Over the years I have been invited to attend many events that have had to be cancelled due to low bookings. I’m thinking of receptions, seminars, conferences and networking events. Sometimes it’s possible to reschedule the occasion. Other times the organisers give up and blame one or other of the factors that might or might not have been the cause of the low bookings.
There are at least 15 factors to consider and any one of them could be the cause of the low booking numbers if not properly researched beforehand:
- Date – You’ll want to avoid clashes with competing events, popular cultural, tv and sporting occasions. Some days of the week may also attract smaller numbers than others (eg: Monday mornings and Friday afternoons). On the day you can but hope there are no widespread problems with local traffic and transport arrangements.
- Timing – Early morning is not so good for those with child minding/school obligations, early evening impacts social and family life, daytime is dependent on work obligations. Attendees may also be disinclined to travel or drive during the rush hour.
- Length – Is it long enough to warrant making the effort to attend? Is it too long such that it requires potential attendees to give up too much time?
- Venue – Does it have any form of reputation – good or bad? How easy is it to get to from wherever the attendees are starting out? How easy is it for attendees to get to where ever they will be going afterwards? Make sure all these points are clearly spelled out on the invitation and promotional material
- Parking – Might anyone want to come by car? It helps to make clear the parking options up front
- Advance notice – It’s important to give enough notice when you issue the first invites (a few weeks is better than a few days). You also need to issue reminders both to those who have yet to book and to see if any of those who have booked are no longer able to attend.
- Structure – Is there, for example, time for networking before, during and/or afterwards and will this appeal to prospective attendees.
- Food and drink – Is the extent to which refreshments will be provided clear? Will those with restricted diets or tastes feel catered for?
- Content – Are the topics perceived as relevant, topical and appealing? Can you sense check these beforehand with prospective attendees?
- Speaker(s) – Do they have a positive reputation? Do they engage the audience? Are they easy and stimulating to hear? Are they sufficiently well known to your target audience? Have you highlighted their credibility to talk on the chosen subjects? Are you keeping their name(s) a secret? if so, why? If only confirmed after initial promotions have started, remember to update the promotions.
- Ticket price – Is this perceived to be good value? Charging a fee, even a low one, can result in fewer drop-outs than when you run a free event. BUT even low cost tickets can discourage those who need to get authority for the expense
- Payment methods – How easy are you making it for people to pay? Consider online booking facilities that include credit card and paypal options.
- Changes – If any element of the event has to change, what impact does this have on potential attendees? It might make them more or less likely to book or to attend. Some changes have to be notified beforehand. Others can be shared at the start of the event, only to those who are there.
- Promotion – How will you get the event into the minds of those you seek to attract? Will they see and respond to a single email or is a more sustained campaign required? Will social media help? Which channels? Can the speaker(s) assist here?
- Your list of invitees – Do you have one? How relevant and uptodate is it? Can you get one? Are you reliant on marketing to (relative) strangers? Can you get help or collaborate with someone else who has a suitable list? Can the speaker(s) help here?
On those last two points, when I am booked to speak at events I often promote them to my connections and contacts. My ability to advise on social media and to reach an extensive audience are sometimes factors that lead to me being invited to speak. My focus is typically on twitter and linkedin, sometimes via facebook and sometimes in my weekly newsletters that go to many thousands of accountants in the UK. What else do you think has affected bookings and the number of people who turn up for your events or those you have attended?
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