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Attracting Visitors to Your Events – An Event Planner’s Guide

You’ve been tasked with putting on an event. Great! You’ve got the venue, the catchy message and you’ve nailed down your objectives. Now all you need are actual people.

Events aren’t a case of “build it and they will come” – you’re dealing with real life people, with real life jobs of their own. You need to convince them that coming to see you is more important than getting on with their day job. So, what do you need to consider when you’re devising your campaigns and getting the right audience?

Understand who you’re trying to attract

Attracting visitors to your events -- an event planner's guide

You need to understand the people you’re trying to attract in order to sell to them where they exist in a way that’ll appeal to them. Haphazardly sending out invites on social media or via email will give you either an empty room or lots of visitors with no real decision-making power.

Speak to your sales teams, get to know the type of person you want to invite through them – it’s their bread and butter! Create some customer personas if you haven’t already, they’re going to back up your case when you go asking for buy-in from your business to get involved. Once you’ve got your personas going, you can whittle down and target your marketing spend in more appropriate places.

You need to understand your visitor’s motive for attending - what do they want to get out of it? Do they want to learn? Are they looking to create connections through networking? If you can deliver against these motives you’re going to be fine. But what else is there to keep in mind?


Is your data GDPR compliant?

Is Your Data GDPR Compliant

As of 25th May 2018, this is now a massive deal. Can you prove the consent of your customers (or at least a solid legitimate interest) before you contact them? Whether your data is or is not “clean,” the best place for you to start is your sales teams. They have existing relationships with their longstanding customers, start there and get them mentioning your event on their catch-ups with their clients.

If your data is most certainly not clean, use your persona documents to establish what print and websites your ideal visitors will be reading. Take out some ads or engage the services of a good PPC agency to help you extend your reach beyond a contact list.


Is there an international audience? 

Is There An International Audience?

We love colloquialisms in the English-speaking world. However, it was George Bernard Shaw who famously wrote “The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language” and that was all the way back in the early 1940’s. Make sure you’re very clear on who it is you’re talking to before you start composing witty quips – will your messaging be accessible to everyone you want to speak to?

If there’s an easy way of identifying who amongst your contacts is of what nationality, compose messaging for each of your geographic segments. If you’re not so sure, try to keep your messaging neutral – you can still write an appealing message while being clear to someone who’s second or third language is English.


What barriers may prevent visitors from attending?

Schedule conflict

  • Schedule – this is probably the most common. Sometimes visitors just have something more pressing they need to do at that moment in time. Even if they’ve registered to attend, something can always come up. But that’s not to say they’re a lost cause. At some point they’ve shown interest – build on that. The easiest way is with a “sorry we missed you” email with a round-up of your event and some helpful content to try and keep the conversation going.
  • Weather – the “Beast from the East” anyone? All the best-laid plans can be waylaid by the weather and that’s where having a good contingency plan comes in. And by that, I mean just a way of getting content to your visitors even though they can’t make it, just like the “sorry we missed you” idea from before. It’s really no good making your venue weatherproof if the routes to the venue are snowed in/flooded/covered in lava (Iceland, I’m looking at you).
  • Competition – those pesky other people who want some of your marketing pie. If we take the example of exhibitions, there’s a good chance your competitors will be competing directly against you in the same room. This is where things like position on the show floor, organiser relationships and sponsorships come into play. Get in early with buying your plot, ask your organiser what the visitor flow will be and pick a spot as direct as you can and hoover up any advertising space you can to snuff out your competitors options.
  • Location – you want me to travel all the way to where?! Wherever you have your event, you need to make sure it’s easily accessible. Many visitors are put off by the travel distance, so make sure you get as close to the majority of your audience as you can when you weigh up where to stage your event.


What are some quick wins you can deploy to attract the right audiences?

Work on building a close relationship with the organisers and sponsors to utilise their networks. You’ll be the first to hear about opportunities and associated events (like industry dinners) which may help you get the drop on your competitors.  

If you have company news, arrange the press releases to coincide with your pre-show marketing campaign. Say things like “we’ll be talking about this new development at our event in two weeks’ time, come and see us to learn more.” Anything to help you create extra buzz and talking points around your event are worth maximising.

Finally, an oldie but a goodie; competitions always help drive traffic. You’ll need a good prize, and a simple competition mechanism (like ask us a question – best question wins), but as long as you promote it well and add that hook into everything that you send out you’ll get visitors. 


How can event technology play a part in delivering visitors?

Good event tech adds that little extra touch of quality to your event. Equally, bad event tech can easily push people away. The first time your visitor engages with your event technology is probably going to be through registration, so it’s important to make a good first impression. Registration tools, like Visit by GES, give you a wealth of information before your event has even begun: who is coming, when are they coming, their job title and interests are all in your back pocket for the doors open.

The tech doesn’t just have to end at the show door, there’s also interactive tools you can use to build engagement around your event. Poken, for example, gives you the power to deliver content directly to your customers at the flash of a touchpoint – no bags and heavy catalogues. You can also use the tool to create games or hold quick votes without using too much of your visitor’s time.

Consider working through these points as you start your planning process, so that you bring in the right people, offer easy ways to interact with your event, and find a way to make it memorable. Your audience can help with that – ask them to complete an after-event survey, check into their comments on social or just ask when they pop by what part of your event has resonated with them. 

With every event, your audience can help you learn how to make the next one better – for you and for them.

About the Author

Ashley Roberts is Director of Exhibitions and New Business at Blitz, a GES company based in London, UK, and works across the commercial operation for organisation and the wider GES group. With over 18 years’ experience in the events industry, that has spanned events across 5 continents of the globe, Ashley is a well-seasoned senior events professional.

Profile Photo of Ashley Roberts