This probably isn’t going to come as a huge surprise, but it turns out that happy attendees help you market future events. Why? Because they start talking about what a great learning experience they had at your conference. They spread their enthusiasm to others in the message they deliver. And most of all, they can’t wait to attend next year’s conference!
While you may think delivering a positive experience to these folks is dumb luck, I can attest it’s nothing of the kind. Bringing about happy participants is a formula for success that puts significant attention on your attendees’ needs and wants.
One last thought before I delve into the specifics: The higher your registration cost, the higher the expectation. Attendees will factor in opportunity, travel and lodging costs, as well as registration fees. In other words, if the total cost of your event was $5,000, their expectation is they will receive, at a minimum, $5,000 worth of education, networking and/or leads.
Planning Tips on the Road to Happiness
Before Your Event
1. Make Your Conference Their Conference.
Rather than having a conference committee do all the work coming up with speakers and topics, why not shift the focus and ask attendees for feedback and recommendations?
Crowdsourcing is a key way to make this shift. Find out which topics your attendees want to hear more about. Once all ideas are shared via an online platform, give attendees many days to vote on the ones they want. The top vote-getters are the topics for your event.
2. Hire Top-Notch Speakers Who Deliver Engaging Topics.
Once your crowdsourcing is complete, now’s the time to hire speakers to deliver the message. While many planners like to provide free presenters to keep their budget lean, I contend “you get what you pay for.” Free speakers are not usually as refined as paid ones and can easily get off topic. Instead, open your purse strings and hire great speakers that come highly recommended.
3. Mix Up Your Agenda.
Start your day with breakout sessions and end with the general session. Conduct the opening reception in the middle of the conference. Close the conference a day earlier. Take risks and shake things up! Here are a few other ideas:
- Have 20-minute breakout sessions instead of one-hour sessions
- Set up your meeting space differently
- Incorporate yoga, meditation, walking and stretching into your breaks
- Have a gaming center that includes virtual reality
- Create learning lounges where people can gather in small groups
- Provide only local food options
4. Reward Loyal Attendees With Exclusive Offers.
There’s probably a subset of attendees who return year after year. It makes sense to reward them with exclusive discounts and a referral discount program. Remember, these individuals are your evangelists, so you want them to feel extra special. Establish a threshold, such as attendance three years or more in a row, and start your campaign.
When they arrive at the conference, give them a special badge that highlights the number of years they have been coming (x-year attendee), allow them into the VIP areas, give them exclusive time with all your speakers and give them a fast-track option to check in.
At the Event
5. Give out Great Swag Bags.
When attendees’ check-in to the conference, be sure to give them items they will value that are related to the theme and message associated with the conference. No more pens, sticky notepads or plastic bags. Show attendees you care by giving them something they can use at the conference (e.g., a gift card to the on-site store or coffee shop), bottled water and sunscreen, or bug spray (if part of your conference will be outside).
6. Deliver Clear, Concise Communication.
Attendees want to know directions to the networking session, when a session is starting late or a meeting room has changed. Send out short, to-the-point communication throughout the day about anything the attendee needs to know that day.
7. Show You Care.
Whether you have a texting or mobile survey app, have an event hashtag or staff a conference table, it’s important that all questions, concerns and comments about the event be taken care of ASAP. Compile all feedback that cannot be handled at the event and put together a plan letting attendees know when their feedback will be addressed. It’s vital they know you’re listening and you have a plan to make your event better!
Kalahari Cares About You and Your Attendees
Each of our meeting spaces at our conference center has what you need to be super- successful with your attendees. Please give one of our experienced sales professionals a call at 855.411.4605 to learn more about the ways we can serve you!