Four Ways to Improve Your Marketing Party (Lessons from the SXSW Hangover)

At SXSW, it seems at times the primary marketing strategy of presenters is to drown participants in alcohol and music, with the hope they will remember the awesome time they had the night before and therefore download the product or call up the company for a million-dollar deal. I don't know about you, but after several nights of late partying, everything begins to blur together, forming a slight malaise that leads to confusing that VC from Sequoia with the one from Kleiner Perkins... and who was that entrepreneur we met with the idea about next gen 3D systems?....

Bottom line: soaking your guests in booze and bread, while wonderful for thanking people and deepening existing relationships, is not a great way to get leads.

I threw parties for several years, both professionally and privately, at nightclubs and bars in both Boston and New York, and I can tell you that despite the fact that many of the guests were acquaintances, I gained few friends or business traction through those attendees.

When your party is about introducing your company and your product to people, how do you maximize your ROI? Plan an events where personal connections can be forged through the exchange of personal information, interests, and stories.  Here are three ways to improve the return on investment for your next marketing event:

1. Time it for just before dinner. Get people as they're heading out for the evening, not late after they've been chugging other vendors' drinks for five hours.

2. Aim smaller: A more exclusive-seeming event will likely increase your attendance rate, as well as the networking expectations of the attendees.

3. If you're offering alcohol, don't make it your centerpiece. Consider how attendees will encounter your brand, your product, your team, and your key messages throughout the night. And remember that the way to many people's hearts is through their stomachs.  Don't skimp on food if you can afford it.

4. Be purposeful with music.  Use it to provide ambiance and energy to the room, but keep it at a volume that still allows conversation without shouting or leaning in (another common tactic at loud parties is for guests to politely nod at what you are saying just to prevent the embarrassment of forcing you to repeat yourself for the third time over the din of Deadmaus.) Following tips like these will dramatically increase the memorability of your event, increase the exchange of information between your personnel and attendees, and provide a more enjoyable business experience prior to joining the throngs of concertgoers later in the evening.