Publisher Increases Event Attendance by Emphasizing Networking

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From my experience here, I surmise that almost all events hosted by our member publishers boast great content. Publishers know their niches. But that doesn’t mean that everyone comes for the content alone. You need to listen to your audience.

That’s what Access Intelligence did for their 2014 CLEAN GULF Conference & Exhibition. “Through analysis of registration data and speaking with multiple attendees, the most common reason used to describe why someone attends CLEAN GULF revolves around the networking,” wrote Carey Buchholtz, senior marketing manager for Access Intelligence, in a 2015 SIPAward entry description. The entry won an award in the category of Live Event Marketing.

CleanGulf“They said the event was ‘like a family reunion’ or a ‘chance to catch up with old friends.’ CLEAN GULF attendees covet the opportunity to get together once a year to catch up and discuss best practices.  In order to align our event with the market’s needs and increase brand loyalty, the main messaging strategy was changed to focus on the ‘family-reunion’ atmosphere of CLEAN GULF and the networking opportunities available to attendees.”

This correlates to a new study from Loughborough University in England and the company imago revealing that those attending meetings gain more from being face-to-face with their peers over other methods of communications. Students, delegates and organizers all agreed that a face-to-face meeting had more value compared to conference calls, emails and other forms of communication.

face-to-face“Face-to-face communication is most preferred because it allows people to read facial expressions, increases interaction and understanding of the message,” said Emma Boynton, head of sales and marketing at imago. “Most importantly it creates an environment where people can learn rather than be taught. Face-to-face communication is important in a business setting because it allows relationships to develop in a way that can’t be achieved by email and telephone conversations.”

Apparently, Access Intelligence got the memo before this research came out. Utilizing new media and increased email marketing, the campaign for the 2014 CLEAN GULF shifted to the networking-centric approach. The result? Attendance rose 8% from 2013 and revenue increased by 26%.

Promotions included:

– The prospectus: “For the past 23 years, CLEAN GULF has been the gathering place for oil spill response professionals to meet with old friends, discuss best practices and discover new products and services.”

– An email with a video link: “Ever wondered what it’s like to attend the CLEAN GULF Conference & Exhibition? Get a sneak peek of the CLEAN GULF experience!” The video—they called it a “sizzle reel”—showed the networking that takes place and brought in 10 registrations and $6,705 in revenue.

– An email with a subject line saying, “We’re surprised you haven’t registered,” featured 3 photos and a video. Two photos showed networking, one promoted sessions, and the video featured more networking.

– A video to attract sponsors. It begins with a sponsor saying, “Every year this is like a family reunion for a lot of the folks that are associated with other consulting firms in this trade and industry, and the vendors that provide services to both.”

A couple other notes: “Register Now” buttons stand out prominently in all emails; testimonials are used wisely and fall in with the theme—”We were extremely pleased not only with the quality of the conference, but also with the quality of decision-makers who attended the conference.”

Clearly Buchholtz credits the enhanced revenue to “heavy post-show analysis” that led them to the family-reunion theme. In addition, they updated their logo to “a more modern look, and a conscious effort was made to have all marketing materials convey a sense of warmth and community.” This “directly aligns” with the personality of the market CLEAN GULF serves.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…