Friday, January 15, 2010

“Who is Attending?”: Getting It Right

The Attendee Profile – answering the question “Who is Attending?” has always been an X factor for Event Marketers. It is a key metric exhibitors evaluate pre- post-event, and drives satisfaction with an event and influences re-sign decisions. I’m sure at one point you’ve heard feedback of “Exhibitors are not happy because there were too many vendors attending as delegates.” Or event attendees were “too junior,” “the wrong function,” or lacking in some other demographic.

To a point such feedback can be expected: you can’t please everybody. However, with exhibitors’ budgets coming under increased scrutiny, effective Event Marketing needs to focus on – and react to – not only quantity but quality of registrations in 2010. Gone are the days of getting X number of attendees in a room or a hall, patting ourselves on the back and saying “Well done!” Decision-makers in sponsorship circles are under increased pressure to prove and justify that their investment delivered the interaction, leads and conversions they planned for when signing onto the event. And that pressure, ultimately, falls on the shoulders of Event Marketers in the form of getting the right bodies there.

To help exhibitors justify spend, according to B2B Magazine, The Trade Show Exhibitors Association has formed an advocacy committee to push for the use of audits. [Yes, this is as ominous as it sounds. An audit, briefly, conducted by an outside organization such as BPA Worldwide, independently verifies the attendance figures claimed.] According to the article audits, which have been a mainstay in publishing for many years, are now being requested by a growing number of exhibitors.

Here are four thoughts, strategies and tactics you can – and should – be utilizing to leading up to an event help you ultimately, deliver a positive attendee and exhibitor experience:
  • Event Marketers need to be engaged in the earliest phases of the planning cycle. You need to be on board in understanding and contributing to content formulation to ensure it aligns to the target market you are responsible for recruiting. Content is King: if you are seeking to attract VP-level attendees but content and sessions are addressing tactical topics … the VP you are targeting will see this and will send his subordinates. Game over.
  • Best practice: Monitor. Make it a point to regularly review reports to ensure registrations are fitting the mold both in volume and demographics. Understand your registration patterns and continually analyze where registrations are coming from. If there is a list, internal segment, social media source or channel that is drawing too many or too few of the right/wrong attendee, be nimble enough to react.
  • Work with your sponsors. As I wrote in an earlier post, this takes time and effort, but working with exhibitors – in coordination with your sales team – to engage them in reaching out to their contacts is important. There is certainly pushback and challenges around executing these efforts, including “why would I want my client on the show floor where my competitors are?” The message should be around your seamlessly working to invite their prospects - the message being “Wouldn’t you like that prospect that’s been in your pipeline for six months at the event?”
  • Leverage Team Send. Develop an incentive: once you have a “good” contact registered, engage them in inviting others. Pending bandwidth, this is a great opportunity to roll out the “white glove” approach to people who have committed to your event. A phone call or personalized note is both a great CRM effort and works toward building ancillary attendance.
As a side note, nothing regarding event attendance communications should happen in a vacuum. All team members who interface with event participants need to be on the same page regarding what is communicated, whether the interaction is with exhibitors/prospects, press, or even other attendees. This includes working, and communicating, cross-functionally throughout the course of the campaign, discussing variations in demographic trending - what and how to speak to unavoidable changes in this trending. These can be difficult discussions, but ones that ultimately serve the betterment of the event in the end.

Good luck!


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