You’ve set the date, booked the venue, confirmed your speakers. After all that hard work, you’ve got another challenge to deal with – getting your registrants engaged and excited to attend.
It doesn’t matter if your event is big or small, or if your goals are simple or complex. Success requires that membership managers develop and execute a well thought out strategy to ensure registrants have everything they need to attend. Would-be attendee’s need event-specific information like it’s location, check-in procedure, parking, etc; but they also need compelling emotional reasons to be excited and engaged.
Get everything right, and your pre-event strategy will not only boost attendance, but keep attendees engaged longer, and give you plenty of data to make your next event even better!
So let’s get started with the first, and most important, principle to nailing your pre-event engagement strategy:
Think in Terms of Attendee Experience
Certainly, you’ve been an event attendee before. You’ve experienced the ups and downs of event participation all the way from initial registration to submitting post-event survey feedback.
Despite this, it’s easy to approach the planning of your pre-event strategy as an event manager – not a participant. This type of thinking is important, but getting locked into it can undermine the impact of your pre-event efforts to drive engagement.
If you’re thinking solely in terms of opens, clicks, and conversions – you might enjoy what seems like initial success from your email campaigns. Recipients are opening them and driving through to your event page, indicating lots of interest! This is good, but when that interest fails to translate into your anticipated attendance numbers, you might come to realize you’ve failed to consider some considerations your registrants needed to show up.
Is parking included? Are you explaining how to check-in? Do registrants know where they can stay, eat, network, and attend talks throughout the event? Orient your thinking towards the type of experience you want your attendants to have before, during, and after your event – and consider the obstacles they might face to having that experience. Your pre-event communications are one of your best opportunities to address these obstacles before they become problems for your registrants. The more obstacles you can remove, the more you can expect registrants to attend and engage with your event.
No matter what messaging you’re working on, taking the opportunity to evaluate it in terms of how it will impact attendee experience exposes problems in advance and helps you take advantage of opportunities to drive engagement that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Optimize Your Event Page for Excitement
At the center of your pre-event engagement strategy is your event website/landing page. Cornerstone content, this page should contain all the information attendee’s need to attend and engage, but can offer much more.
In addition to equipping registrants with the information they need to attend, your event page should perform double-duty by building up excitement. Here are a few tactics you should consider including on your event page:
A highlights video from last year
If you recorded your event last time, chances are you already have on-hand a re-cap video originally sent in post-event emails to all your registrants.
Placing that video prominently on your event page is a fantastic way to get registrants excited. Video content is easy to consume, and a sure-fire way to attract attention. Consider slightly editing it for pre-event purposes and include an end-of-video link funnelling registrants to a page with all the info they need to attend!
Testimonials from past participants
Testimonials build social credit. When registrants see others like them, models, praising your event, they come to trust that their experience will be a good one. Testimonials reduce uncertainty about what your event will be like, lowering potential points of friction that could prevent a registrant from showing.
An itinerary page
Attendee’s want to plan their experience. Provide them a comprehensive calendar of everything your event offers, and you give them the tools to do so effectively. With a plan, registrants are more confident their experience will be a good one. They’ll be more likely to show, and more likely to stay!
Speakers draw crowds. Get the most out of their ability to do so by giving registrants as much information about them as possible. Done right, registrants will start considering the questions they’ll ask well in advance of your event, and be sure to show up prepared to ask them!
Pave the Way to Engagement with Your Pre-Event Emails
Pre-event emails can be a powerful reference for event attendees. If they’re strategically organized to contain all the information registrants need to attend, they become cornerstones of an attendant’s experience.
Convert from Registrant to Attendant
Registrants convert to attendants by crossing a few important thresholds. They have to successfully arrive at your event, and check-in.
Depending on your event, arriving can be complex. Flights, hotels, transportation – there can be a lot to manage. That is why, especially if you’re expecting a lot of out-of-towners for several days, to devote at least one pre-event email specifically to providing your registrants everything they need to show up. By consolidating all your partner information for accommodation and transportation in one email, you spare your guests the trouble of sorting through who-knows-how-many pages on your website to find the info they need.
After that, guests need to know where your event is, and how to check-in! Depending on the complexity of your attendant’s experience, you might want to consider devoting a separate email to this as well.
Convert Attendance to Engagement
Once attendants are checked in, there are still barriers to getting them engaged. People want to know where, when, and how things are happening. With an event email in their pocket containing links to maps, schedules, and anything else they need to engage – you can be sure they will!