With the fast-paced speed of events, follow-up is often forgotten, or the effort put forth is minimal. As the event host or planner, devoting more time and resources to the follow-up offers many benefits yet to be tapped by the broader event planning community. Professional event planners are experts in logistics, details and the experience, and often solely focused on executing a flawless event. Their engagement ends when the event ends.
The event host or organization may also be looking at the event as a one-and-done occurrence. It’s not. The connectivity between an event and an organization’s day-to-day activities to build relationships with its audience is a link often missed. Not because people aren’t thinking about it, but because the knowledge between internal employees and outsourced event planners, for example, isn’t intentionally shared.
The Follow-Up Gap
Allocating time to consider an event’s connection to long-term initiatives and goals results in better pre-, during and post-event excitement, engagement and action. As a marketing and communications professional that attends conferences and speaking events for my personal education and on behalf of clients, I have become acutely aware of the follow-up gap. In a fully inspired state after an event, I would peruse the event host’s website and social media channels to find deeper connections to the speakers, content or attendees without much success. Sometimes even a month or more later, the pre-event content still remained—a clear indicator that they had moved on and never looked back to nurture the relationships or create a call to action.
In 2014, I turned that frustration into my own kind of follow-up: an event recap. I built time into my schedule immediately following an event to process what I’d learned and shape the inspiration and learning from the event into something actionable. The written piece from a March 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Forum I attended became my first event recap. Since then, I’ve recapped several Bush Foundation OTA conferences, a three-day Fusion 2.0 Conference, a two-day Social Innovation Summit, Ignite Mpls and Minnedemo evening events, Twin Cities StartUp Week events and many more.
I noticed how important immediacy was to my process. I set my goal to share any event recap the morning after the event on the Sparktrack blog and my own personal and business social media channels. Writing and sharing the post strengthened my connections to the people I met at the event and set risk taking, goal setting and brave outreach in motion. Event hosts, keynote speakers and attendees shared appreciation in what at the time was a nonpaid, pay-it-forward gesture on my part.
In January 2018, upon recommendation from a sounding board of empowering women at my new co-working space, ModernWell, I made event recaps an official paid service of my business.
In 2019, it still strikes me that more event hosts don’t take the lead to produce this type of content at all or with immediacy. Doing so allows a brand to capture authentic, spontaneous moments and expand on event themes, collaborations, learning and context. It allows them to own their own content and connect it back to their mission. One event host, now a collaborator, said of the general concept of recaps: “If we don’t recap it for archival purposes and to learn and share, it’s like it never happened.”
Events are a huge investment of time, money and resources. And if you’re not setting the stage with pre-event content and executing some amazing follow-up after, there’s a lot of untapped potential left on the table.
Here are some considerations to improve your follow-up:
1. Recap: Summarize and share thoughts (like in the form of an event recap) as soon as possible after an event. Share the content on your website as a blog post and link to the post from all your various social media channels using channel appropriate language, engaging visual assets and tagging.
2. Report: Report on some interaction from the event and invite them to connect more deeply to your organization by taking some sort of action, a tactic that can exponentially increase engagement. This is especially true if your follow-up occurs within 12-48 hours when your event is most top of mind. This content can be pushed out through an email marketing service like Mailchimp or Emma. Small bytes of it can be repurposed on social. And yes, you can also survey or poll guests and send them a link to event photos, which encourages attendees to connect to one another for follow-up conversation.
3. Return: Measure your return on investment from the event. To set new ideas surrounding follow-up in motion, discuss ideas and confirm a tactical plan weeks, if not months, in advance. Set up your templates and email gathering systems in advance of the event so you can quickly produce and send content. Encourage more effort in the follow-up and create and grow new ways to effec- tively measure event ROI. Your relationship-building and quality lead generation, which is increasingly happening more at events than online, depends on it.