June 2011

Attendance Building

By MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, CHE


  • Engage your participants and your prospective participants. One size does not fit all. Your 'invitation' should be tailored to your key audiences. Don't assume a single invite will be attractive to everyone. It will not.
  • Deliver all of your promotional materials in a variety of forms. Whether it is snail mail, email, eblasts, faxes, or other delivery methods, don't rely exclusively on any single method. Doing so means you will surely miss a segment of your intended recipients.
  • Start marketing for your next conference at your current one. Provide an attendee experience that will ensure they will come back again and again.
  • Collaborate with your key stakeholders to reach out to their mailing lists and recommend attendance at your event. Provide them with an easy voucher or message that they can simply put into their own message and send to their lists.
  • Engage Scour your mailing lists and purge bounces, undeliverables, and unsubscribes. Saves annoyances and saves money!
  • Use Social Media—especially if you are a nonprofit. Go to www.facebook/nonprofits and start creating your event. Using multiple channels to get your message out is essential.
  • Build excitement and build your brand at the same time.
  • Create a call to action on every message you send. Get them to register, to book their hotel rooms, to select sessions, etc. Keep them interested. Tell a story and tell them something new in each message.
  • Imagine yourself at an event where you truly came away with a fantastic WOW factor. Now turn your event into that experience.
  • Entice attendees with a promotional offer or a giveaway they can really use and will keep you in their minds long after the event has ended.
  • Discount or early registration strategies work well. Make it worth their while.
  • Stay Connected and continue the buzz. Do not let the 'glow' end with the closing of the event. Keep the energy level high with targeted and consistent communications about the event until you are ready to promote the next event.
  • Work the Room. Talk with your event participants during the event. Ask them how they are doing, whether they are enjoying the event. Make them feel special.
  • Differentiate your event from others and make sure participants know the difference! This is one area where you can be controversial and use it to your advantage.
  • Telemarketing is sometimes thought of in negative terms. Properly done, it can truly increase attendance. Script it and choose your telemarketers carefully.
  • Maximize the capabilities of your website. Online registration, ease of navigation, ability to create a personal agenda are among items that make it easy for participants to connect with your event.
  • Word of mouth is and always will be a great attendance builder. Be sure that is being said is complimentary to your event.
  • Community outreach can add a 'feel good' element to your event. Consider a raffle with proceeds going to a designated charity or organize a volunteer service project.
  • Choose the title for your event carefully to demonstrate the value your event will bring to participants. Keep it short and memorable.
  • Partner with a purpose. Whether you partner with sponsors, exhibitors or decide to co-locate your event, seize the opportunity to reach other mailing lists that previously were unavailable to you.


MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, CHE is the owner of Bobrow & Associates, an association and meetings management company headquartered in Citrus Heights, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected] or (916) 722-8168.


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