If there’s one visual that will break an event planner’s heart, it’s a row of empty chairs. With all the effort and expense invested to create and host an event of any kind, Mr. Lackluster Attendance is the most unwelcomed guest of all.
- How do planners entice and encourage attendance?
- How do we motivate attendee registration and active participation?
- How do we engage in-person and virtual audiences without breaking the bank (or losing our minds)?
Turning “How-Do” questions into “How-To” answers lingers in the back of every event planner’s mind . . . and with that, we happily share a few boiled-down tips from our 36 years of event facilitating — best practices that planners are using to incentivize their guests:
 Simplify everything:
- Start with the Registration process, likely the first barrier that potentially discourages attendees. Whether using printed or online forms, the process has to be organized, simple to complete, and immediate. Online forms, in particular, need to be as easy and as secure as possible: the less clicks to complete the forms, the better your chances of securing guests.
- Consider using an all-in-one event platform, one powered to seamlessly translate all event data (registration, event content, speakers, etc.) from in-person to virtual so you can meet the needs of both audiences. Keep in mind that while virtual components can cost less than their in-person counterparts, both often take the same amount of work — thus, a systematic, integrated approach will save both time and money. Hybrid meetings are here to stay, so ask your chosen venue to explain your options.
- Consistency counts! Focus on the attendee’s experience from beginning to end: create a clear, benefits-driven marketing message … easy registration … summarized event content … welcoming engagement experiences (sessions, vendor booths, networking events, etc.) … and concise post-event surveys. Crafting and conveying simple messages and methods wins every time, ultimately creating a cycle that builds not only this event but the next.
 Offer incentives that work:
- Know your audience(s) and what motivates them. While every event carries a common interest, reasons to attend can vary. Different incentives will motivate guests by appealing to their unique triggers: high-profile speakers … education topics and/or credits … networking opportunities … prizes … entertainment … and the all-powerful early-bird discount.
- Consider group incentives. If your audience is segmental, encourage group registration that helps promote the event, fill seats, and increase revenues. Groups can be small or large —“Attend with a Friend” might offer a half-price new guest registration; invite larger groups to compete for incentives, such as special add-ons, enviable prizes, rewards and recognition.
- Create day-of-event incentives. Promoting day-of incentives encourages guests to show up to claim their reward. It can be something simple and cost-effective for anyone who participates (swag bags) or a more enticing gift for an exclusive group, like “the first 25 to arrive” type of promotion. The creative options are endless but almost always effective!
 Promote, promote, promote:
- Invest in branding. Cross-platform marketing is especially effective if done creatively (and simply, as noted above). Implement a mix of timed social media posts and ads, printed collateral, eMail marketing, and imprinted items that promote the event’s theme, key benefits, incentives, and easy access.
- Tell them what to expect — and personalize it. Send “Save the Date” announcements early so guests can add it to their calendars. Use your attendee list and data merge options to personalize print and email correspondence — addressing recipients by name always gets more attention. Hand-addressed personalized notes get noticed even more!
- Be the squeaky wheel. Meet your audiences where they want to be: use print and online invitations to register … and reminders are a must-do, especially as event dates approach. Remind guest by email intervals at 14, 7, 3 days, and 1 day ahead of the event.
We can’t guarantee all of these practices work for every organization but we have seen the proof that these extra efforts pay off. We have a motto at the core for every event hosted at Grand Wayne Convention Center — “Make Good Memories” — and we’re happy to help event planners attract attendees, both in-person and remotely.
We’re here to answer your questions and help you make good memories. Contact one of our Sales Managers and tell us what you have in mind.