Much of the posts on Event Marketing here have to do with how to email your prospects. Today’s post is more about what to email. For event marketing, refreshing the email content strategy can have a noticeable impact. Often event marketing email campaigns feel formulaic, with a predictable balance of messages promoting registration deadlines, speaker line-ups, agenda updates and other standard fare at events. Finding a new way to infuse some interest or even excitement into an event helps the whole campaign command more attention and lifts results. Sometimes you need to create some new ancillary event content to boost event buzz. In this case, we’ll look at a way of turning a piece of event logistics into a conversation cornerstone – the nametag.

A few years ago, a Real Magnet client in the social media technology industry hosted a client summit. The focus of the show was the same as their technology niche – widgets, those little applications that run on blogs, and which were the pre-cursor to Facebook and iPhone apps. On the event website, registrants could use a custom widget to design their own conference badge, complete with uploaded graphics, color palettes and typefaces of their choice, and many different layout options. The client then turned these designs into a slideshow which served as the pre-registered attendee list on the site. Instead of seeing a person’s name, company and title, other prospective attendees would know who was coming from the badges each person designed. Then these badges were printed out and actually worn at the event, to continue the conversation and the proof-of-concept of cross-channel widget marketing.

You don’t need to go to that much trouble to make your event badges work harder. Here are 10 ways to add a new element to your attendee nametags, either by asking a specific question in the registration form or by doing a little sleuth work in your own database. Whichever route you go, you’ll have nametags that are enriched with conversation icebreakers, as well as something to write about in emails leading up to the event.

1. Hometown. Ask for this during registration and print it somewhere on each attendee’s badge. You can list hometown on your pre-registered attendee list on your site, and use email to direct your attendees there before the show to see if they know anyone from a past life.

2. Member Since. If you are a trade or professional association, membership is of course vital. Call out your members by tenure on their badges. It underscores the value of membership at the function (helping appeal to non-members). Tenure also helps qualify attendees for conversation and input: members who have been involved for 10 or more years will more naturally play a mentoring role to attendees whose “member since” date is very recent.

3. Nth Annual Meeting. For a show that is a big annual event that you’d like to be a fixture on attendees’ calendars year after year, including “Nth Annual Meeting” on the badge helps make that connection. Like “Member Since,” it helps recognize your inveterate and loyal attendees and positions them as guides or mentors for the newbies.

4. Class of ‘XX Annual Meeting. Another way of positioning your annual meeting as a must-attend event every year is to mark each badge with the year of the first annual meeting the attendee attended. I like “Annual Meeting Class of 2005” because it implies a graduation into full membership. This is a point you can highlight in your email and event messaging as well: “The Annual Meeting is where the entire membership comes together each year. Graduate into the full membership experience – register today and join the Class of 2011.”

5. Past Speaker. Usually the speakers at this year’s events are recognizable by their badges, either with a ribbon or a different color stock. But the speaker’s from previous year’s events receive no ongoing recognition for the role they played in building the show’s history and reputation. They should. Annotating their badges with “Past Speaker, 2008” subtly thanks them for their past contributions, and engages them in future shows more powerfully than $100 discounts ever could.

6. Answer to a Thematic Question. On your registration form, pose a question that ties into one of the conference themes and indicate to attendees that their responses will be displayed on the badge. For example, if your show is on Innovation within your industry you could ask, “How will you Innovate in ’11?” If the show is in Las Vegas you might ask, “What big bet will you place this year?” Open-ended questions like this invite creativity before the conference even begins, and helps condition attendees to play an active role.

7. Title that really describes your job. Badges commonly include titles, but a “Director, Operations” or “VP of Marketing” are different jobs at different companies. Ask attendees for the title that really describes what they do. Give examples like “Director of Excel Macros” or “Chief Twitter Officer” or “VP, Employee Happy Hour.” Reading how people describe their roles within the company kicks off conversations more quickly than a title someone else gave them.

8. Super Power. Another twist on title is to ask what super power each attendee has. This helps position the show as one that recognizes individual contribution to an organization, and empowers people to learn and grow their human capital. Some examples might be, “Compress complete thoughts into 140 characters” or “Able to type with thumbs at 50 WPM” or “Can Sell Snowshoes to a Rattlesnake”. Everyone is good at something – asking for Super Power lets them realize this in advance of your show.

9. Celebrity You Most Resemble. Here we move out of the professional networking realm and into social icebreakers, which are still important. With a tight economy and restricted travel budgets, it is less wise today to position events openly as social functions, for fear they will be interpreted as boondoggles and not approved. But subtly reminding prospects of the social aspects of your show can pique interest and add an important dimension to your messaging. (If you were wondering, I get “you look like Tom Cruise” all the time.)

10. Band You Wish Was Playing the Opening Reception. I don’t expect many shows to use this one, but I’d sure like to be at the one that does. People love talking about music. If it’s current music it makes us feel young, and if it’s the music we listened to in our youth, it at least recalls the good old days. Either way, people who love music feel alive and invigorated when they talk about it, and finding someone with similar tastes is like finding a kindred spirit. Sure I’d love to swap war stories with another email marketer at your big show. But if that email marketer is also a Devo fan, I’ll make plans to attend again next year and hang out with him again.