As soon as you have planned, designed, organized and advertised a workshop, roadshow, seminar or event that works well, your next priority is to get people through the door. The best advice you will ever receive about putting actual bums on seats at your event is to charge an attendance fee. Those with long experience of running events know this is very basic psychology. If you have to pay for something, it must have value. If something is free it is, by definition, valueless and, even if you book a place, there is no loss if you fail to turn up.
In addition there are many creative techniques that can be employed to ensure that the maximum number of people make an appearance on the day.
You should be building up a database of potential delegates from your invitation list and also from enquiries that have been made but not converted into bookings. Make sure you have a system of frequent, but not annoying, follow-up calls that move the selling process forward. Your database should contain a field that allows your sales prospectors to update reasons for no decision. This information can be used to modify the event content to make it more attractive and appealing to your target audience. For example, people are generally impressed by known experts or celebrities in a certain field and will be more likely to attend if those people will be speaking. If the demand is high you could have a late change to the program including a named expert that can be announced through your follow-up calls, website, Emails, text messages and an additional mailer.
Delegates are pretty predictable. They will only attend an event if they see a benefit for themselves. Early in our careers we are just hungry for information but as we mature we look for peripheral reasons to spend our time at one event or another.
Even although delegates value an event they have paid for, they also value the cleverness of getting a good deal or a discount. For this reason it makes sense to offer early booking discounts, buy-one-get-one-free, buy-one-get-two-discounted-tickets offers and on-line booking discounts. Incidentally, the discount price is your break-even price plus your normal profit margin.
If the on-line booking option sounds slightly complex, it’s not. Organizations like mybookingmanager.com specialize in providing a 24 hour booking service that collects comprehensive registration details, manages session bookings, takes credit card payments, provides delegates with immediate confirmation and allows you to monitor how ticket sales are progressing.
In your publicity material you should be detailing and putting a value on the list of benefits that delegates will receive by attending the event. For example:
Free additional material on the subject
A free book on the subject
A special report commissioned for the event
Free 6-month membership of an Email Advice Service
A free CD of case studies
A discount voucher for products or services
This type of list can soon exceed the ticket price, making attendance essential in the eyes of the prudent.
Thinking outside the box
As well as considering how to give potential delegates a really good reason for attending your event, make sure you don’t neglect the reasons they might have for non-attendance.
Timing is everything
Quite simply, the time of day, the day of the week or the date you choose for your event can have a big impact on attendance. Many businessmen and women have young families, so it makes sense to avoid holiday periods especially mid-term weeks unless your event offers crèche facilities. Now that’s a winning idea!
Late start times and early finish times are more likely to appeal to parents who need to drop-off and pick-up kids from school, nursery or child-minders.
Mondays are psychologically a bad day for business events as most people will have built up a list of must-do tasks for work over the week-end and will be convinced that their time is better spent in the office. By far the best day to hold an event, especially a long one, is Friday. You will benefit from people clearing their desks early in the week and getting into the weekend mood. If Friday is not possible, work backwards through Thursday and Wednesday to Tuesday, all of which have the appeal of making the rest of the week available to try out any new ideas.
If local weather conditions or travel problems could delay people or would convince them to cancel; demonstrate your flexibility by contacting them to announce a later start time. The potential to text your delegates can pay dividends here in reducing stress and embarrassment levels.
Location, location, location
Although the venue choice may have been made at an early stage in your project; local, national and world events can influence whether you go ahead using the same location or providing additional venues.
Be prepared to respond appropriately to interests and concerns that your delegates will have. City locations may be a convenient choice for the majority of attendees in one week but the very next day a terrorist attack can change their whole perspective and could impact your profits considerably unless you are willing to adapt and relocate.
By the same token, if your subject matter just happens to relate to crisis management, disaster recovery, security or any subject related to anti-terrorism or whatever the topical subject happens to be, perhaps you should be considering additional sessions and additional venues to accommodate the revitalized interest in the subject.
People tend to trust people they know, so it makes sense, if you are selling places at your event to get to know as many of your potential delegates as you can. Networking not only allows you to build your audience from your acquaintances and contacts, it allows you to seek a broader audience by exploring overlapping networks, by asking for introductions and referrals.
It is also becoming commonplace to network online, expanding your business potential to a global audience.
Be creative and don’t stick to the safe options every time. Operating inside your comfort zone or inside the box will get you the results you always get. If you want extraordinary results, to get an exceptional attendance at your event you’ve got to be prepared to think outside the box.
Of course the door needs to be big enough for the entire potential audience including those in wheelchairs and the venue should accommodate comfortably everyone that you would like to come; beyond those criteria its all imagination.
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