Event tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of tourism. Particularly in regional areas where there has a been a shift in focus from say forestry or mining to tourism. Events have the potential to inject a huge amount of cash and people to the region.
And more than that. They engender local pride and a sense of community and strengthen regional values and unity and as they expand, they create jobs and economic return.
One of my top suggestions to event organisers is to really consider how you’re engaging with your audience. Before, during and after the event are all extremely important and equally important.
Before – spread the word. Use the media – both traditional and social. But if you’re on a tight budget, focus on social.
Set up a Facebook page for your event and share it like crazy. Get all the people involved in the event to share your Facebook page. Post photos of the venue and of the content of the event – maybe it’s food and wine, maybe it’s a sporting event, or historical celebration. If this is the first of it’s kind, get some people to pretend they’re participating in it. Much like when you see people in the newspaper pretending to be doing the activity the event is about. Fudge it a little so you can give the event some context.
Prepare a media kit. This at bare minimum includes: a bunch of images, a press release with ALL the details the journalist needs (make it easy for them and make it so they don’t have to look anywhere else for what they need – making it too hard to find information might also mean you don’t get featured). Details such as dates, length, opening hours, entry fee, map, venue, theme, description, and contact details of someone to contact for a quote are essential. Send this media kit to local media and all the tourism outlets you can think of.
Get your event listed on all the FREE event listing sites. If you don’t know what they, Google them!
During – get people to share their experience, cross promote and encourage selfies! Get the hashtag of your event and work it. Also, it’s extremely important to record people’s thoughts, suggestions, and yes, even criticisms. Survey those that attend, get their thoughts and capture their contact details. They’ll feel connected to the event by having completed a survey and may provide you with some of the most important feedback in how you tackle the next event you undertake. Sure there will be teething issues with a new event, but sticking your head in the sand and pretending that you’d rather not hear about it will only result in a poor showing the following year. People will appreciate the chance to give feedback, and might even turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one by getting it off their chest onto paper/computer before it festers.
After – follow up with those that were willing to give their details. Thank them for attending. Stay in touch during the year periodically with snippets from the next event. Make periodic announcements about some of the features. Perhaps even name and thank some of the people who provided suggested for improvement that you’ve been able to implement. Humanise it and you’ll get better engagement. Keep people interested, and even if they weren’t planning on coming back at the time of your next event, there’s a very good chance they know someone who is travelling during that period and will forward them the email with next year’s program. Never assume that just because they came once, that they won’t come again or won’t tell 10 people to come.
Event attendees are your best advocates and your best form of marketing.
And how much did these tips cost you? Pretty much nothing. Be creative, wear your green hat and you’ll think of some great ways to engage with your customers. Let me know how you go!