If you are in the business of planning or hosting an annual conference, educational seminar, or any event really that relies on the same attendees coming year after year, then this blog article is for you! Many times in our careers, we’ve seen great organizations put on great inaugural events. They’ve offered new content with big-name speakers; they’ve had great sponsorship programs; brought out many attendees from the industry; and overall offered a great value proposition. Year after year, it becomes more difficult to run these events. People aren’t as eager to register, budgets are slashed, which results in fewer bodies in the seats, and event hosts are left wondering – is it worth it to continue running this event?
How can organizations ensure they are keeping their events relevant and successful from year to year? We have a few suggestions on how organizations can engage attendees to ensure annual event success.
Keep Your Content Fresh
Unless a speaker has something new to share or new data / information is available to follow up on a previous session they ran, they should not be on your schedule again. If someone is invited to speak again, it should be made clear in your marketing that the content is new for this coming year. It is true, you may have new attendees who would be interested in the session and haven’t attended in the past, but the majority of your interested participants are likely returning customers, and they want to see fresh content. It seems simple in theory, but in practice, it can be challenging to find new speakers and new content each year. It is important to start gathering session ideas as soon as your last event wraps up.
Find Out What Your Audience Wants to Hear
You may be an expert in the industry, but you don’t necessarily know what all your peers are eager to learn about. In order to engage your attendees early in the planning process, and to ensure the content you are offering is relevant, ask past attendees what they want to hear at your event. By doing this early on in the process, you will give yourself enough time to find speakers capable of sharing the knowledge people are seeking. You’ll also be engaging potential attendees early, which means they are more likely to ensure there is sufficient budget for them to attend your event.
Engage Your First Time Attendees
This is an important one. One of your event goals should be to convert first time attendees into recurring attendees and there are many ways to do this. We’d recommend reaching out to new attendees in advance of the event. Find out what their attendance goals are (to learn, to network, etc.) and try to help them achieve these goals. Are they eager to learn? Find out what they want to know and recommend sessions to attend and individuals they should meet. Are they attending to network? Help them set up meetings with key people in your organization and in other organizations. If your first time attendees feel valued and their business appreciated, they are more likely to return. This recommendation is one we feel strongly about, so we will dedicate a future post to addressing this in detail.
Engage All Attendees During the ‘Off Season’
If your event participants have left your event feeling empowered and satisfied, then you’ve done your job on-site. Post-event is equally as important. During the planning process, before your event occurs, try to determine ways you can maintain engagement once it is over. Is there a follow-up webinar you can offer with updates on specific topics? A networking session to maintain connections people made during the event? Is there a way to facilitate meetings between individuals who could help each other in the regular course of business? There are many ways to engage attendees once the event is over and you’re more likely to succeed at this if you have a strategy in place before the event begins.
For many organizations, ‘hitting it out of the park’ with one successful event isn’t enough. If you consider the strategies above as part of your overall event marketing strategy, your organization will be in a great position to ensure repeat attendance and happy delegates year after year. If you ever need assistance, Redstone is always a phone call away.
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