The economy and other political factors have had a tremendous impact on the way business meetings are perceived, and event planners have been faced with increased pressure to address ways to avoid decreasing attendance at business meetings and conventions.
That’s because when the economy is slow, travel expenses are perceived as too high."Corporations are affected because profitability is down, and associations are affected because of a lack of membership," says Daniel Fortin, president of DNL Logistique in Montreal, Canada. Fortin is also the 2009-2010 President for the Meeting Professionals International Montreal chapter.
Despite the shift, most companies and organizations realize the important impact of meetings. "There’s no substitute for the synergy that can be created when people come together," Fortin says. For now, that may mean a focus on holding local and centralized meetings that achieve lower travel costs, using video technology, selecting speakers who may attract increased attendance and/or choosing ways to involved attendees as participants.
Fortin suggests 10 tips that he believes will help increase business meeting attendance:
- Make reminder calls.
After the invitations are sent, make reminder phone calls to as many of the invitees as possible, and recommend that they attend. Telephone follow-up dramatically increases business meeting attendance. Be sure to talk about the upcoming event at other business events. Word of mouth is still the best way to create a buzz.
- Send feedback surveys.
To maximize future success for meeting attendance, send feedback surveys after the event. Always Always ask for future topic and suggestions because getting this feedback is very helpful for planning future meetings and events. For example, some people prefer seminars in the morning, and others prefer programs in the afternoon. Some like Tuesdays, and others like Thursdays. In your feedback survey, find out what your attendees would have liked and what will help them to have greater success in their business. Follow-up is the key to your marketing success.
- Creative thinking.
The goal is to make an event unique. Offer new activities, use a new interactive format during the presentation, be original. Do not use the traditional giveaways at the end when attendees are ready to leave because those sessions may feel like they're taking too much time. Include at one point a session about innovation that engages participants through the planning of your next conference/event. A session that is fun and informative will have a positive impact on attendance at future events. Do a brainstorming session, and take the ideas back to your planning committee for next year’s event.
- Include a guest speaker who's a draw.
The reason, topic, theme, and speakers should be relevant, fresh and fun. One succesful way to increase attendance at business events is to bring popular guest speakers, especially if they work in the same industry or emerging industry. Consider having an emcee who will be interactive and entertaining. Keep in mind that the attendance of your event is related to the quality of previous events you have hosted.
- Promote events via the web and other technology.
Post the event details on your company website. Send email reminders. Promote the event in your blog and monthly e-newsletter. Add a line in your email signature with a link to your custom event website. If you have voice mail or an online hold message, make sure to include your upcoming event information in your recorded message. Review web site usage reports to help determine the best places to promote your event.
- Promote events via social media.
Post events to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. People who connect to you will be notified. Encourage members of your organization to do the same, and if they have a blog, ask them to share the event link with their connections, friends and followers. Now all their connections will see that they have registered. This way you reach beyond your peer network and expand your guest list. Again, use web site reports available to help determine the best places to promote your event. If you participate in online communities, such as the industry forums or blogs, promote your event within the communities.
- Promote via your social network.
Social networking is about being social, and getting attendance to an event is easier when someone is allowed to bring a guest or business relation. Don’t assume that people know about the event in your own network. Remind them.
- Choose event locations that draw.
Choose a new event location, select a different theme, or rely on a joint partnership. Make it easy to find parking and the venue. Ensure the event is in a convenient location for your attendees, keeping in mind people are busy and do not have too much time.
Listen to the needs of the participants or attendees & what they want … We have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice more than we speak.
- Communicate about your event.
Spread the news about your event anywhere and everywhere, including local publications, national publications, members publications, trade publications, personal newsletters and any other communication tool available.