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Many great events rely on repeat attendees in order to maintain success year after year. The challenge is providing a quality experience, while also leaving your guests wanting more.
When someone has a wonderful experience at an event, they can’t wait to return! After a fantastic event many attendees are already pumped to book their ticket for the next opportunity. This is the type of atmosphere you should try to provide at your next event and here is how you can do it.
1. Provide High-Quality Customer Service
Providing a great experience starts with customer service. Do your best to make sure your attendees feel valued and excited to be at the event. From the time guests arrive, to the moment they leave, they should be treated with appreciation.
Showing attendees that you are organized and prepared is also another form of providing customer service, because you are making their experience more enjoyable. Guests are sure to share their experience and return as future customers, if they feel like the event was well put together and successful.
A great example of visible customer service is in the welcome you provide at your events. I recently traveled to Chicago for the Chicago Marathon and from the moment I arrived in the airport, I was greeted by banners and signage welcoming me to the event.
For other outings, the welcoming atmosphere might begin when attendee’s step inside the venue. Wherever your first point of contact is, you should be sure your audience feels the presence of your event and sees your commitment to customer service.
2. Keep Your Event Fresh
No one wants to attend an event that is exactly the same year after year. Part of the thrill of returning to an event is to see what they have in store for each new year, month, etc. From the decor and theme, to the speakers or entertainment, your attendees will look forward to what you have in store if it varies from event to event.
Providing a fresh and unique experience each time, can be a challenge, but it also gives you a wonderful opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. Utilize your team or volunteers from your event to think of new ideas. You could also try surveying your former attendees to find out what they want to see at the next event. This helps everyone to feel more involved and shows you appreciate their input when you implement their new ideas.
3. Provide Incentives for Repeat Attendance
Many events provide a discount code or special early-bird rates for former attendees. This is a great incentive for guests to sign up early and it shows that you value their continued support.
Another idea would be a gift or physical item for your returning guests. Perhaps attendees who have been to the event for many years receive a special name tag or lapel pin. At a small-scale event, you could raffle off a big-ticket item to guests who have been loyal participants. Any type of recognition or additional appreciation will show your return guests that you respect and value their loyalty.
4. Encourage Engagement
Engaging your attendees is a very important part of gaining them as loyal supporters. Finding new ways that they can interact with each other, the presenters or the atmosphere around them will make the event more compelling. If they feel connected to the event they will be much more likely to return and to share their experience with other potential guests.
When looking for new ideas on ways you can engage your guests, check out the various articles EMB has on engagement. Big or small your event is sure to benefit by adding an increased focus on attendee engagement and interaction.
Empower your attendees to connect with others and spread the word about your event. Repeat attendees can become one of your biggest marketing tools by engaging with their friends and colleagues, before, during and after the event.
I have seen great success with engagement at conferences where the presenters connect with the audience by using live response tools or an interactive social media wall. While speakers are presenting they can ask questions and have the audience engage with each other and the topic being presented. In EMB’s ebook, Engaging Events they highlight the fact that live response tools can increase attendance by 80-90% in certain settings.
5. Provide a Sense of Ownership
Turning your attendees into advocates who feel deeply connected to your event is the ultimate way to transform them into loyal attendees. When you feel a sense of ownership in anything you want to see it do well and you enjoy being a contributing part of that success.
This ownership can come through asking for and listening to attendee feedback. Allowing guests to provide input on gifts, venue, presenters, host city, etc. are all a great ways to get your attendees voices more involved. When you open yourself up to listening to the ideas of your guests, you are not only benefiting yourself, but you are making your attendees feel connected and involved in the planning process.
One of the best examples that comes to mind is some of the large scale music festivals that take place around the world. These events happen year after year and the attendees are what make the events so special, not necessarily the performers. Yes, the lineups are usually amazing, but their are always people who attend no matter who performs. The reason they attend is because they are loyal fans of the event experience and this is what truly makes these outings so accomplished.
Loyal attendees will fuel the repeated success of your event. Work hard to ensure your guests are happy and satisfied with their experience. When you plan an event, you want to create an atmosphere that your attendees will feel connected to. If you can provide them with a sense of ownership, create a wonderful experience and value their opinions, you are well on you way to success for years to come.