For businesses that host events, nothing can cause more angst than the idea of having low—or even worse no—attendance. While having some “no-shows” is to be expected, the reality is that with the right plan in place, you can not only circumvent empty chairs and empty tables, you can help ensure that your next event is a huge success.
To do that, you should ask yourself three strategic questions as the first steps to your event planning process:
1. What is your objective? Each event should have a strategic objective, whether it’s to introduce members, raise funds or network, for example. By establishing the objective up front, your team members will better understand how their efforts contribute to the big picture and your attendees are more likely to say yes to your invitation.
2. Did you scour local event calendars? Along with checking for competing activities on the same day, look for related events scheduled within a week of yours.
3. Does the cost of attending reflect the perceived value? Make sure the registration fee is proportional to what attendees will gain from participating. If your event is free, consider charging a nominal fee and donating the proceeds to charity. Believe it or not, charging as little as $5 can make a big difference.
Once you’ve defined your objective, cleared the calendar and assigned a value to the event, you’re halfway there. Here are some additional ideas on how to maximize attendance.
1. Use an event planning tool. Event planning tools are great time-savers because they organize and track all event activities including registrations, email and social media interactions.
2. Take social media engagement to the next level. Go beyond posting event information and use social media to get to know your audience, introduce attendees before the event, and tailor your program to their interests and needs. Use these ideas to get pre-event conversations going:
– Initiate regular discussions by asking interesting questions.
– Take a mini-poll and share the results.
– Give sneak peeks to event activities.
– Have your keynote speaker take part in in the conversation.
– Create a Twitter #hashtag for the event and use it every time you’re talking about it.
– Create an on-site meeting place for your social media followers to catch up in person. This can help alleviate the anxiety of walking into a room full of strangers.
3. Develop ‘must read’ and ‘shareworthy’ email content. Anybody can send an email reminder about an event, but you want people to read and share yours.
– Gather anecdotes and quotes from previous attendees and be specific about their experience. Include tangible benefits from attending. Example: “I met 30 new contacts and had three follow-up meetings the very next week.”
– List all the possible reasons people may have for not attending and address them. Example: Send out a “Top 10” reasons for not attending with responses ranging from “My dog ate the invitation” to “I don’t know anybody there.” Just remember, don’t give attendees reasons to say no.
– Feature unique content and include a social sharing bar to make it easier for readers to pass along your email.
Applying these email and social media marketing best practices to your event planning will help boost registrations and fill the venue to capacity.
Looking for more tips on how to ensure event success? Check out my session at this year’s ASBDC conference.
Constant Contact’s Ron Cates and is one of the country’s top email and social media marketing experts. He has supported small business for decades and has an extensive background in financial development and marketing for non-profit organizations. A digital marketing pioneer, Ron has educated nearly 100,000 small businesses on behalf of Constant Contact, and has presented at hundreds of high-profile conferences and events. Millions have read his written articles, and his radio shows on email marketing and social media are among the most popular on the Internet.