From the initial invitation to the post-event thank you, every communication with your audience should be viewed as a marketing event.

Every communication between a planner and attendees should be viewed, at least in part, as a marketing event. Even basic communications are important opportunities to build relationships and to add value.

From a marketing perspective, e-mail is an efficient, effective way to communicate. It allows planners to test different messages, create links back to the organization's Web site, capture information electronically, and encourage faster, greater response rates in a more cost-effective manner than traditional print and direct-mail methods.

To leverage the marketing opportunities in event communications, here are several things to keep in mind:

  • Use rich media, such as graphics, sound, and video, where appropriate, and plain text elsewhere.

  • Segment recipients into natural groups (such as VIPs and members) to ensure the best response rate.

  • Personalize each message.

  • Where appropriate, include forms in e-mails so that it is easier to respond to questions and inquiries.

  • Keep follow-up messages short.

And the Questions Are …

Here are the top six messages that every professional should consider when planning an event:

  1. Initial Invitation. This may be a simple request for an internal corporate meeting or an elaborate brochure for a trade show or conference. The initial invitation will typically contain all the details, value propositions, and marketing messages encouraging people to register. This is the best time to consider using HTML or media-rich content.

  2. Follow-on marketing. You will sometimes need to conduct additional marketing efforts to individuals or organizations that do not initially respond. This e-mail may be similar to the original invitation, but it should contain a different marketing message because the initial invitation did not lead to a registration. This can be the most difficult e-mail to create; you must convey a positive image without having a clear understanding of why the first invitation failed. Carefully consider your volume of follow-on marketing. You don't want to be seen as over-marketing.

  3. Event Registration Confirmation. Whether the event is paid or not, confirmations can mitigate an invitee's anxiety over whether his or her registration was received and processed correctly. For fee-based events, this message can serve as a payment receipt. It is also a chance to confirm personal and event information. These messages are an opportunity to include additional promotional and marketing messages, since you already know these individuals will attend.

  4. Regret Message to Decliners. This message can add a touch of class by communicating in a positive way to those unable to attend. With this message you can forge stronger relationships with invitees even though they are not attending. If materials related to the event will be available, take this chance to inform decliners how they can obtain them. This can provide revenue opportunities for the organization.

  5. Event Reminder. This message, above all others, can assist in building stronger relationships with attendees. Reminders must include basic logistical information, including dates, time, location, and details on transportation and any special arrangements. Add changes in programming, any balances due for a paid event, and what attendees can expect. This is an excellent chance to manage expectations, since this message is typically sent right before the meeting.

  6. Post-Event Thank You. Sending thank-you messages shows your appreciation, and it's an additional opportunity to sell merchandise and to make educational materials available through a Web site or an order form. These messages should also allow for feedback, and they begin marketing the next event.

Edward Lang is vice president of strategic partnerships for Arlington, Va.-based Cvent, a leading meeting registration and e-marketing application service provider. Contact him at or (703) 226-3570.