You can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.
It’s an adage that could easily apply to getting members to attend events.
It’s one thing to plan interesting events, but another to attract people. People are comfortable working from home, and virtual events are more common.
Live events, on the other hand, provide opportunities to learn, network, and make new connections.
To increase attendance, event organizers must embrace different approaches that encourage and educate members. It could include:
1. Actively Engage and Research Members
The more you know about your members’ interests and needs, the better you can create events that resonate with them.
What topics would be of interest to them? Are there hot issues they want to discuss through a panel or Q&A? Are there emerging trends?
You can do surveys to discover their preferences and expectations. It can include the timing of events (e.g. break, lunch or post-work), particular days of the week, and formats like a keynote speaker, panels, and Q&A sessions.
Another technique is reviewing your data to gather insights into what events, topics, and formats were popular.
Armed with in-depth information about members, you can organize events that appeal to a broad audience or different segments.
2. Multi-channel marketing
There are a few challenges around event attendance. Among the most common:
- Brand awareness: Not enough people know that an event is happening. That is a basic marketing and sales problem. The “organize it and they will attend” approach to events is a non-starter!
- There is a lot of competition, not only from other events but also from professional and personal obligations. As an event organizer, you’re competing for someone’s time and sometimes money. You’re asking someone to invest when there are other options.
So, how do event organizers overcome these challenges?
An effective (and fundamental) approach is spreading the word and, importantly, making it clear why someone should come and the consequences of not coming.
A multi-channel approach to event marketing can include:
- Newsletters to members with details about upcoming events and other information.
Our advice is to promote events in multiple newsletters. It is a steady reminder about an event, and it meets the needs of different audiences; some will register a week in advance, while others wait until the week or days before the event.
If you have a large database, a newsletter can be segmented and personalized to address a member’s needs and interests.
- Digital advertising is another option.
It can happen internally on your Website, externally on a partner’s Website, or using paid options like Facebook and Google, especially if you leverage targeting options like demographics and location.
- Print advertising.
While old-school, print promotions like direct mail and advertising can effectively communicate with members, particularly if they’re not digital animals. It can involve things like posters, brochures, and inserts.
Last but not least, another important promotion lever to pull is promoting an event’s speakers. You want to excite people about a speaker’s expertise and the topics they will explore. It can involve speaker profiles, teaser videos, previous speaking engagements, and a Q&A.
3. Early-bird discounts and incentives
One challenge facing organizers is that many people wait until the week before an event before registering. It is difficult to run an event because you can’t assess attendance until right before the event.
You can offer early-bird specials with incentives like lower prices, two-for-one deals, better seating, and post-event receptions with speakers to get members to register early.
Early event sales are fueled by giving people good reasons to commit. Those sales will encourage other members to come before it’s too late.
4. Post-attendee surveys and feedback
Research shows that 91% of event managers measure the success of their events through attendee satisfaction. It means you’re always looking for ways for attendees to have a positive experience.
An effective way to solicit feedback and ideas is surveying members post-event. It can be a short multi-question survey or simply a request that people say what they liked or didn’t like about an event. Make it easy for attendees to participate; otherwise, you won’t get enough feedback to make an impact.
Successful events require proactive and strategic thinking.
There are many moving parts: organizing, promoting, running, and analyzing. Having a strategic plan makes tactical execution more efficient and easier.
The ultimate goal is to create an experience that lasts long after the event is over. The goal is to make these events must-attends so attendees can’t wait for the next one.