How often have you registered for an event you were excited to attend, gotten a confirmation email acknowledging your registration …. and then nothing else? No follow-up communication, no updates, no reminders.
Just dead air.
What kind of impression does that create?
What NOT to do – a real life example
I’ve had this very thing happened to me, and I’d like to tell you about it in hopes of guiding you towards creating a process that will truly nurture your delegates while leave them feeling excited about your event and organisation.
First things first: I noticed some advertisements for a full day conference that sounded quite promising, and decided to attend as a delegate. I registered via a simple online form, and received a prompt auto-response acknowledging that I was in. Perfect!
Since I happen to be quite organised, I immediately put the date and time into my calendar. This was quite fortuitous since, unbeknownst to me, that would be my last contact with them leading up to the event!
Quick Note: People are incredibly busy, and they tend to have a lot of obligations. Even if they are genuinely excited about your event, it’s all too easy for it to slip through the cracks if they haven’t heard from you in weeks.
In my case, if I had had an exceptionally busy day, been a bit less organised, or simply not had a chance to enter it into my calendar when the confirmation email came through, I would have easily missed the event altogether. There was literally never another piece of communication provided!
Fast forward to the week of the event, and I realised that even though there was an entry in my calendar, it had been eerily quiet on the organisation’s end. Not wanting to waste my time traveling to something that had been canceled, I found myself hunting around the internet trying to determine that the event was still happening. I also realised I needed to find the actual venue address since that hadn’t been provided, and I double-checked the start time while I was at it.
I was a bit frustrated that all of that information hadn’t been provided in one easy-to-access location, but I still wanted to attend, so I jotted down what I needed to know and committed to being on time.
A few days later, the big day had arrived. (And still not a word from the organisers!)
I rolled up to the venue in a taxi, and immediately started second guessing myself. I wasn’t seeing anyone else – there was no one wandering around, no signage indication an event was happening, nothing.
Again, confusion and frustration for me! I followed my nose, hoping I’d stumble across someone eventually, and after a bit of wandering came across a trestle table full of name badges – the first sign of life! Relieved that I apparently was in the right place, but still a bit confused and aware that these name badges could be for any number of other things, I headed over to the table and asked a young lass (who seemed to be overseeing things) if this was the registration table for ABC event (you know I can’t tell you who exactly, so I’m just gonna use this alias).
It was indeed, and she let me know that with a tone that made me feel she was rolling her eyes and thinking, “Really lady? What else would it be?”
Glad I was at least in the right vicinity, I offered my name and she handed me my badge.
If you know me, you know I’m never early. But there I was, name badge in hand, the ONLY delegate present in the entire room. Since no information was being volunteered, I had to ask: “Now what?”
Apparently, even though my confirmation email had stated the event began at 8:30, that was really when registration began. The actual event wasn’t going to kick-off until 9:00. I had gotten there just a few minutes prior to 8:30, thinking things would be about to begin, and now I was stuck waiting around for almost a half hour!
If I had known those extra details I most certainly wouldn’t have arrived when I did!
So what did I think the organisation thought of me? Well, it seemed they viewed me as:
- A “bum in a seat”, just there to add to their attendance numbers
- Unwanted / unnecessary
- Someone who should just be grateful I had a chance to attend their event
And I was grateful to be there, and I did want to learn more about the topic they were presenting on. In fact, they were providing a full day of workshop for only $25, which was quite a value! But the thing is, they were hosting this event specifically to find and nurture new leads for their business … and I was supposed to be one of those leads.
Instead of feeling impressed by the organisation and excited to work with them, I felt like an afterthought whose presence didn’t really matter to them.
Ouch. That’s not a good way to get new business!
As an event professional, I wanted so badly to jump in and offer tips, advice, and guidance to help them fix all of the things that were going wrong with their event planning (and ultimately creating the poor impression they were leaving with all of these potential clients!). But I’m not quite sure they would have been open to hearing my thoughts, so I stayed mum.
I definitely want to use my experience to help someone, so I’m going to mine this experience for a few valuable tips that may help you make your next event a wonderful, customer-centric experience that inspires delegates and makes your brand proud.
Prioritise these attitudes about your delegates:
- Be grateful for every person that registers
- Be grateful for every person that then shows up to your event
- Treat every name in the registration system as a living breathing person – because they are.
By the time the day of an actual event arrives, you’ve already spent a great deal of time and money marketing your conference and attempting to attract delegates. The most important piece of marketing, however, is only just beginning.
Now that you’ve caught people’s eye, grabbed their attention, and gotten them to take action and register for your event, you NEED to nurture them. Every point of contact is a chance to market your business by showing potential clients how you will treat them, serve them, and make them feel.
Prioritise these actions BEFORE your next event:
- Send a confirmation email immediately after registration, and include their receipt for payment, and standard event information: date, time, location.
- Reach out every couple of weeks (presuming a 6-8 week lead-in to the actual event). Be creative and informative: tips on booking travel and accommodation, updates on special rates or room availability, parking information, area attractions, and, of course, hype about your event!
- Use these emails as a chance to set expectations, clarify questions that are frequently being asked, and get your guests excited about the opportunity that awaits them.
- 1 week prior to the event, send an email that confirms everything: date, time (both when registration begins/doors open and when the event begins), and any little extra they should know. A bit like confirming a coffee date with someone you really want a chance to meet!
- If you’ve been sincere about how excited you are for them to attend you event, they’ll be more likely to attend – they don’t want to let you down!
Prioritise these actions DURING your next event:
- Create a welcoming environment; lots of signs from the parking lot or front doors all the way to the registration table, and a warm, excited host to greet them and get them signed in.
- Keep customer service at the forefront of your mind throughout the day, and attempt to provide a top notch experience to every single delegate in attendance.
- Have a departure host ready to direct guests to taxi stand, provide information about public transport or great local restaurants, and bid everyone a safe travel.
Prioritise these actions AFTER your next event:
- Send a follow-up email. Even if it’s “just” as simple as thanking them for coming and providing your contact details, you want to be sure you’re leaving your delegates with the sense that they are appreciated and a clear understanding of how to connect with you in the future.
- Ask your delegates permission to add them to an ongoing email list in order to stay in regular contact.
Whenever your next event occurs, promise me that you’ll prioritise these attitudes and actions in order to nurture your delegates all the way from registration to check-in and departure. No more of the one and done approach!
You want every single delegate to arrive home pleased with their experience, feeling valued by your organisation, and able to follow up and connect in the future.