July 5, 2010

Event Turnout

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Last week, a leader of one of our church organizations came to me to ask for help in promoting an event they are holding the fall. The request was for me to advertise the event several times in my publications.

This is a common request; there is an ongoing assumption that events must be published in the official newspaper or website several times in order to drive turnout. Problem is:

1) Most people require some kind of personal invitation or connection to respond to an event notice, and
2) People these days are much more picky about the events they attend, so they show up to fewer things in general. I blame the internet and all of its amazing time-wasters.

These trends compel us to use more active turnout methods. Here is the advice I gave this leader, based on what I learned from really great organizers and event planners on campaigns:

1. Set a goal of attendance that you will be happy with and feel is successful. Don't tell anybody what it is.
2. If you have six helpers, divide that goal by five.
3. Tell your six helpers that all seven of you have to turnout that number and that whoever gets the most to attend gets a great prize. Pick a prize that is in line with the mission of your group and that costs a good amount of money (in this case I said $200.)
 4. Give your helpers the flyer and link to the event on your website and tell them to call, email, and/or personally visit their list of potential leads.
5. Check back each week to find out where they are and tell them who has the most RSVPs and is winning.
6. Tell your helpers to try each prospect 3 times before dropping them as a lead (unless they get a firm no.)
7. The week before the event, have your helpers call through their list of RSVPs, confirm people are coming, and ask them to invite other people to join them.
8. The leader should send an email to all attendees 2 days before the event with reminders about what to bring, telling them how excited you are about what will happen, an extra guest or activity that has been added, and give them your cell phone number that they should call if they have questions or if they need to cancel. (It is always best to make people call you to cancel - this in itself will reduce people flaking on the event.)

Only a very small fraction of turnout comes from passive advertising. Turnout comes from personal invitation. You have far more power over who comes to your events than you think–just turn your people loose and you'll do fine. If this seems like a lot of work, that's because it is.