She explained in detail the elaborate preparations they’d made and how excited her committee had been about the event as well and the big turnout anticipated. Then bam, the event came and very few people showed up.
“So, what happened?” I asked, assuming she already had some explanations.
“I honestly don’t know!,” she said. “We had a great venue, wonderful food, excellent entertainment. The price was affordable and parking was free. We even had some of the most fabulous giveaways I’ve ever seen offered at similar events. I just don’t understand it.”
As our discussion continued, I asked questions about the validity of her mailing list and the marketing plan, most of which she couldn’t really answer. Bingo! They’d used the same list they always did and had little to no follow-up once the initial invitation went out. Both are a recipe for zero turnout. (For tips on mailing lists, go HERE.)
Mailing lists get outdated as fast as people change Facebook statuses, and positive results are rarely achieved from a one-mailer marketing piece. This seemed to surprise my friend, an experienced industry regular who’s had many successful events over the years but seemed oblivious to the need for an aggressive promotional plan to guarantee better attendance.
If you want to avoid the same fate, use these basic planning tips that come from top event marketers:
1. Use a 1-2-3 plan with invitations
Send the invite out, follow it up and then follow it up again. Make each piece distinct but with an overall theme or look that ties them together.
Offer such inducements as the “first 20 registrants get free valet parking” and “attendees get an autographed copy of her new book!” People need to be told in plain language how they’ll benefit from fitting another “anything” into their work lives. Make this as easy and compelling as possible. The more incentives you list, the more attractive your event becomes.
3. Be generous with reminders
Use the logo and add a tagline to all email signatures (“I’m going, are you?”), push the chatter on every social media channel and ask others to do the same.
4. Provide a complete agenda
It should cover everything from start to finish. People aren’t amused by surprises. They like a timeline (registration opens at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.) and details (complimentary wine/cash bar). People get anxious about the unknown, so take the fear out as early as possible and eliminate that excuse for not attending.
It’s no longer enough for a planner to know only how to organize a great event. Savvy planners should have a stake in the event’s overall game plan, and that includes understanding the marketing and promotions needed to get people there.
Have you ever had an event with a disappointing turnout? What did you learn and do differently next time? Please use the comment box below to continue the conversation. Plan well and prosper, friends.