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My experience with event marketing

December 9, 2009

In the last 2.5 years, I have managed and promoted a lot of events, but for this particular post I will speak about the Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup.  I took over the role of organizer for <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?nLo1Ddsv&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-entrepreneurs-startup-vancouver-office-space/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup in June 2006. At that time we had about 200+ members, today we have about 2000+ members.   Our mission for <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?nLo1Ddsv&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-entrepreneurs-startup-vancouver-office-space/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup was the same as our mission for <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?2ZB3GpF0&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.thenetworkhub.ca” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>The Network Hub – connect, create and collaborate.

When we first started, our first meetup (which took place in <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?4pSjyRIF&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-entrepreneurs-startup-vancouver-office-space/calendar/5005808/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>July 2006) consisted of about 14 people. It was a seminar format and we relocated at SFU Harbour Centre because our office was just a couple of days behind on finishing construction (for those doing some calculation in their head, yes, we did open before Workspace).   Our very first guest speaker was <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?eoPfQrju&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.pamelachatry.com/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Pamela Chatry and, bless her for taking a chance on me, she trusted me enough to come and share her wisdom with the group.  Getting the word out about the group was difficult; people hesitate to promote a group that is so new that they have not made up their mind about how they feel about it yet.  We posted on <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?dIrRWw8d&quot; title="Original Link: http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/cal/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Craigslist community events and posted on a few local event websites but it was all very random.  We gained a few members but they just joined to see what’s going on, they didn’t engage or RSVP to attend the event. But the people who were coming regularly were strong believers and supporters of the Meetup.

I am referring to loyal, long-timer supporters of Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup such as <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?0mo2E6Qy&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.facebook.com/josh.ellwood” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Josh, <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?kxHJdedh&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.addcoach4u.com/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Pete , <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?tTn9_wtd&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.sohosalescoaching.com/” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Tom, Efrain, and Arash.  They were the tipping point of the Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup. They not only told their friends about it but they brought their friends.  Tools such as Craigslist, event websites and even Facebook group/event invites were just awareness tools; it was the people who were believers that made that extra push – from awareness to engagement.

We’ve tried many different things: tradeshows, posting online events, Craigslist, flyering, cross-promoting, building ambassadors. We put flyers in coffee shops, libraries, bars and cross-promoted with different entrepreneur clubs (this was our guerrilla marketing effort).  Do we use these tactics anymore?  Not as much, because Twitter, and now Facebook Fan Pages, do a better job assisting us.

Fast forward to this year, we had about 1800 members to start the year and we are now ending the year with about 2200 members.

What do we do today? We use Twitter and we cross promote with other organizations with similar interests.  Did we get lazier?  Yes! Have we gone outside? It’s not flyering weather. Jokes aside, Twitter works very much like flyering, as well as posting to online event websites, except that I can add the personal touch by directly connecting with persons of interest and inviting them to events.  Vice versa with organizations, I can personally tweet them about the upcoming events and invite them out.  But the #1 reason why we are able to sit back a bit more and why the Meetup was able to gain the membership we have up to date? The PEOPLE who are our ambassadors!

If you offer value to people and they deem it useful to their lives, they cannot help but talk about you.  Remember, don’t get lost in the tools.  Social media is not so different from ads in newspaper or television advertising: just because you are shown on TV or is retweeted it does NOT mean that you will gain an ambassador who will go out of their way to tell their friends, invite their friends and get their friends to engage with your event/product/service.

Once you gain an ambassador, do everything in your power to fulfill and exceed their expectations.  Rain or shine, Meetup will always take place on the third Thursday of every month (with exception of summer when networking in a room full of people can get too hot).  Every guest speaker is vetted, and once in a while, I like to mix things up to keep the event fresh such as Meetup of Meetups or a mini tradeshow.  Sometimes I make mistakes: the speaker isn’t as prepared or the topic isn’t as interesting, but that’s ok because my ambassadors will let their new friends know that next month will be even better.  These kind of conversations and support can hardly take place on a platform that only provides 140 characters nor can they be done with a “like” button.

I hope this helps you think about your social media/guerrilla marketing strategies. Feel free to ask me any questions you need using the comments below.  On a side note, follow us on <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?5KVQ6STW&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.twitter.com/thenetworkhub” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Twitter and be a <a href="http://thenetworkhub.ca/minna/?47Oy3tWc&quot; title="Original Link: http://www.facebook.com/thenetworkhub” style=”margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(38, 62, 84);” target=”_blank”>Facebook Fan if you are interested in great networking opportunities and interesting workshops geared for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

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