Increase Conference Attendee Retention in 3 Simple Steps

What do conference attendees want? A creative experience that offers individualized attention, adds value to their life, and facilitates an environment in which they can expand their network/communities.

What do conference organizers want? Attendee satisfaction and retention.

How do both sides win? By giving the customer what they want – and more. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon says, “It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.” By layering this sentiment on top of a strategic plan that focuses on enhancing attendee experience, your organization will see an incredible return on investment in years to come.

Consider these three customer-focused verticals when building your game plan for attendee retention:

Capitalize on Creativity

Don’t play it safe and stick to your traditional methodologies as it pertains to your conference. Sounds scary (it is), but what’s even more terrifying is having your attendees leave thinking, “Well, that was a pretty standard conference.” Don’t be standard, be extraordinary and unforgettable with these ideas:

  • Shake up presentations: Listening to a monotone speaker for 90 minutes sounds like American History 101 all over again. In your speaker proposals, ask the simple question, “Why will attendees find your presentation engaging?” Options for exciting speaking methods include incorporating PechaKucha, or using Gamify to engage audiences through interactive games.
  • If I see one more double-sided buffet...: Catering shouldn’t be thought of as a mere necessity – it should be considered another outlet for attendees to leave astounded by your event. Denver-based Catering by Design is one of the most innovative companies on the market, offering granitas served from terrariums, dressings in miniature spray bottles, and food served in paint cans (clean, of course). Challenge your caterer to not only create a delicious menu, but to consider a creative angle towards guest engagement in their presentation as well.


Add Value to Attendees

mobile-event-apps-add-value-to-attendeesNo matter how seasoned a conference attendee is, the likelihood for a moment of being overwhelmed at a conference is very high. Minimize the stress and anxiety of conference attendance by considering best practices for attendees in your planning process:

  • Make matches for them: Ungerboeck’s mobile app, Event Showcase, uses predictive matchmaking technology to offer suggestions to attendees regarding additional attendees and speakers, exhibitions to view, and even like-minded attendees to mingle with. Event Showcase uses a proprietary algorithm to predict attendee interest based on their interaction with the app, which leads to a convenient, unobtrusive matchmaking experience.
  • Alleviate their workload: Networking is a driving force behind conference attendance, but sorting through business cards is no one’s idea of a good time. Market apps such as Evernote Hello to scan business cards, connect them to LinkedIn, and take virtual notes of meetings on-site. This makes it easy for them to follow up.


Build a Community that Works for You

There was a study done that showed that only 7% of people you meet at a mixer will become new acquaintances. Why? Because people either attend with their friends, and are not inclined to meet new people, or because they go solo, and are too nervous or uncomfortable to introduce themselves. If you facilitate an atmosphere of inclusion and engagement before a person even walks in the door, they will be more inclined to establish connections that will bring them back next year.

  • Forget the wine: I.B.M. did a phenomenal job of creating an inclusive atmosphere for attendees at their recent Connect summit by utilizing BunchBall to create an icebreaker based on game design. BizBash reported, “To encourage interaction, organizers assigned participants to one of four teams and created activities that required them to work together, such as a Lego-building competition the first night of the conference.” The results were astounding: “Organizers reported a 66 percent increase in mentions and retweets using the #IBMConnect hashtag compared to last year.” By facilitating engaging, exciting connections, you have the opportunity to leave an incredible impression on your attendee, who will be inclined to share those experiences with their networks.
  • Make ‘em famous: Crowd source your photos into a single website where attendees can go to find any and all of their social media. Create a hashtag, then tell Eventifer which social networks it should troll to find that unique hashtag. Every time Eventifier comes across one, be it Twitter, YouTube or Slideshare, it will automatically add it to a personalized website. A virtual photo album for attendees to share with others, with no work on your part. Not a bad deal.


Written by Claire Harrington, CMP, Public Relations Manager at Social Tables.

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