How to Get Bums in Seats: The Hardest Part of Hosting Events

How to Get Bums in Seats: The Hardest Part of Hosting Events

Event Management has been said to be the 5th most stressful job in the world, right behind firefighter. Yes, you read that right. Only one spot behind the people who run into burning buildings, are the people who plan events. And, if you are someone who runs events, you know that one of the most stressful parts of your job is making sure people actually attend your event!

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Even if people are seeing your Social Media blasts about the event, going to your event page, or RSVP’ing for the event, you don’t actually know if they will turn up! And, to make things even more difficult, it can be hard to make your event stand out amidst the noise of the internet.

There is no secret, there is no “one size fits all” formula. BUT, below are six of the best ways to market your event in order to get more RSVPs and get those butts in seats!

1) Press

Press can be a great way to spread the word about your event, but getting the right kind of press is an art.
One way you can sell your event, is to focus on the speaker you bring in. Let’s say your community events are developer groups for people who build on your company’s software. Other developers and people in the industry will want to see your expert talk, and get involved in the conversation.
Another way to boost your event is by having one, or a few, VIP attendees. Invite an industry rockstar and advertise that they will be in attendance. If the topic is suitable, you could even invite the mayor or a local council-person to talk about the importance of fostering an innovative community in that city, then you can reach out to all the local media outlets and tell the whole community a public official is speaking at your event!
The third way to get great press is with the “Climb The Ladder Strategy”: Have a small paper or local publication cover your event and share the story, then send that article to another, slightly larger outlet, and ask them to share it. Rinse and repeat!

2) Content

The content of your event is totally important when attracting attendees to actually show up to your event. If your event follows a main speaker model, who you invite to speak will have a huge impact on your attendance level. Inviting an industry celebrity to speak at your event is definitely the best way to ensure your content is desirable enough to fill seats.
And don’t think you can know exactly what your community needs before they do (if you can do that successfully, please teach us how...), ASK your community what they want! Create events around the current trends in your community. Survey attendees and listen to what they say. Your community is for them, after all, shouldn’t they have a say in what they learn?

3) Partnerships

Find the “peanut butter” to your “jelly”. Find companies that are not only noncompetitive but will be useful for your audience. For example, maybe you develop a marketing tool for SaaS companies. Your partner would be an agency who works with SaaS companies. Find two, if not more, companies that are willing to share your event with their community, whether that’s in their customer email list or their Social Media networks. The point is to have your event shared in one of their engaged channels, to put more eyes on the event. In exchange, they can be listed as a partner for your event! (If you’re not sure how to do that on Bevy, check out this support article.)

4) Outreach

If you want to be more specific about who is invited to your event, you can make dedicated lists of people who you want to invite. This can become even more successful, if you partner with your sales team, and use events to add value for prospects!

Pro tip: if you can work with your sales team, the best option is to use whatever process they currently have in place. If, for whatever reason, that is not an option here is what you can do:
Find a tool to create a target audience, Linkedin Sales Navigator is a great option because you can create the list based on basic parameters like job and experience, and also if they were active recently. It is also a great option because their messenger is not as crowded as an email inbox can be, which means your message is closer to the top! Once you pick a tool, create an audience based on the persona of your customers. Who do you want at these events? Why should they be there? What will they get out of it? Once you know the persona of your ideal attendees, start reaching out!

5) Campaigns

Running a campaign for an event is a great way to get butts in seats. If you are running a paid event, offer a 2 for 1 ticketing promotion! Running a 2 for 1 campaign is a great way to fill up seats because the purchaser is inclined to bring a guest! Another great campaign is to offer perks to early birds. Everybody loves to have early access to stuff. Maybe if they are one of the first ten (or whatever number) people to show up, they receive some branded swag or free tickets to the next event! Maybe your featured speaker wrote a book? You can create a ticket type that will enter early birds into a raffle to win the book - but you can only receive the book if you show up.

6) Emails, Emails, Emails

Email correspondents is the lynchpin of events. Email provides communication, personal connection, and will gets you RSVPs. Making your emails better will make your events better. Here are a few emails that will dramatically improve how you run your events:

a) Pre-event email to attendees- Create an automated email to go out one month, one week, and one day before you have an event. This email should go to people who have RSVP’d reminding them about the event. (See how to do that in Bevy here)
b) Special preference for attendees of previous events- Once you have your new event live, email everyone who attended your previous events, and give them special preference before you announce it publicly. (See how to do that in Bevy here)
c) Event announcement- Not everyone wants to automate these, but the benefit is they will always go out, and at the time you set them to. Create an automated email to be sent to the entire community, the day after your event is live. (See how to do that in Bevy here)
d) Sorry we missed you- A sad fact about events everyone knows is that not everyone will show up, but this email can help for next time. Create the custom audience for people who RSVP’ed but were not checked in for an event. Say something like, “we’re sorry we missed you, but we can’t wait to see you next time!” (See how to do that in Bevy here)
e) Survey for attendees- Getting the feedback of community members who did show up is a great way to improve events for the future! A great way to do that is to create an automated email to send to those who attended the event, a survey the next day. (See how to do that in Bevy here)

As you know, running events is HARD work. But should it be as stressful as running into a burning building? No! At least we don’t think so. Use these strategies for your events and you too can rest easy while you host events.

If you are running community events for your company, or are interested in using this material for your field guide or other documentation, send us an email!

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What to read next:

Getting back to basics. How do you pitch the idea of a community effort to an organization that doesn’t already have one? Where do you start? Here!

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