Messaging apps are no longer only for texting—they’ve expanded to encompass many other uses that event planners can capitalize on, and more and more consumers are turning to messaging platforms for more than just social interactions.
Both before and during your event, direct messaging can play an important role in your overall communications strategy.
Before the event
In the months and weeks leading up to your event, instead of focusing solely on email—and perhaps some social media updates along the way—incorporating direct messaging can help engage your audience and make your communications more impactful. In order to capitalize on direct messaging, include an opt-in during the registration process so that attendees can provide their phone numbers if they’re interested in receiving this type of communication.
When using messaging, don’t forget to include an opt-out option as you would in an email. As SMS is a more direct channel, messages can sometimes be perceived as more intrusive. In order to keep attendees happy, be sure the opt-out is easy and clearly stated, but give several options to ensure people aren’t forced to select a universal opt-out.
If they choose not to receive all of your direct messages, for example, you could provide the option to only receive messages about certain topics. If they do choose to opt-out of SMS entirely, the decision should not automatically opt them out of emails. Each communication channel should have its own opt-in or out process.
Let’s take a look at how messaging can come into play during the planning phase of an event.
Invitations and confirmations
In certain cases—and only if your audience has previously opted into SMS notifications—messaging can be used in the first step of the communications process, which involves sending out the invitation to your event. SMS can be used instead of email invitations, either for direct initiations or to advertise an event.
As SMS tends to work best when used for targeted messaging, be sure to consider your strategy before sending out a mass, general advertisement. If that’s your goal, then email may still be your best bet to ensure you don’t aggravate your audience.
SMS invitations can be customized and personalized much like email blasts. This is recommended so that your audience feels as though they are being personally invited to an event and not just receiving another spam message.
You can also capitalize on messaging communications to send confirmations once attendees have registered for the event or signed up for particular sessions/programs.
Once your attendees have registered for your event and your communications become more targeted, direct messaging can be a great way to enhance email blasts and increase the chances that your messages will be seen and read. Your audience clearly already knows you, as they’ve chosen to register for your event, and will be on the lookout for upcoming communications with important information about the event.
When sending important reminders such as what people need to bring or what they can expect at check-in, SMS helps guarantee that the messages will be delivered directly to your guests and won’t be missed.
If you have arranged flights and hotels for your attendees, you need to make sure that they have all the details they need in advance. This information is one of the most important things to remind them about before they make their way to the event. After all, their travel experience will be one of the first experiences they have related to your event and your communication about it should be flawless.
As with reminders, direct messaging is one of the best ways to send crucial travel information that attendees can’t miss before the event.
Another pre-event use for direct messaging is to send personalized updates to your attendees. These may include confirmations of dietary restrictions, opt-ins to special assistance, etc. These opt-ins typically work by sending recipients a specific call to action, like texting “YES” if they want to opt in to whatever the message is about. In complying with the call to action, the SMS tool recognizes the response, associates it with the contact, and registers the opt-in accordingly. (More on this in the Messaging Uses section below.)
In terms of messaging blasts, consider creating different groups of attendees depending on the sessions they’re attending in order to easily send information specifically relevant to them.
SMS is a helpful way to prompt attendees about things they can participate in or should do before the start of the event. For example, if you will be releasing a dedicated event app using your event management software, you can plan to send a message informing guests that it is ready for download.
Use messages to remind them to join you for a virtual seminar from your keynote and CEO, or any other pre-event activity you may be hosting to get attendees engaged and excited for the event. By delivering prompts that are relevant (i.e. deliver value without expecting something in return and pertain to something happening now), you’ll foster trust. This is crucial in a new communication channel that may be interpreted as more invasive than others if abused.
During the event
Once the event actually starts, SMS is a great way to complement the rest of your communication strategy. Because people generally check messages more often (read: compulsively) than email, and rarely have notifications off for messages, odds are better they’ll see your SMS or text. This makes it a better solution for urgent matters and last-minute updates.
If you have a dedicated event app and plan to use it to communicate with attendees during the event itself, you’ll want to make sure it allows for in-app messaging and notifications similar to other messaging apps so that attendees don’t miss anything important.
However, it’s important to note that web-apps don’t offer push notifications, so people might not see in-app messaging unless they check the app. (And for native apps, they’ll need to specifically opt into push notifications for native apps.) For this reason, SMS/messaging is still a solid first-line option and a prudent back-up, especially for urgent updates. Some event tools, like zkipster, offer SMS alerts that can be sent to users and guests.
Let’s dive into a few specific use-cases for SMS and text during your event:
For any urgent notices that you need to get across to guests as quickly as possible, SMS should be your vehicle of choice. Not everyone receives notifications for emails, and you can’t be sure that your guests will be checking their inboxes constantly throughout the event (in fact, you should hope they’re not if they’re truly engaged).
If your venue is equipped for it, making an announcement over the loudspeaker is a reasonable step to take, but it’s not fool-proof. People may have stepped outside for a moment, may not be able to hear the information over any surrounding noise (or may not be able to hear full-stop), and won’t have any written information to reference. Messaging is therefore an indispensable way to ensure you reach everyone who needs important information on short notice.
This is also true of last-minute updates, like a room change, a time adjustment, or any other important logistical details.
Given that your goal is to keep attendees engaged during the event, SMS/messaging can help you do that too. Throughout your event, you can use direct messaging in an interactive way. One way to do this would be to have your attendees send questions to a speaker through text. If your event includes an interactive activity such as a photobooth, you can include an option for participants to receive their images or a link to download them via text.
You could also use SMS to send a poll, which may be a fun way to vote on a question posed by a speaker, or a way for you to collect information and feedback about your guests’ experience. The latter potentially offers important, actionable real-time data on opportunities for improvement.
If you would rather use your event app to handle polls and feedback, SMS could still be an effective way to prompt people to participate, especially if you want to reach attendees who may not have attended the specific breakout session the poll pertains to.
When you’ve maintained effective communication channels leading up to and throughout your event, it’s important to follow through after the conclusion of the event as well. SMS is a good way to follow up and thank your attendees, and it can be especially useful for delivering post-event surveys and keeping up the engagement momentum after the event.
Collecting feedback from guests after the event is a task plagued by low response rates. Prompting a few quick answers over text could be a way to meet respondents in the middle by making it more convenient for them to provide simple-answer feedback, like an NPS score. Alternatively, sending a quick message linking to a more in-depth survey can bolster your responses as well.
Again, if your audience is primarily in an older demographic, focusing on messaging to get their attention and feedback may not be the ideal strategy. In fact, using too much messaging with an older generation is likely to lead to negative feedback regarding event communications, so it’s always important to use the right mix of both and to tailor your messaging to your audience.
We’ll cover strategies and advantages to balancing messaging with email more in-depth in the following section.