Are social networks having any positive impact on conference and event attendance?
Are registered attendee lists motivating others to attend?
On the blog Interactive Meeting Technology, Samuel J. Smith discusses 20 Reasons People Attend Conferences. He lists typical reasons why people attend conferences. Several others have added to that list too.
As someone who plans events for a living and as a conference attendee, I’ve noticed a couple of trends affecting attendance:
1) People are deciding to attend and register for the conference at the last minute.
2) More people are making their decision to attend, not based on the conference content or speakers, not based on exhibitors, not based on the venue location, not based on the costs, but based on who else is attending.
I’ve recently read blogs, Facebook updates and tweets of colleagues that have waited until one to two weeks before a major event to register. (Interesting these people are posting their conference registration on their social network profiles.) I’ve even made the decision to attend some local events within the last week before that conference’s official start date.
Why? When I ask colleagues and friends why they wait until the last minute to register, I get a variety of answers and one seems to bubble to the top. “I waited because I wanted to see who else was attending.” When I dig further, I get this answer. “I wanted to see if any people from my online social networks were attending.”
I know that exhibitors, sponsors and suppliers base their decisions to attend on whether their target audience is there. Yet, I’m not used to hearing people say they waited to register to see if people from their online social networks were attending. I know that there are a multiple of reasons why people actually attend an event. Yet if a peer’s attendance is a trigger, I want to capitalize on that.
Some technology conference event planners tell me that WOM from trusted friends is their most effective driver of conference registration. It’s not the speakers, content, email, direct marketing, venue location or registration price. It the fact that the attendees want to see people from their online social networks at a face-to-face event. They want to participate in social, informal and peer learning with their social community. (That’s another discussion too.] And, these technology event planners are tracking who the influencers of attendee event are.
Blogger Jason Keath recently wrote Why I Travel To Conferences Last Minute. He discusses that he attends events to invest in people and relationships, not because of the great speakers or content.
Keath says, “I invest in people. If you know me, you know I love to travel and I don’t go to conferences for the content. I go purely to see the people. Occasionally I wander into a session or keynote when I have to, but it is reluctantly.”
The social aspects of a conference, both registered attendees from his social networks and the ability to participate in social onsite, lure him. Community and individuals already attending draw him like a magnet to that event.
Could it be that social media, social networking and the social web are having a broader impact on events than we realize? Many event organizers fear that social media and virtual events are cannibalizing event attendance. [That’s a different discussion.] Could it be that social media is actually expanding and increasing event attendance? Is social the new conference black? Should event organizers leverage social networks to drive new attendee registration? Are registered attendee lists the new appeal?
Have you made a decision to attend a conference purely based on who else is attending? Do you wait until the last minute to register for an event based on others in your social network are attending?
What do you think?