Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

The pandemic has changed how associations fulfill their missions and serve their members. While some associations have struggled with the change, many are rising to the challenge. 

Take, for example, the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians. ACOFP had a 90% attendance rate for its virtual conference, ACOFP ’20 Virtual, which the organization created to replace its annual in-person convention.

That kind of number is astonishing, even considering how many people have been searching for development opportunities while working from home. But there are plenty of things we can learn from successful organizations about how they’re increasing their registration numbers for virtual events, which are clearly here to stay. 

Here are just a few ideas: 

Make the decision to register easy

Every association is different, and you’ll have to try different methods to increase sign-up rates for your events. But Wild Apricot found that 70% of organizations with “much more” attendance at their virtual events than they would have had at a live one featured a guest speaker, so it’s important to tout who will be speaking at your events.

It’s so powerful that Luigi Benetton, technical director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, found that guest speakers were also one of the major ways associations attract new members into their organization.

In converting its annual conference to a virtual event, the American Psychological Association decided to figure out how to make it even better than a live event. One of their main strategies was addressing past attendees’ concerns about missing out on programs during the conference because some of the programs run simultaneously. In their virtual event with on-demand viewing, members would get extended value out of their registration without fear of missing out.

Their efforts resulted in thousands more registrations than their in-person conference, including a 320% increase in student registrations, a 170% increase in international attendees from 101 countries, and more than a 300% increase in non-member participants.

Follow-up is essential for increasing attendance

As mentioned earlier, ACOFP had a whopping 90% attendance rate for their conference. (Out of 1,050 people registered, 944 of them showed up.) Their key strategy was a smart and assertive follow-up campaign. 

ACOPF got these numbers by sending several emails, and texting and calling registrants who hadn’t replied to the emails. 

Many associations are concerned about sending “too many” emails and messages and coming off as spammy. But did you know that research shows automated emails get 119% higher click rates than emails that aren’t part of your automation workflow?

Analysis done by Campaign Monitor, an email marketing automation software, found that following up with email positively impacts event registrations. And, according to GoToWebinar, email drives 57% of webinar registrations, so it’s incredibly important to review your email strategy before, during and after each virtual event.  

Consider incentivizing event attendance

Some additional ways to improve the attendance rate for virtual events is by finding ways to motivate members to come to the event for specific reasons or purposes. Wordstream, a marketing company, recommends creating cool swag or materials that are unique to the participation in the event, like editable PDF guides attendees can download and take notes. Bonus points if you print out the worksheets and mail them with additional promotional materials to all attendees before the event! 

Michael Rincon is a freelance writer, podcast host, and the founder of Michael's Business English. He has a passion and curiosity for finding out the truth as well as helping others achieve success in their career and business goals

Michael Rincon is a freelance writer, podcast host, and the founder of Michael's Business English. He has a passion and curiosity for finding out the truth as well as helping others achieve success in their career and business goals

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