The economy and other political factors have had a tremendous impact on the way business meetings are perceived, and event planners have been faced with increased pressure to find ways to avoid sub-par attendance at business meetings and conventions.
Even in a growing economy, many times travel expenses are perceived as too high for these types of events and many professionals simply opt to go without. Despite the shift, most companies and organizations still see the important impact of meetings. In today's economy, hosting successful meetings may mean a focus on holding local and centralized meetings that achieve lower travel costs, but more importantly, it will mean employing these ten tips for increasing meeting attendance.
Make Reminder Calls
After the initial invitations are sent, make reminder and follow up phone calls to as many of the invitees as possible and extend a personal invitation and recommend that they attend the event. Historically, telephone follow-up dramatically increases business meeting attendance. Be sure to talk about the upcoming event at other business events. Word of mouth can still be a great way to create a buzz, which brings us to the next tip.
Spread the Word
Spread the news about your event anywhere and everywhere, including local publications, national publications, members publications, trade publications, personal newsletters, and any other communication tool available. Be sure to think about what tools reach your target audience.
Promote Online (Company Website, Social Media, & Email)
Post the event details on your company website. Promote the event on your blog and monthly e-newsletter. Post event details on social media where your target audience is active like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Encourage members of your organization to do the same. Ask them to share the event link with their connections, friends, and followers. If you participate in relevant online communities such as the industry forums, promote your event within those communities.
Incorporate Invitations Everywhere
Another way to get the word out to prospective guests is to sneak invitations to join you at your events into all your methods of business communication. Add a line in your email signature with a link to your custom event website or invitation. If you have voicemail or an online hold message, make sure to include your upcoming event information in your recorded message.
Use Your Social Network and Their Network
Social networking is about growing the group of people who you consider friends, clients, business partners, and professional acquaintances. Getting the attendance you're looking for is easier when your attendees are encouraged to bring a guest or business relation. And don’t assume that people in your own network already know about the event. It never hurts to reach out and remind them.
Include a Guest Speaker Who's a Draw
The meeting objective, topic, theme, and guest speakers should be relevant, fresh, and fun. One successful way to increase attendance at business events is to bring in popular guest speakers, especially if they work in the same industry or related industry. You should also consider having an emcee who will be interactive and entertaining.
Choose a Great Event Location
Choose a new event and interesting event location. Whether the big draw is the chosen city or the venue itself, people are more likely to attend an event that is convenient and provides an opportunity to enjoy a great atmosphere. Ensure the event is in a convenient location for your attendees and consider other conveniences like parking or public transportation to the venue.
The goal is to make an event unique. Offer new activities; use a new interactive format during the presentation; make an effort to be original. Be mindful of your agenda. Do not use the traditional giveaways at the end when attendees are ready to leave. Consider including a session about innovation that engages participants through the planning of your next conference/event. A session that is fun and informative will have a positive impact on attendance at future events. Do a brainstorming session and take the ideas back to your planning committee for next year’s event.
Send Feedback Surveys
Whether you include a brainstorming session or not, maximize your future success by sending feedback surveys after the event. Always ask for future topic suggestions and even constructive criticism as getting this feedback is very helpful for planning future meetings and events.
For example, some people prefer seminars in the morning, and others prefer programs in the afternoon. Some like Tuesdays and others like Thursdays. In your feedback survey, find out what your attendees like and would have liked to see at the event. Follow-up is the key to your marketing success.
Listen and Deliver
It is always important to listen to the needs of your participants and attendees, but if you ask for feedback, be sure to show that you are listening. As the old saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. Always keep in mind that the attendance at your event can be related to the quality of previous events you have hosted. Build a reputation for listening to your guests' needs and wants and delivering on those promises.