You’ve invested months planning an event – securing speakers, creating an agenda, promoting to your audience. But now the big day is fast approaching and registrations are lagging. Panic starts to set in. All your hard work will be for nothing if event attendance is low.
Fortunately, there are tried-and-true ways to increase event attendance and get more people through the doors (no matter if they’re physical or virtual). With some extra promotion in the final days and weeks, you can turn the tide and make your event a success. It’s not too late.
By focusing your efforts, leveraging partnerships, and thinking outside the box, you’ll gain the momentum needed to attract a crowd. Follow these proven strategies to spread the word, re-engage your community, and exceed your event attendance goals. Victory is still within your grasp if you act now. The steps to get there are simpler than you think.
Common reasons for low event attendance
To increase event attendance, you must first understand the common reasons for low turnout. Here are the most common reasons for which people don’t come to your events:
- Lack of awareness: If potential attendees don’t know about your event, they can’t come. Use social media, email marketing, and promotional partnerships to spread the word.
- Uncompelling topic or content: Ensure your event theme and sessions are engaging and relevant to your target audience. Get feedback from past attendees and adjust accordingly.
- Subpar speaker lineup: Recruit influential and knowledgeable speakers that will draw interest from your community.
- Inconvenient timing or location: Choose a date, time, and venue that encourages maximum participation. Consider offering a virtual streaming option for remote attendees as well.
- High costs to attend: Provide ticket discounts and bundle packages to make your event affordable and accessible. Or host either virtual events to get rid of the costs or hybrid events so your guests can choose how to attend.
- Competing events: Research to avoid overlap with other relevant events that could pull from your potential audience.
How to increase event attendance
#1 Address your audience’s pain points, desires, and needs
To increase event attendance, identify what your target audience cares about and address their key concerns. Conduct market research to determine:
- What challenges or problems they want to overcome
- What information or skills they hope to gain
- What motivates them to attend events
Once you understand your attendees’ needs, tailor your messaging and event experience to satisfy them.
For example, if you are a pharmaceutical company and research shows your HCP audience wants to fill their personal education and knowledge gaps, focus your event on educational medical content and studies from experts and KOLs.
Or if you’re a professional services provider and strengthening network connections is a top priority for your audience, make sure there’s plenty of time for networking at your event.
When your event alleviates pain points and fulfills desires, attendance will rise. Continually improve by gathering feedback from past attendees on what they valued most and want to see in future events through post-event surveys and by analyzing the event data you collect in your CRM / MAP during events.
With an audience-centric approach, you’ll gain a reputation for delivering events that people don’t just attend but eagerly await.
#2 Create a personalized journey with targeted marketing
Another piece of advice on how to increase event attendance is to create a personalized journey for your audience by using targeted marketing. This means:
- Segmenting your audience into groups with similar attributes and interests. Then, tailor content and messaging to resonate with each segment.
- Using marketing automation tools to send the right content to the right people at the optimal time. Set up drip campaigns with a sequence of emails to keep your event at the front of their minds.
- Personalizing emails and landing pages with dynamic content that displays the recipient’s name, company, location, or other relevant details. People are more likely to open and engage with personalized messaging.
- Monitoring who interacts with your marketing and following up to start a conversation. Engage your most interested prospects to build relationships and encourage them to attend.
Applying these personalized marketing techniques helps potential attendees feel like they’re on a customized journey to your event. And that will boost the likelihood of them showing up.
Just make sure you continue that journey once they come to your event!
If you’re a pharma company looking to create a successful omnichannel event journey, read our article about omnichannel strategies in pharma.
#3 Leverage event technology
Increase event attendance by using event technology to promote your event and make the experience more engaging for attendees before the event even begins.
- Create an easy-to-use event website and registration page. Host details about the event schedule, speakers, venue information, and a way for people to register and buy tickets.
- Build hype on a social media-like activity feed. Post updates, announce speakers, share photos and videos from previous years. Engage with attendees by replying to their comments and questions.
- Offer live streaming or on-demand content. For virtual or hybrid events, streaming keynotes and sessions on an event platform allows more people to attend and watch from anywhere. Record and publish videos after the event too.
- Host networking opportunities. Use the profile matchmaking feature that a lot of event platforms have to match up participants. Consider virtual icebreakers, speed networking, or digital conversation starters for attendees to connect with each other before and during the event.
- Use an event app. Event apps facilitate networking, send notifications about schedule changes, and provide information about exhibitors, sponsors, and more right at attendees’ fingertips.
- Share photos and highlights. Publish event photos, recap articles, video highlights, and attendee testimonials on your website and social media. This promotes your event after it ends and builds excitement for next year.
To find the event technology that meets your needs and fits seamlessly into your technology stack, download our event RFP template.
#4 Plan an engaging event and shout about it
Get more people to your events by developing an appealing event concept and spreading the word. Create an interactive, valuable experience attendees will want to be a part of by using event technology and making it clear what they will get out of the whole experience.
Share event details on social media, in email campaigns, and on your website. Reach out to partners, sponsors, and influencers and ask them to help promote the event to their audiences as well. Word-of-mouth marketing and personal invitations also go a long way. The more hype you generate, the higher your turnout is likely to be.
For inspiration on how to create an event that’s engaging as possible, take a look at our list of 29 event engagement ideas.
#5 Leverage your contact database by inviting people from your CRM
One of the best ways to boost event attendance is by inviting people already in your customer relationship management (CRM) system or email contact list. These contacts have an existing relationship with your organization and will be more likely to accept an invitation from you.
If you’re a pharmaceutical company, for example, review your list of HCPs in your pharma CRM and identify people who would benefit from or be interested in your event. Then, reach out to them personally with an email or phone call extending an invitation. Be sure to highlight the key benefits and value they will gain by attending. Let them know you thought of them specifically for this event. People will appreciate your personal outreach and be more inclined to come.
Sending a mass email blast to your entire contact list can be less effective. Personalized, targeted outreach to select qualified contacts from your database will yield a higher turnout and attendance. Leveraging the relationships and trust you have already built will help increase your event attendance.
#6 Allow time for 1:1 meet-the-expert sessions
Many participants attend an event to network with other professionals and learn something new. So, promoting the fact that they can meet your expert / KOL speakers on a 1:1 basis is a great way to increase your event attendance.
- Make the meeting scheduler option available on your event app so that participants can schedule short time slots (e.g. 15-30 minutes) to meet with keynote speakers, panelists, or other industry leaders in a private setting.
- Promote these opportunities in your event marketing and open registration in advance so people can sign up for their preferred sessions.
- Keep the conversations casual but meaningful by giving the experts some suggested discussion points or questions to get the dialog going.
- Share details on the experts’ backgrounds and experiences on your registration page and within your event app so attendees know what valuable insights they may gain.
- Provide a dedicated space at your event venue for these meetings to take place. Keeping them separate from the general session areas will make the experience feel more exclusive and intimate.
This type of value-added perk gives people a compelling reason to attend in person instead of just live streaming or watching session recordings later on. The chance to make a personal connection and gain targeted advice from a respected leader in their field is an opportunity not to be missed.
Get the best KOLs speaking at your events to boost event attendance even more. Check out our KOL engagement plan to get them on board.
#7 Do pre-event engagement
Did you know that people are 60% more likely to come to your event if they engage with your content beforehand? Increase excitement for your event by running social media contests and giveaways in the weeks leading up to it. Offering coveted prizes related to your event’s topic or theme will motivate people to engage with your content.
- Run a contest where people post about why they want to attend using a special hashtag. Pick a winner to receive a free ticket.
- Do a giveaway of popular books, tools, or other resources in your industry. Require people to tag a friend in the comments to enter.
- Hold a social media challenge, like posting a selfie with your company’s product or at one of your locations. Award smaller prizes to participants to keep them engaged.
Contests and giveaways are an easy way to boost visibility, increase social shares, gain new followers, and get people enthusiastic about your event. The more people engage with your brand in the lead-up, the more likely they are to attend.
We’ve created a list of 45+ pre-event survey questions you can use to engage your attendees before your event and boost event attendance. Steal some ideas today.
#8 Offer early bird discounts
Giving attendees who purchase tickets early a discount incentive is an easy way to increase initial sales and boost event attendance. When people feel like they’re getting a good deal, they’re more likely to commit sooner and more likely to turn up. Early bird discounts also:
- Encourage people to buy tickets in advance so they don’t forget or change their minds, ensuring higher attendance numbers.
- Create a sense of urgency that motivates people to purchase tickets right away before the discount ends or tickets sell out.
- Allow you to gain visibility into event attendance numbers earlier so you can better prepare for the number of attendees. You’ll have more time to plan details like seating, catering, swag, etc.
- Enable attendees to save money, making your event more accessible and appealing. They’ll appreciate the cost savings and be more likely to attend again next year.
Offering tiered early bird discounts with the deepest savings for the earliest registrants is most effective. For example, 50% off the first month, 40% off the second month, 30% off the third month. Be sure to heavily promote the early bird offers across all your marketing channels to achieve maximum exposure. The more people that take advantage of the deals, the higher your event attendance will be.
#9 Streamline registration and check-in
To increase event attendance, make registering and checking in as seamless as possible. Be sure both processes only take a few minutes to complete.
Have a registration page that has all the information people need to know about your event, including speakers, agenda, sponsors, etc. And if you’re inviting people to your event, make registration easy by having pre-filled registration forms with their details. Send personalized emails depending on who responded and how they responded.
Have a check-in process that uses QR code scanning so check-in is fast.
#10 Send engaging email reminders
It’s no use sending out an email to thank someone for registering and then remaining silent until the day of your event if you want to have a good turnout. Before your event, send out periodic email reminders to increase attendance.
Keep your message short but compelling. Mention the key details like date, time, location, and an exciting headline or tagline to spark interest. Include eye-catching images and a prominent call-to-action button for people to RSVP, buy tickets, or interact with engaging content on your event platform.
Pro tip: Send out an email incentivizing people who have already registered to bring a friend/colleague along with them. This is a great trick to increase event attendance without having to make a lot of effort.
We’ve drafted 18 event email templates you can pick and choose from to remind attendees about your event and boost event attendance and the perfect email cadence. Download them now.
#11 Give people a choice of how they attend
Give attendees the flexibility to join your event in the way that works best for them. Some may prefer an in-person experience for the networking and community feel, while others may need a virtual option due to costs, travel challenges, or scheduling conflicts.
By offering a virtual streaming or on-demand option in addition to your live event, you make your event accessible to more people and give them autonomy over how they participate. For hybrid events, be sure to facilitate engagement and interaction between the in-person and virtual audiences so everyone feels part of the community.
Providing choice and inclusivity will make your event appealing and accessible to a wider range of people, which ultimately helps to boost your event attendance numbers. People appreciate when organizations give them options to choose from based on their needs and priorities.
To help you weigh up the pros and cons of in-person and virtual events, read our article about live vs virtual events.
#12 Let people create their own agendas
Giving attendees options and flexibility will increase the likelihood of them attending your event. Let people create their own agendas in your event app by offering multiple tracks, sessions, or events at the same time. Provide an interactive schedule ahead of time so people can pick and choose what interests them.
Having relevant choices tailored to different learning styles, experience levels and topics of interest will make your event more appealing and valuable to a wider range of potential attendees.
#13 Provide networking opportunities with matchmaking
An effective way to increase event attendance is by facilitating valuable connections between attendees. Offer matchmaking services that pair people with common interests or complementary businesses. This gives participants a clear reason to join and a way to make the most of the event.
Some ways to enable networking and matchmaking at your event include:
- Create a shared interests questionnaire for people to fill out when registering. Use the data to suggest potential matches.
- Designate networking areas or times dedicated to certain industries, job functions, or discussion topics. This makes it easier for relevant people to find and connect with each other.
- Develop an event mobile app that can suggest people with similar roles or interests for attendees to meet. This gives people an efficient way to network on-site.
- Host speed networking sessions where people rotate between short conversations with different attendees. This exposes participants to many potential new contacts in a short time.
- Offer tools for exchanging contact info like business card holders, QR code scanners, or LinkedIn integrations. The easier you make it for people to connect, the more valuable your event will become.
Matchmaking and strategic networking are proven ways to demonstrate the potential value of your event and boost event attendance. People will come when they see opportunities to make meaningful connections.
#14 Use social proof
While advertising your event, use social proof by promoting the number of people who have already registered or attended. For in-person or hybrid events, share photos of past events highlighting turnout. For virtual events, share the number of registrants or attendees. People are heavily influenced by what others do, so this taps into the herd mentality and validates interest in your event.
#15 Choose an optimal date, time, and location
This may seem like an obvious one, but you would be surprised. For the best event attendance, select a date and time (and location if you’re hosting an in-person or hybrid event) that will be convenient and accessible for your target audience.
Consider things like:
- Popular days of the week and times of day for your audience and event type.
- Avoiding conflicts with major holidays, religious observances or other competing events.
- A centrally located venue with ample parking and public transit options. Virtual or hybrid events should also aim for a platform that’s easy for attendees to use.
- Any accommodation needed for those with disabilities or health conditions at in-person events. And live event captioning for virtual and hybrid events. Both virtual and in-person events should strive to be inclusive and accessible for all.
- Your attendees’ work schedules and availability. For example, weekday lunchtimes may suit businesspeople, while HCPs may prefer evenings.
- Seasonal factors like weather that could impact travel and attendance.
Choosing optimal logistical details and promoting an inclusive and accessible event experience will make it easy and appealing for more people to participate. Carefully considering all these elements can have a big impact on your event attendance and success.
Get event technology to increase event attendance and engagement
There you have it: 15 proven strategies on how to increase event attendance at your next in-person, virtual, or hybrid event. Now it’s time to find the event technology that will help you build excitement, make signing up easy, and create an engaging experience from registration to follow-up that will keep your event participants coming back and turn them into brand ambassadors to help promote your future events.
SpotMe is the enterprise event platform to create engaging events that help accelerate customer relationships at scale. With a fully branded and compliant mobile app, you can build hyper-personalized, interactive in-person, virtual, and hybrid events that participants love.
With enterprise deployment, 24/7 instant support, and white-glove service, hosting events with a flawless user experience has never been easier. Plus, SpotMe’s fully integrated event platform uses deep APIs and connectors to give you consistent first-party data insights that flow into your CRM and help you drive your next best action.
Discover the event platform that 12,000+ global Fortune 500 business leaders, including 10 of the top 20 life science companies and the Big Four professional services networks are using to increase event attendance. Request a demo today.
SpotMe was named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: B2B Event Management Technology, Q1 2023 report. Find out why.