As event planners we strive to make our event attendees happy and make a long lasting impression. Here are 16 ways to give a nice fuzzy, warm feeling to your guests.
Attendee happiness is not something that happens by accident, it is something that takes a lot of planning! To plan the best event ever, nothing can get in the way of a positive user experience. It isn’t only big budget events that can make an attendee happy, so no matter if your event or budget is big or small, here are some inevitable ways to get in their good books and make your participants smile.
Show You Care
Get to know your attendees, ask them their problems and what they would like to see and then respond appropriately. Create polls or surveys as well as opportunities to talk about themselves and show that it isn’t all about your brand or business. One of the main ways to show you care is by listening to them and sometimes merely asking the right questions can set you apart from the competition in their eyes.
You could also showcase the charities or CSR initiatives you are involved in, as well as working in the local community to help and show attendees what you care about. Attendees that feel like a brand has morals and stand for something are more likely to be loyal.
Obviously, free stuff makes everyone happy! That being said, as much as we wish we had the budget to give out the latest tech or gadget to every attendee, it is not always possible. But you can opt for something a little more frugal instead. For example, have your swag offer value or share knowledge such as an eBook, webinar or short course. Or simply make it more interesting so that it is a cut above the generic goody bags that they are used to getting at other events and shows that real thought has been put into it.
Nothing brightens an attendee’s mood than getting free things right from the start and it tends to put you on the right foot so that your event is received well. Alternatively, if you are concerned attendees will “grab and run” you can trickle swag so that they get pieces throughout the event which spreads the happiness out!
Make Them Feel Important
Show attendees they aren’t just another number in a sea of many by making them feel important and cherished. Do this by personalising your communications and referring to them by their first names when corresponding with them, whether that is via email or on social media. Aim to reply quickly to them, even if it is just to acknowledge them. Making attendees feel important and building the relationship like this improves brand loyalty and makes them more likely to recommend to their friends.
With all the competition and brands seeking their attention, if you have loyal attendees and followers, reward them to keep them happy. Make sure they have no reason to check out your competition. Treated them better by opting for loyalty cards, exclusive discounts, early bird offers for past attendees only or regularly run competitions for bigger prizes only open to your email subscriber list.
Think About THEIR Needs
Plan an event based on them and their needs rather than just focusing on the stakeholders or sponsors needs so you don’t compromise on user experience just to please others. Consider getting greater buy-in through co-creation and collaboration. Ask those attending what they want to see, why they are coming and what they want to achieve and use this information to your advantage and implement it.
Offer Energy Boosts
No matter how great your event is, energy can lag after a while and attendees get tired, particularly at events that require a lot of standing or walking such as trade shows or after concentrating on a number of presentations. Instead offer ways to rejuvenate or relax them, to give them a renewed amount of energy for the event and boost their mood. Some of the ways you could do this are: shorter sessions, incorporating movement, lounges, quirky food stations, networking areas with charging stations, or even something simple like placing workstations or furniture around the venue so they can chose a change of scene.
Attendees like to know what is going on so communicate with them, let them know what is happening and make sure information is easy and clear to find and understand. Also, engage on social media and give yourself a presence there so that they know you are easy to reach and listening. Communication is key. We also know that attendees don’t always read or digest information, so make it easy for them to absorb the key stuff.
Mix It Up
Do something different, spice up recurring events with new twists on old ideas and bring something new to the table for every event that you have, even if they are small changes they can make a big difference and heavily impact the user experience. Look at all aspects of your event as well, not just attendee orientated elements, also look at creative marketing and sponsorship ideas to create an all-round interesting vibe!
Choose Speakers Wisely
Good speakers can deliver a massive amount of information and be highly valuable, but a poor speaker, can sour the mood of a good event. Select your speaker wisely, brief them and encourage them to increase participation and be more engaging.
An excellent and engaging speaker can brighten the mood and make the event as well as allowing the attendees to walk away feeling like they took extra value from your event as a whole which makes it worth their time!
Make the event accessible for everyone, whether an attendee is a wheelchair user, has a disability, a special request or dietary requirements, ensure that everyone is well looked after and able to participate fully. Make sure you ask about any needs in advance so you are fully prepared and can double check all the arrangements before their arrival.
Accessibility can also include the ease of getting to or from your event so consider this when selecting a venue. If it is difficult to get to, consider providing your own transport or shuttle services to make it more accessible and encourage more attendees to come. If an event is easy and caters to your guests, they are going to have a better time. The last thing you want is for those with special requirements to feel excluded in any way.
Technology can enhance the event experience and make attendees happy, as well as making their lives easier (and the event planners!). Utilizing it in the right way can make a big difference. For example, use event apps to allow attendees to check in and beat the queues, offer exclusive entertainment value with things such as VR or drones.
Even if you don’t have a high budget for the latest in virtual reality, you can still provide the basics such as free WiFi so that attendees can stay connected. There are plenty of accessible 360 degree cameras available for events to add some flair as well as the latest technology trends offering great sponsorship opportunities, so get inventive!
There is nothing like having your expectations raised and then dashed at the last minute when you realise something is not happening, or if someone wasn’t communicated properly in the first place. Attendees will appreciate the truth from the outset so if something falls through, try to re-arrange or go to your plan B. If there is no alternative, be up front about it. For some attendees it may be the whole reason they chose to come and it will not go down well, but they will appreciate having the information early.
You’re bound to get something wrong in some way or another and honestly you can’t please everyone (plus we are all human) but there is nothing worse than a company or brand that won’t admit they could have done things a little differently. If you know you have made a mistake, apologise and make up for it in some way to the attendee so it won’t affect their event experience too badly.
Offering plenty of networking opportunities for attendees can help them foster connections that are long lasting and beneficial and in years to come they will still remember where they met or the new relationships were started, at your event. Networking increases business, leads and opportunities which means that facilitating this is bound to make attendees happy and doing it in a low-key and natural way is even better as it doesn’t feel awkward or forced. Also, networking can be an excellent way for attendees to share knowledge and expertise with like minds which can also increase the value of your event to them and offers opportunities to discuss with influencers and experts.
Take It Slow
Don’t rush everything and try to cram too much into the schedule because slowing the pace of your event allows you to focus on quality over quantity. It can be tempting to try to jam pack every moment of your itinerary to provide attendees with a variety of experiences but if you are too busy trying to get through one activity and on to the next, they aren’t going to be effective and the knowledge or learning process is going to falter. Allow attendees to really absorb what is going on around them and focus on their learning and networking opportunities, rather than feeling rushed.
Adding elements of exclusivity into your event can drive attendance and make attendees happy, particularly if they can be the first to share a unique experience with their friends. You can do this by giving them exclusive access to content, upcoming products or information, sneak peeks and previews which give them the heads up before anyone else. The juicier the information, the better!
Adding exclusivity at the event itself is always an option by introducing VIP areas, backstage passes or early entry/fast-tracking options.
Do something differently and give attendees a new perspective so that they have an epiphany at your event that will help change their behavior. Facilitating these realizations at your event can help add extra value and allows attendees to really gain from new and expert knowledge that they hadn’t realised before. This will also help you to stick in their minds and keep coming back.
More Do’s and Don’ts to Keep Your Guests Happy
Here are more ways to delight your participants and keep them coming back to each and every event.
- Showcase Who’s Attending – Attendees like to know who’s coming, particularly if it is a celebrity, influencer or industry expert. They also like to know who else will be there to network and meet up with. Add a public guest list or opt in for attendees to get this information and you will could get a better turnout with people keen to connect with other movers and shakers.
- Use Empathy – Establish an emotional connection with attendees, whether that is through the event itself or your brand. If they are emotionally invested, they will be more loyal.
- Have Testimonials/Referrals – Some attendees feel happier reading referrals or hearing about other’s experiences and this can be the perfect opportunity to showcase previous events. Hearing from loyal or recurring attendees tends to be more encouraging for an event or brand and can make first-timers feel more at ease!
- Be Clear And Concise – Transparency, communication and making things clear to attendees is an easy way to enhance user experience and this is one of the pillars of good customer service. Be clear with intentions and instructions and make everything easy for your attendees.
- Run Late – Attendees have plans too and an event running late can frustrate them. Whether it is a speaker running over, not opening the doors on time or even changing the order of events all of these things can dampen the mood!
- Ignore Negative Feedback – While it is not always nice to receive negative feedback, it is vital to help to improve future events. Also, attendees who are going out of their way to leave negative feedback could also blow up and cause serious repercussions if not dealt with. Acknowledging and listening to the issue is sometimes enough to placate the attendee too.
- Neglect ‘Standard’ Attendees – If you choose to add exclusivity to your event, be wary not to neglect non-VIP’s. Get the basics right for everyone to avoid discontent.
- Make Them Queue – Avoid creating queuing situations for events, they upset everyone and can destroy even the best events! If you have no choice or options to cut down on waiting time offer entertainment and ways to amuse your attendees while queuing. Use event technology to avoid queuing in person.
- Use Controversial Figures – Whether it is entertainment or an industry influencer, avoid those with tarnished reputations or that really overstep the mark. Although controversy can be an effective marketing tool, it doesn’t help make attendees happy if half of the audience is riled up and angry.
So, remember it isn’t all about cost and big budgets, the 15 inevitable ways to make attendees happy are:
- Show You Care
- Make Them Feel Important
- Reward Loyalty
- Think About THEIR Needs
- Offer Energy Boosters
- Mix It Up
- Choose Speakers Wisely
- Improve Accessibility
- Add Tech
- Be Honest
- Take It Slow
- Aha Moment
Happy attendees make for a good event and as you can see it doesn’t matter what sort of budget you have because ultimately making attendees happy is all about prioritizing them, whether that’s in the planning phases, through communication or at the event itself. If you put them first and consider their needs, you are on the right track!