How to Increase Conference Attendance

Give conference attendees what they're looking for, and they'll come in droves

The success of a conference often relies on the number of attendees that turn up on the day. You could have a killer lineup of speakers, experts and decision-makers; but if you don't have an audience, all of your hard work could be for nothing.

In order to increase conference attendance, get to know your prospective attendees. By observing other events in your industry and creating an attendee profile, you should be able to target the right people.

Organizing a conference is just the start of the planning process. There are several ways to increase the turnout - and here are just a few of the most effective.

Ways to increase the number of attendees at your conferences

Increase conference attendance
Increase conference attendance

Maximize attendee satisfaction

Start with a pre-event poll or survey to find out what attendees want from the conference. Once you have an idea of people's needs and priorities, you can create an agenda that will persuade people to attend. Who knows? Your attendees might decide to bring one or two colleagues with them.

Reach out to potential attendees early

Modern business is more hectic than ever. The schedules and calendars of your invitees should be taken into account, as they're likely to fill up very quickly. To that end, send out your invitations as quickly as possible. Additionally, use the relevant and most appropriate communication channels. For example, reach out to people in the way they reach out to you - this might involve emails, social media, traditional mail or a phone call.

If you give people enough notice, they're far more likely to attend your event. Consider offering an early-bird special rate if you're charging for your conference. This should tie people into your event, and ensure they don't cancel on you for another event.

Choose the right location

As the old adage goes: location, location, location. Find out where most of your attendees are travelling from, and choose a location that requires the minimum amount of travel for the maximum number of people. And make sure everyone has a full set of directions to the venue. A lot of conference attendees never make it to events because of insufficient information about the venue's location.

Also, give some thought to the facilities on offer, and the venue's experience in hosting similar events. If your attendees have doubts about the venue's ability to put on a great conference, they may not turn up.

Follow-up regularly

If you are planning a conference several months in advance, there is a very real chance that attendees will forget about it. And when this happens, people often double-book themselves on the day. Send all of your confirmed attendees regular status updates, along with informational newsletters and any changes to the agenda. This keeps the event fresh in people's minds - and builds hype that could spread.

When you follow up, ask attendees a question - whether it's about food preferences or anything else related to the conference. This provokes a response, which makes the event feel like it's really happening. It also keeps the conference at the forefront of the attendee's mind. Ask for a response: if one is forthcoming, you can be pretty sure that the individual is serious about attending the event.

Create a simple agenda

People want to know what to expect throughout a conference. They don't want surprises, as they might need to juggle several business-related tasks at the same time. Give people a clear idea of what's in store, and you can let them decide in advance which parts of the conference may not be for them. This is important, as busy professionals certainly don't want to waste time on conference events that are irrelevant to them.

Once you've created an agenda based on the feedback you've received, publish it or send it to attendees at the earliest opportunity. This is a crucial part of the conference attendance management process, as it allows for further feedback to be taken into account. There's no reason why you can't tweak an agenda - as long as you communicate the changes immediately.

Ask attendees to promote your conference

So, you've reached out to prospective attendees, and you've created an agenda based on the feedback you received. Keep the lines of communication open with lots of updates about your event. At every opportunity, attempt to exceed the expectations of your potential guests. Create enough of a buzz around your event, and there's a very good chance it will get people talking. Before you know it, people will be talking about your event to colleagues and friends - and that's the best type of marketing you could wish for in conference attendance management.

There are ways to incentivize referrals, ensuring attendees are helping you to promote your event. For example, could could offer an entry-fee rebate every time an attendee refers someone to your event. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool, so try to promote it at every opportunity.

Offer opportunities to network

A great conference should never be a one-way street when it comes to communication. Very few attendees will want to be ''talked at'' incessantly for several hours; they'll want to meet people, offer their own input and seek out new business opportunities. If they can't do these things, they might not see any real value in your event.

Designate specific sessions for networking, group discussions and general mingling. Conferences provide attendees with great business opportunities - and the chance to meet new contacts. Above all, your event needs to deliver value to prospective attendees, and there are few more valuable commodities in business than a promising lead.

Use effective planning tools

Of course, there is a lot of work involved in organizing a conference - and things can get complex at times. With so many plates to spin, make sure you use the right event tools to benefit your participants. One such resource is eventbaxx, a digital goodie bag which connects partners, sponsors, organizers and participants on a digital platform. You can easily create content, share it with your attendees, and analyze the success of your actions. In this way you can reach your attendees before the event and present the added value to them in advance. As a result, the probability of their appearance increases.

Enhance visitor experience of conferences
Enhance visitor experience of conferences

Give your delegates real value and a structured agenda, and there's no reason why you can't increase conference attendance substantially.