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Event Marketing Done Right: How to Host a Killer Event Every Time!

Microphone is the "on" position.Have you been toying with the idea of hosting an event to create buzz?

Maybe you’re a local business considering an open house, customer appreciation picnic, or a workshop series.

Or maybe the nature of your business is already event-based. Perhaps you’re a writer or designer with an upcoming launch. You could be a musician who makes the majority of your income from live gigs, or a theater company who does several shows a year. Maybe you enter your films into festivals or display your photography in gallery shows.

Your mission, should you accept it, is to convince people to actually leave their houses to attend, or – if it’s an online event or launch – to grab peoples’ attention long enough so that they check out your work, read your first free chapter, or watch your latest video.

Because there’s always that horrible possibility, right? What if no one comes? What if no one clicks?

So the questions are,

  • How DO you market an event so that people get off the couch and to your show or event?
  • What makes people pull out their wallets and buy tickets or merchandise?
  • How do you set yourself apart from the noise?
  • How do you get fans & customers to come back? Share what you’re doing? Bring their friends?

Most importantly, how do you do all this and not appear spammy or annoying?

After all, shows, events, contests, competitions, and other fan experiences aren’t physical products that can sit on a shelf with “for sale” signs. We know intangibles have to be marketed differently, right?

You might think I’m going to give you social media tips, or suggest you put together packages. Or maybe you think I’m going to tell you to advertise and submit event listings everywhere and send out posters and fliers.

That’s all important, but it won’t work well unless you understand this

The Power of Experiences

Experiences, memories, stories – these are powerful things, the stuff that lives are made of. After all, how often do you really get excited about pulling an item off a shelf and checking it off your grocery list? But I bet you remember the best concert you’ve ever seen, your first kiss, and the birth of your children.

Smart marketers are always trying to tap into the power of experiences, events, memories, and emotions to market their products. Car salesmen know this; that’s why they always want you to test drive the vehicle. Food vendors want to give you samples.

Just about anything we sell either is an experience, or can be made stronger by turning it into an experience.

It’s tricky, right?

You’ve probably learned some approaches. You know you have to go into a description of the event, “Come to the show tomorrow night at the Old Theater downtown.” You give the date, time, address, ticket price and all the relevant details.

It’s easy to forget to spell out the benefits to your fans completely, or to tap into the exact things that will excite people about what you do.

“Don’t miss it!” you say. “It’s going to be a great night! So much talent! So much excitement!”

But that’s what everyone says. You have to dig deeper and do better than that.

Realize That YOU Are Your Product

The strongest and longest-lasting loyalties are usually not to brands or items or large faceless corporations, but to people. Think about the first thing you usually do when you need something like a repair service, or a large expense that you only incur rarely (like a roof). Who do you tap first? Probably your friends.

What if you’re looking for a romantic evening out at a great restaurant in a town you rarely visit? You could search the internet, but a strong recommendation from a friend who’s been there will usually carry much more weight.

It’s really not about exposure or networking. Many people treat these as end results. That was a popular view in the 1980’s and 90’s but it’s really only the very first step.

Your goal should be to be a friend – because people buy from friends and refer others to their friends.

Yes, this takes time, but it’s powerful. You can start using and benefiting from these strategies I’m about to describe right away, and hone and master your approach over time.

Being friends doesn’t mean you have to go to lunch or coffee with everyone or give them your cell phone number. It just means you have to care and connect in ways that mean something to your fans.

“People connect to people. Who you are is more important than what you do” – Tom Jackson, Live Music Producer.

Not sure I’m right? Think about these scenarios:

  • How many times have you purchased something from an artist or local business because you like them so much as a person and you wanted to show support?
  • How about when you saw someone screw up a speech or performance publicly, but rather than get angry or self-conscious you all laughed together and it became a “thing” you share? Friends forgive mistakes easily. Mistakes can be very endearing and actually build loyalty.
  • How much fun it is when friends show connection with pics of you, them, and other fans & loyal customers all interacting.

Our digital message, noise-filled world is starved for real, personal, human connection. Do that for people, both in your work and in your relationship building.

Give the People What They Want

I’m going to riff a little on some great wisdom from my music mentor, but it’s really applicable to any of us who are trying to master the powerful, emotional connections that build a loyal following.

1. People want to be captured and engaged by experiences.

Why do people go to shows? Because they expect to have fun. Why do they read books or see movies? To be completely immersed for a while in a great story. To parties? To forget about the pressures of life for a while, to let go and go a little crazy. To the internet? For distraction, funny cats, and inspiration to share. Why do people put photos or art on the wall, or a sculpture on their table? For beauty, memories, and to create a feeling every time they look at it.

Create something that lifts your audience out of the mundane.

2. People want to experience memorable moments.

Give your folks a memory they can carry with them forever – something fun, something touching, something really rockstar-worthy and amazing. Whenever you can create an experience like this for your fans/friends, you have found the powerful stuff that is worthy of keeping, sharing, and revisiting over and over. Next thing you know, they’ll be coming back for more and bringing their friends. Ramp up your style, personality, and energy just a bit. Don’t be afraid to use controversy or humor – basically, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

3. People want to experience life-changing moments.

Now, I’m not talking about major life shifts like finding religion or committing to dropping a bad habit, although these things do happen. More often, it’s just about inspiring people to think a little differently or to find the courage to follow their own dreams. You can do that directly by what you say or write, or by just getting out there, doing your thing and being a living example of what you believe in. (If you love these ideas and are a speaker or performer, check out Tom’s site at

Tell People That You Have What They Want

This is the tough part, and where so much experience marketing falls flat. Do you have a good tagline? Strong web copy that communicates to people how you will deliver on those three things they want from you?

If not, work on it. Write it in terms of what people will experience with you.

1. Explain what you do that takes people out of the moment and makes them forget about the daily grind for a while.

Examples: “A roof-raising, foot-stomping good time,” “Side-splitting, clean family humor that will have you repeating his jokes for days,” “When you can’t be in the mountains, we bring the breathtaking beauty and serenity to your home or office.

2. Describe the lasting memories they will have after your event. Use details based in senses like sights, sounds, tastes, feelings.

Example: “Festival fun, mouth-watering ribs, and the coolest games that will have your kids begging to go back the next day,” “Happy, catchy pop tunes you’ll be singing to yourself in the car long after the show,” “Authentic 50’s nostalgia, laughs, and doo-wop that will bring back memories of the good old days and create new ones of friends today.”Can you picture yourself there? That’s what we want.

3. Tell stories that your people have shared with you about how you make their lives just a little better.

These are easier because you can gather and use quotes and testimonials in their own words.”Last year’s show was great, are you going to do it again?” “I’ll be recommending you to all of my friends.” “I’m so glad I had the chance to make new people with similar interests.”

Make it a No-Brainer for People to Find and Buy What They Want

When you give people strong, memorable experiences, they are going to want more. They’ll want to come to future events and they’ll want to buy merchandise that allows them to relive those good times again and again. So make it very clear and easy for people to find and buy your products and/or sign up for your list.

Thank Them and Keep Developing Those Relationships

Make your people feel like they’re part of something special, because they are. Their support of you matters. Keep in touch through email, your blog, social media, and of course in person.

Have you noticed the change? It’s not yucky, spammy marketing anymore, is it? Now it’s just communicating with and updating your community of friends.

Now What?

Start tweaking everything you do to really emphasize how you deliver on the three things that people want from an experience. Brute force yourself out of your old “announcement” mentality and concentrate your efforts here.

My guess is that you’ll feel much better about putting your work out there, and you’ll start getting more positive responses from people relatively quickly. Keep at it and it will start to become natural.

Now the pressure’s on you to deliver. Don’t over-promise, yet don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little bit. And if you’re not sure you can really deliver a fantastic experience, then go back and prepare more.

It’s a very slight change, but a powerful one.

Start viewing marketing as communicating and sharing experiences with friends.

About Leanne Regalla

On a mission to help creative types everywhere pursue their art w/out starving. Blogger at MakeCreativityPay. Songwriter/owner/teacher at LivinOutLoudMusic.

32 thoughts on “Event Marketing Done Right: How to Host a Killer Event Every Time!

  1. This is brilliant and totally makes sense. Thanks for sharing. Snowbound in NY metro area and will be incorporating today to approach marketing our annual conference differently.

    • Thanks, Lynn! Great to hear that you found these suggestions useful. Hope your conference goes better than ever!

      Snowbound days are good for something, aren’t they? πŸ˜‰

      We didn’t get much snow in PA, but it’s so dang cold – best to stay close to the fireplace!

    • Hi Leanne

      Loved the snow day in PA. Letting the sun melt the snow off of my car. Not going anywhere…

      Good stuff! I’m a tech coach, so coming up with emotional juice or a unique point of view is not as easy as describing mouth-watering ribs or that impulse to kiss the ground when I visited the pyramids in Egypt — fulfillment of a life-long travel goal.

      I do have Firepole listed on my list of great resources. I think Danny has a lot to offer. He offers it too much for my preferences, but every now & then I open up a message and find at least one useful perspective or advice.

      Happy New Year! Hope it’s a good one for you πŸ™‚

      Anaiis Salles
      Tech Talk

      • Anais, I know what you mean. I used to be a technical trainer. But in that case, you can always channel your inner geek to make non-exciting stuff more interesting. πŸ˜‰

  2. Great article Leanne!

    I think beyond an experience, at the core people want to FEEL.

    They want emotion.

    They want to be scared, they want to be saddened, and then they want to feel happy, to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

    In the best stories, when the heroes win you FEEL as if you’ve won. You FEEL as if you’ve rescued the princess or killed the dragon.

    Likewise, in order to get people to buy your product, you have to get them emotional, and you have to get them to FEEL the depth of whatever emotion that you’re trying to bring out from them.

    When you get that connection, when you get them emotional, and when you get them to feel, then is when they will want more and want to come to your event to experience that emotion or feeling again.

    • Thanks, Daryl – you are absolutely right. Feelings are the key – and the memories of those feelings and the desire to live them over and over again.

      When you tap into that, you’ve got ’em right where you want ’em! πŸ˜‰

  3. Well done! You have helped to reveal something that we feel about events, but rarely can articulate and put it in terms of how to convey that feeling to others. Thanks for your insight.

  4. So glad to be following your blogs. It’s so true how you say these are slight changes, but very powerful. Simply announcing an event is not going to grab the attention as much as giving the feeling the event will leave the audience with. So many people who attend my yearly student concert have said that it is “inspiring”. And, these are people who happened to attend that did not have family members or friends in the concert. After reading this blog, I’m hitting myself upside the head and realize I need to incorporate the word “inspiring” into my student concert announcement! Thanks Leanne!

    • Inspiring, fun, sing-along to your favorite tunes – all these things.

      You’ve got to get people to get off the couch and to take action. I’m thinking that I will imagine this in the context of getting a Downton Abbey fan off the couch and to my event! (I set high goals for myself.) πŸ™‚

    • Glad you agree, Ryan. I’ve always found it helpful.

      As a matter of fact, I’ve been meaning to come up with a journal of stories that I can pull out at different occasions. Better get on that. πŸ˜‰

  5. Great article, I found your words full of thruth. Becoming your costumer’s best friend makes sense on a human relationship. This gets the idea of evolving into healthy mankind, rather than voracious and meaningless consumption. This is a win-win relationship for everyone!

    • Relationships are critical, Carlos – and Firepole is one of the sites that recognizes this. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy to be here, and glad to meet like-minded people like yourself. πŸ™‚

  6. I’ve started sharing more and more personal experiences at my public speaking gigs because I’ve finally realized people want to know that they’re not alone, that someone else went through something a bit like what they’re going through when they’re trying to start their businesses. I began to implement this into the messaging for our signature event, From Idea to Open: How to Plan + Launch Your Dream Company, and it was amazing – we nearly sold out the event! Can’t wait to run it again in October. Thanks for this post! It’s bookmarked for sure.

    • Hi Jessica,

      “You’re not alone” is one of the most powerful phrases in copywriting. You’re definitely on the right track, congrats on your success and keep it up! πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for this post, Leanne. I find your points about creating experiences for people and building authentic connections with them through simple acts of caring very helpful for understanding what I have to offer to people, and how to offer it within reasonable, yet meaningful, boundaries.

  8. Great Post! Some take-a-ways apply directly to my audience for my blog. Being authentic and real without being “spammy” (can I steal that word?) I also loved the part about giving experiences. So often its about trying to get something from them. Sign up, buy this, do this other thing.

    Love that your are on here with Danny because this is a great resource for me. My work to raise consciousness in the innerprenuer market is just getting launched this month. I’m digging in deep to develop the buzz. So this was well timed as I want to do an “event” as you described.

    One thing I was going to add to my event was to tell a story using the examples from the Hero’s Journey by Joe Campbell and the presentation style from a book called Resonate by Nancy Duarte. It is a mash-up of a journey with the audience being placed in the position of the hero and the information you want to share being the path of awakening.

    Wish me luck!

    Warm Regards,


    • Joseph, go for it. “Spammy” is yours to do whatever you like with! πŸ™‚

      So glad this is good timing for you, I have no doubt you will rock your event.

      Wishing you luck goes without saying!

  9. Hello Leanne Regalla,

    Building authentic connections with new people by event marketing is very important to get the outcome for what we are implementing the event.

    The post is really helpful as I have zero language in event marketing.

  10. Leanne big up! You hit the nail on the head.

    I see too many people in the event space making some of the mistakes you mentioned here all the time – Hey, our event is on sale! Go buy tickets NOW, etc. There’s no humanization, story of a common struggle, or emphasis placed on the experience.

    One thing I’d add for those interested in putting on events is to have a team. Never try to do it all yourself. Start by leveraging your existing fan base, customers, and employees by allowing them to be evangelist for your cause.

    • Thanks, Vernon! It means a lot to me coming from a guy whose title is The Event Dude on Twitter. πŸ˜‰

      And yes, you are absolutely right. The team that helps create the buzz is essential. It always means more coming from someone else other than yourself. (Aside from the obvious benefit of sharing the marketing work load.)

  11. Hi Leanne! : )

    What I absolutely love the most is your entire approach. You emphasize 2 important things: getting inside the mind of the customer and providing value.

    Thank you for such wonderful insights. It completely changes my perception about planning a big event from stressful to challenging and rewarding. Fantastic post!

    P.S. Any event YOU plan, I’d definitely want to attend! ; )

    • Becoming a mind reader – in a sense – is a must for any kind of marketing. It gets easier as you go along.

      So glad I could help shift your perspective about marketing. That was my sneaky plan. πŸ˜‰

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