5 Ways To Keep Conference Attendees Until The End
According to research done by Smart Meetings, between 50-60% of conference attendees leave early on the final day. Attendees decide to leave for various reasons: work back in the office, family, to beat the rush, flight schedules, or they’ve just had enough and have no motivation to attend all the way to the end. While some of these reasons are completely unavoidable, not all of them are out of a conference organizer’s control. For example, if attendees are leaving because they’re not enjoying themselves, there are steps to take to keep conference attendees engaged and interested.
The Struggle is Real
Conference organizers frequently struggle with ways to try to manage and minimize the end of conference slump. Restless attendees looking over their shoulders for an early exit is a symptom of a much larger problem: The conference hasn’t been organized in a way that best suits the attendees’ wants and needs and has not kept their attention or engaged them. The structure, feel, and location of the conference can also have an effect on how many attendees will depart before the end of the conference.
1) Incentivize Attendees
Everybody loves free stuff and the chance to win big. Therefore, conferences frequently offer prizes, giveaways, raffles, and swag bags to the attendees. If any of these promotional methods are used or if you have exciting new information or research to share, make sure to place the announcements and awards at the end of the conference. Require attendees to be present in order to be able to redeem their prize or hear the new information, and people will tend to stay for the whole event.
Furthermore, you could even require attendees to turn their badges in before the start of the final session to be entered into a raffle and announce the winner at the end of the session. However, this will only keep attendees staying until the end for the prize (there’s so much more opportunity there!) Ensure the prizes, giveaways, or other incentives are of high value, innovative or new, and sought after by attendees. If everyone already has whatever you’re giving away, the prizes will not be as sought after (resulting in people leaving sooner).
2) Create Maximum Value
If you carefully organize your conference and fill it with valuable information, fun and engaging activities, and networking opportunities, attendees will want to stay until the end of the conference. If possible, avoid multi-day conferences, unless you are able to fill each day with valuable speakers, sessions, and activities.
Recently, in a group social media conversation, one event professional compared a great conference to a really good movie. “You know you've watched a good movie if the end comes too soon and you want more. Conferences are the same, if you organize a truly great conference, full of value, then people will stay to the end.” A conference should be jam-packed with innovative and valuable information to keep attendees present. If the attendee gets maximum value out of the conference, they’ll be left with a positive and satisfied outlook, bringing them (and probably others!) back next time.
3) Short, Sweet and to the Point
Many conference attendees usually leave early on the last day due to departure times and travel itineraries. Avoid planning a full day of activities, only to have the attendance dwindle as the conference comes to a close. Instead, be aware of attendees’ travel schedules and accommodate them by only having a half day of activities on the last day.
Start the last day with an address over breakfast, follow with sessions of valuable and sought after information, and end with a brief closing statement in the early afternoon. If the conference is scheduled to end before attendees need to begin traveling home, they are more likely to stay for the full extent of the conference.
4) Save the Best for Last
If the most influential keynote speaker, sought after session, or newest information is scheduled for the end of the conference people will make an effort to attend. However, make sure that all the best content isn’t solely placed at the end, otherwise attendees won’t be as satisfied with the entire experience, leading to a negative view on the conference and possibly leaving even earlier.
Make sure to continually build excitement throughout the conference by spacing out the keynote speakers and presenters, but save the best for last. Whether it’s a keynote speaker, large party, gala, social gathering, or networking happy hour, know your audience and what will be the best aspect for them, and schedule it at the end of the conference. For example, for the 2016 Ungerboeck Global Conference, we’re hosting a Casino night on the last night!
5) Location, Location, Location!
Nobody wants to go to a conference in a boring location. Pick a unique, fun location where there are other attractions, activities, and entertainment within the city for attendees to experience post-conference. Choosing a unique location is also a great marketing tactic increase registration, as people are more apt to attend conferences somewhere they actually want to visit.
If you encourage attendees to “stay and play” after the conference by providing them with information regarding the location’s attractions, attendees will plan activities after the conference, keeping them in the city and attending the conference until the very end.
Keep Conference Attendees Engaged, Excited, and Involved
While there are many ways to avoid the end of conference slump in attendance, the foundation of all methods is keeping all the attendees excited about the conference, engaged and involved in the content. Simple steps can be taken to minimize the amount of people who leave early. Certain organizational decisions made by conference organizers directly affects how attendees react.
Aside from the 5 ways above, you can also use social media and other event technology to encourage interaction and networking during the event. Create a hashtag for your event and use it across multiple platforms to encourage attendees to interact with one another and the presenters during the conference. The more involved an attendee feels, the longer they will want to stay and experience everything.
Attendees usually tend to slip out during breaks that are placed closely to the end of the conference, so make sure to keep breaks short on the last day. If possible, avoid having breaks within the last couple hours of the conference. Also, find ways to decrease wait times between sessions and other down times. This helps prevent attendees from getting frustrated or restless and leaving early when they are between sessions.
Make it Memorable
One main goal of nearly every conference is to be memorable. If your attendees are leaving early, are you achieving this goal? No, probably not. While planning and organizing a conference, make sure to incorporate sufficient amounts of compelling content to engage attendees throughout the entire conference, incorporate methods for communication and networking while at the event, and keep conference attendees engaged all the way until the end. The end should have just as much valuable content and sessions as the beginning, ensuring that the entire conference is memorable from start to finish. Every conference organizer dreads the end of conference slump, but with a few tweaks to the planning and organization process you can decrease the amount of early departures by encouraging attendees to stay until the end of the conference.