Your Conference Attendance Marketing Silver Bullet

9mm Bullet BW 3

It’s rare to find a silver bullet that actually works.

And I’ve seen one lately.

The Registrant List As A Lure

For conference attendance acquisition, that bullet is the attendee list. The attendee list acts as a lure attracting those that have not registered yet. So let potential attendees see who else is already registered.

Your conference participants want to hang out with the cool kids. They want to be part of the in crowd. They want to capitalize on the hallway conversations and networking. They want to grow their professional connections — both in number and quality.

For most conferences, networking is one of the primary reasons why many register and attend. It’s why face-to-face trumps all other forms of engagement.

Sadly, many conference organizers don’t leverage the power of their attendance list. Some think the list needs to be kept proprietary or behind the membership wall.

In today’s digital world, nearly everyone already has an online profile that includes his or her company name. Go out on a limb and leverage the attendee list online, everywhere you’re placing your registration call to action. Or, on the registration form, ask registrants to opt-out of having their name and company visible as conference participants online. Then you can publish everyone’s name and company.

Four Ways To Provide The Registrant List

Here are four ways to consider providing that information:

1. PDF on your website.

This is one of the safest and easiest ways to publicize the list. It also is the most time consuming as it requires a weekly action.

On a weekly basis, download a list of all registrants to date and save as a PDF. Provide one version that is sorted alphabetical by last name and another version organized by company name. Omit contact information, including email and street addresses, and phone numbers.

Create a “Look Who’s Coming” link to this PDF for prospective registrants and exhibitors. Some registration companies are building who’s coming functionality into their offerings. If yours isn’t, encourage them to make it a high priority in the development pipeline.

2. LinkedIn and Facebook events.

Encourage your well-connected and veteran attendees to RSVP via the event features on one or both of these social platforms.

Set up a Facebook event that is connected to your Facebook conference page. Ask committee members and active volunteers to RSVP and post on the conference or event-page wall.

Depending upon the Facebook EdgeRank, the participant’s activity will show up in others’ news feeds. This viral impact can be substantial for you and personally valuable to the participants. Periodically post helpful content to the conference and event pages to give participants a reason to come back.

3. Matchmaking appointment-setting tools.

Technology providers are rolling out one-on-one appointment-setting or matchmaking tools faster than any of us can keep up. I’m really high on the ones that allow participants to import their LinkedIn account, leveraging their existing network and profile. Look for tools that encourage attendees to invite their existing connections to attend. For maximum adoption, train your stakeholders how to use these tools. Solutions that deliver value to mobile users are your best bet.

4. Intention-based apps.

Some people have begun to use online anticipation-based applications like Plancast, Lanyrd and Tripit.

Think of these applications as check-ins for the future. They allow users to broadcast to their online social networks their plans to attend future conferences.

Make sure you have your conference listed in Plancast and Lanyrd to take advantage of the free marketing those attending your event will give you.

Connections Count

Your conference participants value most the conversations that occur on the shuttle bus, over a cup of coffee or in the hallways. The more you can jumpstart those coversations, the more you’ll increase conference ROI, positive word of mouth, and ultimately, loyalty. When you make your attendee list available for potential and registered attendees to access, you give them the opportunity to do more than have chance encounters. The list enables them to actively seek out colleagues they want to connect with.

Adapted from Dave’s People & Processes column in PCMA’s May edition of Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2011.

What are some other reasons why the registrant list attracts potential attendees? What tips do you have for those wanting to publicize their attendee list?

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  1. Hi Dave,

    Traditionally famous keynoters helped sell seats. Do you think the cool kids are stepping into that role?

    Do you recommend outreach to the cool kids to get them to sign up early so others see them on the lists? How do you know who the cool kids are?


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      In my 20+ years of meeting planning, I’ve never seen a famous keynoter cause a person to pay a registration fee to attend an event. And I’ve hired some very famous people with high fees.

      When I asked attendees in surveys why they attended, the famous marquee keynote never, ever came up. It was not the driving reason people attended an event.

      Sure, once people paid to attend, that marquee name may put some butts in chairs in a general session. But I seriously doubt people pay to attend a conference based on they keynote presenter. People ultimately pay for the conference experience, the whole package. And these days they are paying to be with other influencers, friends from their online social networks and social connections that they rarely see.

      BTW, here’s more info on how to identify your conference or event influencers: Identifying Influencers: Harnessing The Power Of Individuals

  2. Dave Lutz says:

    Cynthia, thanks for the comment! Jeff and I have been questioning the myth of whether or not famous keynoters really serve as an attraction or justification to attend. We’ve never seen data that supports that. Have you?

    The cool kids can also be defined as influencers. They may be influential offline, online or both. When they are embedded into the program as (volunteers or presenters) that certainly helps improve word of mouth marketing. Also, if they historically attend, offering some sort of VIP early registration for Alumni, can be real effective for accelerating registration.

  3. Sylvia says:

    All great suggestions. I never thought of PDF for the site. Interesting!

    I just used Presdo Match for a conference this week and so far it’s working great. The attendees like that they can connect/like ahead of the event and plan coffee and dinner meetings as well as hallway chats. It’s been popular so I’ll definitely use it again.

    On upfront planning – I’d throw Conference Hound into the mix as they cover more than tech which is what I only find at the other sites you mentioned plus they seem to bring more to the table.

  4. Johnson Cook says:

    This is exactly right. To me personally, I’m a member of an association that puts headshots of “Other Members who have registered for this event” at the bottom of the event page. Seeing those pictures is always an attractive option for me. They do this for their webinars, webcasts, and in-person events. Just like you see on facebook “your friends who have RSVP’d for this event.” The same concept seems to work really well for association events, both in-person and online.
    Peach New Media

  5. chris uschan says:

    I love the “Look who’s coming” link. People by nature are curious to know what others are doing. It’s the easiest form of marketing.

    And I would closely agree with you on the key note speaker not being the reason I attend, but I would say that the keynote does have influence.

    For me, knowing who is going is a big BIG influence. When I see my industry peers attending, people from Fortune 500 companies, or majority of people from a specific job role/function that might be of similarity to mine or a market that I am interested in… I am much more inclined to attend.

    I am wondering why you left off online private event communities. Many of these, like LinkedIn or Facebook allow for the public to see rich profiles of who is a registered attendee before completing registration.

    Thanks for sharing your silver bullets — keep them coming!

  6. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Sylvia thanks for commenting and adding Presdo Match! One of our clients used Presdo several months ago. We like that solution a lot for groups with high LinkedIn usage. It’s the most intuitive advance networking solution we’ve seen and helpful for inviting LinkedIn connections that may also be interested in attending. ConferenceHound appears to be more of an event directory. Can you share attendee lists there?

    @Johnson Love the idea of using headshots on the website! While many of the social platforms include that, putting it on the page where the call to action is could be highly effective.

    @Chris thanks for adding to the conversation! Most private event communities that I’ve seen don’t allow access until after registration. Interesting to hear that some are becoming more open. Do you think this will increase opt outs or undesired introductions?

  7. Joyce Paschall says:

    As an ATTENDEE, I love the “look who’s coming” link, especially when the event planner is thoughtful (or willing/able) enough to post it at least two ways – last name and company – and preferably also geographically, like by state or chapter. In some organizations that is a big deal. An excel document that can be sorted by the user in those ways is extra nice.

    Whatever file type it is, I want to actually print at least some of it out, so don’t make it sprawl across multiple lanes of traffic or end up being microscopically tiny when printed.

    As a PLANNER for a physicians’ group, I have trouble getting the docs to allow their name/company, even without contact info, on a list, even one internal to the conference audience. And they really hate letting exhibitors have their info, thus cutting one of the key benefits out of the booth buy, from the exhibitors’ perspective.

    ARRGH, and double ARRGH.

  8. Dave Lutz says:

    Joyce, thanks for adding to the conversation! Love your suggestion of including chapter or geography. That can definitely be helpful for certain organizations!

    From an attendee perspective, there’s no question that this all has to be permission based. I think tough groups, like Physicians, will come around as long as they feel you aren’t selling them out. If you can help educate them on the networking benefits and assure them that their privacy is important to you, over time you should be able to build more trust. Kind of feels like we’re preaching to the choir, huh?

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