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South by Southwest (SXSW) is a combination of festivals, conferences and exhibitions that celebrate the intersection of the interactive, film and music industries. The event is hosted annually in Austin, Texas, and typically spans 10 days—this year, the event will kick off on March 10 and last until the 19th.

Last year, SXSW attracted over 72,000 attendees, and the group of A-list speakers included Barack and Michelle Obama , Pat Benatar, and T-Pain. The event fosters "creative and professional growth," and calls itself "an essential destination for global professionals." With the opportunity to attend a variety of screenings, speaking sessions, exhibitions and networking opportunities, professionals spanning multiple industries are often in attendance—and companies and organizations across the world take the opportunity to market to them. 

Last year, Event Farm hosted an ancillary event at SXSW, and we surveyed our attendees to glean some insights about the attendee mindset. Now we're sharing those insights with you, the event and marketing professionals—so check out the infographic below to learn more. 




Do you want to learn more about hosting successful events? Check out our eBook, the Ultimate Guide to Successful Events. 


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This is the second part of a three-part blog series with tips for engaging attendees before, during and after events. If you missed the first post with 10 tips for engaging attendees before events, you can read it here. Otherwise, keep reading to check out our list of tips for in-event engagement. 

1. Use a social wall. Projecting a live-stream of your event’s hashtag on large screens throughout your venue will encourage attendees to share more. This will not only keep them engaged with your event’s content, but will also extend the reach of your event far beyond your in-person audience.



2. Listen to what people are saying online. Encouraging people to actively participate in conversations on social media will also allow you to see what people are saying about your event as your event is happening. If someone is unhappy with something about your event and tweets about it, you’ll be able to respond in real time and turn a potentially unhappy customer into one who feels valued.

3. Create networking opportunities. There are two broad reasons people are compelled to attend an event: to learn from speakers and to network with peers. Block out time during your event to facilitate sessions where your attendees feel comfortable networking with each other. Your speakers, of course, are industry pros—but attendees also want to learn from their peers.

4. Create an event app. Having an event app will make life easier for both you and your attendees. Include a venue map, information about the area surrounding your venue, an event calendar, and information about other attendees. You can also include more interactive features, like gamification, which will encourage your attendees to engage with your event more by providing them with a certain number of points by completing different activities (like attending event sessions or exchanging contact info with other attendees).



5. Take advantage of live-streaming. Using applications like Facebook Live can help you engage both your in-person and virtual attendees. But don’t just resort to live-streaming the in-event activations or speaking sessions that your attendees can already see—go behind the scenes and create content to which even those in attendance wouldn’t otherwise have access. A short, one-on-one interview with keynote speakers, for example, is something you could live stream that would be interesting for both in-person and virtual attendees.

6. Use NFC or RFID-enabled badges. There are a lot of use cases for RFID and NFC-enabled tech, and you can get creative in order to develop a customized use case for your event. For example, NFC or RFID badges can be used for everything from streamlining check-in to allowing attendees to download a piece of content to their phone. For more information about the differences between NFC and RFID and their potential uses cases, check out this blog post.

7. Set your speakers up for success. When you hire a keynote or session speaker, make sure you follow up with them as the event approaches to ensure that their content will be catered to your audience. This is when certain pre-event engagement tactics can be useful. If you crowdsource questions for session speakers before your event, for example, or ask pointed questions on your registration form, you can use that information to give your speakers an idea of what attendees are hoping to learn.

8. Use music between session to keep energy levels up. Event schedules are hectic, so making an effort to keep energy levels high among attendees is important. Put some thought into your playlist and come up with something that is appropriate, energizing, and a little bit alternative. You don’t want terrible music—but you also don’t want to simply play the songs from iTunes’ top 100 list that everyone is tired of hearing.  

9. Provide charging stations. Yes—sometimes, attendees might become distracted by their phone, tablet or computer. But if you’re leveraging these technologies in the right way, they can also serve as tools that will allow attendees to engage and participate more with your event. If you’re using an event app, for example, or if you’re encouraging attendees to live tweet or exchange contact information, you’ll want the devices that allow attendees to do this to be charged. Whether you rent charging stations or host your event at a venue that already has a lot of outlets in place, make sure you make it easy for attendees to plug in.

10. Give attendees a mental break. Not everything has to be focused on your event’s content, and attendees often use an event’s built-in breaks into to catch up on email or check in with their co-workers. Attendees will, of course, need to check in with their lives beyond the event—but you should make an effort to specifically schedule entertainment during your event that will allow attendees to unwind and simultaneously keep them from immersing themselves in their phones. Event schedules are often hectic, so scheduling some time for your attendees to unwind will likely leave them feeling refreshed.

Do you want more tips about how to engage with attendees before, during and after events? Watch our webinar,  The Connected Experience, during which Event Farm COO, Brennan McReynolds, will cover how you can use data and event technology to create a connected experience before, during and after events. You'll learn: 

  • How human behavior impacts attendee expectations
  • The Experience and data points event tech enables you to capture
  • Data collection opportunities at different points int he attendee journey
  • Using the principle of reciprocity—giving back to attendees who engage
  • ... and much more. 




Event pros, what are your go-to in-event engagement tactics? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @eventfarm.
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Events are consistently cited as one of the most successful marketing channels, but they also take up a significant portion of a marketing team's budget. If you're going to host an event, you want to make sure you do it right—which means you need to host the right kind of event to help meet your business objectives. Not sure which type of event is best for you? Use our flow chart to find out. 

 
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With the advent and ubiquity of social networks, search engines, and smartphones, the past decade has seen a major shift in marketing strategy. A marketer’s job is no longer to shout a message about a product at consumers, but to cater to consumers and provide them with any information they may need. In other words, a marketer’s focus used to be the product, and now it’s the consumer.

A successful marketing strategy has always included building a recognizable and reliable brand. Before the age of the Internet, this typically required organizations to come up with catchy, memorable names and slogans, and to attach well-designed logos to their marketing materials. But consumers today are inundated with 140-character messages and professional photos and images—so how do marketers ensure that their organizations stand out?

Brands as relationships
To start, we need to think of brands differently. The American Marketing Association still defines brand as the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” But consumers see hundreds of ads every day, not to mention the hundreds or potentially thousands of emails and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blog posts to which they are exposed. The average consumer has become a master of quickly sifting through the images and text that make up our world of digital noise.

So, is a distinct name or symbol really enough to build a successful, recognizable brand? In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Mark Boncheck and Cara France write that in the past, “you had a relationship with a brand. But in this social age, brands are the relationships.” Just as marketers have shifted their focus from the product to the consumer, in building a brand they must also shift their focus from creating a logo and slogan to building a relationship between their organization and audience. Logos and slogans are still important, but they’re no longer enough.


Building relationships with consumers through experiences
Think about your brand as your customer’s experience with your company. Your brand is not something static—it’s an experience you must continually deliver, and it’s something you can deliver through multiple channels.

It’s not a coincidence, however, that with today’s plugged-in and online consumer base, the most effective marketing channels are often offline. Experiential and event marketing  tactics allow companies to cut through the digital noise, and they provide a space for organizations to make an engaging and powerful impression on their prospects and customers. In fact, 98% of consumers feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation, and 74% of consumers have a better impression about an organization after an in-person event.

It’s also important to note that an in-person event will not only make an impression on those who are able to attend. 71% of attendees say they share information about the event with family members and peers, and 34% of consumers say they share a post about the event on social media channels. These word-of-mouth referrals are powerful: 92% of people trust recommendations from their friends, and 70% trust online consumer opinions.

If we stop thinking of brands as the logos that we simply stamp on products and  instead understand brands as the way in which organizations can continually prove their value propositions to their respective audiences, companies can begin to build more meaningful engagement and loyalty among consumers, and can persuasively differentiate themselves from competitors. 

Engage consumers, build trust and drive business
In a world that’s constantly online, offline and in-person marketing channels provide the ultimate space for organizations to show—not tell—consumers that their company provides value. During an event or experiential activation, an organization can capture full attention of its audience, build trust, and encourage positive word-of-mouth and social chatter. By consistently and deeply engaging with consumers in this way, companies can build brands that are far more memorable and meaningful than those that completely rely on well-designed logos and pithy slogans. 

Do you want some tips to help improve your event marketing strategy, or to get it off the ground? Check out our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Successful Events. 

Event pros, how do you think your events have impacted customer loyalty and your company's bottom line? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @eventfarm.
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Event professionals are notorious for their incredibly hectic and often stressful schedules. When they’re not sourcing venues, finding sponsors, sending invitations, accommodating dietary restrictions (there are a lot!), or hiring entertainment, they’re probably busy working out the logistical details of an event to ensure that everything runs smoothly—or spending time worrying that it won’t.

But ultimately, event pros jump through these hoops to get back to something basic: humans. Our Farmer of the Year, Melissa Spitz of DigitasLBi, understands the impact she can have doing just that.

Not only has Melissa been a champion of our brand and helped shape a strong Event Farm-Digitas partnership, but she has also built a successful career around the importance of human interaction. It’s a simple idea, but one that is frequently lost in the noise of online and digital, and it’s a tenet that is central to Event Farm’s core values.

Join us in congratulating Melissa, and keep reading to learn more about her work in and thoughts about the event management space.

Why do you think it’s important to throw events?
Any opportunity that brings people together and allows them to create new ideas, build relationships, and drive business is important. Events also greatly contribute to the economy, and I think by being an event professional I do my part.

How do you leverage events to strengthen business relationships, particularly in a B2B space?
Events give people the opportunity for face-to-face interaction. With clients all over the world, it’s important to have moments that bring them together, especially with events that are related to our industry.

Events are particularly useful for us in the advertising industry not only because they allow for face-to-face time with our customers, they also give us the opportunity to interact with our partners. Everybody has the chance to be in the same room, which doesn’t always happen in day-to-day business.

What do you enjoy most about your career in the events industry?
I’m sure everybody would say that we’re a bunch of crazy nuts, because on paper it’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. I’ve made it my career because of the people that I work with—the people in my company, the suppliers I work with on the ground, the partners I work with to get to the end result. It’s really about the joy of working with other people. If you’re with a group of people and you’re able to just laugh or dance it out, it makes the project fun.

I also think it goes hand-in-hand with my love of traveling. I like having the ability to be in other places, learn from other cultures, and see how other people do what they do.

What is a typical day for you?
It’s a little bit of everything and a lot of logistics. It’s anything from making calls or digging through the funniest and latest unicorn tchotchke on the internet to thinking through the strategy of our next meeting or talking with partners about our activation at the next ad industry event. Sometimes I’m ordering catering, and sometimes I’m unpacking a bunch of boxes.

How has using Event Farm made your life easier?
It’s made things easier in a lot of ways. One, it has provided a database of our customers. We’re able to see and know about their habits and what kind of events they’ve attended. The check-in app has also been a life saver for me—we rely on it in order to get the best data on-site about who has attended our event.

What do you value most about your partnership with Event Farm?
It’s two-fold. First, it’s the people. The team members at Event Farm are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with, both from a business standpoint but also just as real people. I find that I truly know a lot of the folks that I deal with day-to-day. I also know I could call anyone at Event Farm at any time and they will help me get anything done that needs to be done—which is helpful in a world where things can change so quickly.

Second, it’s the company. For us at Digitas, there are some insights that we need to make our events better year over year. The flexibility from a discovery standpoint on the Event Farm side to help us make our lives easier provides the roadmap and tools within the software that we need to do our jobs efficiently.

What is the best event you’ve ever attended?
There’s nothing better than watching a marathon live. One particular experience that stands out was when I was in London and realized it was the day of the London marathon. Being able to see the professional runners finish was a very exciting moment. I won’t ever run a marathon, but being able to watch that type of community is really exciting.

If you were a real farmer, what would you farm?
Grapes. A vineyard is technically a farm, and that would probably take me back to Portugal, where I traveled for my honeymoon. Although working on a vineyard (from all of my experience touring them) is incredibly hard work—so I’m not sure I’d be so quick to trade in my event planner hat for vineyard life.
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