Every event marketer knows the value of throwing a successful event. But what defines success, and how do you get there? Start with these vital steps for planning and marketing your event, and outperform the expectations of any superior with the highest standards. 1. Define targeted, realistic goals It's important to be ambitious with what you want to achieve for your brand, product, or service at an event, but setting targeted, realistic goals is vital. The only way you can prove real ROI is by defining the right measurements. Build a model that lets you clearly measure your attendance, pipeline, and revenue impact. 2. Develop and cultivate a strong and creative event theme. Developing a creative and engaging theme builds a cohesive look and feel at your event. Incorporate the theme into all event elements, such as a custom-wrapped photo booth, marketing collateral, swag, contests, etc. Get your team together for an active brainstorming session to build a base of creative ideas, then choose the most viable. In the end, a creative and cohesive theme will make your event truly memorable. 3. Incorporate social media across the whole event. Social media is an absolute must today in the marketing world, no matter what the event. Taking your in-person event and amplifying it online has limitless potential for furthering your reach. Be active on multiple social outlets where you know your audience is active before, during, and after the event is vital. Promote your event on Facebook before the event using a custom event and visual graphics. Live tweet during your event using a custom hashtag. Post candid and posed photos on all outlets during and after the event, and be sure to thank your attendees and follow up with them to continue the conversation. 4. Develop a promotional plan with multiple touches. To do a promotional plan right, you need a good mix of email, social, web, public relations, and paid media. This allows you to have multiple touches with your audience in the weeks before your event, during the event, and after the event. Finding the right mix of these for the type of event you're hosting is vital. Think strategically about your audience (for example, a younger demographic may be more active on social than tradeshow attendees) as well as what you're trying to achieve (for example, your email marketing could be aimed at registering guests, while your PR tactics focus on getting media to attend and cover the event). Either way, ask for their participation more than once. 5. Reach your target audience through segmentation. Sure, you want people at your event, but for the most ROI, you want the right people at your event. Who your right audience is will depend on your event and goals (are you focusing on new customers, or trying to build relationships with existing customers?) but using list segmentation in your promotion plan is important. Segment your lists by demographics such as job title, industry, location, and company. This way you can test different marketing messages and see what works best. 6. Follow up immediately after your event. Proper event follow up goes a long way in building trust with your customers, and keeps your event fresh in their minds. Plan your follow up strategy prior to your event so executing it is easy and quick. Write emails, plan giveaways, and implement lead nurturing. 7. Measure your impact and prove ROI. Every event and company is different, and what you measure at one event may be different than at another. The most important thing to remember about proving real ROI is to clearly outline what you're trying to achieve. Sure, your guest registration numbers could be out of this world, but if you didn't capture any of their emails, it's almost as if they were never there. And not all leads are created equal - measure new leads in a way that lets you pinpoint where they are in your revenue cycle and lead category. Define who's a current customer, a prospect worthy of pipeline development, or a brand new lead.