In a down economy, an organization’s worst survival tactic is to make budget or staff cuts. A weak economy should provide the impetus for us to work smarter and pull the trigger on those initiatives that may not have gone over well even in better times.
Organizations that make the right moves will rule the day over their competitors.
Here are a few ideas that will help give your conferences and events an edge:
1. Retention before attraction
The economy will make it more difficult to attract new registrants and exhibitors. Focus instead on retaining those who have previously attended and exhibited at your event. The lifetime value of your customers is at risk if they take a year off from participating. A strong base of loyal followers will serve as a magnet for new visitors and exhibitors.
2. Make content and connections tops
No matter how tough the economy, if your industry’s movers and shakers are at your event, I’m going to be there, too. If you deliver an educational program that is better than I can get anywhere else, I won’t pass it up. Don’t cut back on your budget for keynote speakers. Coach your speakers to write the most compelling session descriptions, deliver top-notch presentations, and ensure audience engagement.
3. Show your exhibitors and sponsors some love
Get out and visit your top five or 10 exhibiting companies. More than ever, you need to have strategic conversations on how they can get the best return out of their participation. Some of the most creative ideas for partnerships can come out of these discussions. During the show, your leadership team should walk the floor and personally thank exhibitors for participating. If you are not using the ROI Toolkit as a consultative sales tool, you may have missed the boat.
4. Make it personal
Your staff, board and voluntary leaders need to be more involved than ever. They should go out of their way to introduce themselves to first-time attendees or to ensure that everyone sitting at a lunch table gets introduced. Make sure the staff and leadership don’t travel in packs.
5. Break tradition
Evaluate longstanding events: How much value are you getting out of that past presidents’ lunch? Does your awards dinner need an overhaul?
6. Make it emotional
Hire a speaker who will tug at attendees’ heartstrings or have them rolling on the floor in laughter. These experiences help create lasting memories, shared by your members.
7. Help attendees justify their attendance.
If you are genuinely concerned about making sure that your events deliver business improvement to your stakeholders, you’ll make it easy for them to justify their participation. Think of ways in which you can help exhibitors or sponsors calculate their ROI; provide examples of how connections made at your event grew business; tell stories of how content shared at your event improved business results.
Prioritizing where to spend money and time is crucial during a tough economy. Organizations that make decisions based on the long-term business impact will have an advantage over those that are narrowly focused on the current fiscal year.
This post was reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2010 www.pcma.org
What are some things you’ve done to give your conference an edge over your competitor’s events and ensure repeat attendance?