It happens more often than you’d like: You’re tasked with pulling off a conference or event just a few days beforehand. It’s a stressful situation, no doubt about it, but the job needs to be done, and done well. Besides, if there’s one thing meeting planners are good at, it’s multitasking, right?
The trick, says Dan McCarthy, event manager at VenueSeeker, is to come up with an organized plan. In a blog post on Bizzabo, he also suggests 6 tips for last-minute events. Our condensed version:
1. Focus on Quality, not Quantity
Zero in on prospective guests who really want to be at your event, rather than a mass mailing to every Tom, Dick and Harry who will turn out for the food and drinks. Take the time to send loyal followers a personal invitation by email, text or social media post. Or consider paid online advertisements through Google Adwords, Facebook or Twitter.
2. Involve Key Participants
If you have event speakers, emcees and affiliates, have them spread the word through their own contacts. You can encourage participation with incentives, such as a free subscription or a product of their choosing for members who sell X number of tickets.
You can also think of a sales reward tier level, especially for event partners, such as:
-5 tickets sold: $20 gift card
-10 tickets sold: free 6-month subscription of your service
3. Repeated Social Media Promotion
Mention your upcoming event multiple times a day on every social media channel you have to convince people to register. Tweets should include a designated event hashtag. Posts should also have images, such as a photo of a speaker, the venue or a brief video.
Don’t forget LinkedIn or group forums on the site related to your niche where you can spread the message.
Create an event website and link it to your company page and any social media profiles. Have staff members do the same for their own social media accounts.
Consider a referral program or contest to increase your social media reach. The program can offer incentives for those who get a friend or colleague to attend the event.
4. Email Subscribers
Once you’ve taken care of top prospective attendees, reach out to your general audience. In your initial newsletter, mention the event in detail with a call-to-action and a link to the events page. Let subscribers know that space is limited and only 50 spots, for example, are available. Subsequent newsletters should say that only 40 spots remain, then 30, etc.
To ensure that your mass mailing doesn’t end up in recipients’ spam folders:
-Have your server “drip feed” the messages rather than sending all the emails as a single batch.
-“Purge” your email list of bad accounts. Email providers penalize domains with a higher spam score if you repeatedly send email to bad accounts, which increases the likelihood of future email being considered spam.
-Offer a clear “unsubscribe” link; followers are more likely to mark you as spam if they no longer want to follow you. Being consistently listed as spam adds to your spam score.
-Encourage followers to add you to their contact list so your emails don’t go straight to spam.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at around noon-ish have been shown to generate the highest email open rates.
5. Use Discussion Forums
If you are active on a discussion forum, or community like on LinkedIn or Google+, start a thread promoting your event. Make sure your message is a friendly notification and not a sales pitch. Look for community boards related to your industry and do the same.
Contact bloggers within your business niche and make a deal to write a post that their readers will find interesting in exchange for including a backlink to the events page with a single call-to-action in the closing sentence.
6. The Press Release
Write a press release announcing the event and submit it to press outlets like Business Wire and PR Newswire. Paid press release submission sites usually come with useful tools for optimizing your release and are worth considering given the short time frame .
Be sure to include all the necessary information in the opening paragraph, stats to back up your company and the upcoming event and your contact information.