How to Attract People to Your Event

Question: I'm on the board of a small watershed group, and we've been doing a fundraiser for a couple years.  It's a great event, and everybody always seems to have a wonderful time.  The problem is, we have a heard time getting people to attend.  Do you have any suggestions about inexpensive ways of getting people to our event?

Answer: No matter how great your event is, getting people there is always going to take a bit of work.  It's not that people don't think you're great--it's just that for each person who attends, the draw of your party has to beat out about a dozen other things that person could have easily done instead.

But. BUT! That doesn't mean that your event isn't important, and that they're not going to love it when they get there.   

So how to get everyone to show up? Well, the old fashioned way is to print some invitations and stick them in the mail a month or so before the event.  And depending on the kind of event you're planning, this might still be a good route: a high-end dinner might warrant a proper paper invitation.  Similarly, if most of your potential guests don't have internet in their homes, you might want to send them paper invitations.

Otherwise, though, social media is the way to go. Social media is just an umbrella term for web applications that allow you to share content and engageyour members in communication with your other members.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterist are all examples of social media platforms.  I'll focus on Facebook and Twitter here, since those are the most commonly used platforms.

So, first of all, if your organization has a Facebook page, create a Facebook event, and don't be shy about reminding people to show up early and often.  People usually need to be reminded about events--even the ones they've already registered for.

When creating your Facebook Event, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a descriptive name.  People will judge your event based on the name.  Make sure it's catchy and descriptive!

  • Upload a compelling photo.  People love photos--especially on Facebook.  The picture alone could catch a potential participant's attention.

  • Add a map. Maps are just handy.

  • Allow folks to write on the wall.  This is a great way to get everybody talking about the event!

  • Show the guest list.  Unless you have a reason to hide it, seeing who else is coming can help motivate people to attend.

  • Focus on the impact.  Use the details field to tell the story of your event.  Focus on the specific ways the event will impact your nonprofit and the community.  The more concrete you are, the more likely it is someone will support your cause.  If the event is successful, what will that mean for the community?  What does the cost of each ticket translate to in terms of tanglible river protection?

Twitter can be used to push an event, too.  For starters, it allows people to redistribute information about your event and talk about it through the event's hashtag.  A Twitter hashtag is just the pound symbol followed by a word or string of words (example: #yourevent), which is used by Twitter users to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet and categorize messages.

It’s basically a way for anyone interested in conversing about a topic to easily find others talking about it.

Here's how to use Twitter hashtags:

  • Develop it early.  It’s great to have it from the outset of your event promotion.

  • Keep it short.  Remember, you only get 140 characters in a Tweet!

  • Only use one.  Multiple hashtags for one event will lead to multiple conversations happening simultaneously on Twitter. You really only want one!

  • Make sure it’s unique.  If others are using the same hashtag, your conversation will get mixed in with theirs.  Before deciding on a hashtag, put it (including the #) in a Twitter Search to make sure no other results show up.

  • Actually use it.  Make sure you include your hashtag in the Tweets you send out relating to your event.  You want your Tweets to show up in the conversation.

So, that will get you started! For more information about how to use social media to promote your event, go to the Georgia River Network website or read this wonderful article in WiredImpact.

Good luck!

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