By John Nawn published July 1, 2010

How to Create Content That Engages At Face-to-Face Meetings

When marketers think of the reasons why they need great content, they often think about their online marketing programs, but content is just as important for in-person meetings and events. In fact, great content, whether it’s a formal session or an informal hallway conversation, is the lifeblood of successful meetings.

We’re starting to see new methods and techniques for developing, delivering, and distributing content which are transforming the way we meet, and this has significant implications for content marketers.

This is the first in a series of three posts on how you can 1) create, 2) deliver, and 3) distribute content for face-to-face meetings. This post talks about how you can develop content that is engaging for your audience, and the next two posts will provide suggestions on unique ways to deliver and distribute content.

When it comes to creating content strategies for your conference, meeting or event, keep these design principles in mind.

Engage Early and Often

If you want to provide great content for your meetings, you need to solicit input from your potential audience through a variety of traditional and new media channels. Facilitate (don’t lead) the dialog, listen actively, and keep the conversation going both during and after your event. Collaborative content creation represents one of the greatest opportunities for increasing engagement with, and among, your attendees.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival held in Austin, Texas each March. Event Director Hugh Forest credits crowdsourcing content for their steady increase in attendance at a time when other events are seeing declines. “Soliciting presentation ideas from our online community and having them vote on those they’d like to see, has helped us understand our attendees better,” notes Forest. The increased engagement has led to more dialog which has led to more creativity, innovation, and ultimately translated into success.

Social media tools represent another content channel meeting organizers are using aggressively to reach prospective attendees and drive attendance. Platforms such as blogs, Twitter and video are mostly used for promotional purposes, but the greater opportunity lies in facilitating more dialog among attendees and with the content presenter so that when they gather together, they can dive deeper into the content, and deriving more value from attending than they would have otherwise.

Case in point: A well planned content strategy is even more important when you consider that when someone like Daniel Pink is brought in to give a presentation on his latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, many of his attendees may have already seen it on YouTube. Given this, what does Dan do for an encore? The challenge for content marketers is to position Dan’s message in a way which fosters greater understanding, and ultimately application for your attendees.

Focus on the Attendee (User) Experience

As you design your event, imagine the attendee experience before, during, and afterward and make sure you’re optimizing both content and context. Content is still King but context is Country. And what good is a King without a country?

One of the most interesting means of engaging meeting attendees prior to an event was Cisco’s use of an alternate reality game (ARG) called The Threshold. The online game was designed to build teamwork and greater awareness of Cisco products and services during Cisco’s Global Sales Experience.

The ARG was used because this year’s meeting was 100% virtual, without a single face-to-face component. But the results underscored how the right content strategy, in this case an online game, might help you exceed your objectives. Over 13,000 individuals participated in the game, generating thousands more posts on the discussion boards. Who knew sales people were such avid gamers?

Stay tuned for part two in the series where I’ll talk about different ways you can deliver content during meetings. In the meantime, let me know if you have any other examples of marketers who are using content to engage with people prior to face-to-face events.

Author: John Nawn

John Nawn is founder of ThePerfectMeeting.com. He specializes in designing meetings that maximize the attendee experience, primarily through optimizing formal and informal learning opportunities. As an Organizational Psychologist, John helps organizations grow revenues and increase market share using learning for a competitive advantage. You can connect with John on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @perfectmeeting.

Other posts by John Nawn

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