Successful Event Promotion: How to Get More Attendees

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How to promote an event

Planning and executing a tradeshow event requires enormous work, but the most challenging part is arguably getting people to attend. Even if you spend thousands of dollars preparing for the big day, it’s all pointless if attendance rates are dishearteningly low. 

That’s why today we’re talking about successful event promotion. At Art & Display, we’ve helped with hundreds of tradeshows, and we’ve seen what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to garnering attendee interest. 

It’s all about purposeful advertising, strategizing, and pre-show planning. We’re going to share 14 tips on how to promote an event and actually get the right people to attend in high numbers. 

1) List Your Event on Discovery Sites

The first thing you’ll want to do is maximize your use of digital event platforms. These can include: 

  • Eventful
  • Facebook Events
  • Goldstar
  • Bandsintown
  • Spotify 

Don’t also forget to list your event on local calendars and event sites. Almost all big cities (and even suburban areas) have neighborhood groups or local news resources where you can list tradeshows. These discovery sites can gain a lot of traction for your event

Fb upcoming events screenshot

Image source: sproutsocial. Com

When you list your event on these sites, remember to provide easy ways to buy tickets. People don’t want to read about your tradeshow on an event calendar, only to realize they have to research on their own to sign up. Try to include a link to purchase tickets on the same page. 

To help people find your event listing, you’ll also want to optimize by: 

  • Listing your event on as many sites as possible
  • Encouraging viewers to like and share the event on social media
  • Including your event’s location for SEO and advertising purposes 
  • Using catchy, shareable hashtags (that are relevant) 

2) Build an Effective Email Campaign

The keyword here is “effective.” Blasting an email to your entire mailing list isn’t necessarily the way to go, even if it hits a large number of people at once. 

In our experience, it’s much better to personalize and tailor your email lists. For example, it might be a good idea to send a different email to people who’ve already attended your events in the past than you would brand new leads. 

Hubspot email marketing tactics data

More than 27% of today’s marketers say that personalization can significantly improve email engagement, and that goes for event announcements, too. Take the time to segment your massive email list into more manageable, specific groups, then craft more personalized messages for each of those groups. 

3) Always Make It Easy to Buy Tickets

This is crucial. If buying tickets for your event is complicated or time-consuming, your attendance rates will suffer dramatically. 

People nowadays are used to Apple Pay and one-click purchase options. When they find an interesting event but realize they have to switch sites, enter too much information, or research tickets on their own, they’ll likely bail. 

Here are some ways to make buying tickets simple: 

  • Make registration quick and painless
  • Allow multiple people to register once as a group
  • Accept all major payment options (including PayPal)
  • Ensure your checkout process works on mobile devices

Bonus Tip: Offer Limited-Time Deals

Once you’ve simplified your ticket-buying options, consider slapping a time-sensitive deal on the listings. This will push people to act right when they add the tickets to their cart, rather than waiting around to make the decision. 

Whether it’s an early-bird discount or a special one-time sale, there’s nothing like a sense of urgency to get people to hit that “purchase” button. 

4) Create a YouTube Channel for the Event

Create a youtube channel

It doesn’t matter if you’re hosting a virtual event or an in-person tradeshow – you need to utilize YouTube’s far reach. Many people forget that YouTube is also a search engine, and even just having a presence on the site can do wonders for your event’s promotion. 

Furthermore, live video is becoming an increasingly popular way to market products, services, and events. Up to 81% of marketers feel that video directly impacts their sales, and YouTube specifically is used by 88% of all video marketers.

Although many kinds of YouTube videos can benefit your event, live video is an effective tactic to consider. The live feature on YouTube allows you to communicate with potential attendees, answer questions, provide “behind the scenes” sneak peeks, and generally customize your message to viewers. 

5) Up Your Social Media Game

This might seem like an obvious one, but social media platforms continue to be one of the best places to advertise your event and increase ticket sales. However, it’s not just about advertising the event on your profiles. You need to get other profiles talking about and sharing your event info. 

Make it easy (and attractive) for attendees to: 

  • Jump on the hashtag trends you use
  • Share your event posts in Facebook or Instagram stories
  • Retweet links for learning about the event or buying tickets
  • Engage with your event/or brand profile 

In other words, you can make your social media presence and followers work for you. You just need to set up the right engagement opportunities for other users. 

Bonus Tip: Host a Social Media Giveaway

Host social media giveaway

Image source: skintastic med spa instagram

Contests or “enter-to-win” opportunities are a fantastic way to increase your social media followers, build a strong presence, and simply spread awareness about your brand and its event. Encourage people to share your post or comment for a chance to score free tickets or some VIP offers. 

Note: different social media platforms have different rules for hosting contests. Check them out before your launch your giveaway to avoid any negative consequences. 

6) Invest in Professional Photos and Videos

Invest in professional photos and videos

If you want to catch people’s eyes, you need to stand out as a legit, professional event host. That means using professional media rather than stock images or photos. 

The images you use to promote your event set the tone for the tradeshow’s atmosphere and professionalism. A well-lit, perfectly captured photo will give viewers a totally different feel than a grainy image snapped on somebody’s phone. 

If you cannot afford to hire a photographer or videographer to create professional content, at least ensure you’re using high-quality devices to take the best photos and videos possible. These images and videos will directly reflect your brand and its events, so work hard to make them shine.

7) Pick the Right Event Sponsors 

Your event sponsor should authentically reflect your brand and its mission. You want them to add value to your tradeshow, as well as to attract the right audience.

Many event promoters make the mistake of accepting or contacting every possible sponsor, thinking this boosts their credibility and gains them a larger audience. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. This is more of a quality over quantity situation – one or two amazing event sponsors can do more for your event than six mediocre or irrelevant partners. 

Samsung foundry forum stage

We know this is easier said than done. According to Eventbrite, up to 90% of B2B event organizers say that securing sponsors is one of the most significant challenges they face. 

To help you out, here are some key tips for finding and securing great event sponsors: 

  • Look for opportunities to build mutually beneficial relationships with sponsors
  • Consider cross-promotional strategies with partners in your industry
  • Prioritize relationships with sponsors who share your audience’s interests and morals
  • Feel out your audience’s opinion on potential sponsors and look for one they admire 
  • Pick a sponsor with a strong social media presence and following 

Beware of sponsors that just want to slap their name on your tradeshow, but that won’t help with engagement or value. This form of sponsorship won’t do much for your attendance rates, and some audience members may even dislike the blatant advertising. 

8) Empower Your Speakers to Promote

Similar to sponsors, your speakers (or special guests) should be a big part of your event’s advertising and value. If you’ve got some great people or brands attending your event, give them the chance to promote the event to your followers and their own. 

Keep in mind that speaker engagement is vital for virtual events, not just in-person tradeshows. Up to 67% of virtual events use external speakers to drive registration and interest attendees. 

9) Work With Popular Online Influencers

Work with popular online influencers

We already touched on the importance of social media, but let’s talk about tapping into influencer potential. Over 90% of consumers engage with influencers every week via Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat. If you can strike up a great influencer partnership, you can reach an important audience for your event. 

This is especially true if your brand doesn’t have a great social media presence on its own. Partnering with influencers is like accessing a ready-made audience that they’ve already spent years cultivating. The influencers will benefit from working with your brand (and your fee payment), and you’ll benefit from their highly engaged followers. 

A word of caution: you must pick the right influencers to work with. Their popularity or number of followers isn’t always the best indicator of their value for your brand. Instead, you need to evaluate their: 

  • Relevance to your industry, target audience, brand, and event
  • Engagement with their audience – do they respond and interact with followers?
  • Traffic and followers – specifically, do they match up with your goals/interests? 
  • Frequency of posting and their rate of return visitors 
  • Authentic presence  – do they seem to accept partnerships from every brand, or just the ones that reflect their interests and values? 

If your tradeshow is all about manufacturing elements, working with a sports fan influencer or organic foods Instagram star won’t help you much. In fact, it could make you seem a little desperate for promotion, and you likely won’t target the right kinds of social media users. 

Also, make sure you’re partnering with an influencer on the best platform. Do some research to find out where your target audience members spend their time. Are they on Instagram the most, or do they tend to stick to YouTube or TikTok? Understanding their behavior will help you pick an influencer on that specific platform. 

Again, remember that follower counts are everything. Your event might actually benefit from working with a blogger or influencer who has a more niche but highly engaged small audience. This is all about attracting people who want to attend your event, not about casing the largest net possible.

10) Target the Right Audience Members

Research your target audience

Speaking of attracting the right audience, that’s a strategy that should translate across all of your event’s promotional efforts. Advertising won’t do much good if the wrong people see your messages while the right people are oblivious.

The best way to find your target audience is to look at your past attendees and followers. What do they like about your brand? Why have they attended events in the past, and how can you find more people like them to engage? 

The good news is that you don’t have to do all of this homework manually. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and pretty much every other social media platform can help you understand your follower demographics. 

You can learn your audience’s average ages, locations, stated interests, and even how they behave online. All of these elements should play a major role in your tradeshow planning and promotions. 

Bonus Tip: Understand Why People Decide to Attend

We recommend taking things a step further and digging deep to understand the reasons behind past attendees’ event participation. Why did they decide to purchase a ticket, and what was their interest in your event from the start? 

You may even want to poll past attendees to obtain these answers. When you find out more about their perspective on your event, you can tailor your future marketing messages to attract past attendees and new ones with similar goals or interests. 

Don’t forget to ask people in your own organization for input. You might be surprised to learn what a salesperson or customer representative can tell you about customers and their thoughts. 

11) Send Some Personal Invites 

Big marketing campaigns and social media promotions are great, but there’s still something to be said for some old-fashioned event advertising. Whether that’s sending out unique email invites or mailing event flyers to past attendees’ homes, personalization can go a long way.  

A whitepaper from Smarter HQ found that up to 72% of surveyed consumers report they only engage with personalized messaging rather than general or vague advertising. If you’re really looking to get a response – or better yet, a purchase – from a past attendee, consider reaching out to them in a more customized capacity. 

Be sure to insert the recipient’s name in the email’s subject line or on their mailing envelope. You want to immediately impress upon the recipient how personal this invitation is and that you value them as attendees. 

12) Experiment With Ad Retargeting

How retargeting works

While we’re on the topic of more personalized marketing tactics, we need to talk about ad retargeting. This is likely a term you’ve heard before, but you might not know exactly what it is or how it can benefit your event promotion strategies. 

Retargeting is one of the most effective ways to turn a website visitor into a customer – or in this case, an event attendee. Instead of letting visitors go after they leave your website, you can target them again on other platforms and encourage them to finalize their ticket purchases. 

Considering that up to 97% of visitors leave and never return to a website they’re visiting for the first time, retargeting is a critical strategy for roping those interested attendees back in. So here’s how you do it: 

  • Use Unique Ads to Target Different Audiences 

You don’t want the same retargeting ad to play for a repeat customer as a brand-new visitor. We recommend dividing your audience into different groups then deciding how to best target them with tailored ads. Some might be swayed by a great discount. VIP experiences or other special offers might entice others. 

  • Try Out Different Incentive and Offers

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your retargeting ads. You might find that some discounts or messages work better than others. Play around with a few different ones in different audiences to find what works for your event. 

  • Run Your Campaigns at the Right Times

Believe it or not, the time of day you run your ads can matter. Of course, different industries have different “best times” for advertising, but it depends on your target audience. 

When are your potential attendees online and using social media? When are they most likely to purchase tickets? Don’t assume the answers to these questions. Instead, use registration information and user behavior data to influence your retargeting plans. 

13) Turn Your Attendees into Ambassadors

Turn attendees to brand ambassadors

Our next tip is to make ambassadors out of the people already coming to or interested in your event. It’s estimated that word-of-mouth is far more effective than most paid ads, resulting in up to 5x more sales. If you can get real attendees talking about and promoting your event, that’s powerful. 

Social media ambassador marketing has increased in popularity over the years. These brand ambassadors tend to enter long-term relationships with companies, which can mutually benefit both parties. 

Be selective about your ambassadors, though. As with influencer marketing, you need to pick ambassadors that hold the same values and goals. Even more than an influencer, a social media ambassador will represent your event and band on a grand scale. 

How do you get ambassadors for your event? Well, there are a few ways. 

  • Pay the ambassador to highlight our event and talk about your brand
  • Ask them to special events (and have them talk about them online) 
  • Provide them with swag or merchandise they can showcase on their profiles
  • Give the ambassador discounts on tickets/merch that they can share with followers 

14) Keep the Excitement Up in the Weeks Before

We see many event organizers make the mistake of starting out strong, then tapering off in their efforts in the days (or even weeks) preceding the event. Just because someone signed up for your event or bought a ticket doesn’t mean they’ll actually show up. To ensure a great turnout, you need to keep engagement and excitement levels high. 

Continue emailing sneak peeks to interested audience members. Build up the suspense on your social media and regularly update people on the specifics of the event, like its start time or location.

To really pump up the excitement, you may want to consider: 

  • Giveaways
  • Audience polls 
  • Countdowns
  • Live chats/videos
  • Webinars

Keeping engagement levels high is especially tricky when it comes to virtual events. The average no-show percentage for virtual events was about 35% in 2020, which is higher than that of many in-person events. 

Make sure you reach out to virtual attendees to spark excitement and keep them interested. Don’t wait until the day before the event to remind them of its opportunities and features. 

Bonus Tip: Price Your Event Tickets Correctly

You might be surprised to know that free events actually tend to have fewer attendees than paid events? According to The Marketeer, free events typically see about 20 to 25% of their registrants attend. On the other hand, Paid events can expect a turnout of about 75% attendees. 

At the same time, you need to ensure you’re pricing your tickets correctly – especially in those last weeks of promotion. 

You might think that pricing your last-minute tickets at a steep discount will help with attendance, but that’s not always the case. If you price them too low, attendance on the day of may suffer. People aren’t as afraid to forget about or skip an event that was cheap to attend. 

At the same time, if you overcharge for your tickets, you could wind up with many left unsold – and that’s a loss for your event and organization. You’ll need to find the sweet spot between selling as many tickets as you can while also not giving them away for too little. 

Turn to the Tradeshow Display Experts for More Help

Attendance isn’t your only concern if you’re hosting a tradeshow or display event. You need dynamic, innovative displays that keep people coming back for more. That’s where Art & Display comes in. 

We don’t believe in one-size-fits-all event elements. All of our tradeshow exhibits, displays, and concepts are uniquely designed to fit your event. You’ve likely got an idea of where your customers are coming from and what they want. The tips in this blog post will help with that, and we’ll turn that information into event planning gold. 

Great news: we now offer financing plans for purchased exhibits. We want to make event planning as stress-free and manageable as possible, and our new payment options will help with that. 

For more information on tradeshow planning, our custom exhibits, or more, call 831-427-4700. You can also contact us online. We look forward to creating something incredible together.

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Loren Gundersen

Loren Gundersen is the owner and visionary behind Art & Display, a Santa Cruz-based company specializing in innovative trade show displays and exhibit rentals. With a passion for creativity and a deep understanding of the power of face-to-face events, Loren has transformed Art & Display into a leading provider of custom-designed exhibits that help businesses stand out from the crowd. His commitment to quality craftsmanship, personalized service, and cutting-edge design has earned Art & Display a reputation for excellence in the industry.