Having worked with several different organizations and types of people while putting on a meeting, it is often a point of contention with how the meeting should be marketed, how much should be budgeted for marketing, and who is in control of the marketing decisions.

Marketing tends to be one of those topics that everyone thinks they’re really good at; however, I have found that people are usually just really good at throwing out insane ideas and wrenches in plans that actually make sense (excuse my pinch of bitterness in this arena).

Beyond the aspects mentioned above, it is critical to nail down a marketing timeline in order to maximize the dollars that are finally allocated. Trying to implement meeting marketing with a large amount of cooks in the kitchen with a last-minute plan is giving me anxiety as I type about it.

When you scroll down to the “Articles Worth Sharing” segment of this newsletter, you will see an article titled:
HCPs Weigh In on What Draws Them to Conferences

As I was reading it, I was stoked to find the following statement/statistics:

“To market to HCPs effectively ahead of a convention, both the organizers and exhibiting firms should communicate in detail with attendees at least five weeks ahead of the event. The proof:

29 percent of HCPs begin planning their convention schedules at least eight weeks out
23 percent start planning five to eight weeks out
24 percent start planning three to four weeks out
23 percent start planning within two weeks of an event”

This is incredibly helpful information!

While the highest percentage is 29% at 8 weeks (minimum) before the event, this statistic shows that SEVENTY PERCENT don’t start making their decisions until the event is two months away.

So what can we do with this information? Here are some tips from me to you as someone who has good and bad experiences as the meeting marketer, as well as having understanding of the stresses experienced by the meeting administrators who consistently panic when registration numbers are next to nothing until the final weeks’ surge.

FIRST: As I’m typing this in real-time, I had a flashback to an article I have previously created on this exact topic. I just looked it up and it was EXACTLY three years ago that I created a “Marketing Your Meeting – An Implementation Timetable Checklist.”

A lot has changed in three years and I can say that the checklist needs to be updated! SO – Good news… you will be equipped with an updated checklist next month. Not only have meetings changed drastically in a short time span, but the statistic above provides essential information that force me to shuffle various suggested marketing tactics around.

SECOND: Just because the majority of decision-making and planning doesn’t take place for attendees until the last 2 months before an event, does not equal time to slack off. Instead, this allows us to take a deep breath and reconfigure how we spend the time BEFORE the heavy registration dates hit. For example, details still must be fleshed out much earlier for the other key audience in the equation… exhibitors!

The good news is, you now can do less multi-tasking of creating communications programs for two audiences at once, but give each audience its necessary/required attention for maximum results in both commercial support and physician attendance.

THIRD – Stay off of your marketing coordinator’s back. I say this with the “chillest” tone possible. Again, the timing information reported above does not mean that everyone gets to take a vacation and check out until 8 weeks before the meeting. However, it does mean that the team needs to appropriately focus on the metrics that matter at any given time.

If your registration numbers are not close to the final number you’re used to seeing from year to year, avoid having a freak-out session; and definitely avoid ripping into your marketing director/team. Instead, determine what has been done on the commercial side and figure if communication needs to be ramped in that arena; and simply determine if you’re on your standard registration trend year-to-date. Instead of demanding a magical influx in registration numbers in an instant, simply ask your marketing team what their plans are for the coming weeks so that those final weeks do end up filling out the way they are expected to.
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Sarah Breymeier:

-Sarah Breymeier