In the fast-paced world of event planning, standing out from the competition is crucial. Larger-scale events often dominate the spotlight, but small events can still provide an opportunity to make a big impact on your attendees. Smaller, regional events offer unique opportunities to leverage your venue, content, and creative strategies to set your event apart and create a memorable experience for your guests.
Our How To Differentiate Your Event series covered some in-depth ways you can optimize your content, graphics, and networking efforts to make your event more appealing to even the most discerning attendee. The good news is many of those tips can still be applied to smaller events. But smaller events sometimes mean smaller venues, audiences, and budgets, so working around these factors can be challenging when it comes to elevating your event. In this blog, we'll explore several effective ways to differentiate your smaller events in ways that can help you meet your registration goals and leave a lasting impact on your guests.
Create an Immersive Atmosphere
A smaller event means a smaller venue, but just because you’re working with limited space doesn’t mean you can’t still have a big impact. Use the limited space as an opportunity to get creative with your branding! Having to purchase less traditional graphics like easel signs and banners to fill a venue can mean you can pursue more fun and immersive branding opportunities like elevator clings, column wraps, floor or window decals, and tabletop signage that don’t always fit in the traditional budget. Outside-the-box branding like branded ice cubes and snacks can help to inject awesome branding into unique areas of your event. Allocating budget dollars to more “wow factor” graphics can bring a large event impact to even the smallest of venues and is a great way to make your event more memorable. Don’t forget to utilize social media as well! Create a hashtag for your event and encourage attendees to post on their respective social media platforms using the hashtag. This sort of viral marketing is engaging for your guests and great for your brand visibility!
Embrace the Local Flavor
One advantage of hosting a regional event is the opportunity to celebrate and showcase the local culture, traditions, and talent. Infuse your event with the spirit of your region by incorporating local cuisine, artisans, performers, and unique attractions. Highlighting what makes your host city special creates an authentic and immersive experience that attendees won't find elsewhere.
Leveraging the local flavor is just as great for your budget as it is for your attendee experience! Partnering with local restaurants or bars to offer discounted meal prices instead of providing an on-site dinner one night for event guests can save you some money on catering expenses while providing your guests with a memorable night on the town!
Build Strong Partnerships
As we’ve already seen in leveraging your host city’s attractions, collaboration is key to differentiating your regional event. Just as you did with restaurants, look to form partnerships with local businesses, organizations, and influencers - especially those that align with your event's theme or target audience - to amplify your reach and enrich the event experience. These partnerships can range from sponsorships and shared marketing efforts to co-hosting special events off-site or offering exclusive discounts to local attractions. This is also a situation where a smaller event’s smaller attendance number can work to your advantage. For instance, consider seeing if a local theater can offer discounted tickets to your event and then allocate budget dollars to purchase the tickets yourself for your guests. Leveraging the strength of your partners, you'll create a network effect that boosts your brand’s visibility and reputation while providing a memorable experience for attendees.
Partnerships don’t need to end at the planning stage either! A smaller event can still facilitate large-scale networking for your attendees. Smaller groups need networking opportunities just as much as larger events (in fact, a recent survey notes it’s the number one reason for attending live events). Make sure to make time and space for networking whether it’s a casual cocktail hour or a dedicated space in your venue for guests to exchange information.
Tailor the Content
Typically one strength regional events have over larger ones is the advantage of catering to a niche audience with specific interests. Use your pre-event stage to research your target audience thoroughly and curate content that aligns with their preferences. Consider collecting specific instances from your attendees via pre-event surveys and customize your sessions, workshops, and speakers to address pain points using these specific examples. Incorporate interactive elements and immersive environments that engage and captivate attendees. Smaller meetings mean smaller groups and interactive sessions like roundtable discussions are particularly beneficial as every guest can be involved. Replacing traditional speaker sessions with these types of interactive formats can also save you some budget dollars on speaker expenses that you can allocate elsewhere. By leveraging your smaller setting you have a unique opportunity to create a more intimate setting for your content and by incorporating your guests’ exact problem scenarios into exercises, they’ll leave your event with an immediate plan of action!
Focus on Personalization
To piggyback onto the intimate setting you can create with your content, use personalization to make every attendee feel valued and appreciated at your event. Use surveys to collect data during the registration process of your event. Use what you learn to customize communication, content recommendations, and experiences both on and off-site.
This personalization extends to your promotional giveaways as well! Use your sponsors or see if you can move budget dollars around to pursue higher-quality promos. While large events lean more into smaller gifts that can be mass distributed (like pens and water bottles for example), smaller events can use their smaller clientele to lean into larger, more impactful promos (like tech items) or more personalized spins on traditional giveaways (like laser engraving attendee names onto a name brand tumbler). Send personalized thank-you notes or follow-up emails to show your appreciation. By going the extra mile to provide personalized experiences, you'll foster loyalty and generate positive word-of-mouth.
While technology is an expectation at any modern event, smaller events give you a better setting to incorporate into your attendee’s daily fun. Explore interactive event technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create unique and engaging experiences. Fewer attendees mean less hardware (which is good news for your budget). It also means more opportunities for your attendees to use the tech and less time waiting for a turn. This is a great spot to use your local business partnerships to sponsor a VR station or potentially provide it for free if it’s a local tech company.
Small Events, Big Impact
In the competitive landscape of event planning, smaller regional events have the unique advantage of offering tailored experiences and showcasing local culture with ease due to their scale. Just because your event is small, doesn’t mean you can’t have a big impact on your attendees. After all, it's the attention to detail and the commitment to delivering an exceptional experience that creates a memorable event and small meetings provide the perfect opportunity to focus on the little things to create a must-attend event. If you’re looking for creative ways to dress up the venue at your next smaller event or are looking for some leads on impactful giveaways, feel free to contact us, and let's work together to make your next small event a huge success!