While events are coming back, it’s more slowly than surely in many cases. As a result, you can’t expect to have the same attendance goals as in 2019 or earlier. Even huge events that nearly market themselves are struggling with attendance this year. For example, SXSW had about 20% fewer attendees than in 2019, and CES achieved only about 31% of their January 2020 attendance levels. That’s hundreds of thousands less than in previous years for big events like this. So, just know that as an event planner, if you’re struggling with attendance for your in-person event, you’re not alone.
Together, we’ll work through the causes and figure out a profitable road forward! And it starts here…
A Couple of Reasons Why Attendance is Down at In-Person Events
There are still many people that simply don’t feel comfortable going to crowded places. It’s a highly personal decision, and this is why many groups are doing hybrid events.
On the other end of the spectrum, many countries still have rigid COVID requirements for travel. For example, while the US has dropped its mask mandate, you still have to deal with testing requirements to enter the country and get back into the country. Countries like Morocco still require a PCR test taken within 48-hours of your flight, even if you’re fully vaccinated. Canada requires you to use ArriveCAN with additional paperwork. The list goes on.
So, unless someone is highly passionate about a cause, they usually won’t risk getting stuck in a location due to testing positive or risk making an investment and not being able to travel to the event because they test positive prior to departure. Pro tip: Focus on regional events first to avoid this challenge!
With fuel costs rising across the globe, so are the prices of flights, car rentals, etc. Plus, to recoup some of their pandemic losses, hotels are selling at rates 40%+ higher than what they were in years past. All that said simply getting to an event is much more costly than it has been in years past, even if you negotiate great hotel block rates.
What You Can Do to Combat Struggling with Attendance for Your In-Person Event
Go Big on Digital Marketing
Digital event marketing is the way to go these days. You can tweak your audiences to target exactly who you know will have an interest in your events. Pay for retargeting ads and design a Facebook ad campaign to seek out your people; there are so many strategies you can implement.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Sponsorships
As long as you have participants that match a target audience, your sponsors are going to want to be there. In many cases, they won’t care that your attendance is down as long as they have direct access to a room of people who may buy their product or service. Don’t let lack of attendance get in the way of you pitching sponsorship. You are providing value and access to them, no matter how big or small your in-person event is! Plus, sponsorship may be the key to recouping some lost attendee registration revenues.
Get Creative with Swag & Perks
During registration, offer appealing perks that they can’t get anywhere else, like a 100% unique NFT for attendance or access to a VIP speaker with early registration. We think NFTs are going to be huge for events and can really elevate your offer. Which leads right to our next point…
Make it So Fun There’s Serious FOMO
There’s not much you can do to boost attendance the morning of the event. But at that point, it’s time to make your event so epic, powerful, and transformational that no one will want to miss it. Prior to your event, come up with a huge social media campaign to cover the most exciting parts of your event. Drive that FOMO, and we’re sure your numbers will be much higher next time around as the world recovers and that FOMO is implanted.
Need Help Planning Your Next In-Person Event? EBA is Ready to Help.
Despite attendance being down, there is so much positivity on the horizon for in-person events. Focus on quality over quantity, guys. Those attendees and sponsors who do engage with your next event are people who are going to provide greater ROI and opportunities for your company in the long run. If you need help or a struggling with attendance for your in-person event, let’s chat to see what our EBA team can do as an extension of your events team!