4 Innovative Ways to Leverage Technology at Your Special Event


When was the last time you were discussing your annual special event and a innovative idea came up? Or was the conversation planning repetitive from last year with a date change? While special events get into a good rhythm with all the latest in technology are there ways to leverage new tools and ideas to create more excitement around our traditional special events? From mobile-giving to online auctions, people are using their phones to experience special events in a whole new way!

Here are five ideas and opportunities to get the conversation going:

1.Consider how you are marketing your event online

Are you making this special event look and feel, “special?” Think of all the time and care that goes into a wedding invitation, let alone the expenses! It makes sense when you think about it- what a lovely way to celebrate a beautiful celebration. It is in every sense of the word, special. Beyond how impressed I am with some of the invitations in my mailbox, now the couple goes even further to make a “special” wedding website. And as of late, I can’t go to any wedding without a special, “hashtag” #theweddingofthecentury (apparently).Hopefully, you can see where I am going with this, take the time to make the package “special” and you will make the invitee feel special as well. At least the invitee will get the impression that the event is a big deal.

The events we host should be taken with as much care as they deserve and are as much for us as they are for the attendees. The way you present that celebration, website, email, print invitation…even a hashtag, says a lot to the supporter on what they can expect from the event. I am suggesting more than putting a pretty bow around your invite, I am suggesting doing something unexpected. Play around with a Twitter hashtag for your event, create a separate sub-site for your special event, or spend some extra time designing a beautiful web graphic for the invitation. One of the best designs I continually reference was a email invite that brought people into the event, last year. Commonly on special event pages you see a set of pictures, however with the quick help of Animoto (animoto.com) this organization created a movie from the event last year that garnered much more  excitement than a set of photos at the bottom of a webpage. Take care of packaging you special event as much as you take care of your guests when they arrive. The word, “special” should be carried thru your entire planning process from start to finish.

2.Evaluate giving options that are mobile ready for your event.

I would wager that the strong majority of your supporters at your next event have a smartphone in their pocket or purse. So, an obvious point is to make sure you are mobile ready. That means, all your web communications for the event should be on mobile friendly platforms. Social media already does the heavy lifting for you. Facebook, Twitter and the like are already established mobile platforms, so do not hesitate to put critical information about your event up on those sites to be readily accessible to your attendees the day of the event. However, time and time again we run into special event web sites that are not responsive. How does this get you into trouble? Simply put, it becomes a frustrating user experience. If you have ever been running late to an event and need the location pulled up on your phone in a hurry, yet you stumble through their non-responsive web design, you end up pretty frustrated by the time you get to the event. And of course we want happy guests showing up to the event, who will bid on auction items…that they were viewing on their way to the event… on their mobile device! (and yes, viewing on their mobile device not while driving, but in the passenger seat)

3. Send a touch-point during the event

Who says you have to be in-person to enjoy the event? From online auction software to live streaming, you can have a variety of possibilities to engage your supporters who may not have been able to join you. However, what I am actually referring to in this point is how to engage  those at your event, on-demand. At your next event try a mobile text-to-give instead of a paddle raise, or what about leveraging your site to send updates to a screen showcasing images that are from that night at the event as they are happening? Since most people are checking their mobile device during the span of the event, try sending an email. Send a touchpoint email blast at the event with the video you just showed about your mission, or maybe highlight an upcoming feature to the event that you don’t want them to miss. Because people are holding on to their mobile devices at your event, you have a direct opportunity to appeal to them, don’t miss out!

4. Create shareable moments

All the rage lately in the nonprofit marketing world is “content marketing.” But, content marketing is only as good as the content that you are lead too. Hence, you can easily create a revolving door instead of retaining interested individuals if you are not leading them to good content. Your special event is a perfect opportunity to try out content marketing for your organization from leveraging a social media platform that you may already be using. More than likely, people are checking their phones during the event and in fact, posting pictures from the event right onto their social media feeds. This activity is a great way to interact with your supporter during the event. Try a social media photo contest with a branded hashtage. Have individuals take pictures on their phones, post to their news feeds and tag you in it. They will receive a ticket into a great raffle prize, while you will have increased exposure.

Another idea is to swamp an activity feed with your content for a certain span of time. For example, Twitter is a valuable tool for on demand communication in short blurbs, which at any special event a Twitter post is about as long as you have their attention at any given moment. Have you heard of a Twitter storm? A Twitter storm sounds scary, but if you plan and prepare you can get out ahead. Twitter storms are simply organized posts around a particular topic that is sent out at a short time interval (1-5 minutes in between) that takes over the Twitter news feed. If you think about it, at your event you can set up a Twitter storm of the auction, the keynote speaker, the chatter you hear around your tables. For example, each minute you would list another item from the auction and the latest winning bid, then leading them back to your mobile friendly website bidding platform and giving them the opportunity to bid.You would post a picture of the item every minute (don’t forget your special event hashtag) for as many minutes as you have auction items. I am sure you can imagine that 20 tweets in a row to your followers is bound to get someone’s attention. Twitter storms also creates shareable opportunities if the content is substantive or interesting, tends to have a better percentage of shares. A more mission based and substantive Twitter storm at your event might be the facts and numbers around the services or ministries you provide. Perhaps if you are a Province or a smaller religious community, you can send out a Twitter post and image of each individual every minute, almost creating a wall of ministry or better yet a “Twitter Storm of Gratitude.” Creating shareable moments is as easy as snapping a few pictures for a “Who’s Who” around the event. Take a stab at creating your storm at the next event.


With all the social media platforms out there, mobile giving solutions, and web connectivity, we can not ignore the world of possibilities that the digital field provides. Special events are a great way to retain your current supporters while engaging new support for your mission. Making sure that you are utilizing every tool possible to that end, is a successful special event effort!