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As we begin to welcome the return of live events, it’s an exciting time for marketers. In-person events provide a unique opportunity to connect with existing customers and engage new folks with your brand.

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But what will live event sponsorship look like beyond the pandemic? And how can you draw on what you’ve learned from running virtual events over the past 18 months to make sure you’re getting the most out of live events? Here are our top tips for making an impact.

Before the event

  • Find the right partner. Make sure the values and ethics of the event’s host organization align with those of your company and customers. If an organization isn’t perceived as ethical or trustworthy, your association with it could be damaging for your brand.
  • Be loud. Your customers and prospects should know which events you’ll be attending. To spread the word, invest in marketing and make the most of your digital communication channels like newsletters and socials (which you’ve likely been growing throughout the pandemic).
  • Plan your time wisely. Make sure that you and your team schedule useful meetings with folks you know will be there, from current customers to partner organizations. And do this in advance before their diaries fill up.
  • Think about swag. People like getting free stuff! Digital swag is still a great way to gain leads, but you can also try transposing some of the virtual elements to in-person. And remember, sometimes the traditional options are what people enjoy the most, so don’t be afraid to keep things simple!
  • Take COVID precautions. Think about the safety of your team, pre-order equipment like masks and hand sanitizers, and check in with the event organizers to make sure they’re prioritizing COVID preparedness.

During the event

  • Make the most of the feeling of togetherness. In-person meet-ups have been missed. Enjoy the reunion and use the opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. Treat each event like it’s your only opportunity to engage with customers.
  • Take advantage of chance meetings. Bumping into someone over coffee or striking up a conversation during lunch can be a great way to catch up with clients and create new leads. And don’t forget to swap contact details!
  • Be visible, but not aggressive. Be ready and available for a chat but don’t be pushy. Use your stand to draw people in organically; for example, you could include a sign asking folks to put their business cards in a bowl for a chance to win X. Once they’re interested, you can answer their questions and get chatting.
  • Be aware that COVID is still around. Some people might be more nervous than others, so consider elbow bumps rather than handshakes, and ask people what they’re comfortable with.

After the event

  • Reflect on your success. You may find that you end up with a smaller number of leads compared to virtual events, but don’t estimate the value of in-person interaction. These relationships can be much more valuable.
  • Stay in touch. To maximize your impact, make sure that you follow up with each of the connections you made during the event. Try doing this personally through LinkedIn as well as creating a broader nurture campaign, which can include event-specific content and other helpful information about your company.

The return to live events is an exciting opportunity to reconnect with your audience. With the right preparation, some creative thinking, and a hybrid approach to incorporating virtual elements, you can start making the most of in-person opportunities.