November 11, 2022 | By Warwick Merry

Getting bums on seats seems harder than ever. Cancellations and no shows seem to be happening at a higher rate. Delegates don’t book until the last moment – it’s almost like virtual events trained them to book at the very last minute or default to “Oh, I will watch the recording”.

Imagine the surprise and delight that we sold out our event after two weeks, almost four weeks prior to the event.

Let me be upfront, our event is a little smaller than most. I sing in a choir and we had 120 seats for our first performance in three years. Yet when I shared the outcome with an event friend, she said there were some things we did that would benefit larger, multi-day events as well.

It has to be acknowledged that we did have a couple of things in our favour:

  • We haven’t had a gig for three years and people missed us.

  • People are starting to go to more gigs now that we are working towards a post-COVID world.

  • This is an event for FUN and not work.

Having said that, we still were smart about it:

  • We marketed to our list of people who knew us, liked us and had heard us before. It was less about trying to appeal to the masses and more about specifically appealing to our niche audience.

  • We sent out samples (audio samples of our rehearsals – raw but still good) so they knew what they were getting. Simple video or audios of your speakers building the excitement can be a great way to start engagement well before the event.

  • We got people in the choir to contact their friends, so they were warm sales leads. Having people in your organisation share some information about an event with their contacts on social media is going to be a more personal invite than a blast to a cold list.

  • We created FOMO by telling people that it would sell out and you will not be able to get tickets at the door. We didn’t want to be bothered with credit card readers or cash sales on the day so we set the expectation that we wouldn’t. While we “hoped” it would sell out, we had no guarantee. We had a plan for a staged ticket release if we needed it but it did not make sense for only 120 tickets.

  • We made it easy to book – one link and we absorbed the merch fees so a $25 ticket didn’t become $27. So many people say how frustrated they get paying $1,200 for a conference and then getting hit with other fees. Sticking to the “make it easy” concept made a big difference.

  • We made sure they knew the event would have some fun in it. The marketing had bursts of humour and a fun approach. We wanted people to know that this is not just the “same old same old.” Do you put some fun in your initial approach?

  • We knew exactly how many tickets we wanted to sell to keep our patrons safe (no overcrowding) and still have a healthy margin. While there are no COVID restrictions at the moment, we know that people prefer a larger sense of space now. We booked a larger, more expensive venue and ensured our maximum ticket number still allows us a lot of space. We knew our break-even, expected profit and didn’t get greedy.

What of these principles can you apply to your next event? While they won’t guarantee a sell-out, you will find they make selling tickets a lot easier.

Warwick Merry is a Certified Speaking Professional, dual Certified Virtual Presenter, recipient of the 2021 Global Outstanding Intrapreneur award, the 2022 Breakthrough Speaker Award and 2022 Nevin Award for service to the speaking industry. For over 20 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Facebook group.