation options and perks. For instance, sponsors may be allowed to set up a (free) vendor booth, speak to the audience, give demonstrations, etc. Depending on the event, sponsors may also receive special accommodations or some sort of VIP treatment.
What do I need to participate in live events?
After you have checked out the events that appeal to you and your target market and come up with a few to put on your event calendar, you should set a business goal for each live event. How many prospects/subscribers would you like to get, as well as how many sales would you like to make. You may have even more goals for different aspects of your business.
After you identify your reasons for attending and the goals you want to achieve, it will be easier to decide what else you’ll need. Here are a few basic things that can help you benefit from your in-person event participation. Of course, you’ll want to modify this slightly for each event.
- A squeeze page for prospect-connections, to get them onto an email-marketing list, for easy follow up and relationship building
- A sales landing page for sales you might make through your contacts
- Business cards with the URL of your special pages
- A sample of what you are trying to sell, if it is a physical product
- Promotional literature about your products and services
- Professional clothing to add to the impression that you are an authority
- Writing tools to take notes about contacts, discussions and follow up steps
- Registration and paperwork related to the event, date, time, venue, etc.
- Travel papers and ID, if you are heading out of town
- Travel directions to the venue
- A way to accept instant purchases, if selling directly to the consumer
- An “elevator speech”: A 30-second description of what you do and how you help people. Write and practice this until saying it becomes second nature to you.
Now that you know about the basics, let’s take a closer look at the details related to popular types of events in your area or region.
Local Events & Festivals
The chances are high that there are several organized events in your local area due to groups and organizations such as Main Street America, your local Chamber of Commerce, as well as state and privately hosted/sponsored events. In fact, when you saw “local” festival, a festival name probably came to mind, immediately.
Local festivals and events tend to have a great deal of appeal because the events are based on something that is very meaningful to the people in the area/region. These events may vary greatly based on your location. For example, if you live in farm country, you probably won’t see too many book signing events at a small town, local, library. However, there may be several craft festivals or events related to produce.
The key to success, when attending local events, is to tie your products and services into the event’s theme or topic, while keeping it relevant to your target market’s needs. In most cases, this is just a matter of getting the right hook that relates to your target market as well as the event.
Most customers who attend local events appreciate the variety of items and services that local or hometown vendors provide. They also enjoy seeing you in a “different” light. Think about how pleased you are when you’re in the grocery store and you run into that sweet nurse you like so much.
Even if you have a shop in town, get out of the shop and into a vendor booth to participate in local events. Potential customers like to see you outside of your shop. This gives you the opportunity to make sales and connections, as a professional, but in a more relaxed, casual way.
You can also show-off your knowledge and talents more easily at an event. For example, if you sell lumber, you could demonstrate your wood carving skills or something similar. Let people see a side of you that they didn’t know about.
If you have a brick and mortar business, consider hosting an in-house event that introduces a new product, launches the new season of fashion, or allows patrons to test (and vote on) new recipes for your latest menu. Pick dates that are traditionally slow, in order to get customers out of the house and into your door.
Meetups are taking place all over the U.S. in various locations. The chances are in your favor that there is a local or regional meetup related to your niche. If you have you own store, host the meetup there. If your business is online or you don’t have a physical office/building, meet at a local coffee shop or modestly priced restaurant that has a large room or area for groups.
Ask the manager/owner if it is okay to host a meetup there. In most cases, the restaurant will be happy to accommodate you on a day or evening that tends to be rather slow. Announce your event on the local or area Meetup website and to your email-marketing list.
There are many places you can give a public talk. Your talk should be informative, but can also include a little info about a product or service you sell. If you haven’t already written a niche or topic related book, consider creating one and publishing it through Amazon’s Kindle program.
You may also consider setting it up as a paperback through CreateSpace and order some copies to be shipped to you. It’s more impressive for the audience to see a physical book in your hand than to hear about an e-book. Be sure the book has your business information in it, who you are, and what you do, so people can follow up with you via your website.
You can also often sell copies of the book at the talk. This is commonly referred to as back of the room sales. Just be sure to ask the event organizer for permission to do this. Many Chambers of Commerce organize free events of interest to the business community. Charities, churches, and civic groups are always happy to have guest speakers about topics relevant to their members.
Books signings can be held at libraries, bookstores, conferences, etc. It’s always a good idea to have a prepared speech for the event. Expect to make sales at these events. Have your books shipped to the venue or bring some along, so you can be sure you have copies to showcase and sell.
Short Courses and Classes
Day or evening classes related to your target audience’s needs can help position you as an expert in the niche. Check with the continuing education department at the nearest colleges and universities. They will usually help you promote the event in their catalog, especially if it is a paid one.
This might mean planning the event months in advance. If you don’t want to wait that long, find out what it would cost to rent a room and host the course or class yourself. Other options might include your local community center, civic clubhouses, or even local high school.
Niche or industry related conferences are ideal opportunities to meet like-minded professionals and develop business connections. You’ll be able to network with a wide range of people in formal and informal settings. Hand out business cards and socialize with attendees on a personal level.
Consider offering to be a guest speaker. Requests for speakers usually go out several months before the event. You might write an email proposing 1 or more topics you would be able to talk about, in detail. Your travel, lodging, or other participation fees will often be paid for, as a speaker.
Conferences and other large group events often need one or more key speakers. These people may start the event and speak a little each day to guide the direction and set the tone of the conference. This is frequently done by bringing everyone together in one location at least twice a day. Speakers are usually high-profile individuals, but as your reputation grows, more speaking opportunities will open up for you.
Great things can come about from speaking at these events. Not only can you gain authority but you can also acquire a massive following, among other benefits. Continued interest in your topics frequently leads to repeat speaking requests at the event for several years.
At trade shows, businesses can showcase products and services to potential buyers, as well as network with vendors in related industries. The foot traffic from these events can get you a great deal of attention among the most motivated prospects and buyers.
Free samples are always a good idea if you sell physical products. Consider holding raffles and contests at your booth, at least 1 per day, for some great free products your target audience will love.
Live, in-person events can be scary until you learn the ropes, but the truth is that potential customers do business with people they like. As you get to know the people you talk to, you can often get great ideas for new products by listening to your target audience.
While peaking in public and mingling may not be areas where you shine, you will never gain those skills if you don’t practice them. By becoming the face and voice of your company in person, you can open a world of business opportunities with every in-person event you attend.
Please keep in mind that I may receive commissions when you click my links and make purchases. However, this does not impact my reviews and comparisons. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.