Marketing is one of the most critical parts of planning a conference, because without it, few will attend. But conference marketing can be predictable and ineffective, especially if the conference has been held for multiple years in a row--and marketed the same way every year. Effective conference marketing combines memorable imagery with a clear message about the benefits of attendance.
Video Inspired by "Jaws"
Put together a short promotional video inspired by the movie "Jaws." Open with a person going about the day-to-day business of someone in whatever industry the conference focuses on--say, the upholstery installation industry. Cut to a blurry flash of something moving behind the person (who remains oblivious). Play music reminiscent of John Williams' creepy minor-chord theme from "Jaws." Cut to a different angle. Another flash, more creepy music. The camera moves closer and closer. When the music reaches its dramatic height, the camera focuses on the person's face as she "sees" the thing that has been moving behind her. Shock passes over her features. Cut to her smiling or laughing and mingling at the conference. End with a black screen featuring the name of the conference, the date, and a simple message: "It's coming."
Identify people who are highly likely to attend a conference like the one you're planning, such as members of a related trade association or people who have attended the conference in years past, and send them a card that will tickle their funny bone and remind them of the many reasons they should consider attending again. On the front of the card, show only a question: "What do you get when you cross an octopus and the Chrysler Building?" The inside should say, "We don't know either. What we do know is..." End the sentence with the strongest ways people will benefit from the conference. Include a short bulleted list of those benefits in the card.
Send targeted potential attendees single-serving packets of gourmet coffee, along with a note inviting them to "Wake up and smell the benefits" of attending conferences, such as the one you are promoting (Some 54 percent of Americans drink coffee daily, according to the National Coffee Association). Include a brochure or information sheet with tips for getting the most out of your conference experience.