How To Ensure Your Conference Delegates Return Each Year

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5 Tips To Impress Your Event Delegates

When it comes to events, customer retention is key to ongoing success. Follow these simple steps to help ensure your delegates return year on year.

Putting on a conference is an expensive business, and in order to be viable they need to attract a sufficient number of delegates. Statistics show that it costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one, so securing repeat business is key to ensuring the ongoing success of your event.

This sometimes easier said than done and many events suffer from poor retention rates. But we have some simple steps you can follow to help you get happy delegates returning year after year.

Choose the right venue

In order to tempt delegates back each year, it’s essential that they enjoy your event – and getting the venue right is a key part of that. Think carefully about the location of your conference – is it convenient for people to get to? Is there something unique about it that gives it the ‘wow factor’? Does it have the facilities you need to run a successful and seamless event? Poor AV or lack of Wi-Fi for example can be frustrating for delegates. And poor or indifferent customer service from hospitality staff could really harm your event’s reputation

You can keep an eye on whether your venue is resonating with your audience, by asking them to rate different aspects of the venue (food, convenience, facilities etc.) in a feedback survey distributed at the end of the event.

Stand out from the crowd

With so many events taking place throughout the year, it’s essential that yours stands out from your competitors’ and offers a really valuable and worthwhile experience for your attendees.

Make sure you deliver on what you promise with top quality speakers and engaging sessions that really meet your delegates’ needs. And while the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ holds true, it’s important to keep the event and the content fresh if you want people to return year on year.

All work and no play makes for dull event, so make you sure your event schedule includes a range of socialising activities and designated ‘down time’ to help keep people energised. Networking is a key reason why many people attend events, and organising some collaborative team building activities helps to break up a day of talks and workshops, and provides people with an opportunity to chat and get to know each other in a fun, relaxed environment. Social events such as conference dinners, awards ceremonies or drinks receptions can also add a bit of excitement to the event.

Keep in touch

Keeping in touch between events helps to ensure that your delegates don’t forget you, and also enables you to keep them informed about your upcoming conference. There’s a fine line between keeping in touch and spamming so make sure the information you send out is of value and relevance to your contacts.

For example, make sure they are the first to hear about any important developments for your next event, such as the announcement of new speakers, or access to an early-bird discount. It’s also a good idea to remind them how great your last event was, perhaps by sending them a highlights video or link to a photo gallery, or providing them with an event report that lays out the key take-aways and successes from last year’s conference.

Involve your delegates

Involving previous delegates in the organisation of your next event helps to make them feel valued and encourages buy-in, and also helps you to ensure that your event ticks the right boxes. Of course, we’re not suggesting you ask their opinion on everything or nothing will ever get done, but using surveys or social media to canvas opinions on certain event components – keynote speaker, or lunch menu options for example – can be really effective at making people feel they have a stake in the event, which in turn makes it more likely that they will attend.

Offer incentives

People like to be rewarded and recognised for their loyalty, and conference delegates are no different. Discounts on conference tickets for returnees may go some way to making delegates feel valued but, used in isolation, are probably not as effective as you might think. By all means offer discounts, but try to combine them with other rewards and incentives that really hold value for attendees.

For example, you could consider providing free room upgrades, offering exclusive or early access to a special report, or putting on a drinks reception or dinner specifically for returning attendees. It also pays to make sure their experience is as smooth and seamless as possible, so think about introducing incentives such as a separate line for registration or the option of collecting their delegate badges earlier than other attendees.

There are a number of actions you can take to help increase your rate of repeat attendees. Some of these may require additional costs or effort on your part, but if they help to attract delegates back to your event year on year, they are well worth the investment.

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