Conference and event planning is a little like juggling: you have to keep multiple balls in the air at all times to ensure success.
Just one of those balls, and arguably one of the most important, is ticket sales. A simple metric, but not always a simple task.
There are many factors that go into conference ticket sales and one of the most significant (and most overlooked!) is audience engagement.
From marketing efforts to the activities included in your agenda, if you want to sell out your next conference, you need to get people excited and involved.
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that can be employed to increase audience buy-in and crush your sales goals.
Here are some things you should do:
Establish an Online Presence
One of the first things you need to do when marketing your conference is to establish an online presence. Your event needs a place where potential attendees can go to learn more or verify details.
This means creating an event website and social media presence.
Your conference website is your online home base. It is a place where you can share event details, speaker/presenter/panelist bios, solidify your brand messaging, and share any relevant news and blog posts with your target audience.
You can also sell tickets from your event website. It is where you will push potential attendees from your email invitations, print marketing, and social posts.
No matter how a person finds your event page, you are going to want to convert them. Nearly every element of your page from branding to content will be attempting to convert visitors into ticket holders.
The interest and excitement that is generated by your marketing would be lost if you don’t also provide people with an option to buy. Your website needs to include a clear call to action. A “buy tickets” button, for example, can go a long way to helping you capture sales while the urge to purchase is high.
Make it easy to purchase tickets. If you make it difficult, you can pretty much guarantee that people simply won’t!
Social media is something that most people interact with on a daily basis. It is the perfect platform for event promotion. Unfortunately, many conference planners neglect it.
The truth is, when it comes to generating and leveraging audience engagement, few tools are more useful than social media.
If you already have established branding, use it to create a Facebook event page. As with a website, this is a great platform for ticket sales.
Likewise, establish a presence on Twitter, Instagram, and depending on your audience demographics, LinkedIn. These social media platforms allow you to push teasers for your conference, share speaker bios, and promote your brand. It is a way to interact directly with your audience and get them involved with event promotion.
Social media also helps provide a little bit of social proof. Humans are social animals and we tend to be curious about what our friends and colleagues are up to. If someone starts to like or share your posts, you can bet their friends will consider you worthy of further investigation.
Create Ticket Tiers
Tiered ticket pricing always gets people excited. Early bird tickets, for example, give people the chance to attend the event at a lower price, and because the early bird offer has an end date, it helps add a feeling of scarcity.
Scarcity drives sales as people do not want to miss out on both the discounted price and the event itself. Conferences often carry a large price tag, especially if people have to travel, so having a “cheaper” option can help attract people who may have otherwise been unable to attend.
A “VIP” option is although worth a consideration. For conferences, this could include a hotel room for the duration, a special reception and networking event for VIP ticket holders, and, of course, access to all conference events.
And finally, you’ll have a general conference price. From there you can break it down into full conference or single day packages. How you work these out is up to you and will depend largely on your audience and the type of conference you are holding.
Having different options available will excite different factions of your audience, prompt a little FOMO, lead to increased shares on social media, and organically trigger more sales.
Hold a Ticket Giveaway
A ticket contest or giveaway is an ideal way to get your audience directly involved in your event marketing!
Make a challenge of it. Direct followers on social media to share your event and tag you and a friend for a chance to be entered for two single-day tickets.
Think about holding a contest for people who have already purchased general admission tickets. Create a situation where when someone buys a ticket, they can recommend the event to a friend. If that friend then makes a purchase, the individual who made the recommendation is then entered into a draw to win an upgrade to a VIP package.
These types of giveaways or contests ask your audience to actively participate in the marketing of your conference. This level of engagement will help your audience feel more invested in the event and increase overall attendee satisfaction levels.
Remember, if people see that their friends and co-workers are attending, they are likely to consider attending as well!
Use Your Speakers as Influencers
Your invited guests and keynote speakers are great avenues for promotion and engagement. The greatest marketing campaign is the world is useless if no one ever sees or hears about it.
The people you invite to speak or present at your event will have their own followers and industry networks making them valuable for spreading the word.
If your keynote is being delivered by an industry celebrity of sorts, it is entirely possible that people will buy tickets for the opportunity to see/hear/meet this individual. Leverage that!
Don’t just throw their name and image on your event poster or website, ask them to share the event and/or their appearance on their own website and social media pages. This simple action may get you in front of members of your target audience that you may have otherwise been unable to reach.
And the more people that talk about your event, the more people become engaged with it, and the more tickets you will sell.
Offer Something Different
If you want people to buy tickets for your conference, you need to give them a reason. By offering a more active and engaged agenda may be the answer.
Many conferences involve sitting for hours between meals and networking events. Mix it up and offer something that actively engages the audience.
These days, people are all about experiences, so give them what they want.
Consider things like:
Offsite events: Promote connections between attendees by scheduling offsite events like cocktail hours, sightseeing tours, escape rooms, or even attending professional sporting events. Conferences are so much more than just a chance to learn from industry leaders, they are also an opportunity to connect and spend time with other professionals.
Scavenger hunts: Does your conference also include vendors and exhibitors? Have attendees complete a scavenger hunt, matching vendors to clues. Do this as a team event or an individual ‘sport.’ First one done wins!
Panel Discussions and Q&As: Lectures are great but they don’t require a great deal of audience engagement. People remain focused and interested when you mix up the way information is shared. A panel discussion can offer different perspectives on a topic and foster conversation between conference-goers. A Q&A session, whether a part of a panel discussion or as a separate segment will allow the audience to participate in a way that provides deeper and more personalized understanding.
These sorts of agenda items should be included in your marketing materials. They are interesting and different and are likely to generate more interest from your target audience, leading to more ticket sales.
Similarly, if you provide a fun and exciting audience experience, you have solidified your brand in a way that all but guarantees those attendees will buy tickets to your conference again next year!
Selling out your next conference requires a mix of best practices and innovation. If you establish your event through traditional means like a website and social media AND offer creative and unconventional ways to engage your audience, you should have no problems with ticket sales!