E-mail is both an efficient and an effective way to communicate information.

No matter what type of event a meeting professional may be planning, there's always a certain amount of marketing involved. Every event has registrants to be notified, agendas to be communicated, and logistical information to be disseminated. And most event meeting professionals want to receive feedback from attendees.

Events involve many communications between the planner and attendees, and each one should be viewed, at least in part, as a marketing communication. They may seem like basic communication of event-related information, but they are also important opportunities to build relationships and add value.

Here are several things to keep in mind:

  • Use rich media like graphics, sound, and video where appropriate, and plain text everywhere else.

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

  • Use the organization's data to personalize the content of each message.

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

  • Keep the follow-up messages shorter.

By automating these event communications (creating internal processes and using software tools), you can design the entire messaging campaign in advance.

And the Questions Are …

Here is a list of the top six messages that every meeting professional should consider:

  1. Initial Invitation. This is typically the first communication. It will usually contain all the details, value propositions, and marketing messages encouraging people to register. This is often the best time to consider the use of HTML or media-rich content.

  2. Follow-on marketing. This may be similar to the original invitation, but should contain a different marketing message for those who do not respond initially. This can be the most difficult e-mail to create since you must convey a positive image without having a clear understanding of why the first invitation failed. Carefully consider how much follow-on marketing you perform. You don't want to over-market.

  3. Event Registration Confirmation. Whether the event is paid or not, confirmations can serve to assure an invitee that their registration was received and processed correctly. For fee-based events, this message can serve as a payment receipt. It also provides an opportunity to confirm personal information, event information, and any special requests. These messages are also an opportunity to include additional promotional and marketing messages.

  4. Regret Message to Decliners. This message can add a touch of class — and forge stronger relationships — by communicating in a positive way to those unable to attend. Take this chance to inform decliners how they can obtain materials related to the event.

  5. Event Reminder. This message, above all others, can assist in building stronger relationships with attendees. Reminders must include basic logistical information, changes in programming, and balances due for a paid event. This is an excellent chance to manage expectations, since this message is typically sent right before the actual meeting.

  6. Post-Event Thank You. Besides showing your appreciation, a thank-you message is an additional opportunity to sell merchandise and make educational materials available, and allow for feedback. They are also an opportunity to begin marketing the next event.

E-mail is both an efficient and effective way to communicate information. From a marketing perspective, e-mail enables meeting professionals to test different messages, send media-rich content, create links back to the organization's Web site, capture information electronically, and encourage faster and greater response rates in a more cost-effective manner than traditional print and direct-mail methods.

A frequent speaker on meetings technology, Edward Lang was until May the vice president of strategic partnerships and technology for Cvent, a leading meeting registration and eMarketing application service provider, based in Arlington, Va.