Organising and promoting an event can be difficult at times. Sometimes it seems impossible to get the right crowd to attend.
There is no doubt that event promotion can be very frustrating. You have a great event organised but only a few people turn up. When this happens I have found it’s something very basic that has gone wrong.
Often before you get your message out to your potential audience, your have to at least check off a handful of the basic marketing and promotional items:
Promote the Event
Like anything you need to be heard on as many mediums as possible. You may think covering it off via email, the web and a few poster drops is all you need.
What happens if people ignore or don’t read the email. What if they don’t visit your website. Don’t assume your audience is just going to be waiting around for your email or website update.
Remember you need to get the word out about your event to as many places that your audience frequents, from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, various forums and so on. Yes it’s a pain, but it respects that your audience has different views than you do.
You need to ensure that the event is lodged with these social media services. In a way you need people to be tripping over information about your event all over the place.
This can be a little hit miss until you find the right online networking mix, but it is very important you consider the widest possible spread.
It’s also not just about online promotion.
In every industry there are related groups, professional meetups or organisations. These sister groups can be used to help promote your event.
The key here is to have something to offer and approach the other group very early on to setup a MoU on the cross promotion of your and their events.
I have found, from experience, the larger the organisation the harder it often is to get a quick decision on cross promotion of anything. Be prepared for this, factor in at least x4 time factor for the this type of thing. Sometimes it can even take months. Often it’s a game of politics and negotiation.
Sometimes it’s also not about just contacting them, but contacting the right person to setup even an ongoing relationship.
Use Online Event Services
If you have access to an online event services that will setup and collect event RSVPs then use them.
These make running regular events a lot easier. They also usually open you up to potential new audience.
The key is to only use one for the events service management, as using 2-3 can lead to confusion over the attendee numbers.
If your event is at a regular time and location, try and keep it always the same.
This makes it easier for regulars to put it in their calendar and not forget it.
If the event is ad-hoc, consistency of branding can be more important as it’s this event branding that will bring people back if they had a good experience the last time.
You are building your reputation either way.
Offer Free Stuff
Now for the smaller events this can be hard, but people really do want something for nothing.
It’s a fact we have to face it, the free stuff will bring people in.
It can just be a round of beer, nibbles, or knowledge in the form of formal presentation to leading a round table discussion. If you are organising food only delegate to people you trust, as this can go very wrong, very quickly.
Getting sponsors can help here. But remember sponsors need to have a reason to hand over their cash too.
You don’t want to end up with limited numbers as this just becomes a social gathering,
This social event will very quickly alienate any new attendees.
Basically you just need a reason for people to attend.
Tell the Right People
There is a group of people in any dynamic that will promote and even evangelise your event for you for free.
They are usually people that are well connected and are seen as a yard stick as to whether an event is worth going to.
These community leaders are the ones that you really need to engage with.
They will give you a level of credibility for your event from their reflective community reputation.
Tell People in Advance
Now this is one I see way too often.
Tell people about your event at least a week in advance, maybe 6 weeks if its a low cost paid event, 3-4 months if they have to get budget approval to attend (eg conferences).
Anything short of this is waste of time.
Don’t send out an email a few hours before a regular event to say its been cancelled.
Similarly don’t put our any promotion for an event that’s just hours away.
You will find most people are just not sitting around doing nothing, waiting for your email or Facebook update so they can rush out to your event.
Keep it real, people too have busy lives, respect that, give them advance notice.
Good promotion does work.
I have seen one event with good organisation and promotion get over a 100 people and another just get 4. All based around the same industry.