The question of how to drive conference attendance for online events has never been so prevalent. Many traditional in-person conference events have had no option but to turn on their heels and look towards online conference solutions to survive. The surge and speed of turnaround have left many organisers searching for the best way to capture and drive conference attendance in an alien environment.
Understanding the challenge
The most important thing to understand is that your attendees will not ‘attend’ your conference in the same way as they would if you held it in-person.
With in-person conferences, attendees choose to set aside dedicated time to prepare, travel and visit your event. They choose to do this because they are looking forward to the physical element of the conference.
Online organisers find it harder to drive conference attendance to a level that makes the event as successful because attendees do not book time away from their day job and they do not prepare in the same way. In addition, many of the in-person benefits cannot be replicated online.
If they cannot join easily, or work gets in the way, then they will not attend. Typical non attendance can be in excess of 60% of total registrations.
Why do people not turn up to my event?
Online conferences are far more sanitised versus in-person events making them harder to encourage those natural and spontaneous networking situations. This means the perceived value of a conference in the attendee’s eyes diminishes significantly.
Instead, the conference becomes much more about selective content for the attendee. There is also an expectation that content will be recorded and therefore available on demand, or will simply be available at another conference at a later date, so the need of making sure they attend your event is very low priority for them.
Furthermore, attendees will not block out their calendar to attend. If more priority work arrives, that will take precedence. If your event is not in their calendar they will not remember as generally they do not pay attention to e-mails.
To compensate, online conference organisers must drive conference attendance up by 25-40% more registrations from attendees so that the loss can be sustained
So, how to drive conference attendance?
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1. Simple New Attendee Registration
The key to drive conference attendance up starts with the few seconds you have to capture your attendee’s attention and convince them to register for your conference. Whether you are leveraging your previous attendee lists or trying to attract new attendees, you must give them a very simple attendee registration solution.
You’ll need to capture attendee attention with simple, jargon free headlines that is easy to understand. Once you have designed your marketing campaign, you need a registration process to back that up. You’ve worked hard to capture their intrigue, now convince them to sign up.
Requiring them to go through a multi-step registration form asking searching questions about their job, sex, location etc. that take minutes to complete will surely drive conference attendance down significantly.
You need a streamlined registration process with the minimum amount of data needed to register to drive conference attendance up. Any process that requires attendees more than 20 to 30 seconds to complete will fail 70% of the time.
You should really only be requiring the attendee’s name and e-mail address and maybe Company name if you really need to understand where your attendee’s are coming from for online events.
Learn how Justattend can help you speed up your attendee registration process and convert more of them to actual attendees
2. Convert previous attendees into attendees
For seasoned conferences, returning attendees represent the overwhelming majority of attendees. They already know you, you already know them, so being able to provide an enhanced and automatic registration process that takes no effort is a great way for organisers to drive conference attendance up quickly.
Why expect them to fill out the same registration form as new attendees when you already know 100% of their details?
Instead, provide them with a VIP service that bypasses registration bureaucracy and adds them immediately to your event.
Capture your attendee’s curiosity with a personalised e-mail invitation and a link that says “Add to Your Calendar” instead of “Register now”. They are more likely to click because it appears quick and low effort. You are more than likely to see them click as a result.
3. Give the attendee all the information they need first time
Attendees are very sensitive to over communication. You’ve worked hard to gain their registration and entry into your mailing list. The last thing you want to do is give them a reason to unsubscribe before your event because you are over communicating with them.
You need to ensure that you give them all the information they need immediately upon registration to join the event as you have one chance to reach every attendee.
After you send your first pre-event mailing list campaign, you will start losing subscribers and therefore the ability to communicate important information to them. This will drive conference attendance down on the day of the event.
Being able to insert your event into their calendar gives you the ability to provide all the important information they need and ensure that they are automatically reminded that your event is coming up using Calendar reminders. This is the most significant tactic to drive conference attendance up. What needs to be in the calendar invite?
- The date and time of the event
- The event name as the title
- A summary of the event and what it entails along with an agenda
- The joining information they need (Join link, access credentials, download instructions etc.)
- Reminders set to (1 week, 1 day, 1 hour & 15mins) so that their calendar reminds them
4. Allow attendees to join instantly
Attendees treat online conferences like a normal online business video conference. This means they will expect a single click to join experience. Typically, attendees will not join in advance of the session or event. They will wait until their calendar invite reminds them that the event is starting until they attempt to join.
At that point, they will make a decision to join or not. If they are presented with a login screen, required to download a piece of software or need to ensure that their computer must be set up in a certain way, many are simply going to give up and carry on with their day job.
The energy required by an attendee to search for joining details, remembering usernames and password and jumping through joining hoops is too much for the more curious / pessimistic attendee.
To drive conference attendance up on the day it is very important to ensure that the attendee can join seamlessly.
5. Generate FOMO
Once you have your registration and joining experience perfected you can concentrate on your marketing campaigns to generate interest and drive conference attendance up.
Online conferences need to create the fear of missing out (FOMO) more so than for in-person events. What are you going to bring to your online conference that makes you stand out as an event and make it worthwhile to the attendee to turn up?
Content is king when it comes to online, but with the proliferation of similar events that where once geographically separated are now online and accessible by all, meaning that your content is less unique.
Attendee engagement not only with speakers or exhibitors, but between themselves is very important. Sure, there are online meeting platforms that can provide opportunity, but it is the way that functionality is delivered to your attendees that make it easy to understand and use that makes the real difference.
Don’t be afraid to try something new and far out! Having the courage to delve into areas other conferences have steered away from bring added quirkiness and intrigue that is going to generate your attendee intrigue.
Gamification, competitions and rewards for performing some key tasks that meet your objective but give the attendee with the wandering mind more reason to stick around will help.
Ultimately, there is no secret sauce or proven methodology to make online conferences as good as in-person. The best you can do is make it unique, interesting and easy for your attendees to drop in and out when they can.
6. Obtain your data through transparency or task based
As event organisers you get overwhelmed on the need to supply your sponsors and exhibitors with the data they expect about attendee demographics. This is directly linked to the way you approach traditional registration.
For online and for the reasons in this article you do not want to overload your attendees by requiring intimate information upfront. The data is important, but there are other ways in which you can obtain it once you have successfully received their registration.
The trick to drive conference attendance up is to require the minimum information you need to class a person as a registered attendee at the point of sign up. Once you have that piece of data, you can then build that relationship and acquire more detailed data for your exhibitors or sponsors.
a) Identify your attendee automatically
Being able to identify your attendee without them needed to login or enter their name will ensure that they are treated to a great joining experience. Using personalised event join links you can transparently collect attendances. Use browser trackable behaviour to discover demographic data such as geo-location, device used to connect etc.
b) Entry requirement data collection
Focus on key sessions or tasks within your event. For attendees to take part in a session or make use of a certain feature require them to first supply focussed data on a topic you are trying to collect. For instance, after visiting an exhibitor booth they are prompted with an exit survey. Or perhaps to enter a specific session they are required to submit a couple of pieces of information. Over the course of the conference you will slowly collect the information you need that is least obtrusive to the attendee.
c) Gamify data
Gamification and competitions are a great way of enticing attendees to part with the data you need. Creating key tasks like a virtual passport competition where the attendee must complete a number of tasks to be entered into a draw to win a prize is a fun opportunity to collect that information.
Remember, the goal is to always provide core entrance to your event as quick and seamless as possible.
How Justattend can help
Justattend is proven to drive conference attendance up with it’s unique approach that strips all the complexity of data collection and provide your attendees with a seamless one-click experience for registering and joining your event.
We are not a video conferencing solution, you are free to use whatever virtual delivery solution that meets your requirements such as Microsoft Teams.
Instead, we sit in front of that to provide an intelligent and intuitive front end that allows your attendee to navigate your event while being able to track your attendees participation throughout and collect the information you need for your sponsors helping you to drive conference attendance.
Why not check out our features and sign up for free to see what we are all about?