COMPILED BY EDWINA STORIE
As competition rises between associations and events for attendees, we ask three industry experts for their top five tips on boosting delegate numbers.
- Location, location, location: The four main things to look for in a host city are the same things you would look for in an organisation – efficiency, professionalism, diversity and quality. Efficiency in how the city is run, professionalism from the bureau and conference centre; diversity in the numerous meeting spaces and locations; and quality in the hotels, restaurants and attractions. Then there is the X factor.
- Think outside the box: When planning the conference itinerary think of new ways to show a side of the city that delegates won’t see from a tour bus window on a three-hour city tour. Whether it is reducing your delegates’ carbon footprint or helping the local community, incorporating a meaningful CSR program into a conference itinerary can leave behind an important legacy in the host country, and a unique memory for the delegate.
- Wave the flag: Attending the previous conference is still one of the most active ways for convention bureaux to recruit delegates and promote themselves as the next host-city. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face presents a recruitment opportunity worth travelling for. From these meetings important data bases can be formed so information can be sent direct to delegates to keep the destination top of mind.
- Teach them and they will come: Conference attendees are usually divided into two groups – there are those that want to learn while others will come because they want to teach. A conference needs both groups to be successful and getting the program content right is vital. Excellent key note speakers and lecturers will attract delegates eager to hear the latest news direct from the experts as well as rub shoulders with people they admire.
- Know and trust your bureau: One of the key considerations when choosing a host city is choosing the right convention bureau and this decision can sometimes tip the scales either way. It is difficult (if not impossible) to run a successful conference without the support of a convention and visitors bureau. With support from the right bureau the association can concentrate on the content of the meetings – not the running of them.
- Brains trumps beauty: professional value is king: Gone are the days (or did they ever really exist!) when association delegates would travel around the world to your event based on the appeal of your beaches, attractions and cultural scene alone. Association events attract the world’s leading thinkers, inventors, creators and healers. Increasingly – especially in a post-GFC world – these highly intelligent and time-poor individuals choose which events to attend based on their professional value. Showcasing how your event will deliver professional value to delegates should be your top concern.
- Know how to communicate with your target audience: Digital communication tools are prolific and have changed the way we communicate. Yes, they have a fantastic impact on reach and efficiency providing a quick and relatively low-cost means to talk to geographically dispersed audiences. However, I would urge you to assess how your target audience likes to receive information.
- Look to related industries to boost numbers, revenue and engagement: It may sound like a given, but after you ensure that you are offering professional value to your core target audience, look to attract delegates from related industries. You will need to incorporate their interests, specialties and industry issues into the program, but the returns for this effort are two-fold. Adding these delegates to the mix means you’ll also increase collaboration and networking between delegates. This can ultimately lead to dynamic cross-industry engagement and innovation through new business ventures and research agendas!
- Monitor and refine your approach: Successful campaigns are reviewed, refined and tweaked while underway. Don’t just assess the results post-event. As a bureau, BESydney works closely with PCOs and event planners on collaborative delegate boosting projects. We ensure we are tracking the success of our communication channels and messages throughout the campaign and assess what activities are converting registrations.
- Cracking the potential of the Asian delegate pool: Delegate boosting in Asia, particularly in China, is a key focus for many associations. Despite being able to identify a huge potential delegate pool, many are unsure about how to break into these newer markets. Through our in-market teams in Singapore and Shanghai, BESydney has an ever deepening understanding of the complexities of this market. We have learnt that Asian associations are extremely prolific, are typically very hierarchical, and are obviously operating in the heavily relationship-driven Asian market. A tailored in-market approach to event marketing that is based on relationships is usually the most effective.
- Understand the event and potential delegates: This may seem obvious, but it is a vital part of the delegate boosting process. It is essential to know what type of attendees you are targeting, their reasons for attending the event, how to access them, and how to convince them to sign off on the registration fee. Spend time defining the delegate profile and the reasons why they attend the event. This will help you understand what key messages will boost your delegate numbers.
- Prepare an integrated marketing and communication strategy: A well-prepared marketing strategy is fundamental. Too often events repeat marketing efforts instead of proactively thinking about marketing goals, objectives, and the tools needed to achieve them. A strategy sets a clear direction, allows for clear decision making and integrates long-term planning with short-term implementation.
- Use stakeholder networks: Identify promotional opportunities through event stakeholders to significantly increase delegate numbers. Encourage sponsors and exhibitors to promote their support of the event through their networks — this exposes the event to a much larger audience.
- Global delegate acquisition: The key to effective international delegate boosting is finding a means to target key stakeholders, business multipliers and delegates directly in their local regions. MCI provides a Global Delegate Acquisition service which takes advantage of regional MCI ‘delegate sales hubs’ to vastly extend marketing reach to international delegates.
- Ask! Sometimes, it can really be as simple as that. Tap into different markets within the industry and spread the word about the event by simply asking other relevant associations and organisations to promote the event through their communication channels.