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What do you do when the early bird doesn’t want the worm?

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What do you do when the early bird doesn’t want the worm?
Early bird ticket sales don’t seem to get the solid sales they used to with more delegates waiting until the last minute to complete their registration. They tell us, “Oh I was going to come anyway, I just didn’t get around to getting my tickets.”

It is frustrating for us as event organisers. We often don’t have rock stars to attract the sales, we can rarely create a rush because we may sell out and we need to make sure we break even. It’s heart wrenching stuff.

So what can we do?

One of the main reasons early bird ticket sales don’t seem to work as much is because it is not the delegates’ money they are saving. It is the money of their bosses. So they are not really fussed about the $150-$250 that isn’t theirs. Plus, we have trained them that early bird ticket sales often get extended, so why rush?

Here are a couple of things we can do:

Different ticket types

Airlines have many different ticket types. Granted, it can make it a little harder to manage and that can be a mild issue when you can increase your ticket sales. So what types could you have?

How about early bird tickets that are not time related? You only have 100 early bird tickets and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Create that FOMO around number of tickets rather than a time frame.

Distance tickets: if you are travelling from Perth to the Gold Coast you can get cheaper tickets to offset airfare costs if you book soon.

Flash sale tickets: make up a reason to have a flash sale and give some reward or discount for it. For example, it’s Valentine’s day week, get yourself something you love and get a box of chocolates when you arrive at the event.

Hold fast to dates

One of the reasons people don’t care about early bird dates is because we extend the dates. If we don’t get the sales we extend by a week… and then another… and then a few more days. We have watered down the discount. Hold firm to dates and train your delegates that you mean business.

Reward the registrant and not the payer

Rather than a discount, what would your delegate value? Is it access to one of your online PD sessions, an upgraded room, the chance to fly business class, the chance to get a second airfare for their partner or something else? Try and find something that is high value and low cost. Maybe something donated by sponsors that makes your delegate feel special and can be used as a promo for the sponsor too. It also doesn’t even have to be the thing, it can be the chance to WIN the thing. For example, the chance to win a room upgrade to a suite and an extra night for everyone who registers by a certain date.

Motivate beyond money

Continuing from the previous point, look for non-monetary rewards. Get the chance to win a private session – maybe lunch – with a speaker for companies buying tables of 10.  A chance for promotion with a profile in the industry magazine as an “Industry Partner” for the company who sends more than five people or signs up by a certain date.

Speaker promoter

An often-untapped way of marketing events is through your speakers. So many of them put a post or two saying they are speaking, but that’s it. Make it easy for the speaker to blast an email or promo to their contacts. Create posters, posts, images, articles or anything else that they can easily post to their contacts either on social media or in their newsletter. You could even use a promo code to track any sales from that speaker or give them a discount code.

As event planners, we have to be a little smarter and really answer that age-old question, “What’s in it for me?” We need to give the person attending and the person or company paying reasons to get registrations in as early as possible. What will you do?

Warwick Merry is a global award-winning event host and event evangelist. For 25 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Making Events Awesome group.

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