Event Management & Data

How to Design an Event Program that Will Hook Your Attendees

Victoria Rudi
November 30, 2023

Table of Contents

Back in the days, apart from networking, people would attend events for the valuable insights they would gain from knowledge sessions and keynote speakers. Attending an event was equivalent to getting a refreshed view about different topics.

From industry updates and innovative strategies to statistics and benchmarking, people would acquire priceless data that other professionals who didn’t attend the event would discover weeks or even months later.

But times are changing, and these days, more and more media channels are enticing viewers with interesting insights and meaningful information, including YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and online masterminds, to name a few.

Considering all the options out there, you might find that people are less attracted by your event program.

You might invite a thought leader to speak about his new book, but what if his book launch talk was already published on YouTube a month ago? Sure, people may show up to get his autograph or meet him in person. But how much value your event will actually provide by hosting a person who’s basically going to repeat the same speech that’s already available online?

On the other hand, designing a powerful event program is essential to drive attendance and strengthen your event’s brand.

How do you do that?

Here’s a series of tips you might want to follow when setting up the program for your next event:

Tip #1. Think about unusual approaches

Like-minded people usually focus on the same things. People who want to become entrepreneurs focus on things such as motivation, investing, scaling, hiring, leading teams, etc. People who are thinking about starting a YouTube channel are interested in topics such as video equipment, what YouTube SEO is, how to record their daily life, etc.

Professionals are trying to cover the essentials and there’s some lack of imagination when it comes to new approaches.

Here’s where you could intervene to improve the event’s program.

Instead of running another event about digital marketing, for example, you could anchor the topic on the connection between people’s physical reactions to digital advertising interruptions while watching YouTube videos and the long-term consequences this strategy has over the brand’s image.

The idea here is to come up with new approaches or things that people don’t usually discuss and offer your attendees a truly innovative and interesting program.

Tip #2. Go as niche as possible

Broad topics are difficult for targeting the right attendees. Apart from that, it’s always difficult to attract more people to your event when the topics you’ll be tackling aren’t specific enough. If we take the previous example and say that you’re planning an event on digital marketing, you’ll have to find a micro niche and build your event program based on this particular matter.

It can be, for example, inbound marketing for SEO experts, or SEO tips for freelance writers, or even content strategy for SaaS companies.

The micro niche not only determines the target group of your event, it also gives you the possibility to offer your attendees valuable and in-depth insights about a topic that is important to them.

Don’t limit yourself to big subjects.

Always try to narrow your topics down as much as possible and extract every single piece of meaningful information that your guests won’t find anywhere else.

Tip #3. Invite book authors along with the people they wrote about

Recently published authors are always interesting and might provide impressive insights about the research they conducted for their book. But this information is getting old pretty fast, which is why a little twist is always welcomed.

For example, you could set up a round table with the book author(s) and the people they wrote about to discuss the subject of the book from their different perspectives.

A recent example is the Reagan Foundation Forum and the conversation with the multibillionaire and entrepreneur Peter Thiel and the famous marketer Ryan Holiday, who wrote a book about the conflict between Thiel and Gawker.

This format will definitely sound intriguing to your attendees, since it’s something out of the ordinary.

Tip #4. Offer master classes with industry leaders

Invite your attendees to not only listen to your event’s speakers, but also to learn from them. Instead of formal conversations, round tables, or keynote sessions, you can also enrich your event’s program with a series of quick workshops and classes held by your speakers.

This will boost the quality of your event by providing both knowledge and skill transfer, the latter being a valuable and unique attendance asset your guests will appreciate.

Tip #5. Set up debates between controversial thought leaders

Spicing things up with a little bit of drama is not always bad. People might be interested in seeing speakers who represent two opposing views on a subject.

For example, you could invite an Airbnb representative and a hotel manager whose business has been affected by the new sharing economy. Or you could present your attendees with a debate between decision factors that are pro or against the legalization of marijuana.

The idea here is to tackle sensitive topics that will be especially interesting for your attendees.

Obviously, it’s always a challenge to keep the conversation civil, but these debates may generate interesting insights for your guests and provide them with a worthwhile experience.

Tip #6. Crowdsource ideas for your event’s program

Before designing the event program, set up a quick survey on social media and ask your audience for their input. List a series of potential event topics and get people to vote on the ones they find most appealing.

Or you could directly ask your followers what their most burning challenges are and what questions they’d like to have answered during the event.

This feedback will give you better understanding of what your audience wants from your event, thus providing you the necessary information on what your event’s program should look like.

Tip #7. Don’t forget about newsjacking

Finally, to make your event’s program truly attractive, you could always try newsjacking, a marketing tactic in which you incorporate your brand or product into the news in an attempt to gain exposure and publicity.

A clever example is a newsjacking action from Google. At some point, drones became a massive media trend. Everyone was hunting news about drones, since this subject was generating an insane amount of traffic.

As Ryan Holiday explains, “This was obviously on Amazon’s mind when, on the eve of Cyber Monday—one of the biggest online shopping days of the year—it made a commercial that showed its drone delivery system dropping off Amazon-branded packages on doorsteps across America. Here’s the thing: This drone delivery system did not exist. Even as I write this, it still does not exist. But that was never the point. Amazon was hijacking the news to its advantage. Everyone went along with it—including 60 Minutes, where the commercial debuted—because the company had done it so well.”

To make your event’s program significantly attractive, look around and ask yourself what is newsworthy and how you could take good advantage of it by introducing a related topic or talk in the schedule. By doing so, you’ll get people’s attention and increase your chances for a higher attendance rate.

Created to entice

An event program shouldn’t be your attendees’ typical roadmap, designed to help them navigate the entire knowledge transfer dynamic. On the contrary, it should promote the real value of your event and persuade multiple people to register.

Stop seeing your event programs as a mere logistic step you must take. Get creative and design a powerful schedule that will guarantee multiple unforgettable experiences for the attendees.

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Victoria Rudi
Senior Content Specialist
With a Master’s degree in Event Management and a keen follower of SaaS technologies, Victoria is an event content master, producing insightful and valuable for Eventtia’s blog and beyond

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