If You Build It They Will Come? Not Always. Converting Registrants to Attendees

When we surveyed our GovEvents' organizer members in the fall, we asked an open-ended question, "What is your biggest challenge as an event organizer in the government space?" We received a wide variety of answers, but the response that came up most often was converting registrants to attendees.

This conversion challenge is not unique to the government market but may be exacerbated by the fact that so many events are free for government attendees. On average, free events see a conversion rate of 40% to 50% of registrants actually attending.

Through research and brainstorming, we came up with some ideas on how to increase that conversion rate. Here are six tips that may help:

  1. Give them what they want. As part of the registration process, or even after people have registered, create a survey question or two that asks what they want to see/learn at the event. Then, plan to meet those needs and communicate back those plans. If people see they are being heard and have confirmation that what they want will be part of the event, they'll be more likely to attend.
  2. Remind them. Build a communication plan that reaches out to registrants leading up to the event. Email them the week before, the week of, and the day before to make sure they don't forget about the event. 70% of respondents to our survey said the majority of their registrants come from email campaigns, so it's likely a great medium for follow-up as well. Also use social media heavily in the week leading up to the event, teasing out never before shared details to get people excited and keep your event top of mind. But emails are not the only way to follow-up. Reminder calls are also an effective strategy.
  3. Make the call. In this online age, getting an actual phone call can make a huge impression. Make reminder calls to registrants a couple of days before the event and answer any questions they may have and any unknowns that may be preventing them from committing. This tactic has proven to be effective for many of our clients where we see a 42% increase in attendance when using reminder calls.
  4. Make it special. Provide "one time only" experiences at your events. Perhaps it's the unveiling of a new technology, an announcement of award winners, or a tour of a high-tech facility. Feed into people's fear of missing out (FOMO) to ensure they'll attend so as not to miss these unique experiences.
  5. Location, location, location. Just like in real estate, the location of the event can make or break attendance. Make sure your venue is easy to get to with options for parking and public transportation near by. Advertise these options in your follow-up communication to registrants. Take into account potential weather events - rain, heat, snow - and make sure you can mitigate these with covered walkways, loaner umbrellas, or other convenience items. Communicate these accommodations in advance of the event so people lose weather as an excuse not to attend.
  6. Offer the first X number of people to sign in at the event a free gift. This could be a signed book from a speaker, a gift card, a travel coffee mug, any sort of corporate swag item. This extra may motivate people to attend and get there early. Of course with a government audience, gifting rules need to be followed. A gift valued at $20 or less is almost always a safe bet.

We'd love to hear from you. What tactics have worked to get you or others to an event? Share any thoughts in the comments.

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