Loyalty is something all event planners strive for when it comes to recurring events. It takes less marketing dollars to reach return attendees and a good loyal attendee will often do some of your marketing for you through word-of-mouth referrals.
No matter how popular your event, you can expect about 10% of attendees won’t return the next year based on issues outside of your control, such as conflicts in scheduling, budgets, and/or not being able to take the time off.
However, if you see a negative change in your return rate, it’s time to look at something other than “natural” causes and start asking if there’s something you could be doing differently.
Is the Venue Compelling?
When potential attendees look at the marketing materials and take a quick scan at the location, are they excited or turned off by it? Your venue and host city should be selling points not detractors. Many people bring guests to conferences and use it as a vacation as well since half of their expenses are already paid for. If your location is not vacation material, you may want to rethink it.
Do Costs Go Up Each Year?
It’s expected that costs will go up but are they so exorbitant that people are having difficulty justifying the price increases to their boss?
Have You Delivered What You Promised?
Not only do you need great presenters but you want to ensure the content is on target with what it claimed to be. If someone came to your conference to learn more about how they can use social media for their business and every session was focused on the advanced user, they probably spent most of the conference confused and unable to apply the information. Ensure your speakers are top-notch and the materials are what they claimed they would be.
Is Everyone Welcoming?
Event planners want return attendees, but when you have a lot of them, they tend to stick with the groups they know. When this happens first time attendees can face a difficult time making connections. Meeting people you enjoy being with is one of the major reasons people return to conferences. If your first-time attendees aren’t meeting people, they’re less likely to return.
Is Registration Easy?
People who don’t know how to register or face friction when they try to do so, may feel it isn’t worth the bother. Make sure your registration process is quick and easy.
Are You Staying in Contact with Previous Attendees?
Reach out to attendees throughout the year. This will keep you top of mind and they’ll remember to budget for your event early. Communication also keeps them interested and excited about your event. Help them build and maintain connections through an online community or group on a social media platform.
Are You Making Them Feel Special?
Not only do you need to stay in contact, but you want to make them to feel part of an elite group of past attendees. They should have alumni status and receive information first. If you make them feel like they’re getting something special, they’ll want to continue in that role.
Is Everything Additional?
If you have too many little charges tacked on for each activity, what looks like an inexpensive event can become expensive quickly. It’s easier for people whose employers are paying to have all the costs up front. No surprises please.
Is Everyone Helpful?
Bad staff can turn a good event into a hospitality nightmare. Do your best to ensure everyone has a great experience. Let your hospitality vendors know that you want to know of any issues before they become large problems.
Are Special Needs an Afterthought?
We’ve all been to events where vegetarian meals, and other special needs, look like an afterthought – like they’re just the main dish minus the meat. Never make a guest’s special needs appear to be an afterthought or an inconvenience.
Return attendees are the goal of every event planner. In order to achieve this, you need to create an amazing event, in a place people want to go, with activities they’ll enjoy, and personal touches that make them feel amazing. Now that doesn’t sound hard does it?
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