If you’re taking the time to plan, schedule, coordinate, and execute an event, you surely want it to be well attended. And that’s not something you should leave to chance. Event hosts who trust that people will just “share the news” about an event and that this will organically generate interest in it are, in many cases, disappointed by the turnout.
Individuals or organizations that develop a strategy for promoting their event, on the other hand, and follow through on that plan tend to be rewarded with successful events. In fact, not only do their gatherings meet attendance goals, they often have a waiting list.
The Elements of Your Can’t-Miss Event Marketing Strategy
How you should market your event depends on a number of factors including the size of your audience, the number of attendees you can accommodate, their digital habits, etc. Consequently, you might not need to use all 11 of the elements below. But each of them can help generate awareness and interest in an event when carried out properly.
- Create a website or landing page for your event. Sending information to potential attendees via email (see below) is a great way to spread the word about your event. But because the specifics of an event can evolve as the date gets closer (changes in things like topics, featured speakers, date and time, etc.) you should also have a place on the web that people can visit to get the latest info. If you don’t have a website, it’s worth the time and effort to create a simple web presence. If you already have one, you should create a unique landing page for your event with information specific to it.
- Use “drip” email marketing. It’s easy for people to overlook one email. If it arrives in the middle of an especially busy day or as they’re headed out the door to an appointment, it’s likely to get filed away and forgotten. A much more effective approach is to send a series of emails in advance of an event, each providing some intriguing information about the session. And as the event date gets closer, creating a sense of urgency in your emails can help drive up registration.
- Explain the value of the event to your audience. It’s obvious to you, the event host, why people should attend your gathering. It’s informative, it’s fun… whatever the case may be. But to potential attendees, the value may not be so clear. If all you share is the “what” of your event, your audience may not see the “why” and will ignore your outreach.
- Provide bios/pictures/videos of featured guests or presenters. If your event will have speakers, panelists, etc., help people make a personal connection with them by sharing some information on their background as well as a photo of them. If it’s possible to get or create a short video of the person talking about the topic and encouraging people to attend, that can be even more compelling.
- Blog about the event. Like a drip email campaign, a series of short blog posts to “tease” an event can generate interest. Plus, regular blogging can help elevate your website in general in the eyes of the search engines, so this is a strategy with multiple benefits!
- Create a hashtag for the event. A short, memorable hashtag that you use—and encourage others to use—can make it easy for interested people to find information about your event.
- Use banners on your website and social media accounts. Eye-catching graphics on your website and social media pages can attract the attention of people you may not have reached out to in other ways. And for those you have contacted, seeing a banner reinforces that your event is an important one.
- Leverage “influence marketing.” For every topic there’s someone who’s opinion influences a significant percentage of the people interested in it. Reaching out to that influencer to provide information on your event and respectfully request that they share it with their followers can provide a huge boost in interest and attendance if they grant your request. And even if they don’t, their awareness of your efforts may be helpful down the road.
- Write and distribute a press release. There are many free and paid services you can use to get the word out about your event. And the more formal nature of a press release can give an event more credibility in the eyes of some audience members.
- Partner with your presenters. People who have agreed to be panelists or presenters at an event typically 1) have an audience of their own, and 2) are willing to promote the event to their followers. That said, they may not think to share the information, so a friendly request and/or reminder is always a good idea.
- Use energetic language. Wherever and however you market your event, be sure the language you use mirrors your enthusiasm for the event. Consider these two event descriptions: “XYZ organization helps students connect with area nonprofit organizations. Come learn more.” And, “Get involved and make a difference! Find out how XYZ organization can turn a small amount of your time and effort into BIG, positive changes for our community. Register now and bring a friend!” Obviously, the second option is going to be more motivating and more likely to increase attendance.
The Direct Correlation Between Marketing Effort and Event Attendance
As an event host, you can put as much or as little effort into marketing your session as you choose. But if you want to fill seats, you’ve got to commit some time and energy to promoting the event. If you decide to go “all in” on your event marketing, a nice bonus is the fact that the name recognition you develop around this event can have a positive impact on future event marketing efforts.
So, identify your target audience, develop a marketing plan, set your attendance goal, and get after it!