Recognize that guests enjoy attending events.
Create a great agenda.Once hosts understand that people enjoy attending events, it is important to create a program that is worth attending. The agenda should be focused on a single theme and not overwhelm attendees. For example, the following sample half day seminar schedule considers the meeting attendees' needs:
- 8:00 a.m. Arrivals and Breakfast
- 8:45 a.m. Welcome Message
- 9:00 a.m. Keynote Speaker
- 10:00 a.m. Break
- 10:15 a.m. Panel Discussion
- 11:30 a.m. Closing Remarks
Be sensitive to the calendar and clock.Despite the best agenda, event attendees have preferences as to when they want to attend such programs and when they cannot. Consider the following when scheduling dates and times for your event:
- Attendees prefer morning schedules for seminars.
- Attendees prefer appreciation events immediately after work.
- Tuesdays and Thursdays are popular meeting days.
- Avoid holding meetings on Fridays if possible.
- Avoid scheduling meetings on holidays and the eve of holidays.
- Be sensitive to attendee travel requirements for the event.
Equally important: establish a reputation for starting on time and finishing on time.
Identify a unique and convenient location.Okay, so most business meetings are held in hotels and that is not so unique. But not all hotels are the same, and hotels are not the only available venues. The main point here is to select a location where your guests want to go. After all, they are basically detouring from their routine, and want to enjoy the event. Consider the following factors:
- Select a venue that is near the majority of attendees.
- Select a venue where attendees would enjoy themselves.
- Select a venue that is experienced at hosting similar events.
- More tips on choosing venues.
Compile an appropriate guest list.Successful meetings have a specific topic and target audience for that message. It is valuable to compile a guest list that includes appropriate attendees, even if they are ranked in order of importance. Too often, hosts will compile a master list of prospective guests and open the meeting to the masses. This will work if you are trying to fill seats based on the numbers game.
However, the business meeting shouldn't be viewed as a direct mail effort with 1-3% RSVP rates. I prefer coaching clients to generate specific lists of targeted attendees, folks who they really want to attend: rates of 50% or better.
A final thought about attendees: try to invite individuals of similar rank and experience to the meeting.
Invite, invite, invite.One of the keys to achieving attendance to your meeting is by inviting people early, and continue reminding them about the event even if they have confirmed attendance. It's important to generate excitement around the event. Traditional printed invitations are appropriate, and it is now generally acceptable to rely on technology to convey your invitation. Try this approach:
- Mention the event to guests before sending invites.
- Send a save the date early in the planning process (paper or electronic).
- Send a detailed invitation, including agenda highlights (paper or electronic).
- Forward the detailed invitation again with a personalized note (electronic).
- Formally call guests and extend a personal invite to the event.
More about phone invitations.A physical invitation whether printed or electronic is nice, but it shouldn't be viewed as a substitute for a personally extended invitation (unless you are planning a large symposium or convention with 500 or more attendees). This is the step that makes most hosts cringe they do not want to dial for attendees.
It is helpful to share this responsibility. The guest list of an event is often compiled from contact lists that are maintained by a variety of individuals, and those individuals with the closest relationships to the invitees should extend a direct invitation to their own guests.
Establish a reputation for delivering excellent programs.Everyone has attended good conferences and bad conferences, and the same holds true for seminars and other appreciation events. Lucky for planners, people more often enjoy the meetings they attend.
The key here is to help your client establish a reputation for delivering excellent business programs. Simple as it may seem, if someone enjoyed attending your last series of events, he or she is more likely to attend future programs.
Send follow up communications and thank attendees.Because people attend meetings to gather new information, many attendees appreciate receiving additional handouts and materials that may have been referenced by presenters and other folks within your organization. It is an excellent opportunity to share that information with follow thank you messages to those who attended the event.
The thank you note and follow up communications is something that many organizations often overlook, but noticed by guests.