5 Ways to Encourage Attendees to Return to In-Person Events

5 Ways to Encourage Attendees to Return to In-Person Events

The choice of additional event formats such as virtual and hybrid, creates an interesting challenge for planners. The big question is what impact do they have on the in-person event?

In-person events have dominated for years and will continue to play a huge part. Some events should only ever be in-person. But with many planners offering a virtual component, they will have to work that much smarter to attract attendees to make the trip to a physical event.

In this post we highlight 5 ways in which your in-person event can stand out. Let’s take a look.

1) Make Clear There Is No Virtual Audience

Your in-person event is going to appeal to those attendees that are looking for an in-person experience that is not impacted by virtual attendees. This means that in your marketing messaging, you make it crystal clear that the only audience you have is the in-person one.

Potential delegates could be put off from coming if they believe you will be serving another audience. If they know that your attention will be on them and them only, you are likely to increase your sign ups.

It is easy with a hybrid event for there to be audience envy between attendees. Both in-person and virtual attendees can feel left out unless you manage their expectations. But for your in-person event, you only have the ones you can see in the room to worry about. That can be a strong incentive for people to come. They know your focus is 100% on them.

2) Demonstrate It Will Be Covid Safe

Showing that you have comprehensive Covid safety measures in place will give peace of mind for your more nervous delegates. They are interested in coming but want to be sure that no harm will come to them.

Covid safety is top of mind right now for attendees. And as you know, holding in-person events means you will be enabling people of different genders, generations, and cultures to mix. Some people will be less worried (if at all) than others. Your job is to reassure even the most nervous person. In doing so you will increase your chances of them attending.

You need to decide on admittance criteria. This will help attendees make decisions on whether to attend or not. Creating a covid safe environment is a good idea. Demonstrating that you will use contactless self-service check-in and similar measures help reinforce this. You can also offer tips and advice on safe travel to the venue etc.

Related: Top considerations for the safe return to in-person events

3) Talk, exclusivity

What can you offer in terms of exclusivity for your attendees? Exclusivity is always a big draw. You are basically saying “come to our event and get something that no one else does.” The question remains, what can you do?

Let’s explore some examples. You could have a VIP dinner that only has the best of the best (however you define that) in attendance. Attendees could sign up for the opportunity of being ‘in’ with the other VIPs. Or you could bring in a celebrity speaker and have a round table discussion with them. Think of inviting a film producer and for your attendees to glimpse what it’s like to create a block buster. Or you could go for curated networking, where attendees have been carefully matched before they arrive at the event. Imagine if your attendees could meet exactly the right people they need to.

There are many more ideas you can come up with. But the big point of exclusivity is that it is just that, exclusive. Whatever you are offering isn’t available in the same form anywhere else.

4) Highlight That It is New

Every event is new. Your in-person event is new. It’s certainly bound to be different from your pre-Covid ones, isn’t it? If it is no different you may run into problems maybe not at first, but they will appear.

If there is one thing that needs reinforcing, it is simply this, Covid has changed people. You cannot simply serve up the same versions of what you were doing before. Expectations have changed. Attendees want more. They are exercising more choice than previously, and organisations are questioning whether their staff need to go to events. In other words, the in-person events landscape has changed.

And therein lies the challenge and the opportunity. Why not use the in-person format to accentuate the senses of sight, touch, and smell. If your conference is about outdoor safety, you could lower the room temperatures and you could bring in fog machines to give a realistic experience of what it feels like being on a mountain. You could ask your delegates to come in outdoor wear to make it more realistic. That’s just one example of thinking about enhancing your in-person experience. You may not need to go so extreme, but you need to highlight what is new.

Related: 7 ways events will change in a post-Covid world

5) Be real when using FOMO

Any savvy event planner is going to be using FOMO as a means of encouraging take up at events. It’s a widely used marketing technique and it works. If something looks special, it makes an emotional tug. Limited places selling fast, is a well-used technique. People sign up to avoid being left out. It’s that simple.

If you have ever tried to get tickets to see your favourite popstar or band, you will have been through this FOMO experience. Long before the tickets are available to buy, the marketing machine whirls into life, and it makes you anxious. How can you book tickets when you are at work? Where will you be when they go on sale? Can you give money to a friend to buy for you? All these questions and more run through your mind. One thing is clear, you need to have a ticket. The FOMO is super strong.

However, use FOMO with realism. Just how good is your event going to be? Have you really worked on it to make sure that it delivers beyond attendee expectations? Use it but be mindful that attendees expect more, and they will be very unhappy if they could have missed it and not been any worse off for not attending.

Conclusion – People Are Smart

There is no doubt that unless you work on your offering for in-person events, your competitors will take advantage. This is no different to events, pre-Covid. But the impact of a global pandemic has made people think about why they go to events.

Even the hardened event attendees, now question the individual value they will get from an in-person event. Any assumptions you work on, should be re-evaluated. It is true that a lot of people want to reconnect. They want to meet again, and networking is very important to them. However, as reconnections are made, you will need to offer more than networking to attract attendees. The euphoria of meeting people will move from being super strong as a reason for attending to becoming normalised in future months.

Think smart as you work on your in-person offering. And remember, your attandees have changed. They will make the smart choices and follow what’s beneficial for them. And you should do the same. Learn from the past but understand that the future has great opportunities for those planners that look at the key ways in which to attract attendees once more to in-person events.


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