Let’s start without any mercy, the way Bruce Willis would jump into action in his Die Hard movies. Take a few seconds and try to answer the following questions:
- What’s it like to gain 100,000 followers on Instagram, but only have 2 of those followers care about your content or products?
- How do you feel when you have 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, but only 5 of those subscribers will donate money on Patreon to support your work?
- What’s it feels like to plan a conference for 5,000 attendees and only have 1 of them engage post-event?
Most of the times, we run after impressive numbers, justifying the event ROI through attendance rates or social media analytics.
This is how we think: the more guests we manage to attract, the better. The more frequent the event #hashtag appears on social media, the better. The bigger the online exposure, the better.
BIG numbers rule the way we design, plan, and market an event, so much so that we forget about the quality of the relationships we build with our attendees.
The same way a fashion blogger who gathers 50,000 subscribers, yet can’t sell any products (because nobody cares), we obsess over getting a huge number of attendees, paying little or no attention to establishing a meaningful connection with them.
As Kevin Kelly, the founding executive director of Wired magazine, suggests, “To be a successful creator, you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor, you need only thousands of true fans.”
Obviously, as Kelly specifies, “The number 1,000 is not absolute. Its significance is in its rough order of magnitude—three orders less than a million. The actual number has to be adjusted for each person.”
The same affirmation is true for those who plan events.
Use your time and resources to thrill your attendees and actually connect with them. This way, you’ll scale up (massively) the outcomes of your event.
Instead of chasing big numbers, to run a successful event, you must positively impact the lives of a certain number of attendees, transforming them into die-hard fans.
Reason 1. You’ll gain brand ambassadors for life
You can’t expect that people will talk, write, or vlog about your event (or event brand) without being die-hard fans. Of course, they can do that if your event was a total failure, which is obviously something you don’t want. Your attendees must feel genuinely motivated to recommend or share their event experience, and this will only happen if you transform them into die-hard fans.
Reason 2. You’ll build a strong community
When running multiple event editions, a core group of die-hard fans can always scale up the reach of your conference, festival, or workshop, and also become strong social proof for those who aren’t sure whether to attend or not.
Reason 3. They’ll want to come back for more
If you can thrill your attendees and gain their hearts, look for them at future editions.
Reason 4. You’ll maximize the attendance rate (1+1)
People tend to recommend what they like. When you have die-hard fans, expect them to bring a friend or coworker to your next event.
Reason 5. Your emails won’t go into the spam bin
If you built a meaningful connection with the attendees, you won’t just gain their hearts, but also their willingness to open and even click through your future marketing campaigns. By transforming your guests into die-hard fans, you’ll maximize the post-event lead-nurturing results.
Reason 6. You’ll harvest new clients
Who said your attendees can’t also become your clients or customers? Invest your time and effort on deepening the relationship with your attendees and prepare the stage for product- or service-pitching.
Reason 7. Your communications will capture their attention
Whenever you come up with something new—be it an email, an ebook, or an upcoming event—die-hard fans will always spend some time (even just a few seconds) to learn about your next steps.
There are plenty of events out there that have managed to thrill the attendees and transform an audience into die-hard fans— Burning Man, TEDx, Apple product launches, and Tony Robbins’ Unleash your Power, to name a few.
You can replicate their success.
How to grow an army of die-hard fans for your event
Thinking about providing exquisite catering and breathtaking entertainment?
Bad news: It takes much more than good food and a show to conquer your attendees. To transform them into die-hard fans, you must focus on adding massive value and providing a meaningful environment for self-actualization.
Here’s how you can do it:
Step 1. Provide access to exclusive information
It’s always annoying to search for a famous name on YouTube (such as a scientist, marketing expert, or nonfiction author) and find multiple videos from different conferences or platforms where that person is saying the same things over and over again.
If you want to thrill your attendees and make them love your event, you must deliver real value.
The main reason people attend events (especially conferences, workshops, congresses, etc.) is to gain new insights, fresh data, and actionable knowledge.
You’ll fail to provide that if you don’t take the extra time to put together an interesting event program and invite extremely insightful speakers who could share new information with your attendees.
Make a list of powerful speakers and brief them on the topics they could tackle with the attendees. Ask them what new data or exclusive insights they could disclose during the event.
Step 2. Set up memorable dynamics
Attending events used to be an extraordinary experience, yet with time, people got used to the entire dynamic. Nowadays, fewer things surprise them. However, there’s still space for creativity.
Designing uplifting memories for your attendees will allow you to conquer their hearts.
According to Chris Preston, the managing director for Freeman EMEA, “As humans, we crave interaction and connection. When opportunities for connection are well orchestrated, it makes an event special. It’s not just someone talking about a brand; it’s groups of people interacting face-to-face and creating a shared experience that stimulate all five senses—that’s the creation of memories.”
For example, if you’re organizing an international congress, you could take good advantage of the city and plan a guided tour aligned with the topic of your event.
If your event’s main theme is related to culture or marketing, you could visit the most creative locations. If you’re designing a congress for entrepreneurs, you could plan a tour of the industrial district.
To make the experience more memorable, you could organize encounters with the experts in situ that would share the location secrets or answers to questions.
Step 3. Design transforming experiences
Your attendees aren’t those passive consumers anymore. They want to participate in co-creating their event experience, having enough space for creativity and self-expression.
A Skift Report confirmed that during events, people want to experience self-actualization as a way of “achieving one’s full aspirational potential beyond status symbols, including creative expression.”
To level up the experience of your attendees and evoke powerful yet positive emotional responses, you must design a series of transforming activities, such as:
- Cooperative board games
- Local engagement
- Immersive environments (such as virtual reality)
- Motivational speeches
- Teamwork (in smaller groups), etc.
Stop engaging your attendees in monotone dynamics. Provide new experiences that will transform the way they feel or behave, and create an emotional bond between your guests and the event itself.
Step 4. Make people feel part of something bigger
It’s impossible to deny it: most people experience a strange sense of awe mixed with excitement and curiosity when they listen to Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars in the next 10 or 20 years.
This happens thanks to the magnitude of Musk’s intentions. This guy and his teams are dreaming big, and he’s already proved several times he can keep his word (by launching the first commercial rocket and by designing one of the most beautiful electric car on Earth).
The idea of being part of something bigger has incredible motivational power and can bring an entire community together.
Although it’s a bit more difficult to achieve, if you want to produce awe and thrill your attendees, you have to make them feel like they’re part of something much more important than themselves. For example, apart from the event itself, you could think about a cause your attendees can defend or work for.
Step 5. Transform your event into a reliable platform for growth
Will you continue to provide value (be it via new content, insights, or interaction) after the event? Or will you wrap everything up, publish the event videos or presentations online, and forget all about it?
The post-event is as important as the event itself. The things you decide to do next, after the event ends, will greatly influence your audience’s attitude.
TED and TEDx, for example, are incredible examples of growing and maintaining a strong die-hard fan database, thanks to the nonstop stream of new value.
If you’re interesting in exploring beyond the potential of your event, build an entire infrastructure around the content you are delivering, this way positioning your event brand as a reliable platform for constant growth.
One thousand die-hard fans equal one million average attendees.
Although not an easy task, figuring out how to thrill your attendees and conquer their hearts will skyrocket your event’s impact and also provide ground for further connection. Seen as possible leads, the value of your attendees can increase immensely.
That’s why, when planning an event, always design and set up the strategies that will help you transform your attendees into die-hard fans.