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Think Big About Smaller Events
Everyone requires to design and construct mega-events with thousands of attendees, huge common sessions and hundreds of workshops and seminars. Yet the truth is that the enormous majority of events are smaller ones, with a normal audience of 100 people or less. That makes generating a high participation rate even more significant. Whether it’s a seminar, a meeting or a business workshop, you want to draw as many people as potential and eliminate conspicuously vacant seats. But getting people to visit a smaller event can be difficult.
Smaller events are exciting because you have an inadequate budget, sources, and space. On the plus side, smaller events have an air of exclusivity and can be more specific and results-driven. So how do you improve attendance at your next event without squandering the budget and going insane? Here are some quick, new tips and approaches for thinking big about smaller events.
Don’t Book a Venue and Set a Date – Yet
I know that most people choose the venue and date first. But with smaller events, the big difficulty is that you quickly paint yourself into a corner. You don’t know who will visit, how many will visit or even why they will visit, yet you’ve made commercial engagements and started consuming money.
So let’s turn the way you plan your event. Before you spend your budget, invest some serious time in clearly describing your goals and expectations. These are the questions you should respond before you book a space, set a date and start marketing.
What is your event about?
What results do you require?
How long is the event?
How much space will you require to deliver the knowledge, content, and value?
What is a real audience mass?
Now you can reasonably determine what people to ask and the type and size of space you need to book. This info is key. Big events can stand to be a little off on their audience expectations. But with smaller events, 10 people can create the contrast between breaking even and wasting money.
Develop Valuable Topics and Content for the Select Few
Instead of broadening your content to one-size-fits-all you need to laser-focus your content on your smaller audience. All of the marketing in the world won’t make a difference if it’s apparent that your event is going to plow the same old ground.
You’ll also need more than one speaker who can help sell your day. In smaller events, virtually every speaker is a headliner, so look for several people with something new to say. In my experience, your best choices are not speakers who specialize in keynote presentations to large groups. Look for marketable speakers who are credible, personable and relate well in a more intimate setting.
Fill the Seats With the Right People
Of course, you’re looking for more than just a head count – you want the Right People to attend. The “Right People” are influential individuals who are actively interested and engaged right now or could become clients or customers in the future.
You can find the Right People by segmenting your potential audience. It’s a simple strategy.
A. Define the specific people you want to attend by:
• Job function or responsibility
• Brand or department
• Experience level
• Skill level
B. Break this audience down into 3-4 groups. Think strategically. Look for the logical divisions – executives, directors, managers, marketing, sales, support, etc.
C. Decide the best ways to contact and market to each group. You’ll quickly discover that there are smaller channels that are more focused on specific people. Inside tip: Look for common interests beyond the obvious ones.
Create an Audience Chain
If you grab only one idea from this article, this is the one. Let’s say you have a typical small event with a 100-person audience. Here’s a technique for filling every seat with the Right People even if your marketing budget is next to nothing.
Everyone has heard of a chain letter. So let’s take the same basic principle and turn it loose on your event. I call it an Attendee Chain. Ready for this? Attendees actually invite each other!
1. Take a look at your contact list. Which 10 people would benefit from your event?
2. Invite those 10 people and ask them to invite 10 people – or to give you the names of 10 people who would benefit from the event.
3. Contact each group of friends and explain that “Victoria VP” (or whoever) gave you their name because this event meets some of their needs. Repeat the process until you have your audience.
The main reason people don’t register for any event is they don’t understand why they should attend. The success of smaller events, in particular, depends on your ability to communicate the event’s purpose, message and value. The key is to focus on the specific groups who are the most likely to attend. You don’t need to shotgun email blasts to everyone – just the Right People.
Help them see you in a different way.
Tell them how their world will change and benefit from attending.
Get the event down to a personal level where attendees actually invite each other.
Use this strategy and watch your registrations soar! That’s how you think big about smaller events.
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