For most membership managers, events are a cornerstone of annual success. This is why we’ve chosen to devote this part of our Strategies for a Successful New Year blog series to providing a few tips and ideas you can use to review 2019’s events, and drive their success in 2020.  With a few critical insights, we want to help make sure that all of your effort to build successful events in 2020 is directed to the tasks and goals best set to help you and your events succeed!

To start, we want to establish one critical principle here: document your planning. Event planning can become quickly chaotic work. It might seem easier to just arrange your event, send out your invites, and direct all of your effort at working out the logistics – but without a concrete, clear road-map for the whole year’s event strategy – you can keep your energy focused on organizational goals, and set yourself up come year-end with all the information you need to understand which efforts returned value, and which cost more than they were worth.

This plan should begin and end by defining your next year’s event-planning goals and objectives in measurable terms with the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

Key Performance Indicators and Event Planning

It’s far easier to judge your success – both now and over time – if you establish the ways you intend to measure that success ahead of time. How do we do that? By defining KPI profiles we’re confident will measure the goals we want to work towards.

If the mention of KPI’s makes you shrug, that’s all right; we’ll lay out a few you can keep an eye on to get started. They’ll serve as guiding principles and quantifiable measurements of your success all at once.

Example KPI’s:

– Attendance to registration ratio (For every person who registers, how many actually attend?)

– Workshop participation to attendance ratio (For every attendee, how many attend workshops?)

– Promo email opens to click ratio (For every person who opens an email, how many click through it’s CTA?)

– Registration to click ratio (For every person who clicks, how many register?)

How to Use KPI’s

As one example of what these metrics might help you learn: suppose you find that your promotional emails are often opened, and often get clicks, but that the registration rate is still incredibly low. What this suggests is that either your value proposition is unattractive (i.e. people who are interested enough to click lose interest when the price is laid out in front of them) – or you might be losing their attention due to the design of your registration form.

If you think your registration form might be in need of refinement, don’t worry – just check out our article on the big four guiding principles for form design. Or read on for some more insight on creating optimal forms.

Designing Your Registration Form

Remember that every single promotional effort you make is aimed at the central purpose of guiding potential attendees to your registration form – it’s the cornerstone of your strategy, and you need to invest time in making sure it’s a step, not a stumbling block.

Several principles come into play when considering what makes for an effective form. The article we just linked alludes to a few, and there are others specific to this situation to keep in mind.

For instance, first focus on converting prospects to registrants, then work to convert registrants to attendees. Keep the information you ask for up front to a minimum: name, email, and credit card info should be all you ask for on the first run. Afterwards, follow up via email campaign to collect any other information you need: business name, type of attendee (client, contractor, investor, etc), phone number, website, etc.

Making Psychology Work for You

There’s an important reason to do it this way: namely, the psychological principle of loss aversion. What this means is simple: humans are more strongly compelled to avoid losing something that they already have (or feel like they already have) than to pursue gaining it in the first place.

How does that come into play here? What it means is that it’s most effective to take in that first round of information, tell the potential attendee that they’re now successfully registered, and then advise them on the steps they must take (and the information they must submit) in order to remain registered.

The confirmation of their first registration form gives them an investment, and now they’ll want to work in order to protect that investment – and they’ll work harder than if you gate the initial registration behind a labyrinth of questions, which would otherwise leave them thinking “That’s too much work!”

Get them invested first, and then make them protect that investment – that’s your leverage for getting the information you need from your attendees.

Laying Groundwork and Raising Awareness

With all of the above taken as a given, there’s still one problem – getting your subscriber base interested enough in attending to register in the first place. This process has to start well in advance of the time you start asking for registration: you need to get your audience hooked first, and make the event something that has been rolling around in their minds for a while.

Ideally, by the time you’re actually ready to ask about registration, many of your potential attendees have already decided they want to go, and will react to your invitation to do so with enthusiasm – provided you don’t burn off their goodwill with a drawn-out registration form.

Start by piquing your audience’s interest and getting them excited: let them know the event’s happening. Offer a feedback form to ask them what they want from the event, or a survey to gauge their interest in specific workshops or speakers. Send these out periodically – often enough to make sure that your event has been present in their awareness for a while.

Don’t just sit on feedback, either – provide it in exchange for what you’re given. The audience can’t feel like they’re tossing information into the void; react to it, and let everyone know the sort of feedback you’ve gotten so that they know there’s a point to offering it.

This is also a great opportunity to leverage the rest of your social media presence – you can even ask prospective attendants, on a personal basis, what they’d like to see at and get out of the event. Reaching out to your potential speakers is also a great idea, especially if they have public social media presences and welcome inquiries in that forum. Reaching out to invite a public figure on Twitter and getting a response to the effect of “This sounds interesting; how can I learn more?” is a victory whether or not they ultimately join you.

If you’re using membership management software that features forums among its features, leverage that – the whole point is to generate buzz by having discussions in public spaces, so take advantage of anywhere your prospects gather, and get them talking.

Where Do We Go Now?

What follows is using the plan you’ve laid out and responding to issues as they emerge. Remember to take advantage of your email campaign manager of choice (especially if it’s bundled with membership management software) to keep on top of communications, and that doesn’t just mean sending mass emails.

After each message goes out, use any analytics you have available – check open and click rates; see how the audience reacts to see if you’re moving in the right direction and appealing to your audience. If the data shows a particular message didn’t provoke much of a response, then figure out why – and if a particular message does really well, make note of what you did right so you can do it again!

Don’t forget to send out a survey after the fact, too – engagement does not end when the event does.