It always pays off to be an early bird planner. However, there may be occasions beyond your control when you have to plan a conference or seminar a few days short of event day. While it can be tricky working on an extremely tight deadline, it can still be done with an organized plan.
Yes, it will probably be stressful, and your head might be spinning in every direction at once, but this is where your multitasking skills truly shine and come into play.
1. Focus on Quality Instead of Quantity
When the clock is ticking, it is especially tempting to resort to mass emailing when sending out invitations. However, having fewer guests that really want to be at your event is better than having hundreds that just come for the food or to exploit the event as a social hour. Instead of sending one large and generic email, focus on your more loyal followers and take the time to send them a personal invitation.
This can be by email, by text, or by posting to social media. Alternatively, organizers could consider taking to paid online advertisements through Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, or through an affiliate ad campaign.
2. Get Event Participants Involved
If you have event participants, like keynote speakers, get them to spread the word through their own contacts. This multiplies the effects of your outreach tenfold. To get your affiliates amped up about helping you out at the last minute, provide them with some incentives for their efforts. You can, for example provide a free subscription or a product of their choosing for members who sell x number of tickets.
You can also implement a sales reward tier level, such as the following:
5 tickets sold: $20 gift card
10 tickets sold: free 6-month subscription of your service
20 tickets sold: choice of $50 gift card or both rewards from the lower tiers mentioned above
30 tickets sold: permanent 10% increase in commission
With incentives like the one shown, affiliates will be more willing to scramble to help promote your event. Properly utilizing event affiliates is a key to an effective event promotion strategy.
3. Promote, Promote, and Promote Some More on Social Media
As we mentioned before, Social media is your best friend when it comes to event promotion strategies (Click to Tweet). Use every social network you have a company account with and mention your upcoming event multiple times a day.
Do not underestimate the power of the tweet. Each tweet sent in promotion of your event should include a specifically designated hashtag. A few posts should also have images pertaining to the event. This may be a pic of a guest speaker, the venue, or a brief video. Effective event promotion strategies require that organizers reach out to potential attendees on an ongoing basis in order to convince them to register for your event.
LinkedIn is another useful resource. Your event, after all, is a company-related one, so make good use of this social network to reach out to your professional contacts. Scout for group forums on the site related to your niche where you can spread the message.
After you create an event website, link it to your company page as well to any social media profiles. It’s a good idea to have your staff members do the same for their own social media accounts if possible.
Be sure to swap your profile pic with an image of the event invitation or event logo leading to the event.
To increase social media reach, consider implementing some sort of referral program or contest as part of your event promotion strategy (Click to Tweet). The referral program can work similarly to the rewards program for affiliates by providing some incentive for those who get a friend or colleague to attend the event.
4. Email Your Subscribers
Yes, it was mentioned in step one to focus instead on your loyal followers. However, once you’ve taken care of your top prospective attendees, reach out to your general audience.
In your initial newsletter, mention the event in detail with a call-to-action in the closing paragraph and a link to the events page. For each subsequent newsletter you send thereafter, you can employ the scarcity tactic - a key event promotion strategy.
In the initial email, let your subscribers know that space is limited and that only 50 or so vacancies remain.
In the next email, let them know that only 40 or so remain, and continue to slash the number with each subsequent email.
This tactic creates a sense of urgency and may get those who are on the fences about attending to RSVP before it’s too late.
Despite the tight timeframe, this process typically takes two weeks to execute properly. time Unfortunately, you also have to be extra careful to be sure that your mass emails don’t end up in the recipients’ spam folder - email event promotion strategies tend to be unsuccessful if recipients don’t actually open the email :). Here’s a quick guide to ensure this doesn’t happen:
If possible, have your server “drip feed" the messages rather than sending all the emails as a single gigantic batch.
“Purge” your email list of bad email accounts. These are accounts that are no longer active. Email providers penalize domains with a higher spam score if you repeatedly send email to bad accounts. This increases the likelihood of future email being constituted as spam.
Provide a clear unsubscribe link. Without one, followers are more likely to mark you as spam if they no longer want to follow you. Being consistently listed as spam also adds to your spam score.
Encourage followers to add you to their contact list to ensure your emails don’t go straight to spam.
Okay, now that you’re relatively safe from the spam trap, you can begin sending your promotional emails. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at around noon-ish have been shown to be good times to hit the send button as those are the timeframes that generate the highest email open rates. For more on email best practices, read this blog post.
On a final note, keep your email succinct and to the point. Address the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” followed by the call of action and leave it at that. Adding an image, such as a company logo, or better yet, a photo of yourself, will add to the credibility of the email and will improve conversion rates.
5. Spread the Word on Discussion Forums
Scout for community boards related to your industry and start a thread promoting your event. Of course, being that it’s a discussion forum, members aren’t exactly going to take too kindly to being sold to. Word your message as a friendly notification and be sure to answer promptly to those who respond.
If you are already active on a discussion forum, or community, like on LinkedIn or Google+ consider posting to those communities first. For best practices on posting to communities read our guide To Google+ and tips for promoting an event on LinkedIn.
Similarly, you can also contact bloggers within your business niche. Perhaps you can make a deal: offer to provide them with a well written blog post that their readers will find interesting. In exchange, ask if you can include a backlink to the events page with a single call-to-action sentence in the closing statement. It’s a win-win situation; the blogger gets free content, and you get access to the blogger’s readers.
6. Write a Press Release
Write up a press release announcing the upcoming event and submit it to press outlets like Business Wire or PR Newswire. Paid press release submission sites usually come with useful tools for optimizing your release and are worth considering given the short time frame you have to work with.
Here’s some tips on how to write a convincing press release:
Include all the necessary information in the opening paragraph. Readers tend to only read the intro paragraph and skim the rest.
Include hard numbers. Use stats to back up your company and the upcoming event. This can include percentages relating to your consumers, product, or service.
Include your contact information
Avoid industry jargon. Most likely, a writer for a news outlet will be reading your wire, they may not be very familiar with your industry, so be sure to write the press release with that in mind.
Implementing these event promotion strategies with only days left can be stressful. But keep in mind that the tips we’ve shared with you have been proven in real world applications. There really is no need for panic. By utilizing the multiple event promotion strategies available to you, you can reach across a vast audience and fill your attendance quota.
Guest contributor, Dan McCarthy, is an Event Manager at VenueSeeker, a comprehensive online venue guide based in the UK.