The Event Planner’s 7-Step Guide To Increasing Attendance

An event professional needs to juggle a long list of responsibilities – from planning the theme, reviewing quotes from suppliers, to sorting any last-minute issue.

But the biggest question to answer is:

The competition between event marketers is stiff, while more businesses are increasing their budgets to get on the experiential and face-to-face marketing train. On the other hand, people only attend 5 events per year on average.

Yes, you have to work double-time and work smarter to get more attendees. And in this guide, we look at 7 steps to help you do just that.


Laying The Foundation

A successful event requires a strong foundation built months before the date. Here’s how to plant the seeds of a jam-packed conference or convention.

1. Pick A Venue Close To Your Attendees

Many factors are in play when looking for the ideal venue. The location has to tick a few boxes. It needs to fit the theme of your event, have enough space for every guest and piece of equipment, or come with kitchen and catering facilities.

But here’s the most important box to tick:

Make no mistake. Some of your guests may come from miles away. And if your event’s value proposition is too irresistible, people from overseas may even opt to attend anyway. But localising your event and choosing a venue that’s accessible for majority of your prospects brings numerous advantages.

For starters, sitting and staying put for hours on end isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Would you be in the mood to tune in to a Q&A or seminar after a sleep-depriving trip? Probably not.

However, an easily accessible location or a venue just a few blocks away may just be the nudge an undecided prospect needs to make up his mind.

And let’s not forget:
Long-haul flights and drives carry terrible environmental consequences. Did you know that a one-way flight can leave a carbon footprint of up to 3 tons per person? Throw the vapor trails and ozone left behind by land and aerial vehicles into the mix, and it’s easy to see why eco-conscious leaders are clamoring for sustainable travel.
An accessible venue will minimize the travel time (and the carbon footprint) of your attendees, which is another selling point for your event!


2. Build An Event Website To Maximize Conversions

A website built specifically for your conference or tradeshow delivers many advantages.

But best of all:
You gain total control over the website. This allows you to focus on driving conversions by designing the site around the event’s theme or topic. You won’t have to worry about the company’s content competing for the attention of potential registrants.

When building your event website to maximize conversions, you need to keep a close eye on certain elements and features. First and foremost, you want to include the event’s name and other essential details like the exact date, time, and location. By having these must-know information in plain view, a prospect won’t have to guess if they can attend your event.

Another important thing:

You see, a survey by the IAEE, PCMA, and The Experience Institute found that 90% of attendees indicate education as the leading attendance driver. So proudly show the industry leaders and celebrity guests speaking at your convention, and don’t forget to include the content and insights they’ll bring.

And last but not the least:
Have “Register Now” buttons all over the website. The homepage should have one, and so should other high-traffic pages and sections. By doing so, visitors won’t have to wander around to sign up for a ticket.

3. Compile An Email List Of Interested Prospects

Interested prospects who learn about your event may not register right away. So what should you do? Get their email address and coax them into attending.

Email is still an important platform for reaching and converting prospective attendees.

In the entertainment and events space, marketing emails get a 21.21% open-rate and a CTR of 2.33% on average. Moreover, email is one of the few touchpoints which allows marketers to personalize their message. To grow your list of interested (yet undecided) prospects, you need to build and optimize your opt-in form. Without a good form, you’d be hard-pressed to convince people to leave their email address.

Hit hard with a high-impact headline. In your headline, you want to state what the prospect gets in return for their email – whether it’s a report, a discount code, or an invitation to a webinar with one of your speakers.

You also want to keep the number of form fields as low as possible. About 3 to 4 fields should be enough to get the most important details – the prospect’s complete name and email address. If you have more than 4 fields, deleting one may boost your event’s revenue. For Expedia, deleting a field translated to a $12-million increase in profits!

And last but not the least:
Add a strong call to action to your form. You don’t want visitors guessing where to click to submit their email. For better results, use visual cues like arrows pointing to the CTA button.


Market Your Event Like A PRO

The location has been picked, the date has been set, and everything else has been ironed out. Now’s the time to go full-throttle on your marketing.

4. Promote Your Event On Social Media

If you’re not promoting on social media, you’re doing event marketing wrong.

The sheer reach of social media alone should be enough to convince you. Did you know that 2.1 billion people around the world are active on social networks? In the US alone, 70% of the population has a social networking profile at the very least.

If the stats above caught your attention, here’s how to get started.

Hashtags are rampant in the social media world. If you want to promote your event on Instagram or Twitter, you want to create an event hashtag and use it for all of your updates. SXSW has #SXSW. Event Tech Live uses #ETL17 when promoting the 2017 edition. And Europe’s leading startup event Slush has #slush17.

Now, when you set a hashtag, you want to encourage followers and attendees to use it, too. And one good way to do just that is to run a contest. It can be as simple as “retweet to win,” or it may require users to take photos or videos and share. Whichever the case, make sure the hashtag is a requirement to enter the competition.

And one last reminder:
Don’t get too salesy on social media.

Instead, focus on giving your event a human side. Showcase the people hard at work behind the scenes. Upload a photo of the event’s team sipping on freshly brewed, healthy coffee while brainstorming intensely. Or, add a video of the performers goofing around after the rehearsal.

5. Convert Prospects With Email Marketing

Effective email marketing is a multi-phased campaign.

One may start with a weekly newsletter that mixes some details of the event with the usual contents. The next one may showcase a podcast or guest post from one of the speakers. And emails that include discounts to entice undecided subscribers to register are not uncommon.

Whichever phase you’re in, however, a few best practices are worth observing to make sure your messages get read.

First on the list: use a good subject line.

Did you know that 33% of subscribers open emails based on the subject line alone? The actual message won’t matter if the subject line is all over the place. So personalize the subject line and create some sense of urgency, especially if the event is only a few days or weeks away.

In the message, you want to give recipients a good reason for attending.

Awesome food and drinks are nice, but you need something more substantial to convince people to come. Will you hold a networking segment? Maybe a revered industry expert will come to speak at the show? Or perhaps you will unveil a new product or technology? If yes, you should mention that in the email.

Oh! And don’t forget to include the important details like time, date, and exact location plus a strong call to action in your email invitations.
You already know why email is an excellent platform for driving up attendance. Now put the tips above to work and reap the benefits!


Post-Event Tactics For An Even More Successful Future Event

The attendees have gone home. The events team have cleaned up the place. And everyone is raring to rest. But your work is not complete!

6. Run A Post-Event Survey

You have sponsors with expectations. And one of the tried and tested ways to determine if your event met those expectations is to run a post-event survey.

First rule of post-event surveys: Keep it stupid & simple (KISS) to complete.

If you have 48 questions, completion rate will suffer. External surveys already suffer from low completion rates of 10% to 15%. Having dozens of questions will only drive that number to the ground. Your attendees are tired, and the last thing they want to do is to sit in front of the computer to complete a questionnaire.

So keep the survey concise by having 12 questions or less.

Oh! And keep the questions as jargon-free as possible. Stick to plain and straightforward English. Have a 5th grader read it. If the young fella finds the survey difficult to read, make it simpler. Or, you can automate the entire process and even get specific feedback by using an app.

Next, you want to avoid biased questions. Asking “how awesome was our event?” will only lead to biased answers. They may look impressive, but they won’t provide any real value. They won’t give you points for improvement or any insight to make a better show next year.

Instead, ask questions about things that matter to you.
Be sure to include a question that asks for an overall rating of your show or convention. Doing so will give a quick reference of how satisfied guests are. You should also consider questions related to your success metrics. If social media sharing is one of your objectives, asking if they shared their attendance on a network is a good idea.

With the right questions, you’ll learn how you can create a better and well-attended event next year.


7. Thank Everyone And Showcase User-Generated Content

A post-event “thank you” email or blog post is par for the course. The event was a success because of the people who showed up – the attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers. So don’t hold back in expressing your gratitude!

Moreover, a “thank you” email provides you with another touchpoint where you can promote next year’s event or get valuable feedback.

But here’s something even better: A “thank you” message packed with UGC.

UGC stands for user-generated content. It refers to the videos, photos, testimonials, tweets, or any other content format made by the fans of a brand. And the bottom line, you want to showcase user-generated content for your event.

For starters, 92% of consumers find word of mouth and user-generated content helpful in their buying decisions. Millennials, in particular, find UGC 20% more influential than other forms of marketing.

So when you send out that “thank you” email, be sure to include images, testimonials, and other pieces of user-generated content. Or even better, use the email to run a post-event contest where users submit the best photos or videos they’ve captured during the event.
Doing so will go a long way in making your event sticky. Moreover, you can use UGC to show non-attending followers what they’ve missed, possibly convincing them to sign up next year.

So, there you have it – follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to have a a busy event, packed with motivated participants.

Images: derivatives of photos by Ryan McGuire, SnapwireSnaps and Stanley Dai; all licensed under CC0

Guest author:

Mark Kao is the department manager of COSRental – an event and conference equipment hire company. Passionate about all things #eventtech and #digitalmarketing, Mark has manned his fair share of trade show booths and is always ready to share his knowledge and experience.