It’s a familiar situation: You’re at an event, confronted with a sea of nameless faces. Business cards at hand, you walk around aimlessly, trying to find people to talk to. But making introductions, and identifying who it will be valuable to interact with, can be both awkward and challenging.
One way for planners to prevent this nerve-racking scenario is to invest in an event website. These pages feature information on event speakers and sessions, and allow attendees to set up profiles and engage in online discussions with one another. By participating in an online community, attendees often have a better sense of whom to talk to when the function takes place, and can cultivate those connections after the event has ended.
Jordan Schwartz, CEO of Pathable, says these pages have a powerful impact. “To the extent that attendees feel a sense of warmth and familiarity with the community around your event, they’re going to be more loyal,” he says. “And that loyalty is going to translate into ROI, with increased future attendance, referrals and heightened involvement in organization activities.”
Pathable is one of a handful of so-called “white-label” event-website companies (others include EventOrb and BizMe2). Even though these companies own the platform, planners have the power to rebrand their event page as they see fit—a powerful difference from social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. (Think of the sites as white labels on a jar, which you can write on to describe what’s inside). This distinction has convinced such heavy hitters as MPI and the New Media Consortium to use Pathable for their annual conference pages.
With the pointers below, you too could jump on the white-label bandwagon—and enable your attendees to mingle with ease.
Why Go White-Label?
Social media outlets may have cachet, but they lack something of critical importance to event planners: a sense of ownership. For instance, Schwartz says, “When you visit a Facebook event page, you’re signing in with your Facebook account, there are Facebook ads, and the…metrics and demographics about the members all belong to Facebook. Facebook ‘owns’ the customer.”
On the other hand, with white-label sites, planners hold the proverbial key. They decide everything from where a company logo is displayed to which ads—if any—should run and how data will be collected.
There are other reasons that white-label sites compare favorably to social-media outlets. Facebook has immense reach, Schwartz says, but is more personal than professional. “It’s fun to let your friends know what you did this weekend, but do you want the people attending your professional meeting to know the same thing?” he says. LinkedIn has a more professional reputation, but lacks the breadth of Twitter or Facebook. And Twitter is fun, but limited in terms of building conversations. White-label sites can be the best of all worlds: professional, vibrant and geared toward meaningful relationship-building.
Making a White-Label Site Work
This isn’t to say social media sites should be cast aside. In fact, when integrated into white-label sites, they can be powerful tools. One trick is to add an icon to your event page so users can “like” it on Facebook. Every time someone does, everyone in that person’s news feed will be exposed to the link. You can also promote a Twitter event hashtag on your page. For example, when MPI built a Pathable site for its 2010 World Education Congress in Vancouver, Canada, it used it to promote the tweet “I’m attending #WEC2010,” which was then tweeted by 15,000 potential attendees.
Aside from social media integration, here are some other valuable features—and things to know—about Pathable and other white-label sites:
• Sign-in tied to registration
The single most important thing you can do when building a white-label site, Schwartz says, is to make it as easy as possible for users to join. A good way to manage this is to integrate your event page with the registration process. This way, when attendees register for your event, they are automatically signed up on the event’s accompanying website. Schwartz says that overall, Pathable saw a 30–40% jump in adoption among communities when registration was integrated.
• Program scheduling
Most planners who build a white-label site put their event schedule on the page and allow users to map out their itineraries before they arrive. Via the Pathable page for MeetDifferent 2010, for instance, users added more than 3,000 sessions to their personal schedules.
• Relationship building
Undoubtedly, the primary benefit of white-label sites is that they allow attendees to build dynamic relationships with each other. To help with this, Schwartz suggests having users upload photos to their profiles, so attendees will know who to seek out when the event takes place. And a good way to jumpstart discussions is to have your event speakers set up profiles and start conversations about their area of expertise.
To some extent, uncomfortable event schmoozing is inevitable. But with the help of a white-label site, you can at least lower your attendees’ anxiety to a manageable level.