Would it surprise you to hear this statistic?
According to Smart Meetings, approximately 50-60% of attendees bail on the final day of a conference. Even if you have the most fabulous speaker or raffle off the best prize, attendees are pulled to leave early for a number of reasons – work back at the office, their flight schedule or they have just had enough.
Whatever the reason, there is always a remedy. The last thing you want is a speaker who is talking to half the attendees in a large, empty ballroom. Most presenters cannot recover from this lack of attendance and the general mood in the room tends to go down.
Jeff Havens, a keynote speaker himself, recently came up with four suggestions that may (or may not) work for your conference. Here are his suggestions to engage attendees; along with some ideas of my own.
4 Ways to Keep Attendees Engaged
Make your keynote speaker’s trailer video readily available for attendees
Whether it is on their iPad rental or a computer rental attached to a projector, showing the keynote’s message and style should intrigue and keep attendees excited to stay until the end.
One of the best end-of-conference keynote speakers I ever saw was Chef Jeff who totally turned his life around from a million dollar drug dealer at age 20 to an incarcerated cook at age 21 and back again to an award winning chef now. He was a great storyteller too!
The problem? The event organizer never promoted him to attendees and about 60% of the population was missing by the time he appeared. If the organizers ran his story as a preview, I think many more attendees would have stayed.
End the conference at 5 pm
Rather than holding a 2 ½ day conference, just hold it to two days. Most business professionals are used to ending their day at 5 or 6 back at the office; why shouldn’t a conference be any different?
This gives attendees three options. They can:
- Finish the conference and head home for the evening;
- Stay and relax with the group for dinner and networking or
- Stay and catch an early morning flight
With options, there are possibilities and now, the attendee is back in control of their schedule. In addition, you have shaved an additional room night off their bill if things are financial tight with their company.
If you end in the evening, give attendees fun options right after the keynote
Have the presenter speak and then, give attendees a number of fun options to participate in. Including:
- Going to a baseball or football game.
- Receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of a local attraction.
- Going to an outdoor concert or amusement park.
- Participating in games such as bowling, pool or playing corn hole.
- Going to a comedy club.
You are letting the attendee leave the conference on a high note – which is always a good thing.
Give attendees a prize worth staying for
I think if you did a poll of the typical conference attendee, you find someone who is in their 40-60s, middle class and relatively well traveled. They don’t want a mobile device or a 3-day cruise. They want what they want.
Provide them something that will get them excited – a $500 AMEX gift card, one week rental on oceanfront property or a trip to the Masters – are things that would make me stay. Unique, hard to get items or money are great things that just might make them want to stay.
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