“Our attendees love our conference and continue to attend – but we haven’t been able to boost attendance over the years.” Does this sound familiar?

Corporate Conferences can be a powerful marketing tool and bring a lot of value to your business and your customers. They help set you apart from the competition as a thought-leader, and gives you an opportunity showcase new products and services to new and existing customers. Plus, your customers love it because it’s a great networking opportunity, a chance to learn and of course a lot of fun. Who says work can’t be fun?

Putting on a conference or event is a ton of work! In order to keep the investment worthwhile for your company and your attendees – you need to grow the conference, and make it better every year. Let’s take a look at four ways to boost attendance at your corporate conference.

1. It’s All About The Content

People attend conferences to learn from thought-leaders in the industry, network with their peers and have some fun – but they return for the content. If you want to grow your conference, you need to focus on the content you provide.

This means going big on the keynote speakers. Find an interesting and engaging speaker that will motivate and bring value to your attendees. Think outside your industry and find a fresh face. This will attract attendees.

Don’t stop at the keynote. Every session should be meticulously hand picked to provide your attendees with the most value. Be sure to encourage feedback via surveys to know what sessions were the most popular.

Most importantly, don’t let sponsors buy a speaking session. It’s a nice way for them to pitch their products or services, but they often don’t bring much value to the attendee. They came to learn and be challenged – not to experience a live infomercial.

Similar to the internet, when it comes to conferences – content is king.

2. Go Virtual

Corporate conferences can be quite expensive, and not every business is willing to invest and send a team of people across the country. Customers might have other obligations that inhibit them from attending; a looming deadline, important customer meetings or a large project. Don’t give up on them. Go virtual and allow them to attend the conference from anywhere in the world!

Adding a virtual component to your conference is a small investment, but can result in huge returns. You will attract those who can’t afford to attend the conference, or don’t have approval from their bosses or logistically just can’t make the trip. With a virtual conference, they have the opportunity to learn from the best in the industry while sitting in their office – or on the golf course.

There are two ways to approach the cost of a virtual event. Both ways work great depending on your audience and overall business goals. You can charge a small fee (couple hundred dollars compared to a couple thousand for the live conference), or offer a portion of the virtual conference for free. When offering a portion of the conference for free, you can encourage them to purchase a digital version of the entire conference after the event.

Ultimately, you want virtual attendees to be so impressed with the content that they have no option but to attend the live conference next year.

Virtual is also a great opportunity to grow your sponsorship opportunities. This can help offset the cost of setting up a virtual event.

3. Social + Email Promotion

Promote. Promote. Promote. It’s important to have a well-rounded advertising plan for your conference, and it should include both social media and email promotion. Why these two items? Because these platforms reach a lot of people for a small investment!

Email. Make an effort to build your database every year. This would include existing customers, potential customers, conference attendees and those who signup on your conference website to receive updates. Create a content calendar and start building out your email strategy. Your emails should be quick and simple to read and understand, as well as an intriguing call to action.

Social Media. Social platforms allow you to promote the conference heavily without overwhelming your audience – especially when using twitter. It’s an opportunity to provide them with conference details, thought-leadership articles and some behind-the-scenes conference planning.

Plus – it’s the best tool to encourage sharing of ideas and communication during the conference. MarketingProfs reports that Facebook is the best social platform to promote pre-conference. Twitter is the best platform during the conference (not surprising to anyone who has attended a conference). Post conference, you’ll want to continue the conversation via Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

Grab all of the social accounts for your conference – even if you don’t think you’ll use them. Think strategically about using Periscope at your conference as well. It’s a great opportunity to provide behind-the-scenes content!

4. Expand Your Audience

We saved the best for last. One the best things you can do to boost conference attendance is to expand your audience. Most corporate conferences focus solely on their customers. This doesn’t provide much opportunity for gaining new customers. Look outside your customer base, and focus on being a leading industry conference.

It’s also good to look at who all can gain value from the content at your conference. You may be focused on attracting sales reps, when you should also be targeting the marketing professionals. Yes, sales and marketing are different.

At Wilson, we helped Teradata PARTNERS grow their corporate conference into the premier industry-wide global data conference by doing just this. By strategically focusing on the entire industry, rather than just customers – conference attendance began to grow!

But we didn’t stop there. Typically, the IT department has owned data, and that’s who primarily attended the conference. Over the years, that has changed with the help of new platforms and technology. Data is important to every department and aspect of the business. PARTNERS began strategically targeting IT, Business and Marketing professionals separately and lining up great content at the conference for them. Over the course of two years, conference attendance has grown 25%.

If you need strategic help to boost attendance at your conference, give us a call. We would love the opportunity to help you build an industry-leading corporate conference.