How to Grow Event Attendance

CEIR has published a four-part research series about event marketing strategies and best practices.

grow engagement at events

As a meeting professional, your job isn't just organizing excellent events. It's also growing them every year by attracting new and returning attendees. But that's easier said than done. To help meeting planners crack the attendance code, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) has published "How to Grow Attendance," a four-part research series about event marketing strategies and best practices.

Published today, the series' fourth and final installment -- titled "Report Four: Plans on Where to Improve Approach in Near-term Future" -- focuses on exhibition organizers' plans for improving their attendee marketing efforts and results. Among its findings:

• Seventy-nine percent of attendee marketers plan to improve one or more aspects of their approach.

• Seventy-five percent of attendee marketers will add one or more new marketing activities to their event marketing mix in the next several years; new activities include acquiring attendee leads via online and social media, extending attendee engagement to be 24/7/365 and using predictive analytics to better understand attendance patterns to help set more reliable goals.

• Attendee marketers plan to refine existing marketing practices by: better understanding existing markets to uncover new prospects and new event content that will attract attendees; assuring exhibition content that is the best it can be; maximizing return on channel marketing efforts by accelerating what works and discontinuing what doesn't; and using social media more effectively.

Said CEIR Senior Research Director Nancy Drapeau, "This is the last report in the series. It provides marketers with guidance on where to focus their continuous quality improvement efforts and which new techniques and technologies to consider adding in the next several years to position their efforts for success."

The report makes the following three recommendations for planners who wish to improve their attendee marketing:

• Be brave: "If an activity is not working and does not serve a specific strategic purpose, have the courage to set it aside to free up resources for more promising activities," CEIR advises.

• Brainstorm: "If messaging is not working, brainstorm ideas on how to create a messaging approach that will generate better results," CEIR says.

• Harness your data: "Use event data for insights on what is the right marketing mix and content that speaks to each core, target audience," CEIR suggests.

"Marketing professionals today face enormous pressure to keep up with the rapid pace of change in best practices," said CEIR CEO Cathy Breden. "This report finds attendee marketers are stepping up to the challenge."

Published in March, part one of the "How to Grow Attendance" series -- "Report One: Planning and Goal Setting that Positions Efforts for Success" -- documented the most popular approaches event organizers use to reach potential attendees, discussed event organizers' biggest marketing challenges and presented the strategies that are most successful at generating growth.

Published in May and June, respectively, parts three and four -- "Report Two: Marketing Channel Mix and Other Tactics that Drive Growth" and "Report Three: Messaging that Resonates and Delivers" -- focused on identifying which marketing channels are most popular among exhibition organizers and on analyzing the three primary ingredients of marketing messaging that help drive attendee growth.