Your supervisor walks into your office and closes the door.
She sits down and says, “We’ve set a new goal for you for our annual meeting. We need an increase of 10% in full registrations.”
“As the point person for our meetings and events, you need to make this happen,” she exclaims as she exits your office.
You Are Not Alone
This scenario occurs in countless companies every year. The challenge for most conference organizers is figuring out how to attract potential registrants and grow attendance.
The majority of veteran meeting professionals have heard most of the reasons why people won’t register for an event. Rarely is there a new objection. Although there is the occasional “off-the-wall, far-flung” explanation of why one can’t attend like “I am going on vacation to the moon at that time.” Or “It’s my dog’s birthday that week and we always celebrate as a family so I can’t attend.” (Yes, true reasons I’ve heard for not attending a conference!)
Four Major Registration Objections
It’s my experience as a conference organizer that most of the reasons people will not register for an event fall into one of four categories.
1. No Trust
The potential registrant is not comfortable with the conference host organization. The buyer lacks trust in the professionalism of the organization. They distrust that the event has the competency to help them resolve their issues. Or the buyer might not personally trust or even like the organization’s leadership.
2. No Need
The buyer is not convinced that the conference addresses any content that they need or people they must meet. The prospect doesn’t see the ROI of attending the event. The conference has done a poor job of highlighting relevant content or specific people that will address the prospect’s specific needs. If prospects don’t feel an emotional need to attend, they are unlikely to register.
3. No Hurry
The conference experience does not showcase any urgent issues. The prospect does not feel the need to move rapidly because the sense of urgency is missing. The buyer sees his or her current circumstances as either stable or the conference as a low priority.
The “no hurry” category also includes prospect’s organizations that have lived with and tolerate status quo bias – the tendency to prefer an existing state of affairs to alternative ones. These organization leaders often have their heads in the sand and have not yet experienced the fatal consequences of not adapting to a changing world.
4. No Money
This is probably the most common problem. However, every organization has money. The conference hosts have done a poor job of showcasing the value of the conference and its worth. The lack of budget is usually an excuse to prevent further conversations. Sometimes it highlights that the prospect may not be the economic buyer or final decision maker.
What are some of the reasons you’ve heard or maybe even used for not registering for an event? Which of these four basic resistance areas do you hear the most and how do you usually address it?
Jeff Molander says
Personally, I doubt that emotion factors into need, Jeff. More and more attendees need to have *problems solved* via meetings. If the event doesn’t speak directly to solving urgent problems you can’t expect attendees to need it.
The role that “content” plays is key but I’ll go further by defining the problem this way:
Think about most events– how most tend to offer **known information** posing as useful, new knowledge. Obviously this is not the goal but this is what dominates our experience. Finding honestly new knowledge (via speakers, etc.) is WORK. It requires vetting of existing knowledge “posing as new” insights.
So what does that mean to your readers, Jeff? IHMO, it means finding good speakers who have unknown knowledge to share in hyper-useful ways. Discovering these speakers doesn’t need to be a chore if you use innovative, new resources. One such emerging resource is http://sieboldsuccessnetwork.com/ where high quality speakers vet each other and make referrals to each other based on trust. Of course, speakers bureaus don’t seem to like new out-of-the-box ideas like speakers referring other speakers to event producers/planners 🙂
Jeff Molander says
Whoops. Now I’m reading your Emotional Targeting post, Jeff. You make a compelling argument. I’m convinced! The emotional end benefit is what provokes action perhaps in combination with the problem solving factor. Well done.
Frank J. Kenny says
Good post Jeff,
As I read each of the points I had to agree that those were issues that factored into the decision about spending limited resources to attend conferences.
The winds of change seem to me to be a headwind against old conferences with old ideas.