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Quick and Easy Marketing Moves to Boost Conference Attendance

Posted By Julie Cygan, Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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Conference season is upon us and organizations are in various stages of marketing their events to build awareness, solicit exhibitors and sponsors, and, most importantly, ensure strong attendance. Strong attendance is the most critical of these activities. People want to attend an event that is successful — and attendance is a very visual, quantifiable measure of success. They see the conference as an opportunity to network and exchange ideas… so more attendees means more opportunities to connect. Sponsors and exhibitors are primarily interested in maximizing their exposure to decision-makers in the field and the value they perceive through conference sponsor/exhibitor opportunities is directly related to event attendance. Additionally, media contacts and stakeholder groups the organization hopes to influence will be more inclined to give attention to the organization if they know that its conference is a strong industry forum.

The following five moves can help give your conference an extra attendance boost.

  1. Send a special invitation to members who have never attended a conference before. This can be particularly impactful if the letter comes from an organizational leader like the board president or someone who has a direct relationship with the member. Even if a member is not able to attend the event this year, you will still gain some insight into why, which could result in changes for future years.
  2. Reach out to all new members who have joined in the last year. Again, this can be an invitation from a volunteer leader. Many organizations have an “ambassador” assigned to orient new members for the first year, which provides a natural fit for this. New members likely are not aware of the full value that is available through the conference experience, so a personal outreach effort to discuss this could be just what is needed to pull in a few more member attendees. You can bet that when the first-year member receives his/her dues renewal s/he will remember this invitation.
  3. Engage members, fans, and followers through social media. Most organizations find that they have a whole group of professionals who are loosely affiliated through social media but have never been contacted directly by an individual of the organization to ask them to engage further. The conference is the perfect opportunity for these individuals to convert their online interest into in-person networking. Make an effort to connect one-on-one through social media with people who haven’t engaged through another forum; you may be surprised at the responsiveness.
  4. Cross-promote with companies and organizations that support your membership. Many sponsors and exhibitors overlook the very easy promotional value they can gain by simply contacting their current and potential customers to encourage them to attend the conference and visit them while they’re there.
  5. Offer an incentive to those who help build attendance. This can be as simple as recognizing event promoters online or at the conference. It can be as involved as providing financial credit toward membership dues, event registration, advertising, or even cash back. An incentive-based campaign that recognizes successful attendee recruitment can generate new attendees, new members, and grow the overall organization.

While each of these moves is intended to boost conference attendance, they have the added bonus of giving the organization an excuse to contact and be front-of-mind with members and/or important industry supporters. This outreach may result in collateral benefits to the organization such as increased member retention and engagement by members and supporters in other activities of the organization. The impact that can result from a few little extra marketing steps can be significant and make the conference attendee experience all the more enriching.

Tags:  attendance  conference  event planning  ewald consulting  julie cygan  marketing 

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