Before March of 2020, pacing data was a useful tool for predicting final attendance and revenue. If you were pacing behind, you could make midcourse corrections.
As we come out of the pandemic, we need a different playbook to drive attendance and earlier commitment. Use these five tips to develop a plan for optimizing registration for your major event in quarters 2, 3, and 4.
- Budget realistically. On average, associations are anticipating 2022 registration and revenue will be about 20 percent below pre-pandemic levels. It’s expected that meetings in Q3 or Q4 will outperform those held in the first half of this year.
- Adjust your date fees. Attendees’ decision to attend will be made later than normal. Adjust your early-bird deadlines to three to five weeks later — 45 days is the new 90; 30 days is the new 60. You want to drive urgency in the final 10 weeks. A lot of meetings operating in Q1 and Q2 ended up extending their early-bird deadlines multiple times.
- Adopt a new pacing model. Instead of using the number of registrants as a comparative pacing model, use percentages. To do this, analyze what percentage of registration revenue you historically averaged each week. Adjust your expectations to factor in changes applied from the previous two tips. If you usually have 60 percent of your registration revenue at the early-bird cutoff, use the same 60 percent as your target using the new date that is three to five weeks later. You will receive more registrants in the last four weeks than ever before.
- Remove risk for early commitment. Attendees will not be motivated to save $100 for registering early when you have the same cancellation policy as 2019. Consider changing your policy just for those who register before the early-bird deadline. We’ve seen improved pacing when an association offers worry-free booking with no strings. While you’re at it, also remove processing fees. Since your web page on health and safety for your meeting is sure to get high traffic, include your details on worry-free registration there, including a call to action.
- Market differently. One of the most effective tactics for moving fence sitters to registrants is influencer-marketing campaigns. They provide the social proof needed to drive action. Develop social and email assets that co-brand and enable committee members, speakers, and exhibitors to share that they are attending. Allow influencers to share a code for users to get a modest discount or other benefit. Recognize and reward your top influencers.
What plans are in place for adjusting your date fees and pacing models? Have you seen any small successes for reg pacing so far this year?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2022.