Amy Kelley is the global content editor-in-chief for GES, a leader in face-to-face marketing for Events, Exhibits and Exhibitions. As part of the Digital Marketing team, Kelley spearheads content strategy, development, process and execution worldwide for a B2B audience. With a strong background in content marketing, social media and communications, she is a passionate writer and self-confessed word geek.
Managing an event can feel a lot like a herding cats some days. Huge groups of people headed every which way with different things on their minds. An extremely organized event planner can become very frustrated when attendees do not do what we want or what we predicted they would do.
Whether it’s ignoring the early bird discount or failing to sign up for VIP experience tickets, you needn’t sit by and just watch this. There are things you can do to influence desired behavior. Here are the tricks every event organizer needs in their toolkit:
If you want to influence how attendees are acting, you need to ensure you are providing them with the resources they need or want in the medium they prefer. You do this through audience segmentation or even better, through personalization.
Have you ever asked someone to do something for you, and they ignore your request? If they don’t know you’re talking to them, they won’t respond. The same is true of your attendees. Personalizing your approach according to their preferences will help you get your message across.
Once you know they hear you — scarcity and fear of missing out (FOMO) are two of the top ways to influence behavior. Whether it’s driving ticket sales or enticing them to sign-up for next year’s event early, let attendees know they have a limited time to be a part of your wonderful event because there are only a few tickets left.
Scarcity and fear of missing out are two reasons early bird pricing has a deadline or a limited amount of seats being sold at the discount price. Without that incentive, there would be no reason to sign up early.
Bonus fact: according to research conducted by EventMB, early bird pricing is still the No. 1, most-effective tactic for driving registrations. More than half of event planning professionals (51.3%) claim it sells more tickets than the second most-popular method, discount codes (24.3%).
The key here is ‘believable scarcity.’ Telling someone to sign up early so they don’t miss out won’t drive action if your event allows for walk-up registrants. No one wants to pay more, but they will often make an emotional decision based on the desire not to miss out.
All purchases are emotional decisions. Yes, some make more sense than others but they all reflect a desire for something else. Something we become, enjoy, or benefit from — like an event — is best influenced by an emotional driver. Storytelling does this.
Your event story can be woven around your mission, the success of attendees or your guests’ fun. But the one thing you need to remember is that you want your potential attendees to hear your story, and be a part of it.
Your storytelling goal is to get them to see themselves at your event in order to drive ticket purchases and influence their buying behavior. Without that personal draw and enticement to be a part of it, your event story will remain largely ineffective.
This is the simplest of all rules, and it applies to almost everyone: If it’s hard, they won’t do it.
Sure, there are those people out there with triathlon-type dreams, but that type of hard work and dedication rarely extends to mastering difficult event registration sites.
If you want your attendees to take action, make it extremely easy. For instance, if you want them to share their event experience on social media, provide a lot of photo ops and make sure your hashtag is posted everywhere.
By removing the friction, attendees will go along with it more often. If they can’t find your hashtag, or they can’t figure it out easily, they won’t do what you want, which in this case is increasing the number of their social posts.
People tend to support what they help create. Ownership equals support. Not only does audience/attendee co-creation and crowdsourcing make your event more unique, but it also influences those who voted or gave their feedback to feel a certain level of obligation to see it become successful.
That’s why many companies are turning to crowdsourcing and voting on new product rollouts such as new flavors or designs.
Cognitive bias convinces people that if it’s their idea, they should see it through by supporting it. So ask your audience what they want, deliver on it and then give them the opportunity to support it.
While it’s difficult to literally be the only show in town, if you can provide your attendees with something they can’t get elsewhere, they will not only support you in a loyal way, they will also pay top dollar for the privilege to do so.
However, this requires a unique selling proposition. If you don’t currently have one for your event, you can’t expect to be the ‘only’ anything. Work on the details and marketing of differentiation in ways such as selecting a unique venue, host city or time of year to drive more action.
If your event sounds good, affordable, beneficial, interesting or any of hundreds of other words, an attendee may be considering it.
However, you need to influence them to make the purchase. Maybe you want them to register early. Perhaps you’re more interested in driving session engagement. Whatever your goal, provide the desired incentive.
The key to success here is ‘desired’ incentive. It has to be something they want for them to act upon it. For instance, the event planner behind a sold-out writer’s conference wanted to ride the wave of event excitement from their conference that just ended to increase bookings for next year’s event. But who wants to buy an event ticket for next year right now? The event partnered with the hotel to offer a strong discount on rooms that were completely refundable as long as they were canceled two days before next year’s event. Attendees were saving as much as $200 a night for the following year’s room by signing up at the end of the conference.
The event planner even allowed for event cancellations up to a month before the event. This deep discount and liberal hotel room cancellation policy drove more sign-ups than previously experienced.
Gamification lets event planners create scenarios using public recognition and rewards to drive desired behavior.
For instance, maybe your exhibit hall isn’t getting the traffic you’d like or only a few exhibitors in the front land all the traffic. You could use gamification to reward things like ‘walking the floor,’ ‘visiting three exhibitors a day’ or collecting code words from exhibitors for bonus rewards.
Gamification is less about gameplay and more about incorporating motivational theory. If you don’t like the way your audience is behaving, one of the most enjoyable ways to redirect them and encourage desired behavior is by implementing this concept.
When it comes to personal relationships, do you respond to strangers or to people you know? Most people will answer the latter. Those closest to us have the most influence over us. If you have taken the time to help attendees know, like and trust you by building a relationship all year, not just at event time, attendees will be more likely to adhere to your requests or take your advice.
If a colleague advises you to buy tickets because an event is selling out quickly, you’ll be more likely to act on that advice than that same information on a website. Coming from the latter, it sounds like a sales ploy. Coming from the former, it seems like they are looking out for your interests. If you take the time to build that relationship through a wonderful attendee experience and year-round communication, you can influence action at a greater, more effective rate.
Finally, even with these effective motivational tools, it’s important to track what you’re doing. Every audience is different and what works for one may leave the other confused. Analyzing your event data before, during and after can help you recognize and understand clear patterns that will help shape your actions as well as theirs.
In conclusion, if there’s something you want your attendees to do, don’t just wish it would happen. Employ a strategy to ensure it does using basic motivational tactics such as:
Then you can begin influencing attendees in measurable ways. I&FMM.