Lessons Learned in IT Event Planning | TSRI

Lessons Learned in IT Event Planning

By Karla Winter, TSRI Director of Marketing

Over the past few years, TSRI has been engaged in dozens of audience acquisition campaigns for partners and their client-focused events. Generating an audience is certainly an important priority in the planning process, but so is keeping the number of “no shows” (those who have agreed to attend but don’t show up on the day of the event) to a minimum.  “No shows” can greatly impact the cost/benefit equation of the event since hospitality fees (such as food, size of room, etc.) are typically based on the number of people who have been confirmed to attend, not the ones who actually show up.

It is not at all unusual for a poorly planned and executed event to have as much as an 85% no-show rate.  Needless to say, that would spell “disaster” in anyone’s book.  An event with fewer than 15% no-shows is considered a success. 

There are several critical factors that can be controlled that can make a huge difference in whether your event succeeds or fails in this area.  These are the “Lessons Learned in IT Special Event Planning” outlined below:

  • Day of Event – Events are best scheduled Tuesday through Thursday, as people take Mondays and Fridays for extended weekends.
  • Time of Event – Weekday events are best scheduled as outlined below. These times take into account the travel of individuals to the events, allowing them to circumvent typical rush hour traffic in select metro areas. In general, we find that morning events slightly outweigh afternoon events, as any “IT emergency” that happens earlier in the day could prevent a prospect from attending afternoon events.

Time of Day                                        Start Time                               End Time
Morning Events                                   9:00 to 10:30 am`                   12:30 to 1:00 pm
Afternoon Events                                1:30 to 2:00 pm                       3:30 to 4:30 pm
All Day Events                                     9:30 to 10:30 am                     3:30 to 4:30 pm

  • Location of Event – A given metro market could have dozens of IT consolidation events hosted by various companies over a given year. Hosting events in traditional outlets such as offices and hotels will take a back seat to events hosted in more unique and attention-grabbing locales. Recommended locations include sports arenas, sporting venues (i.e. golf range, country club, and indoor batting cages), popular restaurants, or locally-publicized events.
  • Geographic Region – Based on the length and nature of the event, partners should ideally target prospects within 60 minutes travel time to the event (accounting for local traffic or mass transit needs). Once that time factor has been exceeded, prospects are less likely to register and less likely to actually show up. Partners have been able to overcome this barrier by turning workshops into multi-day summits, in which the partner provides hotel and dining accommodations for the prospect and a guest.
  • Bring a Friend/Colleague – By allowing the qualified prospect to bring a guest (either a colleague for a half-day workshop, or a spouse for an overnight summit), attendance rates go up. By making the event fun and feeling less like “work,” the prospect is more likely to make the event a priority.
  • Incentives for Attendees – Once a qualified prospect registers for the event, the partner needs to continue to make the event exciting, answering the question, “Why must I go?” By letting qualified registrants know of incentive gifts being given at the event (i.e. Apple iPod, golf putter, etc), there’s added reason why the prospect will make every effort to attend.
  • Diligence to the Follow Up Process – Once a qualified registrant agrees to attend, ongoing communication is critical. Partners that send out printed reminders/invitations, notices of incentive gifts, and who make follow-up calls and emails 1-3 days before the event are likely to lose attendees who “forgot about it.”

Of course, the quality of the event itself – including the timeliness of the topic being presented, the caliber of the presenter/speaker, the strength of the agenda, etc. – is a large determinate as well.  One poorly planned and executed event WILL stay in a prospect’s mind and factor into whether he/she would commit to another of your events in the future. 

So plan carefully and consider seeking professional assistance by an experienced event planning company (such as TSRI) to help ensure your best ROI.