Future Framework

New Playbook for Audience Acquisition

New Playbook for Audience Acquisition

Three approaches to easing audience attrition.
New movements are crystalizing, and existing trendlines are shifting. When it comes to attracting audiences, the playbook is changing.

In today's evolving realities, audience acquisition is top of mind for event marketers. Planners watch registration numbers like most people check their social media feeds.

From the type A who wants to exceed their measurable attendee goals to the leader who wants to see their vibrant community together again, event marketers live for rapid-fire registration numbers that guarantee their most important messages will resonate.

Still, current trend lines are proving that attendees are waiting until just three weeks before the event to commit, leaving many event pros biting their nails. 

Across event formats, event pros are finding disconnects in registration and attendance, so our teams uncovered why attendees are waiting so long to register and developed three core concepts to write a new playbook for audience acquisition.

What Attendees Are Saying About Virtual Experiences

  • “I forgot it was on my calendar.”
    Registration-to-attendance rates are in the 35% range, down from a 42% average in 2021.
  • “Someone on my team will check it out instead.”
    Decision makers (execs and senior leaders) rarely attend virtual events anymore. 
  • “That could have been a blog post.”
    Keynote engagement rates are on the decline.
  • “I say I’ll catch it on demand - but I never will.”
    Post-event viewership is in single digital percentages of the total registrations.

What Attendees Are Saying About In-Person Experiences

  • “I’ll decide when we get closer.”
    33% of in-person participants registered within three weeks of the events. 
  • “That could have been a Zoom meeting.”
    Attendance and satisfaction scores for in-person breakouts are declining. 
  • “I’ll take my team.”
    Group ticket sales and requests for meeting spaces are comparably higher. 
  • “This is like a big reunion!”
    Food and beverage budgets are exceeded as attendees linger longer to catch up with colleagues and connections. 

With this in mind, we’ve identified three core concepts to write the new playbook for audience acquisition and guarantee favorable registration numbers earlier on.

First Movers > Early Birds

New revenue models have the power to catalyze early demand.

Instead of marketing a discounted price as an "early bird" rate, position it as a "first movers" rate to create a fresh perception of the value of attending. Don't reveal when the discounted price/group pass pricing will expire but communicate that passes are moving quickly to share a sense of urgency.

Marketing events with this renewed language creates urgency with quantity instead of deadlines. Also, consider offering group pass pricing as part of your pass-value model, and be mindful of the impact that discounted rates have on your revenue model

Social Proof > Social Media

Using social proof to drive the halo of togetherness. 

Social proof is more effective than marketing an event solely on social media and relying on metrics like impressions, shares, or likes. Influencer marketing is powerful, and attendees always want to know who else is attending the event. Seeing trusted peers talk about an event can broaden reach and influence registrations more than anything else.

Screenshot of InGo application

Tools like InGo, a community referral marketing service that offers solutions to drive more event attendees, enable people to influence others to attend. When we partnered with InGo to organize an annual summit for an association of corporate event marketers, we saw a significant increase from 10% net-new attendees in 2021 to 10x more growth in net-new attendees in 2022.

With more than 50% of the attendees sharing their plans to attend via InGo, an entire community was built weeks before the event, incentivizing registration through two driving tactics.

  1. Social Sharing: With half of the members sharing their plans to attend, potential attendees could visualize the social proof. On average, members had eight connections who would also be in attendance. 
  2. Leaderboard: An InGo feature piloted for this event, the leaderboard brought an air of gamification to the registration process. Every member who shared an event promo post was entered into a contest, and those who generated the most engagement won. 

“Every valuable event is built on top of a community. The client did an incredible job of empowering their community to grow in part by using these tactics,” explains Michael Barnett, CEO, InGo. “Bolstered with fully customized communications, this approach invited attendees into the community from the very first touchpoint.”

In the end, the summit achieved an unprecedented level of growth through social sharing, expanding a community of corporate planners far beyond the show floor. 

Connection > Content

People are attending events for Experiential Moments and Networking.

Today, training and learning can be done virtually. Too much learning at conferences leaves attendees thinking, “this could have been a blog post” or “should have been a video.” The traditional breakout models of stand-and-deliver presentations or awkward panels are not matching attendee expectations. 

This bias toward wanting Experiences/Networking over Learning/Content is also seen in the marketing of events. Events that lead with learning as the key objective are struggling to drive registration. Events that lead with community reunions, social proof, and FOMO for the YOLOers are faring much better.

The Big Picture

Virtual events are seeing an increase in registration attrition while in-person events are seeing an increase in late registrations. Attendees look to digital experiences for learning and in-person experiences for networking.

Getting those early registrations helps planners manage budgets, build event buzz, and prep logistical details. Focus on new revenue models like the first movers approach, rely on networks of social proof over traditional social media tactics, and deliver on the types of content unique audiences are looking for.  

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