I am off to an event on Thursday and I am very much looking forward to the day. At 4pm today (on Monday) I received an email from the organisers. It got me thinking about pre event communication.
Pre event communication when is enough enough?
I booked on to the event a while ago via Eventbrite and a minute or so later I received the automated “thanks for booking confirmation” – which comes pre-set on Eventbrite – so I knew my place was secure.
Before I booked I of course made a note of the venue. I considered the theme and I looked at the details of the speakers. The update email today confirmed the venue, the logistical details and gave me some more information on the new speakers who had been added. So all in all I know quite a bit about the event.
In terms of my engagement is the organisers job done? This is a very simple question but I believe it goes to the heart of how we approach our events in the new environment in which we now organise them. This environment is greatly affected by two things:
The rise of the free to attend event
When an attendee books to attend a free event it is fair to say that they should expect less handholding and less contact from the organiser. It makes sense that if you are running a free to attend event you are likely to have less support than you would for a fee paying event – all other things being equal of course. So we shouldn’t really expect to be invited to a private network built up around the event or on to mediated groups. Again this all takes resource and we are, well, we aren’t paying for that.
So we receive a confirmation note when we book and our “joining instruction” communication a few days before and all is well. Except this is how we used to communicate with attendees back in the 1990s before email was in use, never mind before heavy automation and social media! For the majority of free events it is like the last fifteen years of customer service didn’t happen.
The role of event technology
Even though our events are free we really should be engaging more with our attendees. As a resource strapped organiser we can say that if our attendees are attending the event for free they need to expect the “entry level” service for these events. But to equate service to the fee paid is to miss the heart and soul of a transaction and what it means to attend an event.
Even for a free to attend event I believe that we should be having a conversation and open communication with our attendees. And event technology makes that very easy.
48 hours before the event on Thursday I will receive an automated email saying “don’t forget to attend….”. Similar to the confirmation email this template pre event communication comes as standard on Eventbrite so I KNOW I will receive it. The organiser in the lead up to the event doesn’t need to do anything for me to receive the final details and this email can even include my ticket! Event Technology has allowed us to communicate so easily with our attendees that we now have more time to focus on other tasks. However it has made us lazy.
It is easy to think that the technology in the background will deal with all the admin while you get stuck into the more creative aspects of the event or stay on top of the logistics. But the technology is the skeleton you have to provide the soul!
Most event ticketing and management platforms have the capacity to send automated emails and every organiser should take advantage of that. However they shouldn’t just use the template emails they should add a few more personalised emails.
Why email communication is so important for a free event
Communicating regularly with your attendees at a free event is even more important than for a paid for event for the simple reason that attendees have not bought into your event. And if you do want them to attend on the day you have to keep them engaged.
For a free to attend event simple clicking “attend” does not operate on the same secure connection as paying hard cash to attend. With a free to attend event it is possible that the booking may have been an impulse one. Many people book in the hope they can attend rather than the knowledge that they can. When you place money into this equation the result changes and you have a much higher rate of engagement. To ensure your attendees do turn up you have to keep in touch.
These pre event communications should be sent by email for every event and there’s an additional one for the free to attend event.
No. 1 The confirmation email
Totally fine to have a template email for this. Although you have to make sure that you can have different confirmations for different ticket types.
No. 2 The “look who else is attending” email
This should suggest that attendees look at who else is likely to be there on the day. It should encourage them to drop someone a who is attending a note to perhaps suggest to meet. Or maybe to invite someone they thought would be attending to come along and join them. It also adds a good bit of social proofing.
No. 3 The “follow us so we don’t need to badger you with emails” email
With so many things happening as you move closer to your event it is worth sending an email to your attendees to highlight how they can follow those update. Include a link to the RSS feed of the event and all your social media handles. In here you can summarise the changes to, for example, your programme or your new exhibitors.
Optional: The “please help us get more delegates” email
We all hope that we don’t need this one but more often than not we need to pull it out the bag. You want to make this email as simple as possible for the current attendee to forward on to a friend. And the email has to have all the basic details to encourage the potential attendee to visit the event website. You can include a discount (if it is fee paying event) or anything you can think of to encourage take up.
No. 4 The “do stuff now” email
This “week before email” has transformed to become the “do stuff now” email and is a very important communication as we ask our attendees to do more before the event. It used to be a bit of a simple reminder email but now it should contain important information. This is where we always attach our “Attendee Pack” (which incidentally isn’t an option if you use Eventbrite as you can’t send attachments but you can with many of the other platforms)
Within the email you could suggest that attendees read some documents or papers; fill in a questionnaire for a speaker or perhaps download any apps you are using. You have to highlight that this email is not just for information but some actions are needed.
No. 5 The “reminder” email
The Eventbrite template gets this spot on. 48hours before the event this should arrive with all of your attendees. It should include a note saying “please let us know if you are unable to attend”
For free to attend events only: The “final reminder”
This pre event communication should go out in the afternoon of the day before the event. I’ve found this email will reduce your on the day drop out rate by a significant amount.
Five pre event communications should be enough
So that’s five emails in total. Using the event technology to hand means that they can all be written in an afternoon and saved. Or even better you can simply copy them from a pervious event.
Once you have done this and to keep the automation high all the savvy planner needs to do is to log in a few days before the email is scheduled and take ten minutes to fill in the details.
Free events have allowed us to drastically increase the number of attendees at our events and technology has allowed us to easily keep in touch. The new environment for our events should still contain a great level of customer care and attendee engagement. Thinking back to stuffing envelopes with joining instructions I can honestly say it has never been so easy or so welcome. And for our free to attend events quite unexpected.
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