Awhile back, I told you all about a social media workshop I was putting together for some area youth entrepreneurs.
This past Saturday, I showed up ready to take on the challenge of speaking to my first youth audience…
…but nobody showed up.
Talk about a bummer!
I’d been told that several kids had signed up after having asked specifically for this workshop.
I could’ve probably done more to promote things on my side. But honestly? My Denver network is growing but limited.
I don’t know many parents or kids that I could’ve personally invited to this workshop, so I assumed that the organization I was volunteering for would handle this side of things. After all, this wasn’t their first rodeo — they’ve done plenty of these events before!
The problem with offering free events out of the goodness of your heart is that it’s hard to incentivize people to show up — especially on a Saturday morning where any number of other things may be jockeying for attention: sleep, errands, and cartoons, to name a few.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to dismiss free events as having less value than a conference that costs $100s or $1000s. On that note, it’s easier to justify following through on event attendance when you’ve spent money to secure a spot.
Both in terms of this workshop #fail and my experience co-founding the Denver chapter of Freelancers Union, here’s what I’ve learned about ensuring that people actually come to your events:
Create a Facebook event page (even if you’re selling tickets elsewhere, like on Eventbrite), to make it easy for people to access important event details alongside tools they can use to invite friends. Being able to take advantage of notifications to alert those who’ve indicated an interest in your event is also useful for sending reminders at scale.
Charge a fee to secure a ticket. It doesn’t have to be a lot — even $5 can make a difference in terms of better incentivizing people to show up. If you don’t have other plans for this money, you might even tell attendees that this will go towards drinks, snacks, or even a charity.
Share an “add to calendar” link. Event attendance might be an issue caused by people signing up but forgetting to add your event to their calendar. If you’re not using a tool like Eventbrite, which automatically sends “add to calendar” links, create your own and send them with a follow up email confirmation.
Send reminder emails. At minimum, attendees should receive a confirmation after successfully securing a ticket and a reminder email within a day of the actual event. People are busy and it’s easy to forget things — these reminders might make the difference between getting them to attend or presenting to an empty room.
So what did I take away from this disappointing Saturday event?
Next time I’m asked to speak for free, or for a small group, I’ll dig deeper into the organization’s plans to promote the event and ensure attendance.
With this lesson learned, it wasn’t a complete waste of time.