Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, hired a new PR firm to boost attendance at their annual Embassy Challenge. Attendance and booth sales had been lagging and they knew it was time to try something new.
Here is a synopsis of what tricks this event services company implemented, my perspective on the results, and what event and meeting planners can do to improve attendance, booth sales and sponsorships at their next conference or convention.
Five Tricks that Worked
- Lowered the ticket prices.
Perhaps attendees are not coming to your event because your pricing model is just too high. This can be said for exhibitor space and sponsor fees as well. I recommend you initially go through a break-even analysis for the event and then determine a healthy profit margin that will meet your goal.
Setting a high ticket price that is not financially justified is a great way to keep good prospects at home. Events DC lowered their ticket prices by 300 percent, doubled their attendance AND still made money. Don’t be greedy; just fiscally responsible.
- Developed unique presentations for sponsors and exhibitors.
Rather than sending out a standard form and/or giving the same pitch to everyone, the Events DC staff tailored each presentation to the unique selling points of the person they were pitching. This was vitally important because they were dealing with many different cultures.
Try and see your presentation from their point of view. Ask friends and family to review your presentations for feedback on how well the benefits are conveyed. Work toward constant improvement of your message.
- Gave them time.
Instead of asking for a monetary or space commitments 30-90 days before the Challenge, Events DC gave their prospects five months to make a commitment.
Because you are asking for a large dollar commitment, be sure to start cultivating the “ask” relationship up to a one year from your current event. Large companies, in particular, need time to evaluate their many options and make sure the ROI meets their standard.
- Divided and Conquered.
Events DC had one person dedicated to sponsorship attainment and one person dedicated to booth sales. This strategy allowed each person to hone their message exclusively to their audience. This resulted in more sponsors and an 83% increase in booth sales.
This is an excellent strategy. If you are lacking staff, solicit volunteers with sales experience and give them a commission for every piece of business sold.
- Pitched to the Press.
The Chef Challenge received 100+ editorial mentions from both local and international reporters. They had 100 reporters from 70 outlets attend the event.
In my opinion, it is generally difficult to garner media attention for events. However, if you rent a laptop or two, have printer rentals and offer fast, secure Wi-Fi, you can create a media room that may draw some media professionals. Providing food, beverages and comfortable seating also helps. Granting VIP access to your keynote speakers can go a long way. In short, find out what they need and help them get it.
Media coverage is a great way to validate the value of your event. Do your best to get them to your event by calling, emailing and tweeting each reporter or blogger directly.
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