This guest post was contributed by CallHub.
What is a communication plan?
An event communication plan is a highly detailed breakdown of what to tell your audience, when to tell them, and how to reach them (SMS? Email? Social media?), so that your event is a success.
A good event communication plan has three significant benefits:
- It builds excitement around your event
- Engages your audience before, during, and after the event
- Keeps your team members on the same page to avoid hiccups
Typically, most events get the first two down. It is often the third aspect of an event communication plan that they overlook.
That is not to say that they don’t communicate right. It just means that keeping your on-site team in the loop is not considered as part of a communication plan.
And it shows—the difference between a smoothly run event and one that where everything goes south is heavily dependent on how well the staff knew what they were doing.
If you are struggling with that (or event attendance), then it is a clear indication that your communication plan needs a closer look. This article can help you there.
We will take a look at 3 fundamentals for event communication that will help make your events successful.
Must-haves for an event communication plan
The secret to building a successful event communication plan is to understand who it is for and why it is needed.
An event communication plan is as much for your team members as it is for your attendees. For your team members, it is about getting the right information across at the right time so that they can plan it better.
For your attendees, communication should help them understand the importance of attending your event. It should also inspire enthusiasm and excitement for them to participate.
The good news is that for both in-person and virtual, the objectives of your communication plan remain the same. So while your messaging around the events would change, this communication plan can be replicated across various types of events.
1. The event timeline
An event timeline is a chronological list of key landmarks that lead up to your big day. It will outline details like when the registration for the event goes live, how long the early-bird registration lasts, when the event invites go out etc.
It will also contain details of the tasks your team members have to accomplish before each of these landmark dates. E.g., Send out registration reminders before the early-bird offer ends.
To get it right, first finalize the date, venue, and agenda of the event. Then do a reverse planning session with your team to set deadlines for each of the ‘to-dos.
It will help you come up with a communication plan detailing when you want to contact your audience.
Here are the most common touchpoints that you should include in your communication plan.
Pre- event communication primarily consists of event promotion. The objective is to build a healthy buzz and excitement around your event so that you can boost event registration. It can happen from 10 to 12 weeks before the event date (and at least 1 week before the start of registration).
Keep in mind that when you start pre-event communication ultimately depends upon the scope of your event. If it is the biggest event of the year for your organization, having a longer timeline will work.
For smaller corporate events, such as board meetings or team building events, pre-event communication can begin just a month in advance.
Event invites, notifications, and reminders:
Take into consideration that these details have to be communicated with your team members and your attendees.
It helps you better collaborate with your team. It also helps boost attendance for your events.
To your audience, you will send out an invite outlining the value they will get out of attending it. This will, of course, be followed up with reminders to register, notification on special offers, etc.
To your team, you will send out invites outlining the event agenda and requesting help. You can also send a detailed breakdown of which team is responsible for what task and what is pending.
The event invites should ideally be sent out at least a month in advance. However, the timelines can vary depending upon the scope of your event.
During event communication (texts messages/push notifications):
Keep your audience engaged with live updates on what is happening. Such timely communication is especially suited for big conferences and trade shows where multiple programs happen simultaneously.
You can also have a separate texting group for your team members to convey urgent information to them.
It can also get your audience more involved with the organization—e.g., send a poll or survey to collect feedback.
Engaging your audience after the event helps you build a relationship with them. So send thank-you messages to your team members and your attendees for their time and participation.
The message can also include details about the impact your event has made, and how their role helped you in achieving it.
This is also an excellent opportunity to make an ask—such as polling attendees regarding their engagement and experience with session materials.
2. Communication tools
Identify the channels you want to use to engage your audience and finalize which tools you will use. Email, social media, mobile event apps, phone calls and text messages are all valuable channels you can experiment with.
You don’t necessarily have to choose all the above channels. If you are short of resources (time and manpower), go ahead and pick those that your audience engages with the best.
Once you have selected which channels to focus on, it would make sense to finalize tools that can help you communicate easily.
As a rule of thumb the tool you pick should be affordable, should work for your requirements (if any), and also be easy to use by your on-site team.
To narrow down options even further, pick tools that integrate seamlessly with your existing tool kit. This tiny detail helps data flow between various teams and enables you to improve the quality of your communication.
For creating engagement and lasting value for attendees before, during, and after events, Pathable is an excellent option. Similarly CallHub offers call center software and texting services to reach your audience directly on their phone.
3. Audience details
A successful event communication plan has in-depth audience details— not just the name of the organization and attendees.
You will need their contact information. The latest (or correct) mobile number, contact address, and email address ensures you can reach them on time.
You will also need data on how your audience engaged with you previously to send them personalized and targeted content.
This is where integration between your various tools comes into play. Your CRM would probably have behavior data on which prospects have been repeatedly coming to your events.
The open rate analysis of your email content would tell you which prospects are keenly interested in the emails you send.
If this information flows into your call center software, you can target your calling (or texting) campaigns to the most interested prospects first.
You can also frame the messaging to be relevant by audience segment. For eg. you can acknowledge their consistent patronage. Then, you can go on to reiterate exactly why this event would add value to them.
Ensure that you have quality information that you can actually use, before starting your communication plan.
Getting these basics sorted will help you plan out a relevant and pragmatic plan that can actually be followed (instead of being ditched by your marketing team for ‘not being feasible’).
But hey, making an event communication plan is not easy. A lot of collaboration is required to get these must-haves in place. For eg. your marketing team would want more time for pre-event promotion, but your organizers would want to hold the event as early as possible for more traction.
So ensure that your plan works for all stakeholders before you finalize on it. Also check out this article to ensure you are not making the common mistakes most event planners do. Good luck!