3 Ways to Boost Attendance at Your Association’s Next In-Person Event

By Autumn Quarantotto • July 28, 2022

Events come in all shapes and sizes, and with the shift from solely virtual to a combination of hybrid, virtual, and live events, there is no doubt that there is a large focus on reaching attendance goals regardless of the size of your event. For some associations, you might be striving to have 100 members at a member meet and greet, whereas for another association, you’re striving to have 3,000 people at your largest show of the year. However, what we have seen and heard from so many of you is that post-COVID attendance levels are still sitting at approximately 70% of their pre-COVID rates. Knowing that associations are seeing a decreased rate of in-person attendance, we took some time to outline three strategies to re-interest your members.

Increase FOMO

Statistics show that people prefer in-person meetings over virtual or hybrid events. You can use this to your advantage when marketing your event. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is real and will get people interested and committed to coming to your association’s in-person events again. 

To ensure that people are eager to attend your in-person event, take steps to increase their level of FOMO. As you notify them about the event, keep this principle in mind. People will want to attend in person if they feel that they would miss out on something by not attending. 

In your association’s social media posts, video commercials, and email marketing campaigns, advertise the benefits of attending. Will attendees get to vote on an important association matter? Will they get a swag bag only available for in-person attendees? Will they get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet an industry expert? Additionally, your association could host “invite only” sessions or mixers that will host your A+ prospective attendees and the most attractive speakers. Similarly, identify speakers and influencers who will be showcased at your events and use their voices to help evangelize your association’s upcoming event. This will help broaden your event’s reach while lending credibility to the speaker roster.

Focus on what the experience will be like. Will they learn a lot? Is the atmosphere of the event exciting and invigorating? Will they leave with a feeling of being supported by other people in the industry? It’s easy to get information presented virtually these days, but the full experience of being at a face-to-face event cannot be replicated online. 

One way to show how awesome your event will be is to promote videos and photos of past years’ events, which will help your attendees visualize what they might miss out on by staying at home. The more positive the imagery is, the more people will be drawn to participate.

Offer Incentives

Another strategy that drives registrations is to offer incentives or discounts for attendees who pre-register or bring their entire teams. 

Early-bird discounts can offer savings for attendees who get their tickets by a set date. This also helps organizers get an idea of how many people will attend so they can plan accordingly for a successful event. The savings can be an added incentive for potential attendees who are working under a tight budget.

Knowing that industry professionals traditionally have a fixed conference attendance or continuing education budget, these incentives can allow for attendees to get more “bang for their buck,” which in turn can increase attendee satisfaction and raises interest to go in person. Research shows that up to 91% of event managers measure the success of their events through attendee satisfaction, so anything that you can do to ensure that attendees have a positive experience goes a long way toward raising event ROI and success. Similarly, this great experience can positively impact how they speak about your association’s event to industry peers, which can help increase your next event’s attendance. 

Another incentive to increase attendance is to offer buy-one-get-one (BOGO) registrations or discounted group rates for organizations based on how many individuals they register – the more registrants, the bigger the discount or flat fee discounts for large groups. Finally, incentivize your members to “invite an industry friend” to attend by offering a discount, credit, or other rewards for referrals who also register. This strategy could spur some friendly competition (you could offer an award for the member with the most referrals), as well as increase your registration numbers.

Host Two Events at the Same Time

What’s better than one in-person event? Two! You could opt to host or co-locate two events at the same time to make it more convenient for people to attend in person. This can be another event that your organization hosts, or you can partner with another organization that serves the same or complementary industries. Attendees get more value through added convenience, value, and cost savings in more than just money but also time. 

This idea has benefits for the association as well, including cost and resource savings, vendor discounts, and added value for sponsors and exhibitors. Plus, it expands your brand to a larger audience that may not have attended your event on its own. 

It’s a potential win-win for attendees and your association.

Overall, by making an intentional effort to plan and promote events that are worth their time and money, you can increase attendance and engagement at your in-person events. 

If your association needs a hand in boosting in-person attendance, Naylor is poised with expertise in trade show and event management and navigating events for associations in a post-pandemic world. 

To learn more about how Naylor can help you entice your members to attend your next event,  reach out to our team today.


Autumn Quarantotto-Caruso is the Senior Marketing Manager at Digital Summit, the nation’s largest conference series for digital marketers.