I think we can all agree, an event with no attendees is going to flop.
You want every event you produce to be a sell out. Or at least get a respectable number of registrations through the door, in line with your targets.
But how can you attract more attendees, even if you have no money or a very minimal marketing budget to spend?
Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the fancy billboards and glitzy adverts from large-scale, high-budget events. Without big sponsors and big bucks though you are not going to be able to compete.
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It doesn’t mean it is game over though.
Instead, we have gathered 100 realistic event promotion strategies, tools and ideas you can try to boost greater attendance numbers, that will cost you very little.
Here is what is on the menu:
- The Event Promotion Definition
- The Most Effective Event Promotion Tools for Event Planners
- Price vs. Outcome: A Comparison of Mainstream Event Promotion Tools
- 20 Creative Event Promotion Ideas
- 20 FREE Promotional Ideas For Events
- 20 Low Cost but Cool Promotional Event Ideas
- 20 Online Ideas to Promote Your Events
- 20 Offline Event Promo Ideas
- The Cheat-Sheet to a Better Event Promotion Strategy
OK, we have a lot to cover. Here are 100 free and low cost ideas to help give your event registrations a boost.
Event promotion encompasses all the efforts made to successfully market an event. The aim of event promotion is to widen the number of people that are aware of the event and consequently to increase attendance in terms of the number of registrations or ticket sales.
How To Promote an Event Successfully
Promoting your event is big business and the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost the earth. There are a lot of tools and software to help you to boost event attendance. Many of these tools offer free plans and freemium pricing which can grow with the size and requirements of your events. At the end of the day, if used correctly these platforms can pay for themselves several times over by increasing event attendance levels.
We asked 2,000 event professionals to rank the most effective event marketing tools. Here they are ranked for you:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Registration site
- Printed media
- Influencer marketing
- Experiential marketing
- Press releases
Social media is the clear winner followed closely by email marketing - an often times neglected tool for event marketers.
We think you’ll agree that platforms, marketing and costs can be super confusing when trying to make the best decisions about promoting your event.
We decided to make things a little bit easier for you to analyze the best event promotion tools on the market.
In the handy table below, there is a breakdown of different platforms and marketing channels you can utilise as well as how easy you’re going to find it working with them. Plus, we look at the potential reach you can generate, as well as the downsides and options for specific targeting on each platform.
The average cost per click relates to the amount you’ll probably spend to get attendees to click through to your website, ticket page or even those that go to sign up. There are many factors to consider and obviously these are mostly averages. You may in fact find cost to be substantially lower if you the keywords you are targeting are not very competitive or if you use your own contacts with remarketing or uploading emails.
For direct mail however this gets a bit trickier to track scientifically! It’s a lot harder to track the outcome of an offline campaign. To make it easier, if attendees have to sign up, ask how they heard about the event and collect their addresses in the registration form and you’ll get a better idea of the geographical areas that converted.
|Platform||Avg. Cost Per Click||Ease of Use||Potential Reach||Drawbacks||Targeting Options|
|Email Marketing||$0.17 per email||Easy (especially with a well maintained list)||High||Limited by the quality and amount of email addresses you have on your list. Spam filters can reduce deliverability.||Narrow Targeting|
|Facebook Ads||$0.26||Setting up the ad is easy. Targeting can be tricky||High||You need to understand targeting, Facebook ads, your audience and quality of the ad which can all affect the outcome||Adaptive. Broad and narrow targeting options.|
|Twitter Ads||$0.50 - $4.00||Easy to set up||High||Targeting isn’t as good and engagement on Twitter ads is generally lower so the cost per click is higher||Adaptive. Broad and narrow targeting options.|
|LinkedIn Ads||$2.00||Easy||Medium||It’s more costly, but leads are often better converters.||Adaptive. Broad and narrow targeting options.|
|AdWords||$0.05-$2.32||Slightly more difficult to navigate for beginners||High||For beginners it can feel like a stab in the dark. Cost varies based on keyword competition.||Highly targeted|
|Organic Social Reach||For event promo campaigns $0. (although a consideration for the cost of building your audience and content should be mentioned here.)||Easy. The level of effort required will depend on the competition in your niche||High||You’ll always be limited by social platforms because you haven’t paid.||Broad targeting|
|Direct Mail||$0.60 (cost of distribution of A5 leaflet per area with high targeting)||Medium. Difficult if you’re doing the distribution yourself||Medium||There’s not a lot of conversion data so while some campaigns are beneficial, others aren’t. A lot of variables.||Broad and Targeted. Highly targeted for local events|
Now, we know the how, here is the what!
Put these 100 promotional ideas for events into action to start seeing results.
Nobody wants to attend boring events.
How you promote your events should reflect how innovative your event is. Creativity means you can save money and start to create a positive image in your attendees’ eyes.
Here are 20 creative ways to promote an event (that isn’t going to break your event budget):
- Pop-Up Henna Stall
A week before your event takes place, set up a pop-up stall at a local event, in the local town center or even at the local supermarket. A Henna artist should create Henna in a unique style that incorporates your logo or represents the event theme. Hand out event details and let people know that for everyone who turns up at your event with this Henna tattoo, will get free swag or discounts.
- QR Code Mystery
Incorporate a little mystery by handing out QR codes on the street that link to prizes, tickets and event information and put up QR codes on A4 posters with a cryptic message. The fact that people won’t be able to immediately guess at the content behind it will make them intrigued and more likely to scan and look.
- Create a Live Spectacle
Plan a live activity that can grow and develop in a busy public place over a period of a few hours and that passers-by want to stop and watch. This could be a group of artists creating a huge structure or canvas or wood carving. Create a timelapse of progress to share online too.
- Animal Ambassadors
Who can resist a cute puppy or kitten? Partner with a local rehoming shelter and encourage adoption alongside promoting your event! This works particularly well with fundraisers, particularly if this is your chosen event charity, and it has an element of sustainable event promotion too.
- Create a Movie Trailer
Use last year’s event footage and testimonials to create a short video about your event to attract others. Seeing the action and including a clear call to action to buy tickets can encourage those considering purchasing a ticket to take the plunge.
- Sneaky Book Signings
Get your speakers that have written books to sign copies including your event info. This idea came from Neil Gaiman who covertly signed all copies of his American Gods book at JFK airport and then told his Facebook audience what he had done. This caused all sorts of fans to run for the Delta terminal and the bookstore. If you have authors with a decent profile presenting at your event, consider doing something like this. Use social media to promote it.
- Be a Podcast Star
If you have plenty of time before your event, start a podcast and begin to build a following you can promote and tap into that way. If you don’t have a lot of time, ask to guest star on an industry influencers show to reach the right audience. In return offer the influencer free tickets to attend and to give away to their fans.
Use AI technology to take care of anyone looking for answers on your website before they are willing to commit to tickets. Live chat on your website, Facebook messenger and text chatbots can answer and reassure potential attendees that have specific niggles holding them back from booking a ticket.
- Local Graffiti
Ask local artists to create a piece of original art that also has your event information in it! Of course, make sure you get permission from the wall owner, or you can set up a temporary wall and canvas specifically for them to create their promotional art on. Offer services in kind or create an opportunity for them to sell their own prints or artwork at the event itself. The artwork could even be commissioned and made into event merchandise such as t-shirts, hoodies, bags and mugs.
Create a fun infographic about last year’s event stats and what you’re expecting for this year! Pick a theme they will be interested in and that offers value worth sharing.
- World Record Attempt
Investigate world record attempts in your event niche. If there is a current record make a serious attempt to smash it in the lead up to the official event. If there is no record, think creatively for a record attempt that will capture attention. This could even generate some TV coverage ahead of the live event which is the type of promotion you generally cannot afford.
- Temporary Branded Seating
If you can’t afford a big fancy advert placement on park benches or local seating, create your own version. Temporary options such as cardboard tables and chairs can be easily printed, decorated or written on to promote your event and give potential attendees somewhere to sit at the same time. Or, if you have a little budget available, hire an oversized deckchair with the fabric custom printed to your design. You could also repurpose for your event too!
- Guerilla Performances
If your event has a performance element or theme you can play on, create a preview performance on the subway or another public area. For example, for concerts have acts start playing, for themed events, dress event staff in outfits and interact with the public. Make sure signage and information makes it clear the full details of the event.
- Temporary Signposts
Create signposts that lead people to your event or venue easily, they can be made from anything, including cost-effective cardboard or recycled and reclaimed materials. Just be careful not to tamper with any existing signage or confuse your guests, and remove them afterwards.
- Well-Known Mascot Characters
Do you have a beloved mascot in your hometown? Or perhaps a relevant cartoon character that everyone loves? Pose for photo opportunities and have your staff dress up to hand out event details.
- Host a Free or Sponsored Webinar
For business related events or those that offer some sort of expertise, a webinar can give a preview of what to expect and entice them in. If you can give them some really valuable information for free in the webinar, imagine how much more they can get at the event.
- Set Up A City Photo Booth
Photo booths are one of the most popular activities at events so use it as a promo opportunity in advance instead! It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a polaroid camera, signed backdrop curtain with event dates and details and funky props to get people having fun. You can also give options to print the image for a momento to take away.
- Social Promises
Get everyone working together by sharing a common goal online to encourage engagement and promotion. It could be promising a giveaway, charitable donation, free tickets or VIP access if your social post gets a certain amount of likes/shares/interaction.
- Utilise Storytelling
Share personal stories from people that have attended the event in the past and what it meant for them. Storytelling often sees better results and conversions.
- Animated Digital Invites
Make your digital invitations pop by using animations and cartoons that move when the attendee opens them. You could also include interactive elements that become live or animated when hovered over or clicked on.
If your budget is gone, it can feel like there are no options left for event promotion. Don’t give up though - we have 20 ideas you can try which don’t won’t cost you anything.
- Service Exchanges
A wide ranging idea that could work for anything if you can find the right hook and you’re willing to ask! For example, offer to volunteer at a local event in your area in exchange for promotional opportunities for your next event and sign a service based sponsorship agreement rather than exchanging monetary payment.
- Share Behind-the-Scenes Setup
Take your audience on a journey and give them exclusive peeks behind the scenes at your event to build buzz. This could be setup photos, pre-event interviews on what to expect or even a live feed from the backstage area to grow their excitement.
- Ask for Referrals
The highest converting type of promotion and most effective marketing tactic is often word of mouth or referrals so get in contact with previous attendees, industry professionals and vendors that have worked with you in the past to encourage them to share the event details with others. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Many technology tools offer ways to freely generate invite codes and turn past attendees into ambassadors.
- Link Your Events
Create recurring or linked smaller events so that you can use them to cross-promote your main event. For example, if you establish a business networking event on websites such as Meetup.com that will help to build a community for your main event.
- Speak at Other Events
Offer your expertise by speaking at relevant industry specific events. Without giving a sales pitch you can tap into their pool of attendees with minimal effort and make sure they have heard about your event.
- Ensure Event Branding is Consistent
Share social media collaterals such as images or videos, with those who will be marketing the event on your behalf, like industry influencers, speakers or sponsors. Make it as easy as possible for them to schedule and share content that will promote the event. Try to make the images customized for each stakeholder.
- Use Image Quotes From Past Attendees
Take a quote from an attendee and overlay it on an interesting background, such as an image from the event. Note their name, job title and organization if they are happy for you to share it. These are great to share on social networks, in blog posts or as stories.
- A Photo A Day
Share photos from previous events on social media each day to give a flavor of the event. Make sure you have permission and if you do, consider tagging them in the photo too, to encourage them to share it as well.
- Invite Local Journalists
There is bound to be events listings in your local newspaper so submit the event details in plenty of time. Furthermore, preemptively contact journalists and invite them to attend and offer a newsworthy angle and key facts why they should cover the event.
- Spend Time Making Conversation on Social
Invest some time on social media each day to get the conversation flowing without selling. Just aim to be helpful and genuine, offering solutions when you can. Try to participate in groups, forums and on popular hashtag chats online.
- Comp Passes
Give sponsors, exhibitors and vendors attendee free passes so they can share them with their best clients or invite along colleagues, friends and family. Encourage the favor to be returned by asking them to share widely on social and help to spread the word.
- Jump on Exclusivity
Add an exclusive element to your event, whether that’s invite only, VIP areas or secret events and details that only a select few know or are able to access. This makes attending more of a “thing” and strikes FOMO in the heart of unregistered attendees everywhere. Promote your event using exclusivity tactics, such as the first 100 tickets will each receive a VIP upgrade.
- Find a Milestone
Milestone events such as a 25th anniversary are always popular because everyone wants to be part of something exciting. Figure out a way to make your event a milestone and promote it from that perspective, e.g. 10th annual AGM, 5th year at the venue, the only event that meets a certain criteria.
- Ask Your Personal Network
What are friends and family for? Ask them to share, spread the word and get involved to help the promo cause. If every member of event staff did this too you would reach a very wide network for free.
- Crowdfunding Campaign
If you want to raise awareness, test the water and gain support (financial and otherwise), consider launching a crowdfunding campaign. This can help your event to get noticed and offer a registration boost within a set time period (often a month).
- Donate Tickets to Charity Auctions
Donate tickets or a VIP package to a charity auction or fundraiser which not only helps worthy causes but means that your event will be written or spoken about in order to explain the prizes. It gets you in front of a ton of people to promote to, while also helping others to fundraise, a win-win situation.
- Segment Your Audience
Look at attendees who have attended the event in previous years but have not yet signed up for this year’s event. Reach out and contact them to let them know they are missed. If you can take the time to share a notecard with a handwritten message that could be even more effective in showing them that you care.
- Give Great Deals
Probably the oldest trick in the book, but offer deals, discounts and vouchers as an early booking incentive with a clear deadline. 51% of event planners find that early bird rates are the most effective tactic to boost ticket sales. Deals tend to spread like wildfire and if people think they are getting a bargain they are more likely to share with others.
- Turn on Social Sharing
This is a given but make sure you have social sharing capabilities on all of your registration software so that it is easy and prompts others to share their excitement when they got a ticket for your event.
- Social Media Takeover or Challenge
Hand over the reins of your social media accounts to an alternative voice. This could be the intern or a blogger you are working with. The key thing is to present a different perspective and hopefully to encourage some of their tribe to start following and interacting more with your event account. Another great free idea is to create a challenge, such as a 30-day photo challenge on Instagram. Tap into your niche and set promote that will appeal to your audience. Furthermore, make sure that you like and converse with everyone that gets involved.
20 Low Cost Promotional Event Ideas
You definitely want to use your budget to its full potential but a small budget can achieve bigger things when it comes to event promotion ideas.
Every little helps!
If you have a little bit to invest here are 20 of the best low-cost event promotional opportunities.
- Attend Networking Events
There are networking events for a reason! Take brochures, posters and business cards with you and spread news of your event strategically but as far as you can. Perfect your elevator pitch so you can explain succinctly what your event is about.
- Blogger Outreach
Research bloggers, vloggers and micro-influencers that have a loyal following in your event niche and approach them to get them on board. Arm them with the chance to earn a commission on those that sign up and buy tickets through them using dedicated discount codes. Make sure you provide them with the access they need and look after them on site too, ensuring the WiFi is up to scratch so they can do what they do best.
- Registration Swag
Don’t wait until attendees get to your event before you offer them free stuff! Give them a voucher when they register to exchange for swag on site at the event. This makes them more likely to come along.
- Use Social Ad Credits
Just because you don’t have a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the paid ad services on social media. Many of the channels offer credits, particularly for those who are starting out so use them to promote your event! Just make sure you read a few strategy articles first so you optimize them properly and don’t waste them.
- Become an Award Winner (or Giver)
Awards can be an interesting way to gain recognition so apply for relevant categories in your industry, whether it’s a local award or something more prestigious. Alternatively, consider starting your own awards ceremony if it fits your event niche. Everyone wants to be a winner.
- Branded Cupcakes
Free food and treats are always a big hit. Invest in some cupcakes with the event details in sugar paper and hand them out. Colored icing and pretty sprinkles are a surefire way to get some social media pictures surfacing too.
- Submit to Calendar Sites
Whether they are industry specific or local calendars that showcase events in the area, you’d be surprised how many people have email notifications linked or check event listings regularly to see what is coming up.
- Grow Your Event Specific Opt-In
- Offer a Loyalty Program
For those that want to hear from you, consider starting a loyalty program. This could mean that the more event tickets they book the closer they get to a lifetime event discount or that on their birthday each year they get a special promotional code entitling them to a free drink at the next show they attend.
- Strategic Arrangements With Other Brands
You may not have a lot of budget, but others’ might! Use this to your advantage by partnering with brands so that both sides win. This could be product placement at your event in exchange for free signage and advertising of your event to their networks or another quid pro quo.
Get vinyl banners printed and get permission to put them up in high traffic areas. These are robust and can cost next to nothing to produce. Request eyelets so you can secure them effectively in outside areas. Also invest in pull up banner stands which can be used inside to promote your event and ask the venue if it can be displayed at the venue for a month or more in the lead up to the event.
- Travelling Pop-Ups
Events like to utilise pop-up stalls or shops to promote events but take things that step further by having them pop up from one day to the next! If people think it’s going to be gone tomorrow, they are more likely to act now so take your pop-up on the move. If you don’t want to travel too far, keep it within the city but still jump around.
- A/B Testing
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Check the effectiveness of your different campaigns by testing two variations with a small sample and seeing which one performs the best. Email marketing tools such as Mailchimp, make this easy for you. People have different preferences and this way you can find out which promotional approach is better so that you have better results. More click throughs can mean more ticket sales so you have one shot to get it right.
- Exclusive Wearables
For loyal fans or followers, create exclusive wearable ideas like hats, t-shirts and tote bags as a reward and to turn them into a walking promo. It could be something like, for those who attended the first ever event, or registered for several years consecutively. It also incentivises people to sign up each year because they get a nice thank you in the form of free stuff.
- Car Vinyls/Magnets
Take your promotion on the road without the need to rent or hire signage vehicles. You can get stickers or vinyls transfers for different parts of your car, or if you want a temporary solution, magnetic door or 3D roof signage.
- Repurpose Content
Don’t constantly create new promotional content, simply come up with more interesting and exciting ways to present it. For example, turn existing blog posts into promo videos, turn videos into infographics and repurpose video interviews into blog posts. Also go back to older content to refresh it, add new ideas and up-to-date information.
- Create Specific Landing Pages
Create targeted landing pages specific to the call to action that has been clicked so you can focus on the specific information that motivated the website visitor. For example, if an individual clicked specifically through to information about the event location, they want to know how easy it is to get to, and perhaps local accommodation options. If someone clicked through for more information about the content, they want detailed information about whether it is suitable for their level of expertise and what they will get out of it.
- Share Your Event Playlist
Create the ultimate playlist, inspired by your event, and share it on Spotify, Amazon Music or other streaming services. Make use of the description box and get your attendees to start following the list. If you have artists performing at your event they can also promote your event and share the ticketing link from certain platforms.
- Tell the Story of Your Founder
Set up an interview for the event founder to share their story (and the story of the event) on a respected source that your target audience demographic reads. The more inspirational the journey the greater the interest and this good be a great boost for ticket sales. If time is shorter find opportunities through the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter to submit a short quote in your area of expertise and list the event name instead of the organization name.
- Write a Collaborative eBook
Show your expertise by joining the professionals involved in your event together and writing an insightful eBook as a prelude to the event. This could be personal and include stories or it can specifically solve a problem but, either way, use it builds a connection with attendees.
The internet has a wealth of potential when it comes to event promotion but it can sometimes be tricky to figure out how to promote an event online. What will give the best results and where should you focus your efforts, particularly if you are working with limited time? Online promotion is more than knowing how to promote an event on social media (though that certainly can help!).
- Long-Term SEO Impact
If you have a long lead time before the event, work on improving your SEO and answer long tail target questions your ideal audience ask and make sure the search results offers a clear answer for them. For instance, if someone asks “how do I market my healthcare business” and this is a major theme for your event, make sure you rank for it by creating content that is valued by people who are searching for that answer. Make sure you highlight your event and give a clear call to action to book tickets.
- Create Your Own Community
Create an online community where people can connect before the event. Facebook or LinkedIn Groups are ideal for that. Try to create a vibrant place and reasons for like minded individuals to come together and feel at home. Whether it is providing a sense of belonging or bringing together minds that could potentially explore business opportunities together creating a digital meeting space you can offer positive reflections back to your event. Brownie points if you can get your speakers to stop by add a little something - start a discussion, make a comment, share some wisdom.
- Get Blogging
Write blog posts about very specific content including “10 Reasons Why You Should Attend ____” and “What to Bring to ______.” Cover the event from a million creative angles.
- Highlight Your Professionals
Create a speaker’s page that features professional pictures and credentials. Encourage teaser videos from each of the speakers talking about what they will discuss, request guest blog posts or interview those presenting. If they have books published promote a book signing or meet and greet at the event. You’ve given much thought to your speaker selection, make sure your share it.
- Use Lookalike Audiences
Create a list of event attendees and upload to Facebook to help find and target lookalike audiences that may also be interested in attending your event. Facebook identifies people with similar or common qualities to increase the chances of a match. Invest a little budget in reaching these people via social media ads and it could pay off. Aim for a list of 1k people as a minimum to increase the accuracy.
- Pre-Event Twitter Q&A
Build the hype and have influencers, entertainment or industry professionals that are involved in your event to interact with attendees before you arrive. Not only does this attract those that signed up to get more information, it can get the event trending and intrigues others to check out the hashtag and your event information.
- Go Live
Go Live on Facebook from your site walk through. This will excite potential attendees and they’ll look forward to seeing it for themselves. Do the same thing on Live for the host city or area too.
- Use Geotagging Online
Make sure you can tag the location of your event related posts so that they are easily searchable and potential attendees know exactly whether the location is suitable for them straight away without having to look.
- Email Creativity
Email marketing campaigns can be effective, you just have to learn how to stand out. Make sure you have a killer email list that you keep up to date, and improve your email subject line as well as the email content offering within to improve open rates. Mass mailings are the biggest turn off, so always ensure that the content is personalized and uses first names. Don’t make the mistake of sending bulk emails to those that have already signed up to attend either.
- Use GIFs, Emojis and Humor
Don’t be scared to inject a bit of personality into your social media activity and stand out from the same boring content everyone else is churning out. Share different types of content and use GIFs and emojis to get people's attention. A strong strategy is to understand the pain points of your audience and to create and share humorous insights into the worklife of your attendees.
- Remarketing Reminders
Remarket to those that have visited your event website but never checked out. Set up remarketing campaigns with strong call to actions to offer a reminder to book their place. People often need more than one nudge to make a transaction so don’t be afraid to offer reminders to them.
- Create a Social Filter
For snapchat or Facebook, create an event specific filter that people can use for pictures. Not only does it let them know about the event, it captures on the screen for their networks to see too!
- Website Banners and Advertising
You and your sponsors have website traffic, so use it! Create custom clickable ads and banners to promote the event from multiple sources and drive traffic through to your registration page. Use tagged URLs so you know which traffic sources have been most effective for driving interest.
- Event Specific Branding
For the duration of your event promotion, change your branding and information to new colors and pictures. This could be something like a new header or profile photo across your channels, or it could be an entire color shift across your brand.
- Email Signature
How many people do you converse with via email per day?! They are all potential employees, customers or sharers of your event so put a non-intrusive mention and link for your event into your signature and let it do some passive promotion for you.
- Target Keywords
Research the keywords that are most synonymous with your event and most valuable to you and utilize them in specifically created online content. It makes you easily searchable by improving your SEO.
- Expand Your Network
Follow everyone who registers for the event. (You should be asking for social media profiles during registration.) Create a list on Twitter and share content from your attendees periodically and interact and respond to their content too. They will appreciate it and it will make them more loyal to the event if they feel valued.
- Run Social Media Contests
Create a social media content which maximizes social sharing and interaction. For instance run a caption competition and let people know that the post with the most activity will have the opportunity to win a tempting prize (ideally donated by one or several of your sponsors).
- Share the Caliber of Those Attending
If you are in the B2B arena, let people know the type of people that have already registered for your event. Check on the registration form if they give permission for their name, job title and organization to be listed publicly. Those considering attending will be fired up to buy a ticket when they see people they want to connect with.
- Website Badges
Create badges for attendees to add to their sites once they’ve registered. Make the image pop and have it link back to your event page or mini site.
We know that marketing efforts today automatically turn to the Internet when it comes to promoting your event, however offline event promotions can still be effective. Honest!
So, time to unplug and check out these offline-only event promo ideas.
- Helium Balloons
Balloons are always fun and when attendees start to walk around with them, they become walking advertising! Plus, kids (and adults) are always wanting to find out where they get one so they will come and seek you out to get one for themself.
- Give Staff Accessories
Your event staff should be your biggest fans so ask them to carry event swag with them wherever they go. Whether it’s t-shirts, hats or keyfobs they can always represent the event and turn every meeting into a promotional opportunity.
- Flyers and Posters
Printed media can still be an effective way to reach certain audiences and communities. Explore opportunities to have inserts at a similar event your target audience enjoy and put leaflets in strategic places, such as the event venue, tourist information centers and transport hubs. Remember printed items can be made from recycled content and also interesting effects can be created to capture people's attention.
It’s unlikely you’ll get on any national radio stations but you may be surprised with the opportunities local and voluntary radio stations can bring about! Brainstorm some ideas for promotion in the lead up to the event and even on the day, encourage a mobile broadcast unit to make it to your live event.
- Flash Mobs
The possibilities are endless here and you can create flash mobs that are all singing and dancing or something that is particularly event specific like special entertainers or an immersive role play experience in public. Think about the timing and location carefully for maximum promotional impact in the lead up to the event.
- Paper Invites
Sometimes, the act of receiving a physical invitation can make more of a powerful statement than an email or digital option. You may not have the budget for fancy printing but if not, taking the time to hand write them could be the personal touch attendees need to sign up!
- Chalk Sidewalks
Temporary and completely diverse, chalk is an excellent idea for sidewalk signage to highlight your event. Still ask permission though because even if it’s temporary, private property may still consider it vandalism!
- Reverse Dirt
An alternative to the chalk idea is to reverse clean something. For example, create a stencil and use a power washer to wash away street grime within your stencil area. The image lasts longer and technically is just clean vs dirt.
- Happy Mail
Direct mail can still work and be worth exploring. Publications and flyers that are sent in the post just have to reach a higher standard now in terms of the copy and the effect they offer. At least there is less competition nowadays as many companies have dropped snail mail marketing completely now to save money. It doesn’t have to be expensive though, and you could go for a different layout, or unusual size, to catch the eye and stand out from the bills.
- Yarn Bombing
This is such a fun and creative idea that definitely gets people talking about it. Plan ahead and set up your yarn creation overnight so that when people wake up it has magically appeared in a prominent place that can’t be missed. Yarn bombing works best in smaller areas like the city centre or within a city block so pick somewhere that is going to make the biggest impact.
- Shop Window
Many shops will allow you a free poster or ad placement inside their store which can be particularly beneficial for local events. For a truly community feel encourage shops to create their own promotion in keeping with the event theme and make it into a window spotting competition to drive residents to the town center.
- Offer a Taster Session
Offer short, 15-minute taster sessions, highlighting some of what people can expect from the event. This gives people enough reassurance and leaves them hungry for more and might just be the push people need to commit to attending.
- Video Projections
Use a wall outside the venue and work with your AV partner to project your advert or promotion on to it and let passers-by know what is coming up. It’s as good as a billboard and more innovative!
- Outdoor Installations
Turn an existing statue, feature or landmark within the local area into an installation that relates to your event. You could dress them up into a themed character or simply decorate trees and fountains to suit your narrative. Use your creativity (and keep it tasteful).
- Traditional Merch
You know the ones; old-school button badges, stickers, magnets, pens etc. You can’t go wrong with handing out freebies and when you do it in person you’re more likely to have extra time to chat and make a potential conversion.
- Create a Secret Tour Collaboration
Work with your local businesses and your visitor bureau to create a (not so) secret tour around the city, concluding with your event. Those who sign up to the tour get free entry and you can include other stops along the way.
- Human Billboards
Have your staff do some funky sign twirling to music on the sidewalk or dance their way up the street with their own sandwich signage to get attention!
- Pop-Up Playground
Make your event synonymous with fun and excitement by having an adult play area complete with blow up ball pit and inflatables. If you don’t have the budget at all, you could exchange this for an obstacle course that they need to complete to earn free tickets.
- Giant Props
Oversized objects are always fun and you could create them yourself with a little imagination. While the budget may not stretch to a giant fabricated prop you could create a cardboard house with event signage and allow people to color it in, draw or write messages on it. It could also make an appearance at the event itself if it gets a lot of interactions.
- Trusty Business Cards
No matter where you go, take event specific business cards with you. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a networking opportunity and want to remind them about the event and where they can sign up! This goes for your personal business cards too.
Before you start testing out these 100 event promotion ideas, we have created a quick and easy cheat-sheet to help you to get more from your promotional strategy.
Promoting your event without a plan isn’t going to get you anywhere fast and the most effective event promotion ideas will always be those which are developed specifically with your event audience in mind. Even if time is short you need to know where your time and energy are best focused, rather than flapping and randomly trying things out.
For savvy event marketing you should always be strategic in your approach. If you are ready to develop a detailed marketing strategy you should follow this link for step by step guidance on how to create a detailed event marketing plan.
Otherwise, below we outline a quick start guide to event promotion. If you don’t start here and answer these important questions first you are unlikely to get the results you want. You have been warned!
Use this seven step checklist to select or adapt the best of the 100 ideas for your own event.
Having this knowledge will help you to perfect your event promotion action plan to promote an event on social media, online or offline and get better results every time.
- Prioritize Your Objectives So You Can Stay on Track
Everyone has goals and intentions in their head when they plan an event. They also have reasons for needing to promote their event more or differently. This could be to get more ticket sales, to raise awareness with a specific target audience or even to attract more sponsors. Whatever it is, you have to figure it out. Before you spend any money (or time) understand the motivations behind your strategy.
This is the first step:
- Make a list of what you want to achieve. And what your boss or client expects to achieve.
- Quantify your list. For example “sell 95% of the early bird ticket allocation” and “raise an additional $10,000 in sponsorship revenue.”
- Reorder the list so your most important and pressing aims are at the top of the list.
- Take Stock of Your Resources to Be Realistic
Take stock of the time, money and resources you have easily available to you. This means you can take advantage of every potential opportunity and identify a plan based on reality rather than a wish list.
You might be richer than you think:
- Look at your event budget. How much marketing budget is available? If there is nothing left in the pot can you reallocate funds from other areas? Trim off fat from non-essential elements. After all, nothing matters if you don’t have enough bums on seats. This figure (however miniscule or lavish it may be) will help keep you realitistic with your goals as well as what options are available to you.
- Figure out what you can reuse. If you have event props or equipment from a previous event, reuse them, either to help with your event marketing strategy or for the live event! Doing this helps you save wasting money and it’s better for the environment too.
- Know your timescales. How long do you have for these event marketing campaigns? There’s no point in plunging all your resources into SEO when your event is only a week away, so timing will influence the decisions you make.
- Make it Measurable and Make Informed Decisions
How do you know if your strategy is working or if it needs to be tweaked? Measuring progress not only helps to keep everything on track it allows you to identify when changes need to be made, before it becomes a bigger issue. You can also make more informed decisions when it comes to allocating budget. There’s no point putting your cash into a lost cause and blowing it because it’s not actually where your audience hangs out.
Knowledge is power:
- Sync analytics. There are plenty of online tools and tricks to track the progress and statistics of ads, email marketing and even direct mail (although that is harder) so utilise them.
- Check frequently. Don’t let your campaign go stagnant by not adjusting according to the data. If your efforts are showing results in one particular area, allocate more resources to that and don’t waste time on those that are less effective.
- Reporting. Make sure your entire event team has access to the analytical data so that they are all working towards the same goal. This is particularly applicable if you’re looking for how to promote an event offline.
- Know Who You Are Talking To (or turn them off)
Think carefully about the ideal audience for your event as this will influence how you approach your event promotion strategy and the ideas which have success with your audience.
Attract your perfect attendees:
- Get specific in terms of who your event is for. And who it isn’t for. Create personas for your key audience and share with your team to help them refine their marketing mindset. Find out which social media channels they are on, their job titles, interests outside of work and whether they have attended your event before.
- Analyze past attendees and piece together the data you have to offer a more scientific approach to your event participants. Registration and survey data are often a good place to start.
- Everything you craft needs to speak specifically to your key audience. Understand their pain points and offer them solutions to get their attention. Use the right language, otherwise you will lose credibility and they will bounce away.
- Unify Your Brand to have Greater Impact
It’s important that you show a unified front to improve recognition of your event and to make promotions more effective. The last thing you want is to appear haphazard in your approach. Unifying your brand isn’t just about the design and style, it is also making sure your tone of voice is the same and shows a professional and coherent approach across all communications.
Set the right tone:
- Write editorial and promotional guidelines. This is the easiest way to make sure the whole team is on the same page. Make these guidelines thorough and available to all.
- Make sure your social media platforms match. Regardless of whether you have a specific branding for the event or not, make sure your social media platforms are easily recognisable. Use the same profile pictures, backgrounds, colors and engage in the same tone.
- Use the same tools backend. Whether it’s scheduling, ads or simply a task manager, make sure you’re all working with the same tools so nothing gets forgotten and to create drafts for checking and sign off before publishing/sending. Provide training to your staff as necessary.
- Work Your Relationships to your Advantage
Event promotion strategies are made better when you have more people in your corner, particularly when you are running low on funds. The more people on your side and talking about the event, the wider your organic and potential reach.
Use the power of your crowd to generate more registrations and marketing activity:
- Ask for collaborations. Look to create strategic partnerships and collaborate with others in your industry. You may not be able to give them funds but you can work together to help each other in other ways - for instance they provide something “in kind” for your event and you return the favor for one of their projects.
- Contact previous attendees. Attendees that have been to your event before are more likely to come again (if they had a good experience). Contact them and let them know about your new event and offer them an incentive to sign up and share details with their tribe, such as money back if they encourage 10 new event registrations. They are more likely to spread the news if there is something in it for them.
- Spur your audience into action. This should go without saying but you have your own loyal fans for a reason so ask them for help! Even if the budget won’t stretch, still appeal to them to help you and most likely the loyal ones will. 10 loyal followers rallying to your cause are far better than 100 who are indifferent.
- Listen Carefully and Refine Your Approach
The most important way to create a successful event promotion strategy hinges on your ability to understand what your audience actually wants. You can’t get them to do anything, including buying tickets, if you don’t know what they really need.
Put aside your own preconceived ideas:
- Ask for feedback. Those who don’t ask, don’t get! Feedback is invaluable and if you are running a promotional campaign that isn’t seeing the results you want, don’t wonder why, ask them.
- Hang out where they hang out. Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups that your audience are in, ask questions, engage and establish yourself in their circles. It helps with understanding your audience and also reaching them (don’t be overly promotional though. They can smell it a mile away. Instead just aim to help.)
- Use analytics to understand the triggers and motivations which were most effective in getting people to sign up.
- An effective promotional campaign can be to genuinely let your attendees make decisions about the event. Crowd source their preferred keynote speaker, which swag appeals to them most and what they want for lunch!
There you have it, 100 ideas that cost next to nothing and offer lots of opportunities to promote your event. Even if you are short on budget, be smart about it and come up with more creative ways to boost your event promotion strategy. The best ideas will always be personal to your event and capture the imagination of your event audience.
Now onto you:
- Do you have a tip to make this page better? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do you want to use any of the the statistics in this post? Apply here
- Do you have more tips and advice to add about how to effectively promote your event? Particularly on a shoestring budget? What promotional tips paid off for your event? Comment below to share more inspiration with other event planners.
- Do you have a colleague who may benefit from reading this page? Share it with them.