There’s something special about in-person networking events in the startup ecosystem. They can offer a serendipitous chance for founders and executives to make connections, share ideas, and spark innovation in ways that digital platforms can’t quite replicate.
But getting people to actually stay engaged during your event? That is a different story.
Sure, there are the basics: Make sure there is a variety of food and beverage options that are inclusive of different lifestyles, keep the room cool, have a clear agenda with a compelling program, and establish a start and end time that allows everyone to get home to their families at a reasonable hour.
But what sets the best events apart?
In this article, we’ll share insights from founders and executives in the Powderkeg community to help you create memorable in-person events that leave a lasting impact.
1. Personalize Each Invitation to Attend
One key tip is to focus on crafting a compelling and personalized event invitation. Know your audience and tailor your messaging to highlight the value and benefits they specifically will gain by attending. Incorporate a sense of exclusivity or urgency to encourage them to join in on what you’re doing. By making the invitation compelling and relevant to your defined target audience, you increase the likelihood that they will feel like the event is a great fit and make it a priority to be there.
Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO & Co-Founder at Casted
2. Get Creative With Interactive Activities
Interactivity! This is where tactile marketing can really shine. Create a way to spark a conversation that is entirely unrelated to your business. Whether it’s a clever giveaway, game, or photo op, there are plenty of ways to generate buzz. It’s much less awkward to give a sales pitch when folks are already excited about the opportunity to engage with your brand.
Robin Lanning, VP of Sales & Marketing at Tactive
3. Prioritize Diversity in Speakers
Prioritize diversity when selecting speakers and panelists, ensuring that voices from various backgrounds, industries, and skill sets are represented. A varied speaker list not only attracts a diverse audience but also enriches the dialogue, fosters inclusion, and broadens perspectives. Announcing a diverse set of speakers can act as a major pull for attendees who want to hear from a wide range of experts.
Contessa Cooper, Web 3 and Marketing Leader
4. Encourage Active Participation
Focus on offering unique and interactive activities. This can include interactive workshops, live demonstrations, or hands-on experiences. Providing opportunities for attendees to actively participate and engage with the event content will make the experience more memorable and increase their motivation to attend future events. Additionally, incorporating technology such as interactive displays or social media engagement can further enhance the overall experience.
Emily Finkelstein, CEO at VentureXpert Advisors
5. Offer to Make Introductions for Easy Networking
I was recently at a tech-industry event in New York City. What got me to show up was the promise that people I might want to do business with would be there. When I got there, the host quickly introduced me to a couple of people, which made it a more engaging experience because I didn’t have to hunt for my first prospects.
If you’re thinking about hosting an in-person tech event, plan to invite people who would pair well in partnerships and client relationships. Let them know that you have invited people with whom they are likely to do business. Then, when they do show up, introduce them to relevant contacts to get people talking.
Dennis Consorte, Digital Marketing and Leadership Consultant for Startups, Snackable Solutions
6. Provide Hands-On Workshops
One tip for ensuring strong attendance at in-person tech industry events, based on our experience at Digitech, is to offer valuable, hands-on workshops or interactive sessions. Tech professionals often seek practical knowledge and skills.
By providing workshops or sessions that allow attendees to learn, experiment, or solve real-world problems, you create a compelling reason for them to show up. Practical, actionable takeaways make your event a must-attend, fostering engagement and leaving participants with tangible benefits.
Darryl Stevens, CEO, Digitech Web Design
In-person events for startup founders and executives are unique opportunities to make new connections, share knowledge, and drive innovation.
Remember, it’s not just about hosting an event. It’s about creating an experience that creates value for your audience and furthers your mission. So, go ahead, put these tips into action, and watch your event come to life.
We hope these insights will help you create meaningful audience engagement at your in-person events!
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