Getting C-suite executives to attend your events can seem almost impossible. These are very busy people, bombarded with scores of event invitations on a weekly basis, so how can you convince them to choose yours?
According to CEOs and those involved in organising C-suite level events, there are 4 key components to staging an event that piques their interest…
1. Content Relevancy
For a CEO to consider attending an event it must appear to offer a high level of ROT – return on the time they’ll invest. One way to provide this is to devise a programme of content that includes valuable insight from high level sources.
The information must be truly credible, provide real answers to their business problems and absolutely must not be an excuse for a sales pitch. Consider presenting exclusive survey findings, industry data, case studies or the opportunity to debate a pressing industry issue with others who can really add value to the conversation.
“This group relies even more heavily than others on the advice and perspective of their true peers and those they perceive to be authentic experts,” Roanne Neuwirth, a senior vice president at Farland Group, which helps companies engage their executive customers, writes on Content Marketing Institute.
However, she warns that there has to be a “so what” that comes out of any data and that topics put forward for discussion should “push beyond the common wisdom and top-of-mind trends.”
She says: “Executive content needs to present a provocative vision for future possibilities. Find consistent ways to gather insights from executives on both problems and solutions, and then invest in extracting the most useful output and data to create a story of action and innovative ideas.”
Aynsley Damery CEO of multi-award winning accountants Tayabali Tomlin, agrees event content must offer business intelligence. He told us: “The main factor for me when deciding whether to attend an event or not is whether it is going to help me get to where I need to go (faster)!”
If you want a particular individual at your event, the best way is to invite them to get involved. Seek out their expertise, flatter them, ask for industry insight and for their help in identifying the key issues that should shape your event’s agenda.
This will enable you to start building a relationship with your targets and could facilitate introductions to other useful contacts. Invite them to speak at your event or moderate a debate – their involvement will add that all-important credibility that you need to entice other C-suites to come along.
Karla Bousquet, Director of Client Executive Marketing at IBM, says early engagement with senior execs has proven to be an effective strategy for them. Karla and her team interview 200 CIOs every year and use the information to both shape the agenda of their events and cement their client relationships.
“Once we started engaging our executive customers in the development of the agendas and in presenting their stories on stage, we saw a dramatic increase in the quality of the attendees, the conversations and, most importantly, the relationships we developed between events,” she says.
3. Quality networking
Alongside content, networking is another major draw for top executives. They value the opportunity to rub shoulders with peers very highly, but they must be assured of the quality of the other attendees – this means they’ll want to know who’s on the guest list.
Shaun Cheeseman, CEO of creative agency Milk & Jam Media told us: “The big factor to any event is the people that are there. They must be good businesses to make it worth while.”
This can present a bit of a chicken and egg situation i.e. one CEO won’t accept the invitation until they know another one is coming, however if you have sought their involvement from the outset as discussed earlier getting your first few CEOs on board shouldn’t be a problem.
Making it clear that your event is for business leaders in the way it is constructed will also help to reassure. One event that does this exceptionally is the C-Suite Conference (the clue’s in the name!).
This event, which takes place in Texas in the US, is an invitation-only networking and learning experience reserved for C-suite executives running companies over $10 Million and fast-growing entrepreneurs.
Allison Graham told the Huffington Post that having the right grade of people together in one room made for very effective networking.
“After attending 241 business events in one year (don’t do that!) I became quite frustrated with the superficial level of conversation that the average business event invites,” she said. “Many conversations at C-Suite deepened very quickly into something that was more relevant and interesting.”
4. Appealing invitation
When all of the core components of your event are in place, the one thing left to do is send out the invites – and it’s vital this is done the right way.
According to Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, when constructing invitations for C-level executives, organisers must pay attention to three things; the physical format of the invite, the content and the language used.
Simply sending out a generic e-blast is a quick route to failure. “It’s nearly impossible to get top-level executives to even open your e-mail,” she told ClickZ. “An invitation should be sent via postal mail in such an elegant, personal envelope that an administrative assistant would never think of throwing it away.”
The invitation should not only look great, it should clearly and concisely convey the reasons the CEO should consider attending, and communicate the level of the event. For example:
“You are invited to join a small gathering of xx industry leaders for a round table discussion on outsourcing to China to enhance profitability, in the exclusive surroundings of Soho House. The event will hear from Joe Bloggs, founder of xx company, which successfully grew its profits by 60% last year by outsourcing elements of its operations. You will also have the opportunity to meet a representative from the Beijing Chamber of Commerce who can facilitate an introduction to key Chinese companies.”
Gedney adds that your invitation should strike the right tone, with a corporate writing style: “Don’t put your junior writers in charge of writing to senior executives,” she says. “You must write at the same level of your readers. Remember, this isn’t about dashing off an email. It’s about forging a relationship with a CEO who has the ultimate authority to approve your contracts.”
Although they might seem like elusive beasts, it is possible to find and lure in CEOs to attend your event – and these 4 steps are your net to catch them!
Offering business intelligence at a level unavailable anywhere else, or super-exclusive networking, will take extensive time and effort to organise, but the rewards will be well worth it.