It is a well-known business fact that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing customer and that loyal customers are four times as likely to refer a product to friends and family. So, it should be obvious to every event planner that it is important to do everything they can to wow every first-time attendee so they feel an affinity for the experience and return again.
The difficulty in accomplishing this at an event is that the attendee’s experience can ultimately depend on their own feelings, impressions, and perceptions as well as the actions of other attendees. None of this is something an event planner can control. For example, if your attendee is an introvert and not comfortable with networking and social gatherings, your party planning may backfire. Or if your event is attended by people who know each other already, a newbie might feel a little left out. But, there are things an event planner can do to surprise and delight new attendees to ensure a positive experience. Here are some ideas;
Before the Event
- Send a special welcome email to first-time registrants with a personal note from your keynote speaker or lead executive.
- Provide a dedicated email address for new guests to use if they have questions or concerns before the event.
- Post a “Before You Go” tip sheet on your website or blog for newbies to use when getting ready for your event.
- Build a dedicated message board on your website or a closed group on Facebook and invite first-time registrants to participate in discussions with you, your staff, and each other about your event.
- Start a buddy program that pairs new guests with repeat guests. Match guests with the same title, career stage, industry, or interests. Ask the repeat guest to reach out to the newbie before the event via email or phone to start a conversation.
During the Event
- Create a special check-in station for new guests that is welcoming and comfortable. Print name badges that include a “new guest” designation so your staff can spot them easily during the event and assist if needed.
- Offer a special branded welcome gift for newbies that is functional and useful such as a notebook or phone charger.
- Plan a “Buddy Brunch” event so that your pre-event buddies can officially meet and get to know each other.
- Designate special tables at meals and networking events so new guests have a place to sit and people to interact with. At these types of gatherings, attendees tend to sit with people they know and it can be hard for some guests to join large groups of people who know each other.
- Plan exclusive outings or events for new guests that help them become more familiar with the location, venue, or industry your event is in. These activities can be sponsored by local vendors or locations who are interested in promoting their products or services.
- At the end of the event, try to personally thank each new guest for attending and ask for their feedback.
- Even if you were able to personally thank each new guest at the end of the event, it is still a good practice to send a handwritten thank-you note. Mention that you hope you will see them at your next event.
- Send an email with a link to a feedback survey that is exclusively designed for new guests. Ask for feedback on all of the tactics you used to make them feel comfortable as well as more general event feedback.
- Ask your seasoned event buddies to connect with their newbie buddy after the event to continue any conversations that started at the event. Hopefully, these relationships will last much longer than your event.
- Reopen the online message boards or Facebook groups with an event recap post and photos. Ask participants to post their own stories and photos of the event. Keep the conversations going as long as you can.
- If the feedback was positive, prime these new guests for your next event with an early bird ticket offer.
These ideas may seem like a lot of work but as we said retaining customers is so worth it. If you make an effort to create a welcoming and beneficial experience for first-time guests, you’re more likely to see them at your next event. Better still, they can then become your most powerful brand ambassadors by bringing their colleagues, friends, and family with them.