From glitzy galas to professional conferences, events are a great way to engage members, market your membership program to new audiences, and encourage networking among your member community.
Associations big and small can benefit from a well-planned event, and your own association is probably brainstorming future events at this very moment!
Unfortunately, taking the time to plan a valuable, engaging event doesn’t guarantee that your members are going to turn up to take advantage of the opportunity. So, how can you increase attendance and attention for your association’s stellar events?
To help answer this question, we’ll take a look at five easy attendance-boosting strategies, including how you can effectively:
- Reach out to members for pre-event feedback.
- Use multichannel marketing (& follow channel best practices).
- Tease event content to build excitement.
- Make online registration as easy as possible.
- Leverage your post-event surveys.
From simplifying registration with check-in software to leveling up your social media marketing, these tips should put you on the right track to maximize event attendance and success.
1. Reach out to members for pre-event feedback.
You’re likely familiar with the basic checklist for effectively planning an event, like having a detailed event agenda and budget organized well in advance. However, one powerful (and often overlooked) event strategy is getting member feedback before the event planning process.
Proactively reach out to your audience with a survey to gauge their interest in your event topics, activities, and ideas, and inquire about ways that you can make your event as engaging as possible for them. For example, you might ask:
- What session topics would you be interested in hearing a guest speaker lead?
- Are there any hot-button topics that you would want to discuss through a live panel or Q&A?
- Are there any emerging trends or perspectives in the industry that you would want to be incorporated into an event agenda?
- If given the chance to attend an online, hybrid, or in-person event, which format(s) appeal to you?
By building your event around ideas that your audience has expressed genuine interest in, you should end up with a far more valuable event opportunity that members will be chomping at the bit to attend.
2. Use multichannel marketing (& follow channel best practices).
Outside of the event planning process, your event marketing campaign is one of the most important factors in determining attendance rates.
To properly inform potential attendees about upcoming events, as well as motivate and inspire them to attend, you’ll need a comprehensive multichannel marketing plan that covers all of your major communication platforms.
Wild Apricot’s guide on how to plan an event stresses the importance of using these specific channels to attract attendees:
- Organization webpages
- Branded social media pages
- Email newsletters and messaging
- Printed and direct mail materials
- Press and media coverage
As you craft your special event promotions, be mindful of each channel’s best practices for displaying and sharing content. For example, posts on social media platforms like Instagram should be direct, eye-catching, and focused on visuals. On top of that, create special hashtags and use tagging features to spread the word and create a conversation about your event.
It might sound tricky to juggle such a robust event marketing strategy, but a strong association management system will allow you to coordinate your marketing efforts, personalize your messages to attendees, and automatically collect metrics on the success of your campaign.
3. Tease event content to build excitement.
To maximize anticipation for your event and get even more attendees on board, give your audience a taste of what’s to come.
Post photos of your guest speakers on Instagram. Send out your exciting event itinerary over email. Record and cut together a teaser trailer for your event and add it to a spotlight section of your website’s landing page.
Also, be sure to make a point of promoting, tagging, and spotlighting your event sponsors. According to top event planning tips from Memberclicks, giving plenty of shoutouts to your sponsors and their event contributions adds more value to your partnership, giving you greater sponsorship opportunities in the future to fund and market bigger and better events.
And don’t forget about your guest speakers! Feature them prominently in your event sneak peeks, teasers, and promotions so that they, too, can share these materials with their supporters and help draw in a bigger audience for your event.
4. Make online registration as easy as possible.
One of the most preventable reasons that more attendees may not show up to your event is a lengthy or confusing registration process. As your members turn out to support your association and take advantage of your offerings, there should be as few barriers as possible to participation.
To increase registration and boost attendance, keep your event registration form short, sweet, and to the point, including key fields like contact information, billing, and special accommodations.
Additionally, to make registration even more convenient, include these key features:
- Group registration
- Multiple payment options
- A mobile-responsive design
The right online registration software should also be able to integrate directly into your website. This reduces registration form abandonment by keeping registrants on your site rather than redirecting them to an unfamiliar third-party platform.
5. Leverage your post-event surveys.
So far, we’ve only looked at steps that you can take in the lead-up to your event to boost attendance. However, a well-crafted post-event feedback survey can be a simple, yet effective way to increase event attendance for your future conferences, networking nights, and whatever other activities you have in store for members.
On top of that, following up with attendees after the event doubles as an easy strategy to further boost engagement and endear them to your association.
The key is to collect as much valuable information as possible through targeted questions. In particular, you might ask attendees:
- To rate general aspects of the event, such as food or the speakers, on a sliding scale.
- What were their favorite and least favorite parts of the event
- What specific sessions or activities they participated in
- The likelihood that they will attend future events or recommend them to a friend
- What topic ideas or suggestions they have to improve future events
Make sure that your association management system can integrate with your survey creation tool or hosts its own survey-making tools. This will be a big help as you sift through your survey results, as your data will already be neatly stored and organized in your association management software.
When you spend weeks, months, or even years carefully planning, organizing, marketing, and hosting your events, you want to guarantee that as many constituents as possible are enjoying all of your hard work and the great opportunities you have to offer.
These strategies and software solutions will help to put you on the fast track to event success, empowering you to reach as wide an audience as possible to dazzle with your engaging event activities.