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In the last five months, MYF has seen a noticeable shift in the events and conference space within New Zealand and Australia. This shift came from a lack of interest and bookings from delegates who were no longer interested in attending these events. After further investigation, it seemed the trend was happening on a global scale.
Last week, MYF deep-dove into some of the reasons you may not be selling the seats you forecasted and, in some cases, why you’ve had to cancel the event all together.
We first investigated the generic offerings at these events and what their objectives were.
- Out of the 75 events we found internationally,
- 64 of those were promotional events of an asset the organiser had produced,
- 7 of the events were offering an asset at a cost post event,
- while 4 had no clear call to action (CTA) or objective to the event.
- 4 of the New Zealand events we were invited to were also cancelled.
This research showed that as a delegate, it was likely they feared time would be consumed by being sold to, as opposed to leaving with value and actionable steps within their own profession.
Although this may not be correct from the organisers point of view, this was the general impression delegates were getting.
We decided to study the trends from the world’s most successful events and see what made them sell out before any agendas were published. These included:
- SXSW (South by South West)
- World Business Forum
- Dreamforce (by Salesforce)
The trends we found was that many provided world class speakers, which is a given for the size of these events. However, the speakers were case studies to what the delegates were trying to achieve.
Many avoided the idea of networking and instead strategically built areas, times and activities that required individuals to mix. No time was scheduled for people to “network”.
A strong attribute to these events was the idea of learning and developing while “blowing off steam”. Delegates found it more a time to get away from it all rather than “this is taking up time from my busy schedule”.
The most attractive technique these leading events held however, was the ability to bring in those who could not attend. This created stupendous demand and interest on a global scale. The way they do this is:
- Promote the event tickets in one campaign while promoting the online promotion in another.
- They ensured those that missed out could log in online to be a part of it and clearly promoted step by step ways to do this.
- They utilised technology and resource to reach global audiences with inventories like Facebook Live, Instagram, Hashtags, LinkedIn Forums, Live Online Video (via website) and live podcasts through an RSS feed on their websites.
What delegates are saying
We decided to investigate further by asking the invitees themselves. Although many did not respond, those that did, produced very generic answers.
- The time of year isn’t right for us, it’s our busiest time.
- I needed sign off from my [manager] and I couldn’t get it.
- It’s too expensive for what it is.
- I didn’t know any of the organisations presenting.
- It wasn’t relevant to me.
- I am given [x] amount of time per year to attend specific conferences and this wasn’t on my list.
Overall, sign off, time and investment were the key players in the decision not to attend an event. We then interviewed a Managing Director of a medium sized IT firm out of Auckland, New Zealand (he wishes to remain anonymous).
“The issue I find is that when I look in my promotional folder in my email, there is probably three or four conferences and events I’m being invited to each week. These are usually by organisations I’ve never heard of, and I question why they’ve got my email in the first place” he said.
“The ones I’m currently going to are ones I’ve known for years, products or services we use and find value out of, or most importantly, word of mouth from people I trust”.
When listing the conferences he had been to last year, our contact noted that only one out of the seven he’d been to was new, while the others were all repeat events with a clear annual schedule and subject.
We also noted that only one of these events (the newest) was free, indicating value through investment.
Are you going too big?
It’s easier to offer 30 seats and sell 20 in a room of 15 chairs.
If your organisation is considering events, or you’ve run them over some time now, opting for the largest venue and putting time and resource into booking it may be where you’re going wrong. Starting small and building a community should be the priority from day one.
MYF Group built a social media group for a client a few years back and started by promoting free discussion, tips, and news in the feed from our users (the admin did no posting). This grew over a few months and was the foundation to our monthly gathering (usually at a large table in a pub or café). Over 12 months, the numbers tripled, and our events were no longer free. We’d built the credibility, the audience, and the discussion from only a few, to hundreds.
It’s better to gather a small number of viewers who love your content to plenty who like it. An audience who is passionate about what you’re giving them will be an audience who gathers likeminded colleagues and contacts to do the same. Within an acceptable timeframe, you will have a large audience who are loyal to your message.
Learn from others
Don’t take risks. It’s better to not run an event then to push hard for only a few people to turn up. If only a small percentage come, and you’ve decided to run it, those few people will get to see first-hand how little has gone in to it and your credibility will take a hammering.
Just because you’re releasing a new service or offering, doesn’t mean it should come with an event. Perhaps consider a Press Release instead? MYF Group offer strategies, messages and design around Press Releases and won’t release one until we’re 100% happy people will notice it.
There are a few common mistakes that businesses make when putting on an event:
- They assume delegates will find value in it without explaining why.
- There is no clear message or CTA.
- Events are either too expensive or too cheap/free.
- They have not researched what their audience is interested in or struggling with and opted to only discuss what they do.
- They’ve not listened and researched the market.
The last point seems the most obvious right now. Many businesses like Xero Cloud Accounting, hold their major roadshows towards the end of winter & into Spring. The psychological factor of this is the weather! People are becoming more positive and active once the sun comes out and the weather is warmer.
Another example is the constant battle between Samsung and Apple mobile. Both brands have researched and investigated three releases into the future and thus strategically planned their events around them to receive the most views.
If McAfee Labs puts a conference on Cybersecurity with keynote speakers from Google and Amazon, then one month later you put on The Cyberthreat Environment for 2018 just down the road, you can guarantee you’ll be presenting to your colleagues and the facilitator.
Take a moment to seek advice, get others involved in the design of the event and carefully plan what your theme and persona is of the event, this will help you put on a special conference people will enjoy.