Nothing is more deflating than spending countless hours and resources planning an event only to have a paltry turnout. Empty chairs are the bane of every event planner’s existence and can be discouraging to the point of giving up.
Thankfully, technology continues to open a plethora of creative options for increasing event attendance – and we’ve put them together in one place to jump-start your brainstorming process.
Some of these event attendance tips may be better suited toward specific types of events … some are better for meetings and corporate events, some for fundraisers or galas, and some for weddings and parties. Regardless of what type of event you plan, the key is to think creatively about increasing attendance through a combination of technology and personal touches.
Keep in mind that people often procrastinate to the last minute to RSVP or register for events, so the ultimate goal when applying any of these concepts is to push those RSVPs/registrations earlier.
More than 20,000 event professionals rely on Planning Pod to manage their event details and deliver an exceptional experience to their attendees. That includes our tools for building event webpages, collecting free or paid registrations/RSVPs online, tracking attendee details and managing on-site check-in. Get started with Planning Pod today >>
1. Gather input before, during, and after your event
Doing your research and using it to track attendance is the first step in executing a successful event, so find out what your target audience does (and doesn’t) want. Be sure to gather contact information for prospective attendees who have visited your event website or engaged with any of the digital marketing efforts related to your event.
Then, email them with short, quick surveys. If you don’t have direct contact information, use polls on social media (like Instagram stories) to get the input you need from prospective event attendees. Implementing realistic suggestions from them will go a long way in improving the quality of your relationship and increase the likelihood that they will attend your future events.
During your event, use surveys and polls again to engage attendees and gauge sentiment in real-time. This is an especially useful tactic when hosting virtual or hybrid events. Anyone attending virtually can easily be distracted by laundry, walking the dog, or checking their email – but folks love to feel heard, so asking for their input during breaks between sessions can both minimize fallout and provide you with valuable feedback.
After your event is complete, follow up with attendees to find out what they liked and what could have been done better. Listen for common threads in the feedback you receive and make those tweaks to your next event.
2. Blend convenience with memorability in your event location
The best way to drive away event attendees is to choose a venue that is too inaccessible or expensive for them. A great way to avoid this problem is by making your event a hybrid occasion.
Virtual event platforms make even the most elite spaces accessible for all demographics. That being said, hybrid events should still be located conveniently enough to host in-person guests. Look for a memorable space located conveniently for in-person attendees and leverage its benefits by offering virtual attendance as well. This allows you to both set your event apart and make it within reach for anyone interested in participating.
3. Communicate early and often, and make it personal
Make sure to give yourself enough lead time to build momentum and FOMO before your event. Create a promotional timeline for your event that starts communication with potential guests early and maintains regular, personalized contact.
Get granular with your plan for ticketed events by creating a timeline for different discount codes. Use paid and free ticket options to increase perceived value, and build a waitlist of people to contact should other purchasers cancel. You can even give away tickets with regard to registrants that canceled at the last minute in exchange for suggested donations.
For RSVP events, be sure to send out save-the-dates early. You can also go the extra mile by sending personal invitations or gifts to attendees ahead of time, which can help to avoid burnout from initial excitement and make guests feel truly appreciated.
4. Simplify the registration / RSVP process and make it easy to cancel
Online registration pages and RSVP forms should be made as easy as possible to complete. Minimize the number of fields. Make it easy for multiple registrations (because for weddings and parties one person often replies for an entire family, and for business events one person may be registering for multiple co-workers). Also, consider group or bundled pricing for those multiple registrations.
If you’re using discovery sites to gain exposure for your event, enable native checkout to make it possible for attendees to register without navigating away from that site. One click can make or break whether a guest completes your registration form or not.
It might not seem intuitive to make cancellations easy for attendees, but it’s worth your time. Difficult cancellation processes lead to people getting frustrated, failing to reopen their RSVP slot or ticket option, and ultimately increasing the number of recorded no-shows for your event.
5. Offer incentives for early registrations or arrivals
Early-bird discounts are a must for priming early registrations for many business-related events. But also consider giving away books, discount coupons or other value-adds to people who sign up early. Sending personalized swag to those early registrants by mail is a great option, and also makes each attendee feel less like a number and more like a valued guest. You can also extend your early-bird registration at the last minute to give bargain-hunters a second chance.
6. Build your schedule/agenda early and make it easily accessible
The clearer and more detailed you are about your agenda, the more people will feel they can make an informed decision about attending. Make sure to include this in your promotional communications (including email, social media, and paid advertising), and add a page to your event website listing agenda and itinerary items in detail.
7. Plan strategic breaks between lengthy agenda items to minimize dropoff
It goes without saying that any event that is longer than a couple hours needs to include breaks for guests or attendees. In the age of virtual and hybrid events, it’s important to use these breaks strategically to minimize dropoff. If you can provide a break and maintain interest simultaneously, you win. Try highlighting a juicy upcoming segment of your event coming up after a scheduled break, like a giveaway, keynote, or featured speaker in high demand.
8. Express multiple value propositions in your promotional efforts
Just one benefit isn’t enough for most people to commit to your event. Include value-adds in every invitation, email, and marketing material (digital or otherwise) that you use for promotion. Ensure that attendees understand the valuable takeaways of the event experience, what they will learn, who might be speaking/entertaining, and the event scheduled.
It’s also always a good idea to provide sneak peek videos, photo documentation of past events, and testimonials from past or returning attendees.
9. Take advantage of email marketing through segmentation
A huge part of successful event planning is documenting who has shown interest in your events before, who has attended, who has declined invitation, and who has no-showed. Furthermore, targeted digital marketing toward each of these segments is crucial in cultivating relationships, tracking attendance, and gathering information that can inform your upcoming events. Be sure to segment any email lists you’ve curated over time and market toward them with clear and concise calls to action and interactive content (such as surveys, polls, gifs, and links back to your event website).
Even if you send out mailed invitations for RSVP events, it’s still a good idea to also send an email invitation and link back to your event website. It is also critical to send email reminders to your invited participants as well as your attendees. A good rule of thumb is sending out emails 14 days, 7 days, 3 days and 1 day prior to the event.
In addition, when sending out those pre-event reminders to attendees, a great way to maintain their interest and enthusiasm is to include “just added” bonuses, like newly added speakers or entertainers.
10. Use followup communications
Before you are up against your RSVP or registration deadline, it’s a good idea to contact your potential attendees and ask them simply if they are planning on attending your event. That point of contact can go a long way in boosting attendance. This communication can happen via phone, email, or social media – think about how these attendees initially engaged with your event marketing efforts and let that guide your choice in further communications with them.
Depending on your bandwidth, you can also ask directly upon receiving their RSVP/registration how each guest prefers to be contacted. People respond well to actions that make them heard as an individual rather than a number, which means they’ll be more likely to show up at your event.
11. Optimize your event website for mobile devices
More event registrations and RSVPs are initiated on mobile devices than ever before. Every event in this day and age should have an online registration option, and you’ll want to make sure that form or website is optimized for mobile use. Work with your IT professional to create a page with responsive web design, which means that everything will fit properly on any size of screen.
12. Cross-promote with other organizations
Contact other organizations who may also reach out to your target audience and give them incentive to cross-promote your event to their lists. You could make them an in-kind sponsor and give them registration discounts or other benefits for partnering with you. Consider donating tickets to other organizations for distribution to their board of directors or key members in order to cultivate lasting relationships that benefit your future events.
13. Ask attendees and speakers to help you promote the event
At the end of the day, word-of-mouth marketing is still the most powerful tool available to event planners. Content generated by guests, speakers, and entertainers is the best conversation starter that exists.
Use event hashtags, selfie stations, and other strategies to provide Instagram-able/TikTok-able moments during your event. Offer guests a discount for bringing friends. Encourage your speakers and entertainers to promote the event to their networks as well. If they have a significantly large network and you have the resources, incentivize them by offering a personalized link to share that earns them a percentage of each ticket sold.
While you work to increase event attendance, you can use Planning Pod to help you manage all your event planning details, like budgets, to-do’s, itineraries, guest lists and much more. Get started with our online event management solutions and venue management tools today.