Imagine transforming your annual conference into a year-round experience. Instead of only occupying a few days in your audience’s life, your conference compels their attention and participation throughout the year.

“A typical event marketing model or cycle means…you go dark again for six months [after the event] and there’s no interaction between your brand, your content, your speakers, your company and this key audience until the next time you start ramping up for your on-site event,” says Cisco Live’s global marketing manager Staci Clark. To keep their audience engaged, Cisco Live hosts monthly online events and provides access to on-demand sessions throughout the year. You can do even better.

Reap the benefits of a 365-day conference community.

By building a community around conference-related content, attendees, sponsors and exhibitors can deepen the relationships kindled during the few days on site. As conversations and learning continue, their conference ROI increases.

Instead of an onslaught of marketing emails hitting inboxes in the few months before the conference, content marketing occurs organically throughout the year. You can spend more time marketing to new prospects.

A year-round flow of content confirms your association’s status as the voice of the industry. You’ll expand reach and increase awareness outside your existing marketing lists. A 365-day conference community also counters the impact of competitive content. Your conference is no longer “out of sight, out of mind.”

You’ll reach different audiences – those who can’t afford or don’t have their employer’s permission to attend events, and those who haven’t developed the conference habit.

New revenue streams will flow. Think about the kind of value you can create for your audience year-round that makes the main event the next natural step in their buying process. With year-round content marketing, conference attendance is likely to grow. New virtual events throughout the year will generate registration and sponsorship revenue.

Develop a year-round content strategy.

Know where your audiences hang out online, for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other online platforms. But drive everyone back to a content hub that you own, not rent, like your website, a conference microsite or online community.

For those of you who read Avectra posts as soon as they’re published, you’re in luck. Pathable is hosting a free webinar today, Wednesday, April 23 at 12:00 p.m. EST: Creating Year-Round Community: Event Marketing Nirvana or Pipe Dream? The guest speaker is Ben Martin of Online Community Results who also provides tips for creating a year-round event community in a guest blog post for Pathable.

Spend time developing a content strategy that aligns with your association’s strategic plan. Consider the needs and interests of prospects, members and attendees as well as sponsors and exhibitors.

Invest in the resources needed (staff or contractors) to gather content during the conference, for example, posts and videos of session recaps and highlights, and interviews with speakers, attendees and exhibitors. Speakers have to be willing to share. If they won’t share slides, ask them to provide something else, for example, guest posts, videos, podcasts or interviews.

Post content on your site for everyone to see for free. This approach won’t cannibalize show attendance because people who go to conferences want the face-to-face experience.

Adopt or tweak these ideas for 365 conference content.

TED is a great example of a conference with a year-round impact. New videos from the main conference and TEDx events around the world appear daily on their blog. The blog also shares selections of videos around a theme or topic in the news.

Content Marketing World uses their blog and a Twitter hashtag (#CMWorld) to engage their audience throughout the year. Weekly Twitter chats with conference speakers and other thought-leaders make their hashtag a must-follow for content marketers.

What else can you do to engage your conference community year-round?

  • Publish blog posts, magazine and newsletter articles related to conference or emerging topics.
  • Organize book clubs.
  • Host webinars, webcasts, online courses, Google hangouts and virtual town halls.
  • Publish a curated selection of links to posts by others, especially speakers.
  • Interview speakers, exhibitors and sponsors about industry trends.
  • Use the conference mobile app to encourage attendee networking, notify users of relevant news and content, and provide an entry to the conference community.
  • Involve the community in planning next year’s conference. Give people the chance to vote on topics, venues and keynote speakers.
  • Ask regularly if any attendees have implemented or changed something because of the conference. Find out what worked or didn’t work. Interview them or help them write a guest post about their experience.

During your conference’s closing session, tell attendees the conversation will continue. Take advantage of their conference buzz and find out what they want to learn more about, what projects they’d like to work on together and who might want to step up to be a community leader.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a normally frugal freelance writer with an expensive conference habit.