5 Marketing Mistakes You May Have Seen at the Catalyst Conference

Catalyst 2011 kick-off session

After a few days in Atlanta at the Catalyst Conference last week, I’m refreshed, energized and a little surprised.

As one of the premier conferences in Christiandom, Catalyst also commands a premier price for the many ministries and organizations that line up for a chance to exhibit, sponsor and promote their message to the 13,000 attendees.

For some smaller groups, a Catalyst-size budget (including exhibit space, displays, giveaways, travel, etc.) is a major investment. Which is why I am always surprised at the lack of attention to detail. Just being there is not enough. As usual, greatness is in the details.

Here are 5 mistakes organizations make in their event marketing strategy:

1. No call to action

You must approach any marketing with one question, “What do I want my audience to do?” For some, Catalyst is a strictly a lead generator while others engage in demos or donor solicitation. You have to know what you want, and you have to make it clear. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it.

2. Too much information

At best, you may have a few minutes to talk with someone who is hurrying to the restroom before they head back into the next session. Your best bet is to spark interest, establish ongoing contact, and have a post-conference follow-up strategy. If your presentation is memorable, you’ll have more time to get into details later. Practice your elevator speech and make sure there’s a good hook in it. Ask yourself, “would I be interested in this message if I weren’t paid to share it?”

3. Assuming numbers = success

Around the country this week, there are event reports being proudly circulated to management. 250 new names. 500 registered for our iPad giveaway. All fine results. But the only result that matters are those that convert beyond a statistic. I’d rather find 5 people who truly connect with our message than 500 who just want a freebie. Develop strategies that generate success, not just numbers.

4. Not being present

Catalyst’s theme this year was “Be Present” and it’s a piece of advice many exhibitors would be wise to take. It is tempting to pack up early, to arrive late, or to assume that missing one session break won’t hurt. But you never know when the right person will wander by your booth. If you must take breaks, take a team large enough to always have a fully-staffed booth.

5. No follow through

From time to time at conferences, I throw my business card in the bowl or enter information at a number of booths just to see what kind of follow-up I receive. If I give you my information, use it. Take the time to send some simple emails letting contacts know that you enjoyed meeting them. Have an easy system to “rate” contacts based on potential. Put a simple “1″ – “5″ on the back of an interested individual’s business card or sign-up form. And jot down a personal note, such as “very interested in our projects in Haiti.” A follow-up that says “Great to meet you and talk about our work in Haiti” shows that you were paying attention, and gets theirs in return.

Don’t assume that all who are interested will call you the minute they get back to their desks. It is very unlikely that any information even makes it back with attendees, which puts the ball clearly in your court. Reach out. Many exhibitors won’t – making you stand out all the more.

 What other mistakes (or successes) do you see at event exhibits?


  • Guest

    Excellent post!

  • Matt Markins

    Killer post Shannon! Details = Love in my book.

  • Anonymous

    Matt – Nice to hear from you. Let’s catch up soon.