The biggest change you can make for yourself is to start thinking of your event planning and registration process as a marketing funnel. This will help keep you focused on the goal of getting registrants, not the smaller details of the event planning process.
Here are 5 tips that can help get you started on the path to examining your event process as a sales funnel:
1. Automate Everything that Can Be Automated The real value of an event planner is having someone available to deal with situations that arise during the course of planning, like arranging meals and meeting space, answering registrant questions and “putting out the fires" that arise.
With event planning there can be quite a bit of legwork involved, especially in the registration phase: processing payments, processing registrations, making reports for sponsors, printing name badges, and eventually performing on-site registrations.
Because of web-based software programs, it has become extremely easy and economical to automate most of this process, leaving you free to perform the most valuable functions of an event planner.
2. Offer an Early-Bird Discount I recently conducted a study on over 9,000 events that used an online registration system, and found that planning professionals could increase their total registrations by a large amount when they use correctly timed, properly discounted early-bird offers.
The added benefit of early-bird pricing options is that the earlier registrants commit to your event, the better the estimates you can give to hotels and caterers, resulting in time and money saved all around.
3. Maximize Registration Time Giving your attendees a longer time to register means giving your self more opportunity to collect registrations. Research has shown that an optimal period for registration to run on the average event is 6 months. This timeline allows ample time for attendees to plan their schedule, while at the same time giving them plenty of notice about your event.
4. Follow-Up With Attendees Talking to your attendees after the event is an often overlooked technique, but this makes it a great way to stand apart from the crowd. Ask attendees what they liked and what could be improved.
There are two important things you need to do with this follow up: first, make changes to your program. If many attendees suggest the same thing, then it is advisable to try to make that fix for them.
Second, you should make sure to reference your next event in the follow up email. For instance, “Thanks so much for attending Our Conference 2007, we'll see you in April at Our Conference 2008! If you'd like to pre-register, you can use this registration form. "
5. Offer a Guarantee An easy way of showing your prospective attendees that you stand behind the value your event provides is with a money-back guarantee. Experience has shown that the risk of a few refunds is far outweighed by the additional attendance you can receive using this method.
The structure of the guarantee is completely customizable depending on your situation, but common ideas are to guarantee satisfaction by the first-day's mid-morning break or a lifetime guarantee. The real key is to make sure that you word your guarantee so that it makes the assumption that the attendee will enjoy the event (e. g. “If you truthfully feel like you gain nothing from my event (which has never happened before!) I will refund your registration fee in full!").
It can be tough out there, but if you try to remember that the true added-value of an event planner is in taking care of the tough situations, and try to think of your event process as a sales funnel, you can increase your attendance.
Ryan is a member of the marketing team with RegOnline, a producer of easy-to-use special event planning software, and a company dedicated to making event planners’ lives easier.