Live events are becoming far more important as investment shifts to digital and there is a reduction in face-time with customers, clients and business partners. Done well, they can give audiences an unforgettable brand experience.

But they need to add value – if they simply pitch a product or service, or offer only the same well worn conference experience, they’re not likely to succeed in their aim to engage.

Expectations of live events are rising, with Disney-like experiences and increasing spend on look, feel and sound.

Whether you’re planning a small seminar or a major conference, there are many powerful touches that can be added to take your live event to the next level. Here’s just some of what we consider when we’re planning our events.

Food as a foundation


Rather than a stomach-filler between presentations, food is a vital component of the experience. What does the food you are serving, and its presentation, say about your brand? Are you young and innovative, stodgy and reliable (and look, sandwiches are fine if that’s your thing), daring and spicy, or something else?

Light for mood


Would you watch a movie in a well-lit room full of people who are chatting? Or would a film-maker hesitate to screen a movie in that setting, where you’ll be too distracted to feel its full force?

Lighting is a mood setter, so consider how each event area could be most powerfully presented to achieve specific aims. Don’t simply accept that a room is booked – sit where the audience will sit, consider what you want them to feel as your people hit the stage, and how you can present the room to make them feel that way.

Music for soul


Music should be a carefully curated component. Don't let the events company or the venue dictate what music plays – unless you want Chopin followed by Katy Perry.

Use your best style curators to collaboratively create a playlist on Spotify or Pandora and then share it with your employees to use. At Salesforce our playlist also tells the story of 18 years of the company’s history, with great acts who have played Dreamforce.

Funk the format


Think of the agenda of an average conference – a new presentation every hour, half an hour for morning tea and afternoon tea, and an hour for lunch. ‘Average’, indeed. It’s a standard, boring format. There is nothing good about it.

Think instead of creating moments of high engagement every 10 to 15 minutes. Choreograph the presentations and vary the delivery modes. Organise short, TED-style talks. Change from presentation to interview to workshop. Include audio visual content. Break into discussions or have some kind of interactive or mass engagement activity.

If you don’t do this you’ll only have your audience’s attention for the first few minutes and the last few minutes of the presentation, and maybe a minute in the middle when that shift from Chopin to Katy Perry wakes them up.

Reach beyond the walls of the event


Think of the way a Victoria’s Secret fashion show is exploited by the brand throughout the year. The show itself is a few hours of glamour, but the content created from it – videos, photographs, documentaries, case studies, animated GIFs within emails – live on for at least the entire year.

How can you use content created from your event internally and externally to add value, to engage people far beyond those who were there on the day?

A good event will fuel a relatively low-budget content marketing program – it could provide content ideas for a blog, podcast, or video series for a whole year, which also gives you the opportunity to update messaging as topics evolve. The audience you build with this content is also a great starting point when you’re marketing your next event.

Bring attendees back together


You made the effort to get those important people together for the day, so why not bring them back together regularly, virtually or physically in smaller network groups, for the rest of the year?

Consider the event an introduction to a relationship, not a one-off, and you’ll be leveraging the investment in the event by adding ongoing value.

This could be as simple as organising regular Twitter Q&As, based on the topics that the event attendees rated the most valuable. It’s also a great way to get a head-start on your audience generation for next year’s event – not only are you retaining and building that audience, you’re reminding them every time just how relevant and valuable the event was.

Don’t lock staff out


It is astounding that businesses invest in a major event to bring all of their most important customers, clients and partners together, then they only invite specific staff members.

Use your events to enable and energise your internal teams. Get them involved and let them help build that ecosystem around your brand. Don’t lock them out to save money on food and beverage – you’d be missing an outstanding and relatively low-budget empowerment opportunity.

Wear your values


Finally, get your brand values out on show. Equality – are you showing diversity on stage? Community – does your event represent the brand’s community, and specifically the brand’s local community? Giving Back – does your event have a giving-back element? It’s not just about a product or a service, it’s the power of the people around your product.

For more information on what a more connected customer looks like and how you can meet their expectations right now, check out Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report today.

Derek Laney is Head of Product Marketing, Asia Pacific at Salesforce. He shares his nuggets of wisdom at @derektweets and you can read more from Derek here.