How to attract an event audience, and how to keep them
Is there really a secret recipe for event success?
And then a secret sauce to keep them coming again and again?
Not really, it is not rocket science.
This was the opening line from Ashley Friedlein from econsultancy at the recent PPA Breakfast connect event.
I couldn’t agree with Ashley more - there is no silver bullet for achieving event success. So if there is none, what is the magic that some successful events like the Festival of Marketing enjoy?
Everyone knows the formula for event success and the most common mistakes to avoid.
The way you will attract an audience is through the “promise of the experience” and the experience you deliver. This is what Ashley thinks is the secret sauce. Successful events like the Festival of Marketing have the following elements:
The event team and management must have a clear vision of what they want the event to become. A lot of organisations use examples like “We want to become the TED for finance”, “…the SWSX for engineers” etc.
This clear vision will be the driving force keeping everyone aligned, motivated, pushing boundaries and taking themselves outside their comfort zone.
Our take is:
That people will buy the vision, the aspirational aspect in our human psyche being what drives us all. Some will buy into that vision, some may not (yet). This is what lures teams internally to work extra hours and put in the extra effort, this is what makes an event attractive and pulls in audiences, this is what (most) sponsors buy into.
What do the users want from your event? What are the most important things? Content, networking, drinking, fun things, music, deal-making etc.
Some will call it the proposal. Will it be a conference, a confex, an expo, a get together? Clearly it needs to fit a) your prospect audience and b) the potential sponsors.
Sometimes deciding not to do something will make an event interesting. An un-conference for example. Whether you decide to have a “no-powerpoint events”, “20 minute sessions”, “Round table discussions” “Get togethers over a beer/breakfast” or whatever makes it different and interesting - it is that different proposal that gets people interested.
Our take is:
Event companies need to be flexible and fluid with regards to what the offering is and the format it will take. The basic principles of marketing tell us that you have to listen to the customer first. The biggest problem is that some event organisations put sponsors first and the audience last. Although some would argue that the customer is the sponsor, but I still believe it is the audience that needs to be listened to and pleased.
Organisations really need to take on board the comments people leave at their events and more importantly do their research (proper research) not a proposal that is validated by a few potential sponsors and some industry professionals. Dare to be open to try to model things around the end users.
This is where companies fail or excel. Event success is almost guaranteed if you follow a specific set of tactical activities to a high level of detail.
Successful events have people and teams behind them that pay very close attention to detail and execution - especially operations and marketing teams.
It all comes down to the experience before, during and after that makes attending an event an enduring satisfying experience.
Our take is:
We firmly believe that the secret formula is the execution and delivery of the event experience before, during and after.
Ask an events marketer, an events producer, an events planner if they have busy jobs. I am sure that you will get a funny look and a “you gotta be joking me”.
Marketers have a responsibility to inspire, stimulate and lure the audience, the producers and planners ensure that the promise is kept during the live experience, and then it is down to the whole team to ensure that the audience is not forgotten after you got what you want from them. It is in fact after the event that the whole cycle starts anew.
Ashley shared this quote, which I think hits the nail on the head. Spending more time on something that you truly believe in is effortless and innate. Mariam Ahmed from Shortlist said something very relevant to this: “People in our business is very keen, willing to work on the new projects that come up, everyone wants to contribute”.
What we see behind successful events is that there is almost always a driving force behind them initiated by an individual with a vision, who told a convincing story to others and built a team around him/her and the vision. As everyone buys into the concept, it gains momentum through everything the company does and communicates. The audience it serves gets attracted to it and this is where the magic happens.
A lot of CEOs and eventrepreneurs complain that their teams are missing that “je ne sais quoi” and that they just do the necessary. Perhaps it is CEOs and eventrepreneurs that need to review themselves to generate that “special something” their companies/events will offer to their teams so they go the extra mile or two without even thinking about it.
So back to reality, as an events professional or eventrepreneur, do you have a vision for your event(s)? What is your secret recipe for success? Do you know other events that have this “special something”?