Annual event planning: how to shortlist the right events?

Are you baffled about which events to attend? Then continue reading! We've comprised a checklist to help you identify which events should make the final cut on your annual plan. 

If you are operating in an industry where more than a hundred events are taking place every year, it's likely you won't have the budget to exhibit or sponsor all of them and will have to make a shortlist.


In larger organisations, budget bidding is often happening once a year, and careful planning is needed in order to ensure the right projects get the right budget.


What are the key factors to take into consideration?


Which events are more aligned with your business or marketing strategy?

It might seem obvious, but you should always start with the commercial strategy. This is going to point you to the exact people you need to meet at an event and identify which events your target persona(s) will be attending. 

What's the growth stage of your business?

There are two stages in the business growth journey where branding is very important: during the initial brand awareness phase and during the maturity phase. When you are trying to build your brand awareness, consider that it takes 6-8 brand touches to generate a sales lead according to salesforce. To be seen by your prospects at an event means you can make them aware of your solution, remind them or trigger a need for your solution. 

Which events does your ideal customer attend?

People buy from people. If you are looking to enter a new market, it's important that your brand appears in front of the decision-makers and purchasing influencers as often as possible to make sure you become or remain top of mind. The same goes for your important accounts - especially if you are in a mature market and competition is high. You don't want to lose your important customers. 

Where are your competitors present?

The reason this is important is that it can help you identify what's the market your competitors are after and potentially some projects they might be bidding for. If you are in a mature market, attending an event that your competitors are attending means you don't lose market share. 

What's the expected revenue and ROI from the event?

When your business has reached the stage where it's a thriving company and rapidly growing, you need to be very wise with budget investment. Brand awareness is already there and you need to invest in the areas where you expect the next revenue stream to come from. Make sure though, that this revenue stream compared to the costs of the event isn't diluting your overall business margin - at least not in the mid-to-long term. This is why it would be wise to evaluate the expected revenue, costs, and eventual ROI from the event. Don't forget to evaluate all the costs associated with the event - including opportunity cost and anything that doesn't come out of the central budget. 

When is the event taking place?

The date of the event is important as it needs to be aligned to your commercial plans. If, for example, you really need to engage more people in person from an organisation that is due to renew in April, and the event is in June, it's quite likely it won't make a big difference to your deal. If this deal is the biggest revenue-generating opportunity from the event, it might work better for you to invest your budget elsewhere in order to engage your target audience at the right time. 

Is the event worthwhile?

If the event is taking place for the first time, we'd suggest being very careful with the details of the marketing collateral. For example, 'invited' when it comes to speakers, delegations, VIPs is different to 'confirmed'. Also, bear in mind that the amount of visitors registered for a five-day exhibition doesn't mean that you will get that many people on the ground every day.

Check what the refund policy is if the event gets cancelled or postponed, and make sure you are comfortable with these terms. Another thing to note is the organiser; what is your previous experience with them and whether any authoritative figure is supporting the event. We suggest talking to your existing customers and connections to see if they will be there. Some companies prefer to send people to attend the show for the first time to evaluate whether it's worth them exhibiting or sponsoring in the future. However, how beneficial this could be, depends on the type of event and your business. 

How well does the event cover your business niche?

Big exhibitions attract crowds but, although they cover all sorts of niche areas of the market, often smaller players offering niche solutions can get lost in between larger stands. Some companies choose to go for events that focus only on their niche market and we've seen this yielding a higher ROI. Large exhibitions, if done right, offer great branding opportunities too and this will be very beneficial if you have product lines in other areas of the market, or thinking of expanding. Whatever your decision, make sure you are comfortable with the pros and cons while evaluating your options.

Where is the event taking place?

No matter how 'global' an event might be, the location of the event suggests where the highest percentage of visitors will be coming from and therefore who you'll be meeting at the show or conference. Make sure this is in alignment with your commercial objectives. 

How was the event last time you participated?

It seems obvious, but past experience matters. Consider worthwhile connections you made, ROI generated and if there are any better alternatives for the budget it will require.