5 Ways Event Planners Are Like Online Marketers

Posted by Jenise Fryatt on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 @ 11:30 AM
Big Shoes, Little ShoesThe following is a guest blog article by Dennis Shiao. If you are interested in guest blogging for Sound n' Sight, please read my guest blogging guidelines. And if you have any thoughts, please comment. Dennis and I both would love to hear what you have to say!


These days, I’ve been doing a lot of online marketing. In fact, it’s what I live and breathe at work. I’ve also served as an event planner, though, both for work and for events put on by charitable organizations. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t connect the event planner and online marketer roles. But given my experience, I suppose I’m qualified to have an opinion. And my opinion is that event planners and online marketers have a lot in common. Let’s explore further.


1) Both create experiences to drive an outcome.

Just as an event planner needs to drive learning, commerce or brand awareness, an online marketer needs to drive leads, opportunities and online sales. Event planners use sessions, sponsorships and workshops to drive their outcomes, while online marketers use tweets, posts, page views and calls to action. In both cases, the “paths to the outcomes” are important, but the true measure of success is the outcome itself.


2) Audience generation is critical to their job.

Online marketers are judged by metrics such as page views, unique users, leads and sales opportunities. Event planners are judged by metrics such as attendance. While large events have teams dedicated to recruitment, smaller events require that the event planner “do it all.” And of course, online marketers cross into the realm of event planners when they plan webinars and online events.


3) Both need to put themselves in the shoes of their audience.

If you’re planning a biochemistry event, but don’t know the first thing about biochemists, then you’ll have a challenge in delivering an experience well-suited to them. To create desired outcomes (as described above), you’ll need a keen understanding of your target audience: what are their likes and dislikes, how do they learn and what are their patterns of behavior? So back to biochemists. For online marketing, an understanding of biochemists helps you determine the content (and content format) to develop, what keywords are important to have on your web pages and what online destinations biochemists visit.


4) Both need to manage a team.

Event planners and online marketers need to influence, inspire and manage teams of people who do not report directly to them. For an event planner, the team includes vendors, project managers, sales reps, content managers and A/V staff. For an online marketer, the team includes creative designers, webmasters, SEO specialists and back-end developers. In both cases, success can depend on how well you manage the team.


5) Both need to respond and adapt on the fly.

Whether it’s a late arriving snow storm or a loss of electricity, all events have unexpected issues. The DNA of an event planner expects this and they exhibit and demonstrate poise in the face of a storm. For online marketers, campaigns can go south from the start. Online marketing allows you to be quick and agile, though. You can disable one campaign and fire up a new one in a matter of minutes. In both cases, you need to find alternative plans that make the most of your available options.



Let’s review the key points. Event planners and online marketers create experiences to drive an outcome. They need to drive an audience – and, to have a keen understanding of that audience in order to deliver the right experience. In addition, both roles need to manage diverse teams and be able to “think on their feet” when things don’t go as planned.

Dennis ShiaoAbout Dennis Shiao
Dennis is Director of Product Marketing at INXPO and author of the book “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.”  At INXPO, Dennis is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, and for shaping product and platform evolution via the “voice of the customer.” Dennis has managed virtual event campaigns for Cisco, HP, Oracle and Microsoft, among others.  Dennis blogs about virtual events at INXPO, and on his personal blog, “It’s All Virtual.” Dennis can be found on Twitter at @dshiao.

(Photo by LisaW123)

Tags: marketing, event planners, meetings, meeting planners, event marketing