Vancouver BC Panorama

Do you have an upcoming event or conference? Afraid you won’t have a good turnout? Check out these 10 ideas and change the tide to make your upcoming event the best one yet!

Prior Engagement

How can you expect attendees to get excited about an event that they know nothing about? Engaging with prospective attendees prior to the event is a great place to start. This can be done through social media, email, direct mail - whichever tactics makes the most sense for your audience. Make the material fun and entertaining. This communication will reflect how they interpret what the event will be like. Boring email = boring event. Get it?

Regardless if your event(s) are annually, quarterly, or monthly, be sure to contact previous attendees. And do it well in advance so they can plan their schedules accordingly. Offer pre-sale or “early bird” registrants a reduced price to persuade more people to sign up early. And that gives them more time to spread the word too!

Did you pass out surveys at last year's event? Craft your next event based on those answers. Or start anew. Send out a poll. This not only gives them a say, but also lets you, the organizer, know what your attendees want. Let them choose the food, the location, the venue, session topics, the entertainment, etc. Anytime you give members a choice, the result will be better received.


Guitarist on stage

An effective way to stimulate buzz for your event is to obtain great sponsors. Not only should they be reputable, but relatable to the event. And if you find sponsors that are fitting, they can do some of the heavy lifting for you through outreach and/or social media buzz. Find good sponsors and make sure it's a relationship where you both benefit (and not just monetarily).

Hire A Great Speaker

You should put heavy focus on finding top-notch speakers for your event. Regardless of the format - keynote, breakout sessions, panel discussions, lunch 'n learns, workshops - every single speaker chosen should be high quality and relevant to the event and your audience. 

Great speakers serve a number of purposes. First, they usually do their own marketing and have their own networks, helping to get more people at the show. Second, education is on your members' priority list for why they are attending the event. They want key takeaways, actionable plans, and want to feel a connection with the speaker so they can ask questions or follow-up easily after the show. Speakers should be professional, experienced, knowledgeable, and of course, fun and entertaining. 

Take time to vet potential speakers and make sure they are a good fit. Ensure they support your event with their own marketing and social media efforts. And, leverage their recognition when doing marketing for the show so they can draw in a larger crowd. Having a respected, fitting professional speaker is one of the most important tasks related to event preparation and planning.

Location, Location, Location

So you’ve begun promoting the event. That’s great. The next step is to promote the location because the location or venue itself might be a draw. This can include nearby activities, sites, restaurants, entertainment, and things of that nature. Believe it or not, more people will sign up for a conference or event if the location is attractive. Where would you rather go for a January event, Las Vegas or Minnesota?

Maybe even tie some of the local aspects into your event. Think local musicians for the entertainment. Or local food themes for the daily meals. Or maybe the theme of your event is based on the city. All these things help to give it a unique style, get your attendees excited, and help make it more memorable. 

Don’t be a Scrooge

One way to generate positive PR as well as attract more attendees is through a charitable act. Consider donating a percentage of proceeds to the local homeless shelter or food kitchen. Or, better yet, contribute to something that deals with your field or industry. Cause marketing or goodwill efforts leave a great impression and can have long-term benefits to your organization or event.


Woman with gift boxes

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Giveaways have been common at events for a long time - and rightly so, because they work! Giveaways should have something to do with the event. Handing out free water bottles at a computer microchip convention might not make sense. But maybe a branded thumb drive or iTunes gift card does. The giveaway should be useful for the audience, something that they may pick up and use every day at work or home. By branding the item, people will be reminded of your conference frequently. And don't forget about free food, snacks and coffee.  :-) 

Get Connected

The next three ideas all deal with in-event engagement. Let’s start off with social media. The gist of social media in general is to engage with your target audience. If you’ve planned accordingly, a good amount of your target audience is right in front of you at your event. Take advantage of that and build new relationships via social media. Post updates, worksheets and other valuable content/material for your guests to access.

Develop a custom hashtag for attendees to follow along with event conversations or for those engaging in live tweeting/blogging. Also, consider a giveaway for the "most engaged attendee." In order for all of this to work effectively, make sure your location has a stable (and fast) wifi connection that can withstand the amount of people present. And have support on-site in case there are any issues. 


Most people have at least a little competitive nature in them. Use this and introduce a competition during your event. This could be something small, like guessing how many times the word "social media" is said by the keynote, or something intricate like a scavenger hunt. The whole idea is to make the event interactive.

Another good strategy for a competition is to make it team-based. This way, attendees are forced to converse with others and network. It leads to stronger connections and more buzz about the event. In turn, as more people get comfortable with one another, your event can proceed much smoother.

Hands-On Learning

Young couple in a Photo Booth party with gesture face  taking selfie,

While free stuff and contests are fun, don't forget about the business angle - the actual content and information that is being shared and presented.

Encourage sponsors to have more interactive elements than a basic booth. Encourage speakers to do something different than a plain, boring PowerPoint. And don't forget about having a mobile app for the event. This can help attendees find the appropriate sessions or booths, get information about the event, or interact with one another. It's a great hands-on approach and gets people more involved.  

Will I Be Seeing You Next Year?

Wrapping up with post-event activities can be beneficial for not only networking, but future events as well. It’s like making a putt on the 18th green or rolling a strike in the final frame - it ends on a high note and gets people wanting more.

Offer a wonderful farewell session. Consider a sports outing, a musical act, a killer dinner, a local bar-crawl, etc. Make them feel appreciated and thank them for having attended the event.  This will accent the overall experience and hopefully lead to strong word of mouth marketing.


There you have it. You are now ready to put on an engaging event that will lead to more attendees and more excitement. Some of these may work better than others depending on your industry, budget and theme. But make sure you always keep your audience in mind with any idea you decide to carry out.

If you attend conferences or industry events yourself, start taking note of what interests you and what turns you off. Build out those ideas further and make them come to life at your next event. Good luck and happy event planning!