A conference takes a lot of time and work to organize. The last thing you want is for no-one to turn up. Depending on the nature of your conference, the method in which you should attract guests can vary. It may be a private function in which only a few select guests can come along. Alternatively, it may be open to the public – a chance to debate a topic related to your business that anyone can interact with or spectate.
Conferences offer a great way of marketing your business by showing off your organizational skills, for proving your passion for your field and for forcing you to network. Market your conference effectively and it can be a great way to boost your reputation and encourage guests to your business. Here are some of the aspects that you should consider along the way in order to get guests jumping at the chance.
From the very start, you need to take your attendees into account. The location that you choose needs to be convenient enough to make people want to attend, as well as matching the formality of the occasion. Hotels are popular venues as they give guests who may be traveling a long distance immediate accommodation. Hotels can also offer catering services for your event – many have special conference rooms and a procedure for such occasions.
Council buildings, universities, sports halls and pubs can also be used as conference locations. Make sure that the location is central enough that people will want to attend. Ensure that people can get public transport and that there is parking. Give as much information about your conference so that people want to make the journey including directions and local accommodation. Your guests may require Wi-Fi, in which case research into this.
You should arrange the time and place a good few months before the actual event and start marketing straight away. Guests are less likely to have plans six months in advance than they are two weeks away. Start sending out emails if you are arranging a private event, and send follow-up emails in the interval between to update on any new features. For a public event, get yourself listed on events sites such as Eventbrite.
Social media can play a massive part in your conference. On Twitter, create a hashtag for your event and start publicizing, stating how excited you are about it. On Facebook, create an event and directly invite people to it. You can also use LinkedIn to invite specific guests who may be interested.
A lot of buzz on social media will immediately get people interested. You may also wish to use social media during the event for conferences with lots of attendees or live audiences, something you should advertise beforehand. Many conferences may install a screen for showing a live Twitter feed of the event. A live audience can then interact in real time without interrupting proceedings. Those not at your event that could not attend will also be able to follow what is going on – something that can be further implemented by recording the whole event on Facebook Live (although be careful advertising this beforehand as it could encourage people to stay at home and watch the conference on their computers).
Another great way to entice guests in is to secure a VIP guest. Your business may not be very well known, but people may want to attend if there’s the chance to listen to or meet another high-ranking businessman, motivational speaker or celebrity. Have them take part in proceedings and give people the chance to ask them questions. You should be careful not to let them total overshadow your event, but equally get them involved to show that you’re not just using them as a prop.
One of the best ways to entice guests in is to make them feel privileged by offering a sense of exclusivity. This is particularly important with private conferences in which you will be inviting select guests. Word your emails to seem like they are personally aimed at each recipient (even if they aren’t) and use an inviting headline such as ‘Special guest invite…’ or for ‘Exclusive invite…’.
Emphasize that the event is a one-time offer and use language in your marketing to create a sense of urgency such as ‘don’t miss…’ and ‘exclusive opportunity’. Claim that without them the event will not be the same with phrasing such as ‘we’d love you to be there’ and ‘we’d be honoured if you came’. Such as language is a great way of sweet-talking people around.
You may also wish to invest in special passes for the event (websites such as lanyardsfactory.com.au/id-accessories/plastic-cards may offer a great selection). By posting these to your guests, it can make your invite that bit more personalized. For conferences open to the public that are paid, take a picture of a pass and post it on social media with a tagline such as ‘have you got your VIP pass yet?’ in order to lure people in.
Make it a marketing event for others
Your conference doesn’t have to just be a marketing event for your own company, it can be a marketing opportunity for others. When promoting your conference, tell people that it is a great networking opportunity – a ‘chance to meet leading figures in the industry’ kind of event.
Make sure that there is a reception area where people can mingle before your conference and advertise this. You can also entice certain important people by inviting them to take part in proceedings and even offer them the chance to give a talk. Of course, you should be careful that their trade does not clash directly with yours – having someone give a talk at your conference who owns a similar business to yours could overshadow your own business. Instead, find a tradesman that can still discuss your topic, but one that offers a different service.
Main Image: Attendees at the 2015 Tech808 Conference