Event Attendance Tips: How to Get More of the Right People Attending Your Events
One of the most common frustrations I hear from people who do events as part of their marketing strategy is poor attendance. They want to know how they can improve upon this. What is the secret to get butts in seats or in a virtual event, eyeballs on the screen?
Here is some information, best event practices and tips to help you when you are looking to improve your event attendance.
Event Expectations and Follow-Up
First you need to set realistic expectations for event attendance and know how to work around and improve upon this. Free events for attracting people outside your organization can have up to a 50% drop out rate from registration. If you have a certain goal for attendance you need to get double the amount of people to register for your event to account for the 50% drop out rate.
If people have “skin in the game” and pay for an event, you will have fewer that register for your event, but a higher percentage that will show up at your event. They will be better qualified attendees since only those that are interested in your event will pay to attend. You can even consider having people pay a small fee but donate that to a charity that appeals to you and your audience. This method gets some skin in the game to show up at the event and builds the like factor for you and/or your business.
I encourage anyone who is having an event to set up a way to collect attendee data during event registration of at least their full names and email. Keep track of who does show up for your event and who does not. You will then be able to follow up with these people in different ways. Just because someone does not show up for your event does not mean that they are not interested in what content you had to share. As we all know, life can happen and there are several reasons that could keep people from attending your event. In following up with these people, you will be able to find out if they would be interested in learning more about you and your business.
Timing of Event Communication
This is one of the most common ways to have a higher opportunity of boosting your attendance for events and it is not being practiced very well, especially with so many online/virtual events. I remember talking to this frustrated person who was doing her own event and she wondered why only her mom and sister showed up. She let her prospective attendees know about her event with only two days in advance! Even if other people would have wanted to attend this event, most people fill up their calendar weeks in advance and with just two days’ notice, their time was already taken, and it was too late to move anything they could around on their calendars.
It is sort of confusing, because most people do not sign up for events until closer to the event time. However, this does not mean you just announce your event a few days before. You need to get the word out for a smaller event that is either online or a local in-person event at least a month out to just start getting the message out and in people’s heads for the best chances to have a higher attendance. They may block off the time, pencil it in and when you repeat your event communication and they are still interested in attending, when they see information about your event again, this will move them closer to registering for the event. Seeing more communication of the event over time will improve the chances for registering for the event of those that are interested.
For longer duration events that go a full day or multiple days and those events that you need to travel to, you need to get the information out even earlier. It is hard for anyone to block off a full day let alone 3 or more! If your attendees need to travel, they need to make travel and hotel arrangements which also take time and need to be done earlier instead of later to get the best rates. A good way to start in the event communication in these situations is to share a “Save the Date”. I know in some cases conferences of multiple days that people need to travel to share this information sometimes even a year ahead of time.
Incentives to Attend Your Event
Using incentives can be a way to get your prospective audience to register and even register earlier for your event. Here are a few ideas and ways that you may want to try.
- Early Bird Pricing. In exchange for registering early or up to a certain time, they would either receive a discount to attend the event and/or receive a special gift or bonus.
- 2 for 1 pricing or Bring a Colleague/Friend for Free. A lot of people like to attend events with a colleague or friend, so they do not feel alone and to share an experience with another person. They will hold each other accountable and will more likely attend if they are coming with a colleague or friend.
- Offering discounts off the event price. This can be given to groups of people for different reasons. For instance, being on your email list, being part of a membership group or Facebook group, attending another mutual event… You want to make people who are already engaging with you feel special and you want to thank them and work to move them to become more engaged with you.
- Giving some free tickets to a paid event. You may want to consider giving employees, past and current clients complimentary tickets and consider offering your event as a prize to win at a raffle or drawing.
- Letting prospective attendees know that there will be free things they will enjoy at the event. This could include prizes, gifts, food, and beverage. People like free things and when they hear more information about the event, they may decide that not only the content, but the experience of the event will make it worth attending.
- Build excitement around your event. Drip clues to what your event will include. This could be about Speakers, Topics and Specials that will be offered. Again, sharing more information over time will lead the people who are interested in your event to register.
Attendee and Event Communication Plan
I also work with my clients on who is their ideal event attendee and where will they come from. Based upon this information we next develop an Event Communication Plan to reach these ideal attendees. I encourage using all resources to share event communication – phone calls, messaging, email, social media of multiple platforms, event platforms, membership groups, networking…that fit your business and the attendee you want to attract. In many cases, no advertising spend is needed especially if the event communication starts well in advance of the date of the event.
If you want to expand your reach beyond what you know you have the capability of, and your goal attendance is high you may want to consider adding partners or sponsors to your event that can help share in communication of the event and in many cases make your event larger and better than you could on your own.
Consider talking to an event professional who can help guide you through this process to help you achieve the results you want.